Just News from Center X – September 29, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Vulnerable children’s education at risk if government shutdown takes place

Dr. Taha Khan, ABC News

Renee Kline’s 4-year-old son attends the local Head Start program in Hampshire County, West Virginia, where he spends his days learning the alphabet and counting. However, if the federal government shuts down next week, tens of thousands of kids, like him, will be forced to stay home. As many as 10,000 children around the country would lose access to Head Start programs during a government shutdown, according to the White House, which as of publication, would start at midnight on Oct. 1.

Want to Know How Far-Reaching the Right-Wing Movement Against Free Expression in Schools Is?

Katrina Vanden Heuvel, The Nation

PEN America just released a new report that illuminates how far-reaching the right-wing movement against free expression in schools has become. Book bans increased by 33 percent during the 2022–23 school year, compared to 2021–22—which was already an exceptional year for literary censorship. More than revealing the scale of the bans, the report also offers insight into a few of the organizations behind them: Moms for Liberty, Citizens Defending Freedom, and Parents’ Rights in Education. According to the report, a staggering 86 percent of book bans last year occurred in school districts with a local chapter of one of these three groups.

After Teachers, America’s Schools Spend More on Security Guards Than Any Other Role

Mark Lieberman & Caitlynn Peetz, Education Week

America’s schools collectively spend more than $2.5 billion each year on school resource officers and $12 billion on security guards, according to new estimates from researchers at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit think tank. By contrast, school districts spend about $10 billion per year on school counselors, $4 billion on nurses, and about $2 billion on social workers, according to Lucy Sorensen and Montserrat Avila-Acosta, authors of the Sept. 8 publication “Contextualizing the Push for More School Resource Officer Funding.” “We spend more on security guards than any other type of school personnel, other than teachers,” said Sorensen, an associate professor of public administration and policy at the University of Albany.

Language, Culture, and Power

Homeless and suspended in California

Amy DiPierro, Chalkbeat

Federal education law explicitly seeks to help homeless children and youth stay in school, in the hopes academic opportunity will allow them to break the cycle of housing instability. Taking them out of class could worsen their chances of success. But an analysis of data in California shows the state’s homeless students are suspended at higher rates than their peers.  California schools suspended more than 12,000 students who were identified as homeless in the 2021-2022 school year, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of the most recent data available. That means nearly 6% of all homeless students were suspended compared to roughly 3% of all other students.

Protestors in Florida read from banned books, defying the state’s education policies [AUDIO]

Will Brown, NPR

Academics, activists and Black history advocates were in Jacksonville, Fla. last week where they showed defiance of educational policies that ban books and discourage knowledge about Black history.

Raíces, Growing up Afro-Latina in LA

Reva Santo, Caló News

I grew up practicing Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian spiritual tradition that is Afro-indigenous at its core, practicing Capoeira at my parent’s Brazilian arts and culture center, and eating foods that were distinct to a Latinx blackness that I didn’t see represented in the world immediately around me. I don’t think you can ever truly strip yourself of who you are, but when I reflect back on that period of my life, I’m aware of how much of myself I did not express because I did not feel that it would be legible to others. I didn’t fit neatly into any category, and it was confusing for a long time to understand. Growing up Afro-Latina in West LA asked me to shed parts of myself in order to be comprehensible to others. In a city that is predominantly Black American and Chicano, there were only a handful of Afro-Latinx folks that I knew, and the majority of them were my own family.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

USDA expands access to free school breakfast and lunch for more students

Vanessa Arredondo, USA Today

Millions of additional students in schools serving low-income communities across the country will be eligible to receive breakfast and lunch at no cost, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced. The department is expanding access to the Community Eligibility Provision, which is a meal service option that allows schools to provide no-cost meals to all students. Previously, at least 40% of students’ households had to be enrolled in income-based federal assistance programs to be eligible. The new rule lowers that threshold to 25%.  “Increasing access to free, healthy school breakfast and lunch will decrease childhood hunger, improve child health and student readiness, and put our nation on the path to better nutrition and wellness,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release Tuesday.

California governor signs law requiring gender-neutral bathrooms in schools by 2026

Justin Gamble and Nicole Chavez, CNN

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law requiring K-12 schools to provide gender-neutral bathrooms by July 2026. The new law, Senate Bill 760, was among a series of laws signed by Newsom Saturday to expand protections for the state’s LGBTQ community. “California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community,” Newsom said in a statement. Under the law, “each school district, county office of education, and charter school” would be required to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom on campus on or before July 1, 2026. The bathroom must be available for use during school hours and during school functions when students are present, the law states.

Educational rights for youth in the child welfare system

Betty Márquez Rosales, EdSource

Over 70,000 children and youth in California have an open case in the child welfare system, according to the most recent point-in-time count, with over 51,000 of them also in foster care.

Many come under supervision of their county Department of Children and Family Services after a reported allegation of child neglect or maltreatment, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation or emotional abuse; for others, it happens when a parent voluntarily requests support, often due to a child’s behavioral challenges. Children in an out-of-home placement in the child welfare system have access to particular educational rights. This is meant to ensure stability for them during a time of uncertainty.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

What America can learn from Canada’s new ‘$10 a Day’ child care system

Jackie Mader, Hechinger Report

Two years ago, Marisol Petersen’s family was paying more than $1,200 a month for her son to attend child care in this small, coastal town about 20 miles across the Howe Sound from Vancouver. Despite the cost, which made it hard to put any money in savings, she felt lucky to even have a spot. Then, in September 2022, the family experienced a dramatic shift in fortune. They were notified that there was a spot for them in a nearby child care center that had recently signed on to a government-led initiative to lower parent fees to just $10 a day. “It’s like I won the lottery,” Petersen said. “I got into child care and a ‘$10 a Day’ site.” At the new center, the Huckleberry Coast Child Care Society, Petersen’s fees are capped at $200 a month. Without that reduction in fees, Petersen, who works as a social planner for the city of Vancouver, said her family would “be in massive trouble.”

Going to College While Going Without

Jessica Blake, Inside Higher Ed

Despite state and local efforts to address poverty, homelessness and food insecurity among California college students, a new report says more than two out of every three students in the state face trouble meeting at least one basic need. Although programs and policies to mitigate these challenges have helped, a sizable number of students surveyed still said they “worried that their food would run out before they could afford to buy more” and they “skipped meals or ate less than they needed because they did not have enough money for food,” according to the report. Other students reported being housing insecure and having rent, mortgage and utility payments that made it “difficult to pay” their total living expenses.

Colleges look for new and legal ways to help build a diverse first-year class [AUDIO]

Elissa Nadworny, NPR

New research looks at ways admissions offices can evaluate students after the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling. The high court banned race-conscious admissions policies.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

The effects of racial inequalities on education in Wisconsin [Video]

Murv Seymour, PBS Wisconsin

Access gaps, economic adversity and school segregation in Wisconsin lead to racial disparities in educational outcomes, with efforts growing to expand learning options for diverse groups of students.

Digital divide persists as 22% of low-income households with children lack internet

Anna Merod, K-12 Dive

Roughly 22% of low-income households with children do not have home internet access, according to a recent report by Connected Nation, a nonprofit that advocates for universal broadband access. There are resources available to help low-income families access home internet, including the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal broadband benefit program funded by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Even so, only 64% of low-income survey respondents are aware of the program while 33% are enrolled, according to Connected Nation.

AI in schools creates greater risk for marginalized students, researchers find  [AUDIO]

Lily Jimali & Jesus Alvarado, Marketplace

Elizabeth Laird of the Center for Democracy & Technology recounts artificial intelligence’s chaotic introduction into education. Disabled students in particular are using AI more, she says, and getting into trouble more.

Democracy and the Public Interest

LAUSD moves to bar charter schools from scores of campuses, citing tensions

Howard Blume, LA Times

When Tropical Storm Hilary drenched the interior of a building rented by a charter school at Eastman Elementary — destroying books and computers — some 75 charter students moved into the auditorium and library of the main campus, straining resources and patience. “It’s just very unfair that the whole school basically has to accommodate the charter school,” said Los Angeles Board of Education member Rocio Rivas last week about the situation at the East L.A.campus. The tensions and competing needs of L.A. schools — especially more than 100 serving academically struggling, low-income students — were at the heart of a resolution approved by the school board Tuesday that limits where charters can rent on-campus classroom space from the district.

Student research project draws attention to price disparities in low-income neighborhoods [Video]

Sriya Tallapragada, PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Lab

It’s kind of like something that you put off to the side and you just kind of underestimate yourself and your gut feelings, but then, when you really do the research and you find all the facts, it’s an injustice. Meet Euniss and Dereck, two 15-year-old members of the Hyde Square Task Force, a Boston-based nonprofit working to amplify the voices of youth.

Orange County students voice concerns about new guidelines restricting research surveys

Sabrina Maggiore, WFTV.com

The school district deemed some research topics too controversial for student surveys. As we first reported Monday, survey questions that explore– LGBTQ+, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, body image, and racial and gender stereotypes– will be rejected. The guidelines affect students in AP Research. It’s part of the AP Capstone Diploma Program, a two-year program based on two College Board courses– AP Seminar and AP Research. Some students, who have already spent weeks researching those topics, now have to switch gears. One Boone High School Senior taking AP research says the quality of her project will be impacted. Nichola Wells is studying how stereotypes affect women in STEM and was one of a handful of students present at Tuesday’s board meeting who planned on speaking. “I think that having a fear that my research project might not be approved, or redacting certain questions that I think would be necessary to reach my conclusions is going to hurt,” said Wells.

Other News of Note

‘Whatever it takes’: students at 50 US high schools launch climate initiative

Maanvi Singh, The Guardian

Students at more than 50 high schools across the US are proposing a Green New Deal for Schools, demanding that their districts teach climate justice, create pathways to green jobs after graduation and plan for climate disasters, among other policies. The campaign, coordinated by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate justice collective, is a reaction to rightwing efforts to ban or suppress climate education and activism at schools. The national effort could include teach-ins and walkouts, as well as targeted petitions to school boards and districts in the coming weeks, organizers with Sunrise told the Guardian, ahead of the Monday launch. “We are prepared to do whatever it takes,” said Adah Crandall, 17, an organiser for the Sunrise Movement based in Portland, Oregon.

Temecula students protest their school district’s flag and transgender policies [Audio]

M.G. Perez, KPBS

A single student’s protest has prompted an international wave of support in the fight against a controversial ban on flags in Temecula schools. Moxxie Childs, 16, is defying the Temecula Valley Unified School Board by passing out mini Pride flags at Great Oak High School where he is a junior. Childs is also transgender and opposes the school board’s recent ban on the display of any flags on campuses other than the American and California flags.