Just News from Center X – November 20, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Research at UCLA & UC Riverside details lack of civic learning opportunities in California

John McDonald, Ampersand

In the wake of a national election that signaled heightened interest in politics as well as deep fissures that threaten the very basis of our democracy, a new study by researchers at UC Riverside and UCLA raises serious concerns about an alarming degree of inattention to the democratic mission of schools and a general lack of support for civic learning across California.
The study, “Reclaiming the Democratic Purpose of California’s Public Schools”, finds that civic and democratic goals are marginal to the mission statements of school districts and that civics and democracy are not part of Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) for the vast majority of school districts in California. There is also little in the way of staffing and infrastructure that supports civic learning. The researchers call on education, community and policy leaders to make democratic education and civic learning a renewed priority for public education in the state.

The Biden-Harris Climate Plan Misses a Crucial Element: Education

Radhika Iyengarr, State of the Planet

The environmental education community is very hopeful about the Biden-Harris team’s $2 trillion climate change plan. The plan focuses on dream projects like clean energy, climate resilience, environmental justice, and economic growth, and sets a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. There is a lot of jubilation and expectations of big changes associated with addressing climate change, and it starts with rejoining the Paris Agreement. However, amongst this enthusiasm, the United States is keeping quiet on something terribly important — something that is sure to have a long-lasting impact on climate change: Education. Education provides an opportunity to shape how people of all ages understand the science behind and social issues surrounding climate change, and ultimately how our society chooses to address these problems.

In ‘remarkable’ turnaround, California schools can expect huge one-time windfall next year, LAO says

John Fensterwald, Ed Source

An uneven recession savaging low-income Californians, but a surprisingly fast economic rebound advantaging higher-income Californians, will create a huge unexpected state budget surplus that will provide an unexpected $13.1 billion in one-time revenue for K-12 schools and community colleges in the fiscal year starting July 1, 2021, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported on Wednesday. While tempering its forecast because of the pandemic’s unpredictability — “Despite being our best assessment, our main forecast will be wrong to some extent” — the LAO’s report documents what it calls a “remarkable” turnaround. The LAO’s annual projection precedes the governor’s budget by about two months, but usually is an accurate forecast of revenues and spending obligations.

Language, Culture, and Power

Ethnic studies will help students become better informed citizens in our diverse democracy

Albert Camarillo, Cal Matters

A century ago, John Dewey, the great American philosopher and education reformer, offered compelling arguments on the role of education and democracy that transformed public school curricula in 20th-century America. Among the cornerstones of Dewey’s proposals for a new curriculum was the role civic education could play in creating a more ethical, participatory democracy. When schools help students acquire a “social consciousness” as citizens, he argued, they are better equipped to contribute to the public good and help strengthen democratic institutions. Dewey’s transformational ideas about the role of school curricula are more salient today than they were over 100 years ago. California in the 21st century is, arguably, the most heterogeneous society in human history, and the role of our public schools to promote understanding and appreciation of its diverse population must be an essential part of the curriculum offered to every student.

Remembering Juan Gómez Quiñones, Chicano studies legend and professor to all of L.A.

Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times

The legend of Juan Gómez Quiñones seemed all hype when I sat down for the first day of his History of Chicano People course at UCLA in the winter quarter of 2002. His large glasses and thick mustache made the professor look more like a kindly retiree than the towering intellectual whom friends had raved about. He ambled around the cavernous Knudsen Hall classroom as students strolled in, struggling to pin a lapel microphone to his collar. In a low, monotone voice, Gómez Quiñones read through the syllabus with all the enthusiasm of a chair. This was the man famous for his mentorship of generations of Chicano students? Whose output of books, essays and poetry were as prolific as that of Cornel West? Who made enough appearances on Spanish-language radio and television that even my parents knew who he was?

Federal judge tears into Trump administration over its handling of DACA

Pricilla Alvarez, CNN

A federal judge in New York who ruled over the weekend that the new DACA rules were invalid tore into the Trump administration for its handling of the program in a hearing Wednesday, calling the latest government actions a “sad and inappropriate use of executive authority.”
“I just want you to understand that I believe that we should have a process, a legal process here, as everywhere else, but sadly, what we’re doing is impacting the lives of many, many people, who are buoyed by the Supreme Court decision in June and have been undermined by the conduct of the Department of Homeland Security since then, as I set forth in my decision,” Judge Nicholas Garaufis said.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked

Evie Blad, Education Week

Some of the same Atlanta teens who met civil rights icon John Lewis and read his books as middle school students carried lessons from the late Georgia congressman and voting rights advocate to the polls this year, voting for the first time in the 2020 elections.
They’ve remained riveted as the results trickle in and as they’ve learned that, pending a recount, their state could be on track to support a Democrat in the presidential race for the first time since 1992. In addition, two tight U.S. Senate races will go to runoffs, putting Peachtree State voters in the rare position of deciding which party will control the upper chamber.

COMIC: A Kids’ Guide To Coping With The Pandemic

Malaka Gharib and Cory Turner, NPR

Kids, this comic is for you. You’ve been living through this pandemic for months, and you might be feeling sad, frustrated or upset. But there are lots of different ways to deal with your worries – and make yourself feel better. Here are some tips and advice to help you through. This comic is based on interviews conducted by NPR’s Cory Turner with Tara Powell at the University of Illinois School of Social Work, Joy Osofsky at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Krystal Lewis at the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, and Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop.

One Denver family’s fight for special education services during remote learning

Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat Colorado

Jennifer and Jamin Alabiso proposed what they thought was an innovative way for their 10-year-old son, who has autism, to receive special education services during remote learning — specifically, the 45 minutes per day of reading help he needs to reach grade level. The family lives less than a block from his Denver school, and teachers had already been by the house several times to drop off supplies. Would it be possible for the special education teacher to sit with their son outside on the front porch, masks on, for his reading lessons? If not on the front porch, then maybe on the school playground? Or even inside an empty classroom?

Access, Assessment, Advancement

California Is Reshaping Its Child Care And Early Education Programs — Here’s How You Can Weigh In

Mariana Dale, LAist

California’s early childhood system is over-burdened and underfunded. Not all low-income families that qualify for free or low-cost child care can access it, other parents are spending a quarter of their income on child care, and the workforce is shrinking. And that was before the coronavirus pandemic. Next month, California leaders will unveil a much-anticipated Master Plan For Early Learning and Care that will shape programs in the state for years to come. And there’s still a chance for you to weigh in — the state’s Early Childhood Policy Council will hold a special meeting dedicated to the plan on Friday, Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. The agenda is here and you can register to attend here. If you can’t make the meeting, share your thoughts here or email .

Progress in getting underrepresented people into college and skilled jobs may be stalling because of the pandemic

Jon Marcus, Hechinger Report

Largely low-income, Hispanic and with parents whose own educations didn’t get past high school, the young people in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas started over the last decade doing something few of their predecessors had done: going to college. As the community near the Mexican border came together to make education a priority, scores in math and reading on state standardized tests rose. So did high school graduation rates and the proportion of students filling out the federal application for college financial aid. The number who went on to higher education inched up, to 57 percent from 56 percent. “We got a lot of people talking about how important going to college is,” said Katherine Díaz, who, as deputy director for the nonprofit RGV FOCUS — it stands for Rio Grande Valley — helps coordinate this work.

The lowest-paid workers in higher education are suffering the highest job losses

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Alyssa Fowers, Washington Post

Eugenia Bradford believed her job was safe. After all, she was the only administrative assistant for college advising services at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Who else would schedule appointments or supervise work-study students if she were gone? But weeks before the fall semester began in August, Bradford’s boss told her the department was downsizing and her position would be eliminated. The university offered to pay her through mid-October, but after that she was on her own. No more health insurance. No more peace of mind. “I was in total shock and disbelief for about three days,” said Bradford, 57, a mother of three. “I see myself getting depressed, but I pray … get out and walk. My rent is due soon. My last paycheck was barely $400.” Colleges and universities are shedding jobs at an unprecedented rate. And some of the lowest-paid workers in higher education are bearing the brunt of the layoffs, mirroring broader trends of the most unequal recession in modern U.S. history.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

What’s Next for PreK-12 Funding? Austerity, Subsistence or Investment?

Frank Adamson, Allison Brown, and Kevin Welner, NEPC

With Joe Biden two months away from assuming the presidency, it’s goodbye to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and hello to a new administration. Now in full swing is the parlor game of guessing who the next education secretary will be. But to most educators and their students, what matters even more will be the way in which President-elect Biden and the Congress handle the economic tsunami of COVID-created declines of 10 to 20 percent in state tax revenue, coupled with rising expenses related to implementing safety measures, such as social distancing, while abruptly pivoting to remote learning, requiring new approaches and tools.

What decreased learning time in school means for student learning

Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss, Economic Policy Institute

One reflection of how much students have learned and developed since schools closed in March can be found in late Argentinian cartoonist Quino’s 2007 comic strip, in Manolito and his peers’ self-assessments of what they learned in school. When Manolito’s teacher asks, he replies: “From March to today, nothing,” (The implied message is: others are learning, while he is stuck.) As many parents and teachers have seen, these are the likely realities for students in 2020. Because learning time in school matters, and students’ learning and development tend to vary greatly even when schools operate in normal circumstances, challenges to learning were magnified when schools closed—due to prolonged cuts to learning time in school, the access to some “substitute” educational opportunities during the pandemic, and the many factors that influence out-of-school learning.

Amid National Reckoning, Americans Divided on Whether Increased Focus on Race Will Lead to Major Policy Change

Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Kim Parker, Anna Brown, Kiana Cox, Pew Research Center

A series of high-profile incidents of police violence against Black Americans in recent months, including the killing of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake, have sparked nationwide protests, renewed calls for the removal of Confederate symbols and produced public condemnations of systemic racism from lawmakers, corporations, sports leagues and others. Yet many Americans are skeptical that this moment of racial reckoning will lead to major changes in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Major Tensions Flare Over Education Secretary Before Joe Biden Even Picks One

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

The pandemic is ravaging education, but speculation about President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for education secretary is competing for attention as well. And a recent social-media fracas over potential picks has made one big-city schools leader the latest lightning rod for arguments about leadership, race, and “education reform.” It also serves as a reminder that such divisions predate—and will extend far beyond—U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her tenure. Biden has said his education secretary would be someone with experience as a public school educator, and we don’t know a great deal beyond that. Among the names to surface recently as potentially a good fit for the role is Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises. Santelises has led that 79,000-student school system since 2016, has worked in Boston public schools, the Education Trust, and Teach For America, among other positions in education.

Four Questions Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Never Answered

Peter Greene, Forbes

Soon, Betsy DeVos will leave the Department of Education and return to life as a private citizen and, most likely, an advocate for the same kind of education reform that she spent most of her adult life pushing. At the end of her three-year term, she leaves four glaring questions in her wake. Why didn’t she do her homework? The most widely noted moment during DeVos’s confirmation hearing was when she said that guns in schools were necessary to protect against grizzly bears, but that’s not what should have set off alarm bells. She later offered the excuse that she was under-coached. That’s a cop-out. She knew she was up for a job in a contentious and controversial field (she’d been fueling that controversy for years). She also knew that she had zero background with public schools, and next to zero background running any organization remotely as large as the department. She had the resources to create her own crash course (last year Forbes estimated her family’s wealth at $2 billion), so that at the very least she could hit the ground running when she arrived in DC.

Once a symbol of desegregation, Ruby Bridges’ school now reflects another battle engulfing public education

Connie L. Schaffer, Martha Graham Viator, Meg White, The Conversation

On Nov. 14, 1960, after a long summer and autumn of volleys between the Louisiana Legislature and the federal courts, Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old Black girl, was allowed to enroll in an all-white school. Accompanied by federal marshals, Bridges entered William Frantz Public School – a small neighborhood school in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward. If that building’s walls could talk, they certainly would tell the well-known story of its desegregation. But those same walls could tell another story, too. That story is about continued racism as well as efforts to dismantle and privatize public education in America over the past six decades.

Other News of Note

Her family was arrested in Daniel Prude protest, but this 12-year-old activist kept demanding justice

Adria Walker, USA Today

SarahAdams, 14, her mother, Mary Adams, and her father, Ricardo Adams, were all arrested outside the Rochester police union in New York. They had gathered to attend and protest at a press conference organized by the lawyers of police officers suspended after Daniel Prude’s death became public. Maya Adams, 12, attended the press conference as well, but was the only member of the family who wasn’t arrested. “She had 12-year-old immunity, apparently,” Mary said. “They decided they were not going to arrest her because she was 12. I guess there’s a cutoff.” After her family had been arrested, Maya continued asking questions about the arrests and continued to demand justice for Daniel Prude. Maya’s tenacity, her unwillingness to give up even when the rest of her family had been placed into squad cars, brought a feeling of pride to Ricardo, himself a seasoned activist.