Just News from Center X – June 24, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Supreme Court rules Maine’s tuition assistance program must cover religious schools [Audio]

Nina Totenberg, NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court handed school choice advocates a major victory on Tuesday. By a 6-3 vote along ideological lines, the court opened the door further for those seeking taxpayer funding for religious schools. In its clearest statement to date, the court said that if a state uses taxpayer money to pay for students attending nonreligious private schools, it must also use taxpayer funds to pay for attendance at religious schools. For all practical purposes, the decision thus invalidates provisions in 37 state constitutions that ban the direct or indirect use of taxpayer money in religious schools.

How Supreme Court ruling lays groundwork for religious charter schools

Valerie Strauss and Kevin Welner, Washington Post

Less than a month ago, attorney and education policy scholar Kevin Welner wrote on this blog that the Supreme Court would probably further erode the separation of church and state in a case known as Carson v. Makin, which was brought to expand voucher policies that provide public money for private and religious education. It did just that on Tuesday, ruling that the state of Maine cannot deny tuition aid to religious schools. The case is centered on a Maine program that allows the state to pay for tuition at private schools in areas where there is no public school so long as that private institution is “nonsectarian in accordance with the First Amendment.” Two families, along with a libertarian institute, brought a suit asking that courts require the state to include sectarian religious schools in the program.

Congress is poised to pass a bill in response to the Uvalde shooting. Here’s what it means for schools.

Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat

Congress appears poised to respond to the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, which gripped the nation’s attention and resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers. A bipartisan bill, unveiled Tuesday evening, would add modest gun control rules and provide new funding for a bevy of mental health and school safety programs. It quickly gained support from 64 senators, clearing its first procedural hurdle in the usually gridlocked U.S. Senate. The bill is Congress’ attempt to avert additional school shootings, and if enacted it will result in some schools getting a bit of extra money to support student mental health and bolster security.

Language, Culture, and Power

Oakland could be next to grant voting rights to noncitizens

Ashley McBride, The Oaklandside

Oakland voters will soon decide whether noncitizen residents should be allowed to vote in local school district races. Towards the end of a 12-hour meeting, the City Council voted on Tuesday to place an item on the November ballot that, if approved, would allow non-citizen residents who are the parent, guardian, or caregiver of a child under 18 to vote for Oakland Unified School District board members. The resolution was approved with affirmative votes from councilmembers Dan Kalb, Nikki Fortunato Bas, Sheng Thao, Loren Taylor, Treva Reid, and Rebecca Kaplan. Councilmembers Carroll Fife and Noel Gallo were absent.

Virginia budget to move funding from DACA students to state’s HBCUs

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post

A measure in Virginia’s new two-year budget is drawing criticism for redirecting funding for undocumented college students to students at historically Black colleges and universities in the state. The money — $10 million over two years — had been earmarked for state financial aid for undocumented immigrants, who are barred from receiving federal student loans and grants. Instead, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) asked the General Assembly to give the money to students at Virginia’s five private and public HBCUs — Virginia University of Lynchburg, along with Hampton, Virginia Union, Norfolk State and Virginia State universities. “Shame on the governor for weaponizing state financial aid as a cheap political ploy to divide communities of color,” said Sookyung Oh, director of Hamkae Center, a civil rights organization in Virginia. “If education was important to this governor, as he claimed throughout his campaign, he could have easily allocated funding to ensure every young Virginian who wants to pursue higher education in the Commonwealth has the resources to do so.”

From Slavery to School Discipline

Anoa Changa, Learning for Justice

Shortly before my son turned 15, he was expelled for the remainder of his ninth grade year, after already having served a two-week suspension for marijuana possession. What presented as poor judgment and youthful defiance masked a longer battle with pervasive depression and suicidal thoughts that would take another year to surface. Yet, at every step of the way, the ninth grade administrator failed to follow through with promised interventions. It was easier to suspend and expel. During his expulsion hearing, I suggested he do more volunteer work and put forth a plan for counseling in addition to the two-week suspension he’d already served—pulling mainly from alternatives in the district’s student code of conduct. Despite expulsion being optional for a first offense, the hearing officer decided it was the only way my son could learn his lesson. While I knew about the school-to-prison pipeline and racial disparities in school discipline, it was still shocking to watch it unfold.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Summer reading: 5 books on the joys and challenges of LGBTQ teen and young adult life

Jonathan Alexander, The Conversation

In recognition of LGBT Pride Month, The Conversation reached out to Jonathan Alexander – an English professor with a scholarly interest in the interplay between sexuality and literature – for recommendations of young adult fiction books that feature LGBT characters. What follows is a list that Alexander – who serves as the children’s and young adult fiction section editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books – considers as “must-reads” for this summer.

After dropping in 2020, teen summer employment may be poised to continue its slow comeback

Drew Desilver, Pew Research Center

The summer of 2021 was the strongest in years for U.S. teenagers seeking work. Beset by labor shortages, businesses trying to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic hired nearly a million more teens than in the summer of 2020. Overall, more than 6 million U.S. teens, or 36.6%, had a paying job for at least part of last summer, marking the highest teen summer employment rate since 2008, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accommodation and food services, arts and recreation, and manufacturing were among the sectors leading the teen hiring surge.

How Our Consumption is Killing Poor Kids in Los Angeles

Joshua Frank, Counter Punch

It’s a gorgeous evening in San Pedro, California. I’m standing on the outskirts of a Little League ballpark that sits atop a knoll overlooking the sprawling Port of Los Angeles and the arching Vincent St. Thomas Bridge. Below is a sea of shipping containers, stacked high like Lego blocks, forming mini-skyscrapers along the dusky horizon. President Biden made a trek to the port during the Summit of the Americas this month, giving a speech that addressed supply chain snafus and the country’s pounding inflation headache. “Last fall, ports around the world were congested due to disruption caused by the pandemic, so we brought together port operators, shipping companies, and labor to ease the bottlenecks,” said Biden to a beleaguered group of port workers. “And as a result, over the holidays last, 97 percent of all the packages were delivered on time and on shelves when you went Christmas shopping. Remember, we weren’t going to have anything on those shelves. You all did it.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Strategic plan aims to prepare students for life beyond Los Angeles Unified

Kate Sequeira, Ed Source

Los Angeles Unified will spend the next four years building an environment to prepare students for life beyond the classroom. The district’s strategic plan, adopted unanimously alongside the budget Tuesday, will not only focus on providing support for the student through a focus on academic achievement and wellness, but also on creating an environment that will foster that success by equipping community, staff and district with the necessary information and tools to supply that foundation. The plan is set around four specific goals defined by the board in June 2021: literacy, numeracy, college and career readiness, and wellness.

How are college campuses preparing for a post-Roe world?

Olivia Sanchez, Hechinger Report

The end of Yael Benvenuto Ladin’s senior year at Oberlin College in Ohio was in sight. After more than two years of pandemic learning, she wanted to finish her classes and her thesis, graduate and go. Her campus activism days were over, the rising leaders behind her readying to take the baton. All that changed a month before graduation, when Benvenuto Ladin read about the leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, effectively removing guaranteed federal protection for a legal abortion. She immediately organized last-minute abortion support training for Oberlin students and began trying to figure out what would happen to students in the 13 states where abortion will become illegal automatically if the draft opinion is adopted as the court’s final decision.

For student parents, graduating in the midst of a pandemic means beating the odds

Emily Margaretten, Matthew Reagan, and Oden Taylor, Cal Matters

When Charity Machado had her first child, Cali, at the age of 15, she expected many of the sacrifices that came with being a young mother, but was determined not to let her education be one of them. Machado completed her general education requirements at Sacramento State before transferring to the nursing program at CSU Stanislaus in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit six months after her transfer, shutting down schools and daycare centers overnight. Cali, now nine years old, remembers the transition to remote learning as “kind of crazy.” Machado recollects “survival mode.” Dishes and laundry piled up to the point where Cali and her 4-year-old sister knew that plates would be in the sink and clean clothes in the dryer.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Not all inequalities are alike

Francisco H. G. Ferreira, Nature

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with job losses affecting 17% of all UK workers by early April 2020, women in the United Kingdom were 4.8 percentage points more likely than men to have lost their jobs1. In South Africa in 2017, the average income for a household of white people (adjusted for size and composition of households) was 5.6 times that for a household of African people (‘African’ is a recognized racial classification in South Africa2). And in the United States, a 2018 report found that people born in the 1980s to parents who were in the bottom half of the ‘years of schooling’ distribution had only a 13% chance of making it to the top quartile of the schooling distribution in their generation. In all of these cases, the gaps between the groups are not defined by how hard people work or study, by how much they save or by how responsible they have been. Instead, the gaps are solely down to characteristics over which individuals have no control: gender, race and upbringing, respectively. These are examples of what economists call inequality of opportunity.

Advancing anti-racist economic research and policy

Economic Policy Institute

Creating effective anti-racist economic research and policy requires thinking critically about the assumptions and norms that influence how we view the world, and thus the way we understand and interpret data or approach solutions to social and economic problems. This process begins with a willingness to revisit U.S. history or current events from a perspective other than the dominant or popular view. The challenge for each of us is to understand how race shapes the American experience in countless intersecting, and sometimes contradictory, ways that can be hard to disentangle from the influence of other markers of identity or class, such as gender.

California Prop. 13’s ‘unjust legacy’ detailed in critical study

John Fensterwald, Ed Source

A new analysis of the enduring impact of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that voters passed as a backlash against rising property taxes, concluded it has contributed to a widening wealth gap, a severe housing shortage and, for decades, inadequate funding for public schools. “Proposition 13 is just one example of what happens when a purported progressive state allows a privileged few to hoard opportunities and resources at the expense of the greater good,” concluded the report “Unjust Legacy” by the Opportunity Institute and Pivot Learning, released on Wednesday. The institute is a nonprofit advocating for equitable outcomes for Californians. Pivot Learning is a consulting organization that works with schools in California and other states on improving achievement.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Why Florida’s ban on textbooks is just another scare tactic

Matthew Kincaid, Hechinger Report

When Florida schools begin their 2022-23 school year, teachers will have lost 41 percent of their available math textbooks.  That’s because the state of Florida seems determined to use children of all races as pawns to promote a political agenda — one aimed at reinforcing racism, rather than dismantling it. Earlier this year, as part of its controversial “Stop WOKE Act,” the state of Florida banned 54 math textbooks. These books reportedly contained prohibited topics, including so-called references to critical race theory, or CRT. After being asked to reveal specific examples of the offending material, the state offered a mere five screenshots, including a statistical analysis of racial prejudice and a mention of social and emotional learning.

Why the Black Educator Forced Out Over Bogus Critical Race Theory Claims Agreed to Share Her Story

Nicole Carr, ProPublica

Cecelia Lewis did not want to share her story. In fact, she just wanted all of this to go away. Late last year, I was on the phone with a former colleague, talking about the local coverage of campaigns against critical race theory across metro Atlanta. CRT maintains that racial bias is embedded in America’s laws and institutions and has caused disproportionate harm to people of color; it’s rarely taught in K-12 public school systems but has still become a lightning rod in districts around the country — and a catalyst for conservative political candidates seeking to fire up their base.

Wisconsin School District Rejects Book About Japanese internment

Bill Lueders, The Progressive

A school board in southeastern Wisconsin has rejected a book recommended for use in a tenth-grade accelerated English class due in part to concerns that it lacked “balance” regarding the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The Curriculum Planning Committee for the Muskego-Norway district, which serves about 5,000 students in Waukesha and Racine counties, had selected When the Emperor Was Divine, a 2002 historical novel by Julie Otsuka based on her own family’s experiences. The book, winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Asian American Literary Award, tells in varying perspectives the story of a Japanese American family uprooted from its home in Berkeley, California, and sent to an internment camp in the Utah desert.

Other News of Note

On This Juneteenth, Watch Toni Morrison Talk About the Meaning of Freedom [Video]

Madison Pauly, Mother Jones

June 19 marks the day that Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, in 1865 and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. It had taken two and a half years for news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which legally freed enslaved people, to reach Galveston; it took 156 additional years for the US government to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday in this country, even though Black communities had celebrated the day for a century and a half. Today, Juneteenth parades and festivals are taking place across the country; tomorrow, federal employees and those who work for 17 states will have a paid day off; and, yes, corporations are doing their damnedest to commercialize the holiday. In lieu of stocking up on Walmart’s Juneteenth-themed ice cream, I’d like to offer this 1978 recording of legendary author Toni Morrison, who at the time was a single mom who had just published her third novel, Song of Solomon.

Labor’s Militant Minority

Mie Inouye, Boston Review

On May 1 organizers from the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) joined the New York City Central Labor Council and community organizations to march from Washington Square Park to Foley Park. After a long afternoon of marching and chanting in the sun, about a third of the core organizing committee made their way to a May Day party at the Communist Party headquarters in Chelsea. In the Party’s spacious office, adorned with pictures of William Z. Foster and Lenin, a racially diverse group of twenty-somethings—ALU organizers, members of the Young Communist League (YLC), and fellow travelers—drank Modelos and Bud Lights, ate pizza, and danced to the Backstreet Boys. They were celebrating May Day and the first successful union election at Amazon—the ALU’s April 22 victory at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island.