Just News from Center X – June 26, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

In California budget deal, no cuts for K-12 but billions in late payments to schools

John Fensterwald, EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced Monday that they have reached an agreement on the 2020-21 budget that will preserve spending for K-12 schools and community colleges at current levels but potentially could result in funding cuts of nearly $1 billion combined for the University of California and California State University. The budget will also provide language that will prevent the layoffs of teachers and many other school employees over the next year — actions that unions representing teachers and other employees, known as classified workers, had strongly lobbied for. These protected employees will include bus drivers, custodians and nutrition workers but not classroom aides.

Measures to defund, reform Los Angeles school police rejected by school board

Michael Burke, EdSource
The school police department in Los Angeles Unified, the largest school police force in the nation, will remain intact and fully funded — although reform remains possible in the near future. Despite mounting demands from students, activists and labor unions to diminish the role of school police in California’s largest school district, the L.A. Unified school board on Tuesday evening rejected two motions that would have reduced spending on the district’s police department. One would have cut spending on the department by 90% by 2024. The other would have immediately reduced funding by almost 30% and left the door open to completely eliminating the department.

Union to California’s teachers: Brace for cuts steeper than the Great Recession

Ariella Plachta, The Los Angeles Daily News
In a signal that California public education leaders are bracing for the possibility of drastic funding cuts, the state’s teachers association is counseling local unions how to forestall the worst in their districts. A California Teachers Association bargaining advisory issued last month drew heavily on lessons learned from the Great Recession, when more than 30,000 educators were laid off amid slashes to services and programs. Their advice to teachers unions? Know the numbers and bargain hard to stave off permanent cuts. CTA President Toby Boyd said forthcoming slashes to public education funds will be “like nothing we’ve ever seen,” with the possibility of 50,000 teacher layoffs even if the state receives federal assistance.

Language, Culture, and Power

Incoming president of United Teachers Los Angeles has made racial justice her mission

Nadra Little, EdSource
Earlier this year Cecily Myart-Cruz was elected president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing over 30,000 Los Angeles Unified teachers. She will succeed current president Alex Caputo-Pearl on July 1, assuming one of the most prominent positions in education in California and nationally, certainly when it comes to labor relations. The Chronicle of Social Change’s reporter Nadra Nittle recently spoke with Myart-Cruz, a veteran teacher who will be the first woman of color to lead the union, about the policing of students and the school-to-prison pipeline as well as systemic racism in the classroom and how educators can make a difference. After the police killing of George Floyd, Myart-Cruz co-wrote a statement with the UTLA leadership arguing that “educators have a critical role to play in dismantling racism in our communities.” During a June 8 press conference with Black Lives Matter LA, she announced that the union’s board of directors voted 35-2 to support cutting funds to the Los Angeles School Police Department and redirecting those resources to social services programs in the district.

What the Supreme Court’s DACA ruling means for undocumented students and the colleges and universities they attend

Sayil Camacho, Latino USA
Editor’s note: The Supreme Court voted, 5-4, on June 18, 2020 that the Trump administration can’t immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. Sayil Camacho, a Vanderbilt University postdoctoral fellow who studies immigrants, answers four questions about how the decision will affect undocumented students and higher education.

Grassroots momentum builds for anti-racist K-12 instruction

Catherine Gewertz, Education Week
A new parent group has organized to put pressure on school districts to embrace anti-racist curriculum and instruction. Its first action, which begins today, aims to inundate 10 school districts, from California to Connecticut, with emails demanding change. Racial Equity Education is small: About 10 friends, all Black, white, Jewish or Asian parents of K-12 students, and connected through Facebook, put the group together earlier this month. But it has big dreams. It wants students, parents, and community members to pile so many emails in the inboxes of key district leaders in 10 cities that they’ll have to sit up and take notice.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

We need police out of our schools—now

Jesse Hagopian, The Nation
On June 2, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, the Minneapolis Public Schools school board voted to terminate the Minneapolis Police Department’s contract, removing all police from their schools. The board also directed Superintendent Ed Graff to come up with a new plan for school safety by August 18, the date of the board’s next meeting. While the uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd was the immediate catalyst to the removal of police from MPS, many youth had been working toward this goal for years.

We must end school policies that most harm our Black students

Atasi Uppal, EdSource
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a white police officer, many of us are filled with grief and outrage at the violence Black people face in this country. It’s imperative we remember that this violence is not just limited to Black adults. We must recognize that the United States has sanctioned centuries of violence against Black children, too. Today, this history of racist violence manifests in many ways, including schools’ impulse to control and police Black students in our schools.

Pandemic reveals how much California needs more community schools

Julio Angel Alicea, EdSource
Despite decades of underfunding, California public schools have worked valiantly to uphold their ends of a fraying social safety net during the coronavirus pandemic.
Community schools — schools that offer health and social services as well as education — have made an especially noteworthy effort to keep families healthy and hopeful during these uncertain times. Community schools model the kind of partnerships all California communities deserve. A community school is a public school that works to address neighborhood nonacademic needs, including health care, dental care, preschool, after-school activities and summer school — anything that affects the well-being of the community.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

This is not the time to water down ethnic studies on CSU campuses

Theresa Montaño, Special to CalMatters
Even as the Assembly and Senate voted overwhelmingly with bipartisan support to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement at the California State University, CSU management and leadership is doing everything it can to blunt progress on inclusive learning. In a recent commentary, CSU Chancellor Timothy White decried systemic barriers to change while ironically promoting CSU’s status quo resolution on ethnic studies. White offered the resolution only after Assembly Bill 1460, proposed by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, gained traction. The CSU complains of the “cost” of strengthening ethnic studies course offerings, but ignores – as many senators recently pointed out – the true cost of doing nothing: the continuation of centuries of racism against people of color, including the killing of black people, oftentimes at the hands of police. While I appreciate the CSU’s support of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 to bring back equity in college admissions and hiring, AB 1460 is just as meaningful to ending systemic racism.

It looks like the beginning of the end of America’s obsession with student standardized tests

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
America has been obsessed with student standardized tests for nearly 20 years. Now it looks like the country is at the beginning of the end of our high-stakes testing mania — both for K-12 “accountability” purposes and in college admissions. When President George W. Bush signed the K-12 No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, the country began an experiment based on the belief that we could test our way to educational success and end the achievement gap. His successor, Barack Obama, ratcheted up the stakes of test scores under that same philosophy. It didn’t work, which came as no surprise to teachers and other critics. They had long pointed to extensive research showing standardized test scores are most strongly correlated to a student’s life circumstances. Real reform, they said, means addressing students’ social and emotional needs and the conditions in which they live, and making improvements in school buildings.

California voters will be asked to restore affirmative action in November

John Myers, The Los Angeles Times
California could allow college admissions and government contracting decisions with a focus on race and gender diversity under a measure placed on the November ballot Wednesday, a decision that would reverse strict limits imposed by voters in 1996.
The ballot measure, which won final approval from the state Senate, could become a centerpiece in the national reckoning over racism and systemic inequities. The measure, an amendment to the California Constitution, was approved two weeks ago by the state Assembly and now moves to the Nov. 3 ballot.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Education Dept. is making it harder for colleges to boost student aid during crisis

Cory Turner and Elissa Nadworny, NPR
The U.S. Department of Education is making it harder for colleges to reconsider — and potentially increase — financial aid for students who have lost jobs or family income in the current economic crisis. The department has shelved guidance that once encouraged colleges to do more to help students affected by a downturn. The guidance, a pair of letters published by the Obama administration in April and May of 2009, was written in response to the Great Recession. It allowed colleges to fast-track reconsideration of financial aid for students who had lost jobs, and it encouraged unemployed Americans to consider enrolling in postsecondary education and applying for aid.

A dilemma facing college students during the pandemic: Delaying graduation could have long-term financial consequences

Jillian Berman, Market Watch
The coronavirus pandemic upended the lives of college students across the country, sending them from the bustle of dorms and classrooms to computer screens away from their fellow students. But new research indicates that this disruption to college will impact some students more than others. Sixteen percent of lower-income students said they would delay their graduation due to the pandemic, according to a survey of 1,500 undergraduates at Arizona State University. That’s compared to 10% of their more affluent peers. The survey was the basis for a working paper distributed this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The often ugly reality black students face in our schools

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
While protesters are taking to the streets of America to protest police brutality and racial injustice, black and other students and alumni of color are using social media to tell personal stories of racism that they encountered in school — public and private, K-12 and college. The posts are mostly anonymous, often on pages that are specific to individual schools — such as the elite private schools Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C., and Princeton Day School in New Jersey. As reported by the New York Times, students are starting pages and inviting other students, alumni and even teachers to tell their stories. There are now scores of them, often beautifully composed text boxes that share stories of what it was and is to be black at those schools. This post is from Alden S. Blodget, a white educator who spent decades working in private independent schools that claimed to have “diverse” and “inclusive” communities but didn’t. He said he tried to talk with black students to learn about their reality but didn’t get far. He writes:

Public Schools and Private $

Betsy DeVos is an abysmal failure and our nation’s schoolchildren are paying the price

Helaine Olen, The Washington Post
Months after schools across the country closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it’s still not clear how, or even if, children can safely return to classrooms in the coming weeks and months. Despite the best efforts of teachers suddenly plunged into teaching remotely, the loss of learning has been staggering, especially for low-income students. This would be the moment, you’d think, when the nation’s top education policy official would step up and attempt to offer leadership and best practices going forward. Instead, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is missing in action, at least when it comes to the issues that matter most.

Trump campaign returns to Wisconsin with Mike Pence visit focused on school choice, religious faith

Bill Glauber, Molly Beck, and Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The presidential race finally arrived in the Wisconsin battleground Tuesday as Vice President Mike Pence sought to improve enthusiasm for the president in a reliable Republican stronghold.
Pence kicked off President Donald Trump’s campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden with a pair of appearances in Waukesha County to focus on issues important to the Wisconsin GOP: school choice, religious faith and security. The Trump surrogates drew a sharp contrast between the president and Biden, presenting the race to voters as a choice between wallowing in struggles borne by a pandemic and unrest after the death of George Floyd, and moving on from them.

As protesters call for racial equity, Trump team promotes school choice

Evie Blad, Education Week
As protesters around the country continue to call for racial justice, President Donald Trump, administration officials, and his reelection campaign have focused on a familiar issue: school choice. Their decision to promote school choice—specifically the promotion of charter schools and public funding for private education— as a civil rights issue may serve several purposes for the president’s re-election effort. The familiar phrase fits neatly onto a list of policy priorities from Trump’s first term. And some polling shows support for choice initiatvies among Black voters, giving Trump a way to discuss equity concerns without focusing solely on police reform. While Trump has said he supports a policing bill introduced by Senate Republicans, he has also stressed his support for law enforcement, calling for “law and order” and aggressive responses to widespread protests.

Other News of Note

America’s long war on children and families

Paul Renfro, The Boston Review
Given the innumerable failures and humiliations that have marked Donald Trump’s presidency, one might be forgiven for forgetting the administration’s unconscionable “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. First “piloted” in 2017 before its formal launch in the spring of 2018, the program required the prosecution of all migrants crossing the border with Mexico without authorization—including asylum seekers—and ordered U.S. authorities to split up migrant families apprehended at the border.