Just News from Center X – May 1, 2020

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

K-12 Student Webinar on Housing Inequality in LA
May 7: 11am-noon

The UCLA Data for Democracy project invites you and your students to learn about housing inequality and the housing justice movement with UCLA Professor Ananya Roy. During our webinar on May 7th, students will have a chance to share questions and ideas with Professor Roy. Click here to register for the webinar, and have students submit questions in advance.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Addressing California students’ loss of learning shapes plan to reopen schools

John Fensterwald, EdSource
In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested reopening schools as soon as late July or early August to mitigate the loss of learning that all students — but especially low-income black and Latino students — have experienced during two months of school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. “That learning loss is very real,” Newsom said during his daily update on the coronavirus. “And from a socio-economic frame, from a racial justice frame, this is even more compounding and more challenging. And so it is incumbent upon us to think anew with respect to the school year.”

Trump tells governors to ‘seriously consider and maybe get going’ on opening schools

Betsy Klein, CNN
President Donald Trump on Monday urged the nation’s governors to “seriously consider” reopening schools as part of his push to restart the economy, though many states have already recommended against resuming the school year. “Some of you might start thinking about school openings, because a lot of people are wanting to have school openings. It’s not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through,” Trump told the governors on a teleconference call, according to audio of the call obtained by CNN.

Teachers union: ‘Scream bloody murder’ if schools reopen against medical advice

Nicole Gaudiano, Politico
The nation’s two biggest teachers unions say they would consider strikes or major protests if schools reopen without the proper safety measures in place or against the advice of medical experts — raising the possibility of yet more school disruptions. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, previewing a reopening plan first with POLITICO, said funding is needed for a host of public health measures for schools, including personal protective equipment. Collective bargaining, strong enforcement of safety standards and protections from retaliation will be important for teachers and staff so they feel safe to speak up as schools try new approaches, she said.

Language, Culture, and Power

Federal court delivers holy grail of education advocacy: A fundamental right to basic education. Don’t count on Supreme Court to uphold it.

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
I wrote last week about a historic decision by a federal appeals court that ruled that students in the low-performing Detroit school system have a right to expect to learn to read and write in their public schools. The Supreme Court has never decided the issue, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said “we recognize that the Constitution provides a fundamental right to a basic minimum education.” The judges said the right to literacy was “narrow” but includes the skills essential for “basic exercise of other fundamental rights and liberties, most importantly participation in our political system.”

Schools lean on staff who speak students’ language to keep English-learners connected

Corey Mitchell, Education Week
For weeks, Alicia Araje-Van Dyk, a multilingual liaison in the Burlington, Vt., schools, has juggled late-night check-ins and predawn wakeup calls. There are the 1 a.m. calls with Swahili-speaking parents—many of them fresh off 4 p.m. to midnight shifts as essential workers—struggling to use internet hot spots and access online classes for their children in English, a language they barely understand. Hours later, Van Dyk is often back at it again, stirring pre-teens and teenagers out of bed for their morning classes with early morning texts and phone calls.

DACA students to get emergency aid from California systems

Kery Murakami, Inside Higher Ed
While Democratic senators continue to criticize U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for excluding so-called DACA students from receiving emergency grants, the University of California and California State University systems said they will use their own funds to help the immigrant students during the pandemic. The moves come after DeVos last week announced undocumented students brought illegally to the U.S. as children are not eligible for the $6 billion in emergency grants Congress set aside for college students in the CARES Act. The aid is designed to cover student costs such as housing after they’ve had their lives disrupted by campus closures and the move to online education during the crisis.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

How LAUSD handed out 13 million free meals in 6 weeks [VIDEO]

Carla Javier and Chava Sanchez, LAist
In the weeks since the Los Angeles Unified School District closed its campuses to slow the spread of COVID-19, the nation’s second-largest school district has become a large-scale provider of food relief. Since March 18, volunteers and staff have distributed over 13 million free meals to children and adults. The district says it was well-positioned to provide food relief at such a large scale because even before the pandemic, its schools already provided food to thousands of kids. Almost 80% of LAUSD students qualify for free and reduced-priced meals, which are reimbursed through school nutrition programs run by the federal government and state.

I miss my teachers’: Already on the margins, homeless students hit hard by shuttered schools

Riham Feshir, MPR News
Patricia Bass has goals. She wants to graduate from high school in the spring. She wants her own place. She wants to become a social worker some day. But with unstable housing — and a pandemic that forced Minnesota schools to shutter for the rest of the academic year — it hasn’t been easy for her to focus on how she’ll get there. A fraught relationship with her mother over the past few months has forced her to hop between her aunt’s house, friends’ places and her boyfriend’s home.

What schools will look like when they reopen: Scheduled days home, more online learning, lots of hand-washing

Erin Richards, USA Today
Imagine, for a moment, American children returning to school this fall. The school week looks vastly different, with most students attending school two or three days a week and doing the rest of their learning at home. At school, desks are spaced apart to discourage touching. Some classrooms extend into unused gymnasiums, libraries or art rooms – left vacant while schools put on hold activities that cram lots of children together.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

For aspiring college students, pandemic has created ‘debilitating’ uncertainty

Elissa Nadworny, NPR
For the last few weeks, it’s been tough for Alexis Jones to focus. The high school senior has been holed up in a two-bedroom apartment with, at times, four other people, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. She’s busy with her high school classes, AP tests, her online college course, plus her job at a nonprofit, for which she is still working remotely. The things that bring her joy in isolation? Painting with acrylics and daydreaming about college. Jones has committed to Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. But even that, which she says is the payoff for being such a good student these past four years, feels bittersweet.

Class of 2020: Graduating during covid

Young Whan Choi, The Young and the Woke
In this episode, I catch up with two students who were featured on this podcast before. Don’t worry, we recorded the interviews online, so no social distancing guidelines were broken. Given all the changes that are happening in our world during the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to hear from young people, particularly high school seniors who are at a critical moment at the cusp of adulthood. We hear from Fremont High School student Midori Butler and former Skyline High School student Angelica Perkins.

Some students are considering dropping out of college because of coronavirus

Abigail Hess, CNBC
Colleges around the world have closed their doors and moved their classes online to stem the spread of coronavirus. An overwhelming majority of students agree with public health officials that canceling in-person classes is an important part of social distancing and containing the virus, but that doesn’t mean they are prepared to invest the same amount of time and money on a different educational experience.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Richer schools not necessarily faster to set up distance learning

Ricardo Cano and Adria Watson, Capital Public Radio
As countries across the globe began shuttering campuses to combat the spread of a deadly new coronavirus, superintendent Michelle Rodriguez knew it eventually would come for her schools, too. So, weeks before the March 16 closures in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Rodriguez and educators in this community about an hour south of San Jose sprang into “an all-hands-on-deck mentality.” They came up with plans to keep families fed and equip them with technology. They trained teachers for the increasing likelihood that the school year for their 20,000 kids would be radically disrupted by global catastrophe.

Many wealthy parents won’t send kids back to school this fall. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Kiera Butler, Mother Jones
As the weeks of home isolation drag on, the unfairness of remote learning is becoming clear. While upper-middle-class families balance full workdays with homeschool sessions, many poor parents have neither the work flexibility nor the equipment to help their children keep up with lessons at home. In some places, needy students just have gone silent. Los Angeles schools recently reported that about a third of high school students aren’t logging on for remote school at all.

Teacher voice: Once I removed barriers to online access, my students were able to participate in remote learning in meaningful ways

Joshua Brown, LA School Report
“Oscar, are you there? Make sure to unmute yourself please!”
Like thousands of teachers across the nation, I muttered this phrase in my new virtual classroom. Curriculum and instruction have taken on a completely different meaning as schools attempt to navigate the new digital learning environment. My colleagues and I are doing our best to reach our students in the changing landscape.

Public Schools and Private $

‘Coronavirus capitalism’ is coming for public schools

Dora Taylor, The Progressive
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, public schools in Seattle have closed for the remainder of the school year. But before that decision was made, the local school board gave away one of the public’s most critical needs in a crisis—democratic oversight of the district leader’s contract agreements and other expenditures. Relinquishing the public’s right to scrutinize how its money is being spent has become common in school districts across the country, as democratically elected officials facing an emergency have loosened, to varying degrees, the reins controlling how school leaders conduct business.

IDEA charter school network landed grants with political help from Education Department, congressman says

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
A U.S. congressman is demanding answers from the U.S. Education Department, alleging department employees complained to his office about political interference in the awarding of a multimillion-dollar federal grant to the controversial IDEA charter school network. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the department Monday asking for details and records related to the awarding of the grant. In an interview, Pocan said “three whistleblowers” told his office that professional staff evaluating applications for 2020 grants from the federal Charter School Program had rejected IDEA for new funding, deeming the network “high risk” because of how IDEA leaders previously spent federal funds.

DeVos to use coronavirus relief funds for home schooling ‘microgrants’

Anya Kamanetz, NPR
This week, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that more than $300 million from the first coronavirus rescue package will go to two education grant competitions for K-12 and higher ed. States will be able to apply for a piece of the $180 million allotted to the “Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant” and $127.5 million allotted to the “Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.”

Other News of Note

The Aeolians Oakwood University Alumni 2020, “We Shall Overcome” [Video]