Just News from Center X – May 6, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Of Course the Constitution Has Nothing to Say About Abortion

Jill Lepore, The New Yorker

Within a matter of months, women in about half of the United States may be breaking the law if they decide to end a pregnancy. This will be, in large part, because Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is surprised that there is so little written about abortion in a four-thousand-word document crafted by fifty-five men in 1787. As it happens, there is also nothing at all in that document, which sets out fundamental law, about pregnancy, uteruses, vaginas, fetuses, placentas, menstrual blood, breasts, or breast milk. There is nothing in that document about women at all. Most consequentially, there is nothing in that document—or in the circumstances under which it was written—that suggests its authors imagined women as part of the political community embraced by the phrase “We the People.” There were no women among the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. There were no women among the hundreds of people who participated in ratifying conventions in the states. There were no women judges. There were no women legislators. At the time, women could neither hold office nor run for office, and, except in New Jersey, and then only fleetingly, women could not vote. Legally, most women did not exist as persons.

Protecting Trans Youth

Rethinking Schools Editors

The Right has declared war on trans youth. Recent headlines offer a sickening taste of what reactionary governors and state legislators have been cooking up in their laboratories of transphobic bigotry. Texas governor directs state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for trans youths as ‘child abuse.’  Transgender girls and women now barred from female sports in Iowa. Idaho trans bill makes it illegal to take teens out of state for treatment. The disastrous impact of these bills was described by Chase Strangio of the ACLU on Democracy Now!: “Right now on the ground, we know that families are being investigated solely because they have transgender children. Teachers are being asked to report transgender children and their families to child welfare authorities and providers have cut off healthcare across the state. So the practical impact is catastrophic, and people are suffering.”

School Support Staffers Don’t Make a Living Wage. Here’s a Comparison by State

Madeline Will, Education Week

There’s no state in the country where an education support professional—such as a paraprofessional or a school cafeteria worker—earns enough, on average, to support themself and one child while living in the state’s most affordable metropolitan area, a new analysis finds. In addition to this year’s teacher salary rankings, the National Education Association released data for how much school support staff make in each state. The nation’s largest teachers’ union, which represents about a half-million education support professionals, analyzed federal data to provide a picture of all support staff working in public schools.

Language, Culture, and Power

Illinois’ Education Chief Urges Schools to Stop Working With Police to Ticket Students for Misbehavior

Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, and Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica

Illinois’ top education official urged schools to stop working with police to ticket students for misbehavior, hours after an investigation by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune revealed that schools across the state were evading laws designed to prohibit the fining of students. In a strongly worded plea sent to officials across the state, Illinois ​​State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said the costly fines associated with the tickets can be immensely harmful to families, and there’s no evidence they improve students’ behavior. School officials who refer students to police for ticketing have “abdicated their responsibility for student discipline to local law enforcement,” she wrote Thursday, the same day the investigation “The Price Kids Pay” was published.

Abolitionists Win Big-ish in Sleepy College Town

Morganne Blais-Mcpherson and Dov Salkoff, Democratic Left

Last fall, 10 years after Davis, California, became infamous for a photo of UC Davis security police pepper-spraying seated, nonviolent Occupy Wall Street protesters, Davis activists won a yearlong abolitionist campaign to create a seven-person public safety department. This new department will take on tasks previously assigned to the city’s police department and is a significant step toward delegitimizing and hacking away at the police state. In this sleepy, majority-white and Democratic college town of about 70,000, Davis’s biggest selling points are its quaint farmers’ market and pervasive bike culture. Although socialist and other leftist organizations exist, they are small and suffer from student turnover. The non-student organizations gravitate around the Democratic Party. It is in this unpromising environment that an organized effort to transform policing grew and won.

For neurodivergent, non-speaking poets, collaboration is the basis of language

Jeevika Verma, NPR

Adam Wolfond says that poetry is part of his body. “It is nature to me,” he says through a speech-generating device. “And I think that non-speakers like me dance with language.” Wolfond, 20, identifies as a non-speaking, autistic poet; he types and moves to communicate. He’s neurodivergent, which means he has variations from what might be considered “typical” — in how his brain functions and processes information.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Universal access to free meals at schools can lead to lower grocery bills and healthier food purchases

Michelle Marcus and Catherine Yewell, The Conversation

Families with children can save US$11 to $39 per month, or $132 to $468 per year, on groceries through the Community Eligibility Provision – a federal program through which high-poverty schools or districts provide free breakfast and lunch to all students regardless of family income. This is according to a new study that uses data on purchases made by 40,000 to 60,000 U.S. households annually to examine how the program benefits families. Research has estimated that eating a healthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day than eating a less healthy diet. For that reason, when families save money by spending less on groceries, the savings may result in changes to the quality of their households’ diet. In fact, when households save money from this program, they are able to reallocate their spending toward purchasing healthier food.

A day in the life of a school social worker

Peggy Barmore, Hechinger Report

Just before 7:20 a.m. on the day before February break, the black Ford SUV was the first vehicle to pull into the school parking lot. Inside, Nathaniel Wylie listened to the last refrains of the gospel praise song “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” before turning off the engine and heading inside the beige brick building. His morning playlist always consists of something uplifting, including the occasional motivational speaker. “I love rap, I love hip hop, but I save that for after work,” he said. “I listen to something positive, something motivational for the morning so that I can carry that throughout the day.”

Bronx high school students get a crash course in urban planning

Reema Amin, Chalkbeat New York

Nestor Rivas grew up near the South Bronx’s sprawling St. Mary’s Park, where families host barbecues and children play baseball. But it wasn’t until Rivas began researching the park as part of a new urban planning curriculum at his school, that he realized something: Unlike Central Park or Union Square, St. Mary’s doesn’t have food vendors. “You go to different parts of uptown Manhattan, and they have these parks with foods and like, these farmer’s markets,” said Rivas, 18, a senior at Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in the South Bronx.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Well-being of many babies at risk, report finds

Karen D’Souza, EdSource

If the mental and physical well-being of our nation’s babies and toddlers are powerful indicators of our nation’s overall health, then all is not well for the country’s smallest citizens, according to the “State of Babies Yearbook: 2022.”  In every state, by nearly every measure, children living in low-income families and children of color face the biggest hurdles, the report suggests. Only 11% of eligible infants and toddlers have access to Early Head Start nationally, according to the annual report from Zero To Three, an early childhood advocacy and research organization, while California provides access to 14%.

When It Comes to Prison Education, Some Who Need It Most May Be Left Behind

Nuria Sheehan, Truthout

In 1994, 17-year-old Cedric X. Cal was incarcerated in Illinois with a natural life sentence for murder. He had no chance for parole hearings, no possibility of release. Maintaining his innocence, he knew he’d fight the conviction, and he applied to a prison-based college program. He wanted to learn as much as possible to help his case and prepare to eventually be freed. But his hopes for continuing his education were dashed that September when the Clinton crime bill eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated people, halting nearly all funding for college in prison programs. In the early 2000s, some colleges started offering classes at Stateville Correctional Center, the maximum-security prison where Cal was housed.

8 Ways Higher Ed Can Help Save Democracy

William G. Tierney, Inside HigherEd

One bromide about colleges and universities is that they are among the oldest social organizations in the world—and their focus has never changed. The assumption of stasis, however, is wrong. Higher education always has changed, and that change is tied to meeting a nuanced understanding of a public good. Today, however, our postsecondary institutions sit on the sidelines worrying about internal problems, however legitimate they are. Funding remains a concern. The lack of racial diversity is a well-deserved preoccupation. Boards are disengaged or mistakenly obsessed with issues that ought to be left to the faculty and senior administrative leadership. Professors worry about the loss of earning power and the replacement of tenure-track with contingent faculty positions. The curtailment of free speech is a flash point. The pandemic forced everyone to move online. A long-standing assumption of American higher education has been that college-educated individuals are well prepared for citizenship.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Fifty years after Title IX, girls and women in sport still have fewer opportunities

Alex Azzi, Yahoo

Nearly 50 years after Title IX was enacted, girls still have fewer opportunities to participate in high school sports than boys did in 1972. That is one of the key findings from a new report published by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) on Wednesday, 50 days ahead the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23. The WSF report, titled “50 Years of Title IX: We’re Not Done Yet,” found that girls in 2018-19 (the most recent reporting year) had 3.4 million opportunities to participate in high school sports, which is 200,000 fewer than the 3.6 million opportunities boys had in 1972 and approximately 1.1 million fewer than the 4.5 million opportunities boys have today.

Girls’ performance in mathematics now equal to boys


Deepening the debate on those still left behind, an annual UNESCO gender report, analysed data from 120 countries in primary and secondary education to offer a global picture. The findings show that in the early years, boys perform better than girls in mathematics but, this gender gap disappears later. This research confirms that the gender gap in learning has closed even in the poorest countries. And in some countries, the gap is now reversed. For example, by grade 8, the gap is in favour of girls in mathematics by 7 percentage points in Malaysia, by 3 points in Cambodia, by 1.7 points in Congo and by 1.4 points in the Philippines. However, biases and stereotypes are still likely to affect learning outcomes. Even though girls catch up in mathematics in upper primary and secondary education, boys are far more likely to be overrepresented among the highest performers in mathematics in all countries.

Breaking Brown v. Board of Education’s promise of integrated schools

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

This is the start of a new investigation by the Star News into segregation of New Hanover County Schools in North Carolina: For 15 years, New Hanover County Schools has used a “neighborhood schools” policy to assign students to the school closest to their home. The policy aims to keep students closer to home and give communities a sense of ownership of the schools within their neighborhoods. But community advocates, education experts and local leaders all agree that the policy has re-segregated the school district and opened up massive equity and achievement gaps within the system. Under the policy, a student’s race and where they live heavily influence what kind of education they get.

Democracy and the Public Interest

School Boards Have Long Been a Tool of White Supremacy

Anthony Conwright, Mother Jones

At raucous school board meetings across the country, disgruntled parents have grabbed the mic to represent the political desires of the Republican Party. Once-innocuous local gatherings have become anti–critical race theory caucuses administered by white people. In July 2021, the Missouri state legislature’s joint education committee held an invite-only hearing on how educators in public K–12 schools teach about racism. “I felt today it was important to hear from people who have tried to go through the official cycle of authority within their districts and have basically been turned away,” said Cindy O’Laughlin, a Republican senator and the committee’s chair. For O’Laughlin, “people” has a precise meaning, as no Black person spoke and the only people allowed to give testimony were opponents of critical race theory.

Too many White parents don’t understand the true purpose of public schools

Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz, Washington Post

In March, students from Lincoln Park High School in Newark, part of the North Star Academy charter network, walked out of school to protest the “frequent mistreatment of Black students and faculty.” They peacefully marched to City Hall, and when they returned to school, they found themselves locked out of the building. School officials told some student organizers that they couldn’t return in the coming days, either, and would have to study remotely. School districts and states across the country, enabled by big dollars from far-right political organizations, have moved to make teaching about racism illegal.

Should a small town library be turned into a police station? [AUDIO]

Education Beat Podcast

A small town in the Central Valley could turn its community library into a police station, but not if some kids have their way.

Other News of Note

Detroiters Are Not Waiting to Be Saved

Nate File, Boston Review

In an open lot on Detroit’s Eastside, a small red and sky-blue refrigerator hums underneath a hand-made shelter. On this windy February afternoon, Alyssa Rogers, one of the cofounders of Detroit Community Fridge (DCF), pulls up to the lot, opens the trunk of her car, and lugs jars of peanut butter, soda cans, bagged cereal, and packets of instant rice to the fridge and its adjacent pantry space. There isn’t much fresh produce going in today, she laments, noting that fewer fruits and vegetables get donated during the harsh Michigan winter. Rogers and Emily Eicher, students at Wayne State University, started DCF in August 2020 after learning about other successful community fridge programs around the country. Their work taps into Detroit’s extensive history of mutual care and community organizing.

Remembering Wilhelmina Holder, Newark activist and ‘warrior’ for children

Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat Newark

If you wanted to keep up with Wilhelmina Holder, you had to move fast. The Newark grandmother, parent organizer, student mentor, education activist, and self-described “lifelong learner” was always heading somewhere, talking to someone, planning something. And whether she was setting officials straight at a school board meeting, cornering a superintendent to raise some urgent matter, or prodding a high schooler to hit the books, she did not waste time equivocating. She told it like it was.