Just News from Center X – March 17, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Massive three-day LAUSD teacher and staff strike set for Tuesday, closing all schools

Howard Blume & Andrew J. Campa, LA Times

A three-day strike that would shut down Los Angeles public schools is scheduled to start Tuesday, union leaders announced Wednesday during a massive downtown rally by the district’s two largest employee groups. L.A. schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho on Wednesday urged union leadership to negotiate “around the clock” to avert the strike, which he said would further harm more than 420,000 students trying to recover academically and emotionally from the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced them into remote learning for more than a year.

How former teacher Brandon Johnson organized his way to the doorstep of Chicago City Hall

Mauricio Pena, Chalkbeat Chicago

Brandon Johnson has knocked on a lot of doors in the last decade. A former rank-and-file teacher turned Chicago Teachers Union organizer, Johnson has met with thousands of teachers, pounded the pavement on behalf of dozens of candidates, and lobbied state lawmakers. Still, he had little to no name recognition as he launched his bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.

Child labor laws are under attack in states across the country

Jennifer Sherer and Nina Mast, Economic Policy Institute

At a time when serious child labor violations are on the rise in hazardous meatpacking and manufacturing jobs, several state legislatures are weakening—or threatening to weaken—child labor protections. The trend reflects a coordinated multi-industry push to expand employer access to low-wage labor and weaken state child labor laws in ways that contradict federal protections, in pursuit of longer-term industry-backed goals to rewrite federal child labor laws and other worker protections for the whole country. Children of families in poverty, and especially Black, brown, and immigrant youth, stand to suffer the most harm from such changes.

Language, Culture, and Power

9th grader sues over Pledge of Allegiance confrontation

Jeffrey Collins, Washington Post

The parents of a ninth grade South Carolina student who said she was accosted by a teacher for walking to class instead of stopping and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance are suing the teacher, principal, school district and state education officials. Marissa Barnwell said she was walking quietly to class and decided not to stop for the pledge or a moment of silence that followed. A teacher yelled at her, confronted her and pushed her against a wall.

When It Doesn’t Help to Speak the Language: The Fulbright-Hays Fellowship

Erica L. Green, NY Times

When Veronica Gonzalez received word last fall that the U.S. Education Department had rejected her application for a prestigious fellowship to conduct her doctoral research overseas, she scoured the feedback on her application looking for what she did wrong. In every section, the reviewers heaped praise on the academic aptitude of the student and her rigorously researched proposal to study intimate partner violence in rural Mexico. And they assigned her near-perfect scores in every category, except one — language proficiency — where she was shocked to find she got none.

How Education in Prison Changed William Freeman’s Life

Christine Stutz, Baltimore Magazine

William Freeman III graduated from Goucher College in 2020 with a degree in sociology and anthropology. He earned 73 of those credits through the Goucher Prison Education Partnership while incarcerated for murder. Released from prison in 2018 after serving 20 years of his life-plus-20-years sentence, Freeman, 43, is currently a Bloomberg Fellow and master’s candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He also works at The Education Trust, a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and those from low-income families.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Making the Case for Schools That Don’t Look Like Prisons

Libby Stanford, Education Week

Student mental health has become a top priority for schools as they hire more counselors, expand services, and invest more deeply in social-emotional learning. But school buildings and environments—including classrooms, gathering spaces, and everything in between—are often left out of that conversation. That’s why Claire Latané, a landscape architecture and environmental design professor at Cal Poly Pomona, has dedicated her career to helping school districts design buildings with a focus on student mental health and well-being.

‘It’s hard to focus’: Schools say American kids are hungry

Cheyanne Mumphrey and Arleigh Rodgers, AP

America’s schools say kids are hungry — just as pandemic-era benefit programs have lapsed. There is growing concern about the effects on kids’ ability to learn. Congress temporarily made school meals free to all American schoolkids, but since that ended last fall, the need has only seemed to grow. Soaring food prices are adding strains on families who are seeing reductions in multiple kinds of financial assistance. One federal program that ends this month had given nearly 30 million Americans extra food stamps during the pandemic. School cafeterias typically don’t turn away a hungry kid, but debts for unpaid school meals have been rising — showing the level of need, and raising questions about how schools will keep feeding everyone, without federal money to do it. The neediest kids are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, as before the pandemic, but qualifying for those benefits requires applications that haven’t been necessary for several years.

Everyone Has the Right to Food

Beverly Gologorsky, The Nation

My long-dead father used to say, “Every human being deserves to taste a piece of cake.” Though at the time his words meant little to me, as I grew older I realized both what they meant, symbolically speaking, and the grim reality they disguised so charmingly. That saying of his arose from a basic reality of our lives then—the eternal scarcity of food in our household, just as in so many other homes in New York City’s South Bronx where I grew up. This was during the 1940s and 1950s, but hunger still haunts millions of American households more than three-quarters of a century later.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

UC Regents Once Again Pass On Changing Employment Eligibility For Undocumented Students

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, LAist

Students who are undocumented at the University of California remain hopeful, even after a meeting of UC regents didn’t take up the issue of allowing those students to hold campus employment. Members of a multi-campus UC student coalition urged the UC regents at their meeting on Wednesday to change hiring practices at the 10-campus system and grant employment to students who are undocumented and don’t have work permits. California’s rising housing and food prices are placing a heavier burden on college students. Advocates say opening employment to students who are undocumented would help more graduate and would open professional opportunities.

Women of Color and the Neoliberal University: An Interview with Lorgia García Peña

Hettie Williams, Black Perspectives

In today’s post, Hettie V. Williams interviews Dr. Lorgia García Peña, author of Community as Rebellion: A Syllabus for Surviving Academia as a Woman of Color. García Peña is Professor of Latinx Studies at Tufts University.

Students want this women’s college to rethink its notion of gender in admissions

Rachel Treisman, NPR

Student government positions weren’t the only item on the ballot at Wellesley College’s elections on Tuesday. It also included a referendum on gender inclusivity, which passed. Students at the women’s liberal arts college in Massachusetts approved a ballot initiative proposing that it change its admissions policy to welcome all transgender and nonbinary applicants. Currently, the school only accepts applications from “those who live as women and consistently identify as women,” which includes trans women and nonbinary students who “were assigned female at birth and who feel they belong in our community of women.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Creating Trans Inclusive Schools [Audio]

Jill Anderson and Melinda Mangin, Harvard EdCast

Melinda Mangin stresses the importance of creating welcoming gender inclusive environments — regardless of whether anyone in your school identifies as transgender. “If you imagine a quarter of your students somehow see themselves as gender nonconforming– they like something that’s not stereotypically appropriate for their assigned gender– then we’re talking about a lot of kids,” says Mangin, a professor at Rutgers University who is an expert in inclusive schools for transgender people. “I think it’s really incumbent upon us to move away from seeing gender as a problem, and waiting to fix a problem, and trying to reframe it as this is an opportunity to be more expansive in how we understand a concept, and to create space for that expansiveness to present itself, and really just shifting our mindset about the work that we’re doing. We’re not fixing a problem. We’re creating opportunities for genuine authenticity for kids.”

Incentivizing Equity

Bruce D. Baker, Matthew Di Carlo, Mark Weber, American Educator

Current federal aid allocation policies do an admirable job of targeting aid to school districts serving the neediest students. This is not only because they distribute funds through states to local public school districts based largely on proxies for needs and costs such as Census poverty rates (which are fairly effective predictors of K–12 costs) but also because higher-poverty districts are more likely than their affluent counterparts to be underfunded. But these policies have one significant, underlying weakness: they fail to consider states’ effort levels (and their capacities to raise revenue). This “effort neutral” approach fails to target crucial aid at states with smaller economies and higher costs. These states, despite strong effort levels, cannot possibly meet students’ needs. Conversely, it effectively rewards states that fail to provide adequate funding for all students despite having the capacity to do so. Our proposal, put simply, is for federal aid to be allocated based not only on student need (as is currently the case), but also on how much states and districts are able and willing to contribute—in other words, based on their effort. With full funding and compliance, this proposal would provide every school district with the estimated revenues necessary to reach the goal of average national outcomes in mathematics and reading.

Realizing the Promise of LCFF

Public Advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union

Established in 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a set of funding reforms that transformed public education in California. Instead of a complex, inefficient, and punitive categorical funding approach, LCFF ushered in a new era of local funding flexibility. In exchange, LCFF established new requirements for transparency, equitable distribution of resources to high-need students, and meaningful engagement with students, families, and communities. Under LCFF, every school district is required to collaborate with their community to create a strategic action and spending plan called the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP is designed to be a constantly evolving, comprehensive strategic planning tool that supports collaborative decision-making with communities. It is also intended to serve as a mechanism to hold districts accountable for their equity and engagement obligations.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Political strife is harming California teens’ high school experience, study says

Christian Martinez, LA Times

California is often cited as a bastion of left-leaning politics, with an electorate that voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a nearly 2-1 ratio in 2020. But a study of the state’s high schools shows that California campuses are just as likely to experience political strife as those in other, more polarized states. “The surprise here is not that California is different, it is that our public schools are experiencing similar levels of political attacks and conflict with what we have seen across the nation,” said John Rogers, a study co-author and director of the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

The dueling parents’ rights proposals in Congress: What the evidence says about family-school collaboration

Rebecca Winthrop, Brookings

Last week Representative Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Oregon, introduced a resolution on the “The Bill of Rights for Students and Parents,” in public education to respond to the introduction of H.R.5, a bill titled the “Parents Bill of Rights Act,” introduced on March 1 by Republican Representative Julia Letlow of Louisiana. These dueling proposals have different flavors, with H.R.5 focused on public transparency around education content (e.g., curriculum, library books, and teachers’ materials such as manuals and videos they may use in the classroom) and resources (e.g., school budgets and special programs like gifted and talented). It also focused on parents’ rights to participate—from meeting their students’ teachers (at least two times per year) to having their voices heard at school board meetings and in planned parent engagement activities. Bonamici’s resolution, which she introduced because she says H.R.5 “missed the mark” on what is most important to parents, focuses on the importance of inclusive public education for democracy; the bill cites the importance of providing well-rounded education that includes not just arts and humanities but attention to children’s mental health and well-being through sufficient school counselors.

How Young Adults Want Their Country To Engage With the World

Laura Silver, Moira Fagan, Jordan Lippert, Shannon Greenwood, Chris Baronavski, and Michael Keegan, Pew Research

Decades of cross-national surveys have found that younger people tend to be more internationally oriented than older adults. They usually have more positive views of international organizations and foreign countries and are more likely to prioritize international cooperation. But young people differ from one another over how they want their country to engage with the world. Some feel their country has an obligation to people beyond their borders. Others doubt their country has the resources to pursue international actions. To better understand these perspectives, we conducted 16 focus groups with young adults in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Other News of Note

Marching for Justice in the Fields

César E. Chávez National Monument, National Park Service

On the morning of March 17, 1966, nearly a hundred striking farmworkers, most of them Mexican American and Filipino, set out on foot from the small town of Delano, bound for the state capital in Sacramento 280 miles to the north. As they passed through the dusty highways and farming communities of the Central Valley, they were joined by student activists, union organizers, civil rights workers, and members of the clergy, all drawn to the remote regions of California in support of the farmworker struggle. For six months, the farmworkers had been on strike. They refused to harvest grapes in the vineyards around Delano until the growers met their demands for higher pay, safer working conditions, and recognition of their unions, the National Farm Workers Association and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.