Just News from Center X – May 22, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Schools face prospect of layoffs, furloughs as state budget shrinks

Ricardo Cano, CalMatters
California’s public schools, physically closed since mid-March and strapped for cash, are coming out of a frying pan and into a financial fire. The fire comes in the form of a $6.5 billion cut to schools’ main source of funding as well as other reductions in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget that, if enacted, would mean single-year reductions to public education greater than those experienced during the Great Recession a decade ago, according to advocates. Newsom’s budget includes several nooks and crannies that ease a $15.1 billion shortfall for K-12 schools and community colleges. Still, the proposed education cuts arrive as schools expect to tack on more costs in order to safely reopen their doors for teachers and students in the fall.

Most California school districts plan to open in the fall. Here’s how it would work

Sonali Kohli, The Los Angeles Times
Most public school districts in California are planning to reopen campuses on their regular start dates in late August and September — but the new normal amid the coronavirus outbreak will likely include masks, daily school sanitation and smaller class sizes to maintain six feet of distance, state Supt. of Instruction Tony Thurmond said Wednesday. Also, some school districts will likely offer a combination of in-person and distance learning, something parents have asked for, Thurmond said. But the new safety accommodations will require more funding, Thurmond said during a news conference Wednesday, almost a week after the governor’s May budget revise slashed about $19 billion from schools over the next two years.

Reopening schools in the context of COVID-19: Health and safety guidelines from other countries

Hanna Melnick, Linda Darling Hammond Melanie Leung, Cathy Yun, Abby Schachner, Sara Plasencia, and Naomi Ondrasek, Learning Policy Institute
Schools across the United States canceled in-person classes beginning in March 2020 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In many states and districts, school buildings are closed for the duration of the school year. Across the country, policymakers and school leaders are making plans to reopen schools for the next academic year, and some are preparing to do so sooner. In order to reopen schools safely and mitigate disease spread, state and district leaders will need to address several important health considerations. This brief compiles preliminary information on health and safety guidelines from five countries that have continued or reopened schools during the COVID-19 outbreak: China, Denmark, Norway, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Language, Culture, and Power

From ‘pretty good’ to ‘really difficult’ — students at one high school talk about online learning during the pandemic

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
What do students think about their experience with online learning during the covid-19 pandemic? Here is a snapshot of views from eight students at Luther Burbank High School in south Sacramento, provided by teacher Katherine Bell. Luther Burbank is a comprehensive high school, where 84 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. Bell, who has been at the school since 2005, teaches social science, and during her time at Luther Burbank has taught all of the grades in the high school. She is also the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program Coordinator.

How student Aminah Elster liberated herself by giving voice to others

Ivan Natividad, Berkeley News
Aminah Elster’s college career began within the walls of a California state prison. Sitting on a tarp laid in the middle of a Chowchilla prison yard, she completed assignments, studied French and read about the lives of historical figures, like Malcolm X and Frida Kahlo. Her fellow prisoners circled around the nearby running track, but she took refuge in her own little study nook, away from the negativity and chaos of prison life. “School was an escape for me,” said Elster. “I was learning new things, and remembering that there was more to the world than those prison walls and the neighborhood that I had been confined to for so long: It was liberating.”

The Trump administration is rushing deportations of migrant children during coronavirus

Lomi Kriel, ProPublica
The girls, 8 and 11, were alone in a rented room in a dangerous Mexican city bordering Texas. Their father had been attacked and abandoned on the side of a road and they didn’t know where he was. For seven months the children had waited with their dad in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, to ask U.S. authorities for asylum. They had fled their home after death threats from local gang members and no help from police. They had also been victims of sexual assault. But in March, after their father suddenly didn’t return from his construction job, a neighbor took the children to the international bridge. He said they should present themselves to U.S. immigration authorities, who would reunite the girls with their mother in Houston.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Learning from education in emergencies [AUDIO]

Will Brehm, FreshEd
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an emergency situation for most education systems worldwide. Schools are closed. Students are at home. Stress and anxiety are high. Domestic violence and food insecurity are on the rise. And we are uncertain when this emergency will end. Luckily, there is a large body of research on education in emergencies that can help guide us through this unprecedented situation. My guest today is Sarah Dryden-Peterson, a foremost scholar on education in conflict and post-conflict settings. Sarah Dryden-Peterson is an Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is the co-founder and director of REACH, a collaborative initiative that provides guidance and resources on key topics in education, migration, and displacement for educators, policymakers, and researchers. She has recently started Books of Belonging, an online video series where she reads a picture book each day of the week.

Listen to community voices as we redesign California public schools

Maria Ortega, Laura Zavala and Tere Onofre, EdSource
DeShae Johnson in Fresno worries about finishing her senior year, taking Advanced Placement tests, and completing scholarship applications for college while taking care of her younger siblings so her mother can continue to work as a janitor. Daniela Hernandez, a youth leader on the eastside of Los Angeles, couldn’t get her employer, a food retailer, to provide protective equipment even as shelter-in-place orders began. She won the right to wear gloves, but ultimately decided to quit her job to prevent exposing vulnerable family members to the coronavirus. Lidia Cruz is a mother of three young children living in Sacramento. With schools closed and limited resources, she worries how to keep food on the table and get pencils and workbooks so her children can learn from home. Each of these women’s stories resonate with thousands of Californians whose lives also have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Children’s loss of social ties, learning are parents’ top closure concerns

Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
Parents are more concerned about their children missing social interactions at school and with peers than they are someone in their family getting sick with the coronavirus, according to a new survey released Wednesday. Fifty-nine percent of the more than 3,600 parents and guardians responding to the nonprofit Learning Heroes’ survey said their children’s lack of in-person connections was currently their top pandemic-related concern, with 57% saying they are worried about COVID-19 affecting a family member. Making sure their children will be prepared for the next grade level and whether closures or changes to school models will negatively impact their children’s education tied for third at 54%.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

‘I am beyond worried’: More HS students are applying for financial aid — and enrolling in college as a result. Coronavirus may put an end to both

Charlotte West, The 74
When Akyiaha Simpson, a senior at California’s Orange Vista High School, started applying to college last fall, she wasn’t sure how she was going to pay for it. The first step? Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It was a requirement not only to get money for college but also to earn her high school diploma. “My counselor was on me about that,” she said. “I didn’t know what the FAFSA was at first.” Now, after taking that first step, Simpson is planning to attend Cal Baptist University on a generous scholarship in the fall. Three years ago, Simpson’s district, Val Verde Unified, became the first in California to make completion of a financial aid application — either the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application — a graduation requirement. In the first year of implementation, the district’s financial aid completion rate rose significantly, from 69 percent to 83 percent. College enrollment rates went up too, from 56 percent in 2017 to 61 percent in 2018.

Not everyone hates remote learning. For these students, it’s a blessing.

Elizabeth A. Harris, The New York Times
Salah-Deen Fouathia, an eighth grader at Voice Charter School in Queens, was struggling in school. It was hard to pay attention. Math was a challenge. His grades in health class weren’t great. So when the pandemic closed all schools, reducing his classes to the size of a screen, his parents feared Salah-Deen would struggle even more. To their delight, the opposite has happened. With fewer distractions and the help of his parents and teachers, his schooling has been going better, and his grades reflect that. “At home, it seems to be a bit easier to focus on all the work I’m getting and it’s almost like we’re one on one with the teacher,” Salah-Deen said. “Everything in general is easier.”

UC may allow partial campus reopenings in the fall

Larry Gordon, EdSource
The University of California on Wednesday adopted a health roadmap that could allow some or all of its 10 campuses to partly reopen in the fall if widespread testing and tracing for the coronavirus gets underway, all students and faculty wear face coverings and physical distancing is kept. The move by the UC Board of Regents does not guarantee that any of the 285,000-student system will operate in-person for the fall term but holds out hope for some limited return to normal. Decisions will be made by individual campuses and labs over the next month or so, with some variation among them likely, officials said.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Taking an AP test outside McD’s: The low-income student’s predicament

Stephanie Sun, The New York Daily News
Of the thousands of students I’ve taught in my 10-year career, Natalie is the brightest, sweetest and purest. She shines in my Advanced Placement English class, pushing the thinking of her peers while deftly articulating her own ideas. A relentless hard worker, she juggles two other AP classes, honors math and extracurriculars. Outside of school, she finds time to help her mom, an immigrant from Ecuador, sell Icees from a cart in downtown Brooklyn, while at home she translates bills and documents for her. Since the COVID-19 outbreak forced our school to close and we traded our rich classroom discussions for grainy Zoom breakouts, Natalie hasn’t missed an assignment or complained a single time about a dizzying online school schedule or crowded lifestyle. Instead, she asks how I’m doing. She’s still maintaining her straight As.

With the coronavirus keeping campuses closed, parents report academic, financial struggles and stress

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
Parents fear that their children are losing vital learning opportunities with school campuses closed due to the coronavirus, and these academic struggles appear linked to economic hardship and possibly race, according to local and national surveys released Monday. In Los Angeles, fewer than half of families in a recent poll of public school students said distance learning has been successful — and more than half also report one or more family members losing jobs, the district reported.

Due to COVID-19, thousands of low-income students are deferring and dropping college plans

Richard Whitmire, The Hill
The most promising solution we’ve seen yet for leveling the nation’s ballooning income and wealth gaps — first-generation students earning bachelor’s degrees — appears to be unraveling. Because of COVID-19, thousands of low-income students are deferring and dropping college plans, indicate multiple student surveys. Or, they are scaling back from a four-year college to a community college, where the odds of ever earning a four-year degree plummet. Middle-class college-goers may consider a “gap year,” where they defer college for a year, usually finding something educationally enriching to do for a year. But that’s not what’s happening with low-income students.

Public Schools and Private $

Asked whether she is using crisis to support private school choice, DeVos says ‘yes, absolutely’

Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has offered a chance to advance a longstanding goal of hers: to use public dollars to support access to private schools. In an conversation with DeVos on SiriusXM radio, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, suggested that the secretary was trying to “utilize this particular crisis to ensure that justice is finally done to our kids and the parents who choose to send them to faith-based schools,” including through a new program that encourages states to offer voucher-like grants for parents. “Am I correct in understanding what your agenda is?” Dolan asks. “Yes, absolutely,” DeVos responded.

DeVos funnels coronavirus relief funds to favored private and religious schools

Erica L. Green, The New York Times
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments. Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

How to use university endowments for coronavirus recovery

Charlie Eaton, The Hechinger Report
The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox. In the face of the coronavirus, some courageous university leaders have stepped up to protect their students, their employees and their communities. They have maintained essential services for low-income students, refused to lay off employees and begun careful planning to reopen safely for the fall term. To weather this crisis and speed a national recovery, universities also need to use some of our nation’s biggest untapped rainy-day funds: their endowments. With $600 billion in assets as of 2017, the combined value of U.S. university endowments exceeds the most recent Covid-19 relief package passed by Congress. In the wake of a global historical crisis, we cannot afford to let such a massive resource sit idle. The most pressing questions then are twofold. First, what are the most urgent uses to which we can put endowment spending? Second, what can private citizens and policymakers do to help universities spend more of their endowments now and still have the resources they need in future years?

Other News of Note

HRP books of the month: May: The art of critical pedagogy by Jeffrey M.R. Duncan-Andrade and Ernest Morrell

Chris McNutt, Medium
Each month, the Human Restoration Project chooses books that we believe are paramount for progressive educators to read. These are not necessarily categorized or numbered by importance, relevance to a certain topic, or release date. Instead, these are the books we’ve read recently to inform our own practice and publications. The Art of Critical Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools is an exemplary work written by experts in the field: English teacher and Associate Professor of Raza Studies and Education Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies, Jeffrey M.R. Duncan-Andrade And — professor of English and head of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), Ernest Morrell (further, Morrell and Duncan-Andrade used to be co-teachers.)