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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Elizabeth DeBray, Kara Finnigan, Janel George, and Janelle Scott, NEPC
The last several years have been trying for students, communities, and schools. As states and local educational agencies work to meet the significant health and educational needs of students, and address the vast racial and socioeconomic inequities that have been heightened by the pandemic, the federal role in education is critical. The federal government’s limited but significant role in education remains vital nearly 60 years after the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as the U.S. grapples with a global pandemic, enduring racial and socioeconomic inequality, entrenched educational disparities, and attacks on democracy. Meanwhile vibrant, intersectional social movements have taken up and expanded the policy demands of predecessors for equitable, excellent, and just schooling. Because ESEA remains the federal government’s most consequential mechanism to promote equity in public education, the upcoming (overdue) reauthorization of the law’s latest version, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), presents an opportunity to re-envision this federal role in promoting access to quality educational opportunities by fostering racial and socioeconomic equity in alignment with the original intent of ESEA.
Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor
Every Monday morning at 9 o’clock, Russian students of all grades have been required to attend a new course: Conversations About Important Things. Announced over the summer, the course is intended to instill deeper patriotic feelings among students, and the Kremlin regards the task as so urgent that President Vladimir Putin himself offered an example of the opening lesson. Its supporters see it as a nondoctrinaire way to redress the lack of patriotic education in Russian schools since the Soviet collapse. But its detractors view it as another giant step on the road back to totalitarianism. The announcement of the new classes led to considerable pushback from parents’ groups and human rights organizations which argued that propaganda has no place in the school and, at the very least, students should be permitted to opt out of the new course.
Diana Lambert, Ed Source
School board elections, once considered minor local down-ballot races by voters, have taken on new significance this year. Across California, conservative groups have leveraged parental angst, fueled by Covid-19 school closures, to recruit and train candidates to run for school boards. The California Republican Party, which has struggled to win state seats in Democratic-dominated California for the last three decades, saw the wave of parent frustration as an opportunity to win school board seats. Once Covid-19 protocols loosened and mask mandates were eliminated, conservatives turned their energy to fighting educational policies on gender identity and racial equity. The party started Parent Revolt, a program that recruits and trains candidates for school board seats. The program offers virtual and in-person training and connects candidates to training offered by other organizations.
Language, Culture, and Power
Melissa Sanchez, ProPublica
The public has largely stopped paying attention to what’s happening inside shelters and other facilities that house immigrant children since President Donald Trump left office, and particularly since the end of his administration’s zero tolerance policy, which separated families at the southern border. But the shelter system remains in place under President Joe Biden. The numbers can fluctuate but, as of earlier this week, more than 9,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were in custody, according to data from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the privately run shelters. The vast majority are children and teens from Central America who entered the country through the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian. The shelter system is designed to house these children temporarily — the average length of stay is about a month — until they can be placed with a relative or family friend or, in some cases, in foster care.
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
The recent move by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to use state funds to pick up migrant Venezuelans in Texas and fly them to the politically liberal island of Martha’s Vineyard got enormous media attention — which he intended. What too often gets ignored in the national debate about immigration policy is the plight of migrant children who come to the United States and want to go to school. Legally they are allowed to attend public schools, though they face numerous hurdles before they can sit in a classroom and after they enroll.
Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY
In late September in El Paso, Texas, residents of the Chamizal barrio and mothers Cemelli de Atzlan and Hilda Villegas held a vigil. They were mourning what they consider a crisis in barrio schools: pandemic disruptions, a shortage of teachers, the lack of culturally sensitive or dual-language programming, overcrowding and historical neglect. The women, leaders of the group Familias Unidas por la Educación and the group of about 40 who met outside Bowie High School were upset about what they say is a failure of local and federal leadership to invest in the schools in their border town. “Our fear is what’s going to happen to our children. You added two to three years to the loss of education. What is the future of the 2,000 to 3,000 kids in the barrio?” Villegas said.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Zachary Schermele, NBC News
Hundreds of University of Florida students held protests this week criticizing the anticipated appointment of Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to lead the school. A presidential search committee unanimously approved Sasse last week as its sole finalist for the top job. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 2015, Sasse had led a small private Lutheran college in Nebraska for several years. Much of the outrage Monday was colored by student opposition to his past stances on LGBTQ rights, such as his objection in 2015 to the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges — he called it a “disappointment” — and his continued assertion that the “sanctity of marriage” is one of his top priorities in Congress.
Laura Meckler, Washington Post
Americans believe high school students should have broad access to books on many controversial topics — but there are large partisan differences when they cover LGBTQ issues, with Democrats far more comfortable with these texts than Republicans, a new survey finds. The poll also found that Republicans want parents to have much more control over curriculums, reflecting GOP suspicions that schools are teaching their children subjects that parents find objectionable; Democrats favor giving teachers more power over what is taught. These findings come from a large new survey by researchers at the University of Southern California that depicts a nation deeply divided along partisan lines about certain topics in education — and joined by consensus on a few others.
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
In its latest survey of California’s unified school districts, an LGBTQ+ civil rights nonprofit honored 19 districts for their inclusive policies supporting LGBTQ+ students and identified others who need to do more to ensure students feel safe on campus. Equality California, one of the country’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organizations, singled out San Francisco Unified, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Pittsburg Unified, Monterey Peninsula Unified, Vista Unified, Moreno Valley Unified and 11 other districts for the extra steps they’ve taken to train staff, prevent suicide, expand curriculum to include LGBTQ+ issues, support transgender students and maintain an overall positive campus climate.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Daisy Nguyen, KQED
A severe teacher shortage has forced dozens of preschools in California to shut down some of their classrooms since the start of the school year. The funding for these subsidized classrooms is available, and plenty of children from lower-income families are waiting to enroll. But there aren’t enough teachers — a situation that could get worse as the state begins to pour billions of dollars into transitional kindergarten, threatening to destabilize the early education workforce. “We have over 25 classrooms that we can put kids in, but we don’t have employees,” said Donna Sneeringer, chief strategy officer at the Child Care Resource Center, which serves children in Head Start programs in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
Carmen González, Cal Matters
Natalia Angeles always knew she was going to college despite being undocumented, so giving up the chance to attend a four-year university straight out of high school was not easy. But when the acceptance came from the University of California at Riverside, she quickly realized that without being able to work legally, she couldn’t afford to attend. “I didn’t know what resources to look for when it came to helping me with school and stuff,” said Angeles. “And then when I noticed that UC Riverside was not the perfect fit for me financially, I decided to just do community college.”
Liz Willen, Hechinger Report
It’s crunch time for thousands of high school seniors seeking spots at selective U.S. colleges, an annual ritual that appears to get more competitive every year, inviting hysteria, hair pulling and enormous anxiety. And just wait: College admissions is about to get even more complicated, with a major shake-up on the horizon that could forever change who gets in and why.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Xavier de Souza Briggs and Richard M. McGahe, Brookings
On May 25, 2020, four Minneapolis police officers fatally injured George Floyd, a Black man, while he was under their custody—a searing, caught-on-camera killing that sparked the largest mass protests in American history. While the protests ostensibly focused on police killings of Black people, they also called out the systemic racism that fuels many other manifestations of racial inequality. In Minnesota state court, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder, and in a federal trial, the other three officers were found guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights. But beyond justice for George Floyd, how much progress have we made in addressing racial inequality in the U.S.?
Sheila Mulrooney Eldred, NPR
October 11 marks the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl. It’s a day created by the United Nations to “highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face.” It’s also a day to assess where girls stand: what they want and what the world needs to do to give them their rights. But finding signs of progress for girls in 2022 is difficult. I asked one of the experts I interviewed for this story if she could offer a reason to be hopeful for the future of girls.
Alessandra Bajec, Equal Times
The fifteenth of August 2021 is a day that Afghan women will never forget. For the first time in 20 years, the Taliban seized the capital city of Kabul, effectively regaining control of Afghanistan just a few months after US president Joe Biden announced his plans to withdraw American troops from the country. The lives of some 19.4 million women and girls have been upended ever since. Despite the fundamentalist group initially pledging that it would not repeat the hard-line rule of the first Taliban government, which collapsed in 2001 after nearly five years in power following a US-led invasion, it reneged on its promise and has been dramatically rolling back women’s rights over the past 12 months. To date, girls’ secondary schools have been closed ever since the Taliban took over the country, effectively keeping three million girls out of school; women have been barred from working most jobs, leaving the home or travelling without a male guardian; and women have been ordered to cover up their faces in public.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Naina Agrawal-Hardin and Maya Green, Hechinger Report
This summer, Americans have seen severe flooding in Kentucky, droughts spurring wildfires in the West and oppressive heat setting records across the U.S. and Europe. Yet as they return to school this fall, some 50 million U.S. students will have few opportunities to learn how to advance solutions for the climate crisis, despite living with its realities. That is unacceptable: Leaders at every level, from teachers in the classroom to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, must take action to transform the way climate change is taught in classrooms and addressed through school infrastructures and policies. Education about the urgency of climate change and opportunities to advance solutions is essential; students in our generation must be empowered to act.
Erica Meltzer, Chalkbeat
A Republican State Board of Education member who believes socialism poses grave dangers at home and abroad has put his stamp on how Colorado students will learn about the Holocaust. Over the last year and a half, Steve Durham has pushed for the state’s academic standards to connect the Holocaust and other genocides to socialism. Durham succeeded in omitting the word Nazi from an early version of the standards in favor of the party’s full name, the National Socialist German Workers Party.
Sarah Lazare, The American Prospect
The National Federation of Independent Business presents itself as the nonpartisan “voice of small business.” Yet it has a track record of overwhelmingly supporting conservative causes, and has taken millions from right-wing groups. Over the past year, the trade association has teamed up with a bevy of companies to lobby for state-level bills to erode child labor protections, citing the “labor shortage” as justification. The bills—in Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey—have all been aimed at expanding the number of hours teenagers are allowed to work, despite evidence that too many hours can harm children. A 2011 study published in the journal Child Development found that teenagers who work more than 20 hours per week during the school year may, as a result, face poorer school performance and loss of interest in class, alongside behavioral problems.
Other News of Note
Pedro Noguera and Manuel Pastor, Los Angeles Times
The diversity of Los Angeles is often cited as one of its strengths. With a city and county population composed of people from throughout the world, we boast a dynamism that is unique, vibrant and attractive. And it is L.A.’s often-professed commitment to building bridges across differences — hard-earned solidarity in the wake of civil unrest in which racism tore us apart — that is celebrated as a distinctive feature of our politics. The leaked racist remarks by some of the city’s most prominent Latino leaders — City Councilmembers Kevin de León, Gil Cedillo and Nury Martinez, who has resigned as council president, and L.A. County Federation of Labor leader Ron Herrera, who’s also stepped down — have set us back on that community-building journey. And it wasn’t just a matter of tone or a few poorly chosen words on the part of these four: They allowed their frustration that Latinos don’t wield more power in the city to feed into a presumption that enhancing Latino voices requires diminishing Black representation.