Connect with us

Education

Eli Broad and the End of Public Education as We Know It

Published

 

on

If there were still any doubt about Eli Broad’s desire to gut traditional public education, it has been erased by his much-discussed “Great Public Schools Now” initiative, a draft of which LA Times reporter Howard Blume obtained last month.

Broad’s 44-page proposal outlines plans to replace half of LAUSD’s existing public schools with charter schools. “Such an effort will gather resources, help high-quality charters access facilities, develop a reliable pipeline of leadership and teaching talent, and replicate their success,” states the document. “If executed with fidelity, this plan will ensure that no Los Angeles student remains trapped in a low-performing school.”

According to the proposal, Broad wants to create 260 new “high-quality charter schools, generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats and reach 50 percent charter market share.”

(Actually, LAUSD has 151,000 kids in charters now: 281,000 out of 633,000 LAUSD students is 43 percent. This isn’t the only imprecision in the proposal.)

The estimated cost of this LAUSD transformation would be nearly half-a-billion dollars.

By his own account, Broad is the fourth-richest resident of Los Angeles, with $7 billion in wealth. So he could easily finance this proposal out of pocket and still pay his property taxes in Brentwood.

But that’s not the plan.

Instead, Broad is shaking the can to his fellow foundationeers and squillionaires. The Gates Foundation of Seattle has already given $29 million for charter schools, while the Walmart-backed Walton Foundation of Bentonville, Ark. has invested over $65 million.

Broad says he’s “creating a more supportive policy environment for charters.” He hopes that virtually overturning the LAUSD in Los Angeles will set a revolutionary example that will enable charter schools to sweep the nation. The private sector would partially regain the control of public education that it lost in the 19th century, whose market-driven schools were excoriated by Charles Dickens.

But modern charter schools are a lot better, right? Some studies show a marked improvement in charters’ performance compared to traditional public schools in areas like reading and math. Others, however, suggest that the average results are about the same.

LAUSD already has more charters than any other U.S. school district. But supply-side institutions are risky. According to a new report by the Center for Media and Democracy, 2,500 have failed between 2001 and 2013 — 43 in Los Angeles alone — stranding their students and teachers and sinking many millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Charter teachers, lacking union support, appear to burn out faster.

According to his autobiography, “The Art of Being Unreasonable,” Broad blames school problems on administration (his signature educational achievement is the Broad Superintendent Academy, whose graduates include recently ousted LAUSD super John Deasy), with little attention to the actual rubber-meets-the road matter of better teaching. Like most charterites, Broad seems to feel that working under a tough superintendent without a union or tenure brings out the best in young teachers.

According to the bio, Broad resented attending Detroit’s Central High. “My high school teachers made it very clear that they found my constant questions annoying,” he recalls. It’s interesting that he doesn’t credit Central for any of his ample college success, not to mention his unparalleled business career.

He hasn’t always felt this hostility, though. In 2000, he persuaded former Colorado Governor Roy Romer to apply for LAUSD superintendent, the initial step in the steady if slow revival of the agency derided as “LA Mummified.” Romer and his board championed a $3.3 billion bond measure that studded the landscape with over 20 new LAUSD schools; Broad gave $200,000 toward its passage.

In 2007, he cofounded Strong American Schools, a lobby for better schooling that reportedly eschewed “controversial’’ topics like vouchers and charter schools. But soon his Strong American Schools partner Bill Gates was rooting for charters and Broad followed. Yet, as recently as his 2012 autobiography, he didn’t find conventional public education hopeless.

Now, at 82, Broad’s ambition apparently is to do away with public education as we know it.

“Part of it is ideological commitment to the deregulation notion, and part of it is practical – teacher unions are the last, biggest unions, and taking them down will create much more room for a broader deregulation of the economy and public sector,” said United Teachers Los Angeles chief Alex Caputo Pearl.

Ultimately, it should be about the students. My late friend, LAUSD teacher Alan Kaplan, struggled for over 30 years to teach “left behind” children to think and aspire, rather than just pass standardized tests. I wonder how long Al and others like him would last under a tenure-free, test-focused, supply-side charter school system.

Photo by Yvette Wohn.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Education

A California Public School that Betsy DeVos Wouldn’t Recognize

The Social Justice Humanitas Academy is one of a handful of community schools that have been dramatically closing opportunity and achievement gaps in some of Los Angeles’ toughest neighborhoods.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Bill Raden

Published

 

on

All photos by Joanne Kim.

Its successes have led growing numbers of education policymakers to see California’s community schooling movement as a holistic reform that can restore equality of opportunity.


 

It’s a Tuesday morning on the Los Angeles campus of César E. Chávez Learning Academies, and a classroom of upper-level high school students is standing in a large, inward-facing circle. Suddenly a wisp of a girl steps forward and, thrusting out her palms as if halting oncoming traffic, brings the gathering to a hushed silence. “I chose to honor myself this weekend by staying home and spending time with my family,” she declaims confidently before rejoining the circle.

“Did anyone notice what she just did there? That’s how you take command of a room,” principal José Navarro pipes up from his own place in the circle. Then, one by one, the rest of the kids take their turns at an affirmation, each followed by Navarro leading a constructive critique of their delivery.

A Social Justice Humanitas Academy student responds to a question at a biweekly Council.

Welcome to a biweekly Council at Social Justice Humanitas Academy (SJHA) community school, a relatively recent addition to Los Angeles’ educational landscape. Part group therapy, part empathy- and trust-building exercise, the Councils are at the heart of a new, research-supported understanding of the profound role that healthy communities and school cultures play in children’s education.


In seven years of existence, SJHA has raised its graduation rate from 83 percent in its first year to last year’s 99 percent graduation rate.


SJHA is just one of a handful of community schools that have been dramatically closing opportunity and achievement gaps in some of Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) toughest and most reform-resistant, high-poverty neighborhoods. Their successes have led community organizers and a growing number of education policymakers to see California’s fledgling community schooling movement as a holistic, bottom-up reform that can restore equality of opportunity and the democratic promise of the state’s system of universal public education.

There’s good reason for optimism, according to a December Learning Policy Institute meta-analysis of 140 community schooling studies. “[We] came out quite convinced,” report co-author Jeannie Oakes said by phone, “that not only community schools as a whole, but [their] components all made a positive difference in things like student achievement, attendance, behavior and graduation rates.”

Though the concept of community schooling dates back to the turn of the last century and John Dewey’s Progressive Education Movement, its modern form has just really come into focus in the last 20 years. Full-service community schools only became eligible for federal money in 2015 under Title IV of the Obama administration’s Every Student Succeeds Act. The good news is that though Title IV had been targeted for elimination by President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, congress rebuffed the administration by giving a big boost to the block grants in the federal omnibus spending bill signed into law March 23.

Past federal policies, including No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, pushed corporate-styled, top-down reforms such as high-stakes testing and draconian accountability schemes. Meanwhile, state leaders gambled that radical deregulation and competition from privately-managed charter schools would force low-performing, resource-starved neighborhood schools to either put up or shut down. True, charter schools have flourished, but research suggests that privatization merely “creams” gifted students who were already well positioned to succeed, while pushing out kids with the highest needs.

SJHA principal José Navarro.

Social Justice Humanitas launched in 2011 as a “teacher-led” community school in partnership with the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP), a Los Angeles education nonprofit that, with the Youth Policy Institute (YPI), Communities in Schools of Los Angeles, and the UCLA Center for Community Schooling, collectively account for 60 of the community schools currently operating in LAUSD. Thanks to a patchwork of foundation grants, partnerships and an on-site YPI community school coordinator, the César Chávez campus has become a hub for community support services, which is one hallmark of community schooling. LAEP also contributed the Humanitas curriculum, which it had developed as an interdisciplinary approach in which English, history, math, science and art lessons are linked around a common social justice theme.

On the same week that Navarro presided over SJHA’s Council, for example, the 10th grade had focused on ethical decision-making and, just upstairs from the Council session, desks in teacher Jael Reboh’s English class were pushed together into small discussion groups during a lesson on the Nazi victory in the German federal election of 1932 through the lens of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The SJHA campus is located on the edge of a gritty, largely Spanish-speaking pocket of the Northeast San Fernando Valley. A mere three traffic lights to the east sits Pacoima’s San Fernando Gardens, the largest public housing project in the San Fernando Valley, which is still remembered for being a gang-infested war zone during the crack epidemic of the ‘90s. Social Justice Humanitas is currently 96 percent Latino, with just over 90 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunches.

The neighborhood is also a place where homes typically lack the kind of early learning opportunities and enrichments that kids from more affluent communities take for granted — access to books, museum outings or adults who are able to read to them regularly. (A community scorecard issued the same year as SJHA’s launch gave the city of San Fernando a D for risk and a D for its schools.)

SJHA assistant principal Marike Aguilar at her desk.

In its seven years of existence, SJHA has raised its graduation rate from 83 percent in its first year to last year’s 99 percent graduation rate, with a 98 percent A through G matriculation rate with a C or better. During the same period, LAUSD’s graduation rate went from 67 to 80 percent. SJHA also outperformed the graduation numbers of its fellow pilot schools in the district and has more of its students matriculating into college.

“We’re ranked fourth in the district,” says Jennie Carey Rosenbaum, who joined SJHA as its community school coordinator and is now the school’s social-emotional learning initiatives director. “In a community with great poverty, it’s one thing to say, ‘Yes, yes you should go to college,’ and, ‘This is important’ — [but,] to constantly be saying that is sort of the counternarrative to everything they’ve heard in their lives.”

“I could have become entirely disinterested, disengaged and kind of weighed down by a lot of my personal life,” Vanessa Diaz agreed by phone. Diaz attended SJHA while in foster care before graduating in 2012 and going on to earn a degree in community and regional development from the University of California, Davis. “I feel like they see and treat students like the very best that they can be,” she said. “The education system right now is just so structured [around] criminalizing to black and brown communities and minorities, that this whole thing just really changed the game for me.”

In some ways, Social Justice Humanitas Academy, with its emphasis on teacher leadership, rather than on a more collaborative decision-making model involving parents, students and community partners, makes it a bit of an outlier in the movement. Yet it does share what most expect from community schooling: restorative justice; “whole-child” and culturally relevant, interdisciplinary teaching; family engagement; expanded learning opportunities; and on-campus wraparound supports that address basic student and community needs, including physical and mental health, financial literacy, housing assistance and legal support.

“No kids get thrown away here,” declared parent Belinda Davenport by phone. “I worked as a volunteer aide in a Spanish class, where this one teacher has like 13 kids on [special education Individualized Education Program] IEPs. … They have kids that are on behavioral IEPs as well as academic, but no kids get suspended, no kid is labeled bad. They find a resource to help that kid be loved and supported.”

The sometimes staggering levels of commitment required for that kind of close attention is why much of the job of a community school coordinator involves taking the load off teachers by finding community partners that can provide the kind of crucial services and resources that more affluent kids get at home.

“Public school teachers have been doing this for so long,” explains LAEP community schools director Gustavo Morales. “They have been the community school coordinator. They have been the resource coordinator. They have been the health and leadership coordinator. This is just relieving some of the pressure that has been put on teachers and really allowing the community to rise up and provide that additional support.”

Still, José Navarro admits that his school had a nearly 40 percent faculty turnover between its first and second year alone. Of the 22 people who were part of the school design team when Humanitas was still a small learning community based at nearby Sylmar High School, a mere seven made the move to the César Chávez campus.

And that’s what worries people like the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) Sharon Delugach. (Disclosure: AFT is a financial supporter of this website.) Last summer LAUSD’s board voted to embrace community schooling and Delugach became part of an implementation team currently working with the board to define and systematize a scale-up of community schools within the district.

“They still have a UTLA contract, but they have more autonomies than traditional schools have,” Delugach says of pilot schools like SJHA. “One of the things about pilot schools is that teachers are just responsible for so much at a school site, way beyond their classes. I do know that it takes a toll — sometimes it’s really not sustainable.”

Ultimately the problem comes down to money. The LAUSD implementation team is calling for an initial start-up of 20 district-created community schools. By comparison, Oakland Unified, which has seven percent of LAUSD’s enrollment, operates 35 full service community schools. And New York City, which has a 45.5 percent higher enrollment than LAUSD, last year announced it was adding 69 new community schools, which will bring its citywide count to 215. But California continues to dwell in the cellar of national per-pupil funding — a persistent stinginess that many say has exacerbated an opportunity gap that this year earned the state a C in school finance, a D-plus in K-12 Achievement and a dismal 36th place finish in Education Week’s 2018 Quality Counts national performance report card.

For a high-poverty urban district like LAUSD, where declining birth rates, reduced immigration, gentrification and the expansion of charters have left neighborhood schools scrambling for resources, education researchers believe that community schooling offers the first meaningful bang for its buck in delivering equity for its highest-needs students.

“I used to live in Brentwood [on L.A.’s affluent Westside], right next to Kenter Canyon Elementary,” reflected Jeannie Oakes, “and when you look at that school, with the extra science programs, the after-school stuff and the parent engagement and all that, it looks quite a lot like the community schools that UCLA or the Social Justice Humanitas Academy would have developed just within this structure of a community school.”

“Poverty is not a learning disorder, but it’s real,” Navarro observes. “And it’s debilitating if it goes unmitigated. More money? It would really help. If my teachers were able to grade, plan and meet with students who are failing before they left the building at five, six o’clock, we’d get a better product.”


Copyright Capital & Main

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Education

Orange County Parents: Change Name of School That Honors Klan Member

There are over a dozen streets, parks or monuments in Orange County named after former Klan members — and one elementary school.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Published

 

on

Uncovering a cover-up: Mike Rodriguez (right) and Ben Van Dyk. (Photo: Gustavo Arellano)

All Mike Rodriguez initially knew, when he Googled “William Fanning Elementary Brea” a few years ago, was that it was a good school in the affluent North Orange County city of Brea. He was interested in enrolling his son there after hearing positive things about its music program from his wife’s cousin.

But Rodriguez’s mind changed when the search results showed a photo of a man standing in front of Fanning’s marquee, dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

The picture accompanied an OC Weekly article I wrote in 2013 titled “Welcome to Ku Klux Kounty!” that documented streets, parks and schools in Orange County named after local pioneers who belonged to the Invisible Empire during the 1920s. I based my research on the era’s OC Klan membership rolls on file at the Anaheim Heritage Center.

One of the names listed? Fanning, a former Brea teacher and school superintendent.

The revelation left Rodriguez “floored.” He and other parents will protest before the Feb. 26 board meeting of the Brea Olinda Unified School District and demand that trustees rename the elementary school.

For now, Brea Olinda Unified is resisting any Fanning name change. A report on the matter commissioned by school superintendent Brad Mason and obtained by Capital & Main dismisses the parents’ concerns as “editorial commentary.”

But Rodriguez is undeterred. “There was a whole dark side of Brea that was still being hidden,” says the Santa Ana Unified School District teacher. “It’s time to uncover the cover-up.”

In August, Rodriguez and other area residents created the Rename Fanning Committee. They pamphleted outside the school. And they dug further into Brea’s past, both online and through the Lawrence de Graaf Center for Oral and Public History at California State University, Fullerton. Rodriguez learned how the Klan once held a majority of the Brea City Council’s seats. That residents had long admitted Brea used to be a “sundown town,” the name given to municipalities that banned African-Americans from its city limits after sunset. And that current residents downplayed the city’s Klan past by claiming the group wasn’t necessarily racist.

The committee’s actions come at a time when local residents are finally, slowly challenging Orange County Klan and Confederate roots. These go deep: OC seceded from Los Angeles County in 1889 with the help of Assemblymember Henry W. Head, who had belonged to the original KKK under Nathan Bedford Forrest.

There are over a dozen streets, parks or monuments in Orange County named after former Klan members. But last summer, the general manager of the Orange County Cemetery District announced he wanted a Confederate monument removed from the Santa Ana Cemetery in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy. (It remains standing.) In November, the Anaheim Union High School District voted to remove any Dixie references from Savanna High School, whose nickname is the Rebels and which used a caricatured Johnny Rebel as a mascot and the Confederate battle flag at school events for decades.

Minutes of the Oct. 9 Brea Olinda Unified board meeting state that Superintendent Brad Mason said he’d asked Linda Shay, museum curator at the Brea Museum & Historical Society, to investigate the Recall Fanning Committee’s claims. Mason did not respond to a request for comment; Shay declined to share the report.

The 12-page study claims that modern-day historical “revisionism” inserts a “bias that is out of context…and therefore and quite often inappropriately judgmental in nature” to past events. Shay wrote that the authenticity of the OC Klan membership list at the Heritage Center “cannot be substantiated,” even though academic papers have cited it for decades and it was donated by longtime Orange County historian and former Anaheim City Attorney Leo J. Friis.

Shay also dismissed the multiple oral histories that mentioned Brea was a sundown town because she couldn’t find proof of a formal ordinance on the city’s website. But she did discover an oral history where Fanning’s son denied his father’s Klan ties, and “numerous sources that claimed Mr. Fanning was a selfless, compassionate and dedicated educator.”

Shay’s findings amuse Recall Fanning members, who are gathered at Fanning Elementary one Saturday morning. “Unless you’re a family member, why are you championing his cause?” asks Wendy Dotan, who has lived in Brea in 13 years. “You have to question the motivation for resistance.”

“They say Fanning wasn’t directly involved with racist acts,” Rodriguez adds. “Well, he was never involved with ending them, either.”

“This school has shown us nothing but love,” says Ben Van Dyk, a history teacher at Servite High School in Anaheim. His son is a first-grader at Fanning. “The name tarnishes that love. It doesn’t represent that inclusion we’ve found here.”

Rodriguez and Van Dyk’s sons chase after a beach ball across the Fanning parking lot. “See that?” Van Dyk says. “They’ve never met until today, and yet they’re playing. In the 1920s, this would never be allowed.”


Copyright Capital & Main

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Education

Mentors Under Siege: California’s DACA Teachers

Of California’s roughly 223,000 DACA recipients, an estimated 5,000 are working teachers, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Bill Raden

Published

 

on

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

“I don’t understand why they’re trying to kick us out and recruiting people with our same qualifications when we’re already here.”
— San Bernardino math teacher


 

Students were crying,” says Cristian Aguilar, recalling the Wednesday after Election Day, 2016. “Parents were calling me; there was just a lot of tension, a lot of emotions. … Because whether or not they were born here, they still felt threatened. They knew someone — either their families, their friends or their neighbors — that were [going to be] affected.” The man who had famously launched his candidacy by slurring America’s Latino immigrants was now the president-elect.

Most of all, the students of San Jose’s nearly 80 percent Latino Hoover Middle School were acutely aware that if Donald Trump made good on his threats to revoke DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Aguilar, their 25-year-old public school teacher, would soon again be living under the murky cloud of deportation. Ironically, he had long made it a point to share his own immigration tale with his kids as a means of inspiring them and to connect with their families.

For a melting pot like California, his story is far from unique. Of the state’s roughly 223,000 DACA recipients, an estimated 5,000 are working teachers, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. But with a March 5 deadline looming, California’s DACA teachers may soon find themselves locked out of jobs and careers.

Trump has lately rejected bipartisan immigration compromises that would have granted eventual citizenship to young immigrants like Aguilar, but which didn’t provide any funding for the president’s proposed border wall, or include White House demands for the termination of the current visa diversity lottery and deep cuts to the country’s traditional family reunification priorities.

“[Trump] wants to decrease legal immigration by about half, which is not something that’s ever been done in our country’s history,” pointed out California Sate University, Los Angeles anthropology professor Beth Baker, who specializes in immigration. “That’s very disconcerting, particularly because immigrants are really the motor of the economy.”

But for California’s DACA educators, losing their right to teach would be a crippling setback to a public school system in the throes of a chronic teacher shortage and in which one in eight school children have an undocumented parent. It would also mark a bitter reversal to what has been a quintessentially American odyssey of immigrant resolve and aspiration. Here are three of those 5,000 DACA teacher stories.


 

The Organizer

Aguilar was 10 when he crossed the border from Mexico with a brother in order to join his parents, who had been drawn here by the promise of a better life. Despite growing up without the legal rights and expectations taken for granted by birthright Americans, he quickly distinguished himself as a math prodigy after a bilingual teacher recognized his ability and tutored him, in Spanish, after school.

“It wasn’t until junior and senior year that I really found out what that meant, being undocumented,” he recalled. “Not being able to drive; not being able to apply for financial aid when it came to college applications. … I started noticing the discrepancies between my peers’ and my education.”

Despite having the grades and being accepted by California State University, Stanford University and the University of California, he settled for De Anza, a two-year community college in neighboring Cupertino. That’s when fate and Sacramento Democrats intervened with the introduction of 2011’s California Dream Act, which extended state financial aid to undocumented students at public universities and colleges. As battle lines formed over the contentious measure, Aguilar threw himself into the political fight, organizing students throughout Northern California as part of a campus immigrant-rights group that also lobbied the legislature.

Though the new law paved his way into UC Berkeley, it was the 2012 implementation of DACA by the Obama administration and Aguilar’s winning of temporary legal status that enabled him to set his sights on giving back to his community: “That’s when I knew I wanted to be there for students, especially other students of color, who have been marginalized and who have been under-represented for so long. Knowing [first-hand] the difficulty of being part of an educational system that really pushed us out — students who ‘don’t belong.'”

The Object Lesson

Ever since being brought from Mexico as a young child to Southern California by a mother determined to leave behind a nightmarish marriage and secure the best possible future for her daughter, Elysa Chavez (her real name has been withheld at her request), a third-year DACA high school math teacher in San Bernardino County, has been preparing for the best but girding for the worst.

“I can’t even believe that this is happening,” Chavez said of the immigration impasse. “The administration talks about getting rid of chain migration and bringing in people based on their merits and degrees, and the basic language — but I have a degree in math, which not a lot of people like. I teach math in a low-income community. I have a master’s degree. I speak the language. I pay my taxes. Everything that Trump is looking for, [DACA teachers] have. I don’t understand why they’re trying to kick us out and recruiting people with our same qualifications when we’re already here.”

She is not alone. In the months since Donald Trump announced the elimination of DACA and began threatening to abandon its recipients, Chavez has seen a pall of fear fall over her school’s 85 percent Hispanic students, particularly among the freshman and even some sophomores, who were too young to make DACA’s 15-year-old age threshold before it was canceled.

“What I have seen is students that are reluctant to share that they’re undocumented, when a couple of years back it wasn’t such a big deal,” she explained.

To offer them hope and encourage them to open up, Chavez tells them her own up-by-her-bootstraps story of attending Cal Poly Pomona at a time when there was no DACA or chance of a teaching career, or even financial aid for undocumented college hopefuls. (Chavez graduated just before DACA came online.)

“It’s tough, but it’s something that can be done,” she asserted. “So whenever they have questions, they come and they ask me. I have a feeling that I comfort them, but they do the opposite for me. They just make me worried, because I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, what’s going to happen with them, and are they going to see education as something that is valuable?’ Because I have a feeling that they might think, ‘What’s the point of me getting good grades if at the end of the day I might get deported?’”

The Activist

Like many California DACA teachers, 25-year-old Angelica Reyes, who is a first-year Advanced Placement history teacher in South Los Angeles, traces her decision to become an educator to the inspiration provided by her own high school history teacher.

“I grew up in East L.A. and I saw a lot of disparities, both in the education that we were receiving, but also in huge wealth inequity,” she remembered. “This teacher used to engage me in a lot of really interesting conversations and challenged me to go beyond just inquiring, to try to change something in my community. So, I was involved in the project that brought in a grocery store to the community.”

Reyes said this campaign transformed the way that she saw herself and her relationship to the community. “I felt like the best way to make folks feel empowered and like they mattered was through education.”

So, that’s what she did. She was at Pasadena City College when she received DACA protections soon after the program came into being. That enabled her to do what had previously been unthinkable: complete both her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles and enter a master’s program in UCLA’s school of education.

“There wasn’t ever a question in my mind of whether I was going to go to college,” she recalled. “I knew that I was going to be more … My mom would always remind me that folks who have an education have more power, more agency and they’re able to better advocate for themselves and for folks like them. Of course, I was worried about not being able to work in the field that I’ve chosen, but that’s still a fear today.”

It hit home in September with Trump’s decision to rescind DACA. Like the other teachers in this story, Reyes came to school that day to find her kids terrified both for her sake and by the specter of the uncertainty and instability it would bring if she were removed as their teacher.

“That day,” she remembered, “it was a lot of validating their existence, their feelings, and also making sure that they understood that DACA in the first place wasn’t something that was granted to us. It’s something that a lot of folks fought for, and that’s where our communities get their power from, from advocacy and from grassroots organizing. I let them know that our federal government is very strong, but our communities are strong, too, when we come together. We can stop deportation.”


Copyright Capital & Main

Continue Reading

Education

L.A. School Board Set to Rumble Over Charter Schools

The stage has been set for a Tuesday showdown between charter school operators and the Los Angeles Unified School District office charged with charter school oversight.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Bill Raden

Published

 

on

Photos by Pandora Young

The stage has been set for an apparent showdown between charter school operators and the Los Angeles Unified School District office charged with charter school oversight, when the LAUSD school board votes on an unprecedented 14 recommendations for charter petition denials at Tuesday’s special board meeting.

The meeting had originally been scheduled to consider 34 charter school petitions — including 28 renewals — as part of a routine formality, in which the board signs off on staff recommendations after months of rigorous vetting of the applications by its charter division.

Late last week, however, 12 of the 14 denials that were posted on the school board’s website were revealed to have been triggered after four defiant charter operators had refused to include mandated regulatory language in their petitions. The action, which consisted of the charters essentially writing in their own diluted versions of district rules, was widely seen as a signal of charter-industry impatience to get regulatory relief from the recently elected pro-charter board majority, after that industry had spent $9.7 million on the most expensive campaign in LAUSD board history.

“We have known that seeking better policies could cause complications for our petitions,” the schools’ CEOs admitted in a joint statement released Wednesday. “This is a risk we have been willing to take. We remain hopeful that the LAUSD board on November 7th will do the right thing for students, make decisions based on the academic, fiscal and governance quality of our schools, and approve our petitions.”

The gambit puts at risk eight schools from the district’s largest charter management organization (CMO), the 25-school Alliance College-Ready Public Schools franchise, and two schools from the mid-range Magnolia Public Schools group. Petitions for a new Equitas Academy charter and a new STEM Preparatory Elementary also triggered rejections.

Those CMOs are part of a larger, 17-member coalition known as the Los Angeles Advocacy Council that had been negotiating over the past year with the district to roll back so-called District Required Language (DRL). The boilerplate contract provisions, which are required by most charter authorizers, have been developed over the past 20 years by the district as a way to ensure that charter petitioners conform to both state and federal education codes, while providing a measure of transparency to stakeholders. The language covers everything from admissions policies to expulsion and disciplinary procedures, to compliance with state rules governing English language learners and special education guarantees.

The charters contend that recommendations by district staff are inconsistent with site visits made by the charter division and that the district’s Office of Inspector General exercises too much authority in charter school investigations that lack transparency, go on too long and too often result in technical “material revision denials” of otherwise academically sound programs. But the dispute also echoes a more fundamental philosophical conflict between the communitarian values of public schools and the corporate management style of charters.

Publicly funded but privately managed, charter schools are legally held to a far higher degree of accountability under the law in exchange for freedom from many of the rules that govern the operation of public schools. Charters are thus required to renew their petitions —which serve as both a kind of school constitution and bill of rights — every three or five years to show that they not only meet state-mandated minimum criteria for academic achievement but also demonstrate significant performance gains in student achievement. But because charters typically tend to see test scores as the only metric that matters to a renewal or revocation, whereas districts have a legal responsibility to weigh competing measures of financial and educational viability and social equity, authorizers and the authorized often find themselves at odds.

The present controversy was dramatically foreshadowed in September when pro-charter board member Ref Rodriguez was forced to resign the school board presidency after being charged with three felony counts connected to his alleged laundering of $24,000 of his own money in donations to his 2015 campaign.

Though the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has closed the complaint until the criminal charges are resolved, Rodriguez’s refusal to step down from the board leaves his fellow majority members in a hazy ethical light. A board reversal of the denial recommendations, which the pro-public school minority would presumably oppose, would require the tie-breaking vote of an accused felon to pass.

In a district that rarely rejects charter petitions, and whose 277 active charter schools makes LAUSD the largest district charter authorizer in the nation, risking rejection is probably a safe gamble for a charter. Should the board choose to stand by its charter division staff, the schools would simply appeal to the State Board of Education in Sacramento or the politically appointed Los Angeles County Office of Education, where only last year Magnolia received reversals after the previous LAUSD board rejected three renewals over financial improprieties arising from the chain’s ties to an alleged immigration fraud ring run by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Regardless of how the board’s new majority passes this first significant test of its mettle, the charter division is standing firm.

“We must ensure that the independent charters we oversee are safe, publically accountable and provide learning environments that support student success,” a district spokesperson said in a written statement on Thursday. “While we cannot speculate on what will happen at Tuesday’s board meeting, we remain committed to providing options for our students and families.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Education

Branding Irony: OC High School Students Rebel Against Confederate Mascot

Co-published by The Daily Beast

Will an Orange County high school drive Old Dixie down and replace its Confederate-soldier mascot of 50 years?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Charles Davis

Published

 

on

Whistling Dixie: Savanna High School’s football-team version of its mascot.

An Orange County icon
of white supremacy
is being challenged.


Co-published by The Daily Beast

Savanna High School has a Confederate soldier for a mascot, and defenders of  “Johnny Rebel” — chosen by the student body back during the civil rights movement — argue that the branding is part of their heritage. However, Savanna High School is not in the Deep South, where one might expect such a controversy, but in Southern California’s Orange County, a few miles from Disneyland.

Savanna High School's Johnny Rebel mascot.

Savanna High School’s Johnny Rebel mascot.

Lay-Onna Clark, 15, didn’t give it much thought until she and some friends formed a black student union last August, the start of her junior year. It was when they started designing T-shirts that it really hit them: “The mascot supports white supremacy — that one race is superior to another,” she said in an interview. Indeed, it literally represents one race fighting to enslave another.

According to a flier handed out by anti-mascot activists at a Thursday, November 2 meeting of the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees, the predominantly white students in the class of 1967 who chose to be represented by Johnny Rebel — a term for a Confederate soldier, and the stage name of a prominent white supremacist musician — did so to send “a clear message that people of color were not welcome at Savanna High School or in Anaheim.”

Savanna H.S. Alumnus:
“1999 is when the Confederate flag became a problem. I was in the basketball program… and we hosted Compton High School.”

A lot has changed in 50 years. Whites now make up less than 10 percent of the student body at Savanna and, as of the 2010 Census, are but a slim majority in Anaheim. But a lot of things haven’t changed, too. The election of President Donald Trump, and subsequent displays of explicit white supremacy in the streets of cities like Charlottesville, Virginia (and a 2016 Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim), have served as a reminder of that, driving home what “heritage” means with respect to the Confederacy.

Clark said realizing the meaning of Johnny Rebel — depicted on a large quilt hung behind the board of trustees as a soldier clad in gray, charging with rifle in hand — led her and three friends to campaign for its removal. They approached the school board last fall with their concerns, and the board has responded by initiating a process that seems likely to see Savanna’s mascot at the very least rebranded.

On October 25 the Orange County Register reported that 56 percent of students had voted to “rebrand” Johnny Rebel, with another 18 percent expressing support for doing away with the mascot altogether; 26 percent sided with the status quo. The vote came eight years after the school tore down an old, dilapidated statue of the Confederate mascot, the paper noted.

The non-binding vote came after a student-led forum on the issue, and after the school devoted a week to raising “awareness and understanding” of the mascot’s place in history.

“I believe this could be a teachable moment for the entire country,” Superintendent Michael Matsuda said ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

Gabriel San Román graduated from Savanna in 2000. A staff writer for OC Weekly, he’s written about how, when he was there, the school still featured the battle flag of the pro-slavery South at its pep rallies. In an interview, he recalled how the school’s “rebel” theme used to be even more explicitly tied to white supremacy, and how that required changing.

“Nineteen ninety-nine is when the Confederate flag became a problem. I was in the basketball program… and we hosted Compton High School.” With many black students expected to attend the game, the schools’ respective principals decided something should probably be done about the large symbol of white supremacy in the gymnasium. “So what they had the cheerleaders do is make a bunch of signs, and those signs were awkwardly placed… to cover the shame of the Confederate flag during that game.”

After that, the school began quietly phasing out the Confederacy.

“I think it’s happening now because Anaheim has changed, demographically, and with that so has the political makeup of the school board,” San Román said of the latest controversy. As the city has become less white, it’s become more liberal.

A Johnny Rebel supporter warned of a slippery slope where we “remove all the things in the history books that offend people.”

 

But change should be not overstated. Since she began campaigning against her school’s mascot, Clark said she’s discovered that white supremacy still lurks in the halls.

Social media — “Snapchat and Instagram” — is where the abuse is most brazen. “They were calling us niggers and all kinds of stuff, saying they were going to jump me after school,” she said. She no longer takes the bus home from school; instead, she waits in the principal’s office for her mother to pick her up.

But “it’s not about feeling safe,” Clark said. “I think the mascot is more about people feeling comfortable being themselves.” She’s not sure what should replace it — “maybe a bird?” — but she wants one “that will make everybody feel equal. Not just for the African-American community, also for the Latino community, the Korean community, Pacific-Islanders. The majority of people in this district. It’s not just African-American and white. It’s not that type of battle.”

Yet it’s not a battle without resistance. At the November 2 board meeting, several people, including one man from out of town who said he read about the debate in a local paper, spoke in favor of keeping Johnny Rebel.

And Jeanne Tenno, of the class of 1976, said she is “proud to be a Savanna Rebel,” and warned of a slippery slope where we “remove all the things in the history books that offend people — the bad history.”

“Let’s correct the historical record,” she continued. “Give back the American Indians their land; the land that belonged to Mexico; the kingdom of Hawaii. And let’s return the land that was stolen from the interned Japanese. Because that’s what this is becoming.”

A decision on whether to head down that road could come as soon as today, November 6, when the Savanna school board will host a special forum with students at the high school.


 

Update: Anaheim’s school district voted Nov. 6 to rebrand Savanna High School’s mascot — shedding the Confederate image and name of Johnny Rebel, but retaining the school’s  “rebel” identity.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Education

Diane Ravitch: ‘Public Education Is in a Fight for Survival’

The 25-year experiment with charter schools has been a failure, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch said this week at the annual conference of the Network for Public Education.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Bill Raden

Published

 

on

The 25-year national gamble on charter schools has been a losing bet, resulting in a series of missed opportunities and creating a tragic distraction from what most education researchers agree are the real inequities underlying the so-called achievement gap, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch said this week.

Something of a patron saint and unifying voice for battle-fatigued public school teachers across the country, Ravitch was in Oakland for the fourth annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE), the largest gathering of education reformers opposed to the corporate-styled privatization of the “school choice” movement.

Ravitch, NPE president and co-founder, told the conference that reformers’ first goal “is to stop privatization because privatization will end public education. Public education is in a fight for survival. Our mission is to awaken every citizen to the threat to take away what belongs to all of us.”

Organizers estimated that about 500 researchers, parent and teacher activists, district officials, union leaders and education writers attended the conference. Thousands more live-streamed the weekend’s 42 workshops and panels on NPE’s Facebook page.

Afterwards, Ravitch, 79, told Capital & Main that privatization has undermined an institution that is foundational to our democracy.

“What the privatizers are doing is they keep selling the same snake oil, school choice, as the answer to the problem,” said Ravitch, research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School. “School choice doesn’t answer any problem. The biggest correlation in education is between poverty and test scores. If you think the test scores are too low, go to the root causes.”

The root causes, Ravitch said, “are people can’t feed their kids, people live in violent neighborhoods. When the kids go to charter schools and charter schools take the same kids, they get the same results. Sometimes they get worse results.”

Now in its fourth year, NPE’s membership has swollen into the thousands, boosted by the election of Donald Trump and widespread dismay over his appointment of libertarian extremist and avowed public school opponent Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education. In some sense the organization is a logical extension of Ravitch’s highly influential education blog, her widely followed Twitter feed and her body of writing. That writing includes The Death and Life of the Great American School System, the surprise 2010 bestseller in which she detailed her intellectual journey from being an early supporter of charters to the dawning realization that market-based education reform isn’t a reform at all.

Reforms, Ravitch said, always ask, “How we can make the public schools better? Do we need more teacher training? Do we need better tests? Do we need smaller classes? Do we need more funding? Do we need desegregation?

“I mean, these are the questions that you ask if you’re a reformer. What is now called reform is, ‘How can we replace the public schools with private management?’ And that is not reform; that is privatization.”

But if ending privatization is their objective, Ravitch and her network have their work cut out. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed charter school laws since Minnesota wrote the first charter bill in 1991. Over the past decade alone, charter enrollment has nearly tripled to an estimated 3.1 million nationwide (with over 600,000 students, California’s charter population is the nation’s largest; Los Angeles’ 156,263 charter students is the highest district enrollment in the country).

And although charters enroll only 5 percent of America’s K-12 students, to the cash-strapped, high-poverty urban districts that have been targeted for charter expansions, that number represents a shift of roughly $38.7 billion per year in lost tax dollars and mass closings of neighborhood schools.

Complicating matters, hard-hit districts and demoralized teachers looking for legislative relief have only found themselves stymied by prominent, putatively liberal Democrats in high places. Governors in some of the bluest states in the union, notably California’s Jerry Brown, have consistently blocked common sense attempts to slow the growth of charters or get them to play by the same accountability and transparency rules that govern public schools.

Obama education secretary Arne Duncan is still bitterly remembered for 2009’s Race to the Top, a coercive, $5 billion “doubling down” on the disastrous legacy of punitive, high-stakes testing and charter school expansion bequeathed by George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

“This was a degree of federal intervention at the local level that was unprecedented,” Ravitch said. “And we can look back now and [ask], ‘Did it succeed?’ And the answer is, ‘No, it failed.’ So I’ve often asked myself, because I could go through chapter and verse of why it failed, and why the new emphasis on testing? It failed because every part of it was based on no evidence at all.”

With the ascension of DeVos to the country’s top education job, however, history may finally again be in public education’s corner. Ravitch announced in Oakland that NPE Action, the group’s political arm, will challenge any candidate caught climbing into bed with any part of the Trump/DeVos agenda. It backed up that vow in last summer’s Virginia gubernatorial primary when NPE volunteers helped to widen the margin of victory for “moderate” Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam over Tom Perriello, a self-described “progressive” backed by the pro-charter PAC Democrats for Education Reform.

“There have been many instances where we have been able to make a difference,” Ravitz said. “When Texas was considering vouchers, we were able to get thousands of our members who live in Texas to talk to their legislators and to email and to visit them. A lot of what we try to do is expose malfeasance and show where the money’s coming from. We keep people abreast of the emerging research consensus [that] charters are not better than public schools, and they’re very often much worse.”

Ravitch doesn’t see NPE’s network-building activism decisively turning the charter tide any time soon, certainly not as long as Trump remains in the White House. But when asked what that success will look like, she quickly ticks off four features:

  • Education decisions will be based on evidence, not the whims of billionaires.
  • The public will recognize that high-stakes testing has failed and that we need to rethink our idea of “accountability.” Tests should be used only for diagnostic purposes, not to rank and rate students, teachers, or schools. Standardized tests should be used sparingly, not annually.
  • A consensus will have emerged that a great nation must have a great system of public schools, not a patchwork of privatization and school choice.
  • We will have reached agreement that the root causes of student success are in the socioeconomic status of the family — family income and education. Long-term, we must stop blaming teachers and schools and start taking action to reduce income inequality and poverty.

“Success is when the billionaires realize that they are actually harming schools and ruining the teaching profession,” she said. “When they stop trying to tell teachers how to teach and stop trying to turn education into a business, they will do something truly useful, like opening medical clinics in every school or turning their philanthropy to other endeavors where they no longer do harm.”

Continue Reading

Education

Baby Money: Can Cash Allowances Help Young Brains Grow?

Higher income has been found to correlate with larger surface area of the brain, especially in those parts associated with executive function and language.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Published

 

on

Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Co-published by The American Prospect

Ever since the election of a Republican majority in Congress in 1994, the trend in assistance to the poor has been to reduce it. Work requirements for recipients, time limits on assistance and stricter eligibility conditions to receive food stamps were all part of the 1996 welfare reform overhaul signed by President Bill Clinton. The result was fewer kids receiving aid, and those who did received less money. In 2015, while 15 million American children, or about 21 percent, grow up in homes with incomes below the official poverty line—which many children’s policy experts maintain is set far too low—just 2.3 million of them received welfare benefits, down from a peak of 9.5 million in 1993. (The poverty rate was even higher in California.)

But what if mothers in poverty received a cash handout every month, beginning shortly after they gave birth—no questions asked? And what if, by enabling those moms to buy toys or books, move to a different neighborhood, afford better childcare, attend continuing education classes, or just reduce the amount of stress they experience from not having to worry about money all the time, those extra funds resulted in their children’s brains growing more than they would have without the money?

That’s the idea behind a groundbreaking study conceived by Greg J. Duncan, an economist at University of California, Irvine who studies the relationship between family income and children’s achievement and attainment as adults. Already five years in to the work, Duncan and the team of three social scientists and one neuroscientist he has assembled hope to begin recruiting subjects next year.

“Politically, the question is very important,” said Katherine Magnuson, an associate director of the Institution for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and one of the designers of the study. “People in Washington talk about the pluses and minuses of programs that put money in people’s pockets or take it out, and we need to understand the consequences of their decisions in terms of children.”

Evidence that poverty manifests in children’s development has been building for years. “Childhood socioeconomic status is strongly associated with IQ, graduation rates and test scores,” said Kimberly G. Noble, MD Ph.D., the team’s neuroscientist and a pediatrician and associate professor of neuroscience and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. The gap emerges early and widens through the elementary school years. Children who score poorly relative to other students on intelligence assessment but come from families of high socioeconomic status—which combines income, parent education level, parent occupation and occupational prestige—see their scores go up, relative to other kids, over time; kids who score high early on but are in low socioeconomic-status families see their scores fall.

Early in her career, Noble wanted to know which particular cognitive skills were associated with socioeconomic status. A 2007 paper she and colleagues published in Developmental Science showed that the greatest differences were in language, memory and executive function (the ability to plan and focus). Just the skills, in other words, most needed in a 21st century economy.

Exposure to violence has been shown to effectively age children prematurely, according to research published in 2012.

That led Noble to more questions: “How do differences in cognitive skill relate to differences in brain structure?” In 2012, she and colleagues found that higher family income is associated with a larger hippocampus, the part of the brain believed to govern memory and emotion. Income was also found to correlate with larger surface area of the brain, especially in those parts associated with executive function and language.

In 2015, Noble published data that extended this finding to the cerebral cortex. Four labs, independently of one another, have since replicated this research. While it wouldn’t be possible to predict a kid’s brain size from his parents’ income—plenty of kids from well-off homes had smaller surface areas to their brains than some of the kids in poorer homes—Noble’s paper showed the effect was strongest among the most disadvantaged children. “The proportional differences in income were associated with greater differences in brain structure among the worst-off kids,” she said.

Media trumpeted the research with headlines like, “How Poverty Changes the Brain.” But Noble knew that her results were only associational. “We can say differences in family income are associated with differences in brain structure but we can’t say what’s causing what,” she said. “Is it other things, meaning that changing income might not make a difference?”

Then, several years ago, fate intervened. Noble met with a graduate student whom Columbia had randomly matched her with to mentor, and they got to chit-chatting. The student asked about her research, and after Noble answered, she recalls, the student mentioned that her father does similar work, but as an economist. “Well, there’s like one economist in the world, maybe two, who fits that description,” Noble said. “So I looked at her ID badge and said, ‘Wait—is your dad Greg Duncan?’”

It was, and he happened to be in New York at the time. So the two professors had lunch.

“I’d always wanted to meet her,” Duncan said of Noble. He knew that a $4,000 increase in annual income prenatally to age 2 can mean a 19 percent increase in the child’s earnings as an adult. He told her of an idea of his: What if they could do an experiment that alleviates poverty and test causally the effects on child development? “She knew what the problem was with non-experiential data,” Duncan said. “A lot of neuroscientists in this area take the work and say ‘poverty destroys brains,’ but she understood the value of random assignment.” Noble told Duncan that if he ever developed this idea into an experiment, count her in.

Duncan soon spoke to some social scientists he had worked with before and assembled a team with the right combination of skills necessary to pull off a study to measure the effects of income on the developing brain during the first three years of life. They would need to find subjects, evaluate parent stress and parent involvement, and—Noble’s specialty—measure brain activity.

Their study will recruit mothers who are in hospitals to give birth, with incomes no greater than the federal poverty threshold, and randomly assign them to one of two groups: Members of the treatment group will receive $333 per month as an automatic deposit on a debit card. Mothers in the control group will receive $20 per month. The researchers plan to recruit 250 new moms at each of four sites, chosen to represent a diversity of state benefits offered and of racial or ethnic composition, among other things. After they secure agreements to participate, researchers will interview the moms for 20 minutes. “You’d be surprised at how hard it is to give away money,” said Magnuson, who is a former student of Duncan’s. Special legislation had to be passed in Nebraska and Minnesota, two of the study sites, so the income would not threaten participants’ eligibility for public benefits and thereby negate the “treatment.”

Poor neighborhoods can have physiological effects: A mother’s address at pregnancy predicted cortisol response and length of DNA sequences that protect infant chromosomes.

At 12 months, researchers will conduct a longer interview by telephone. When the children reach age 2, the researchers will conduct home visits and collect hair and saliva samples to test them for cortisol levels, an indicator of stress that has been shown to damage the developing brain. Researchers will also videotape the mothers’ interactions with their children during a standardized play task; the videos will be coded for different aspects of parent sensitivity such as perceiving gestures from their children and picking up and responding to them. “We expect to see more sensitive reciprocal interaction in the parents in the treatment group,” Duncan said. At age 3, the families will be brought into the lab to measure cognition and brain development in detail, using EEGs.

Noble would have liked to begin the study prenatally, but that would have risked missing women who weren’t receiving prenatal care. “Almost everyone in the U.S. gives birth in a hospital, but the degree to which mothers receive prenatal care varies quite a bit,” she said. Walking up to women with big bellies on the street wouldn’t have been practical. “If there was a way to get everyone prenatally, for sure we would have loved to try that,” Noble said.

Another limitation of the study will be the use of EEG instead of MRI data—or, better yet, examining the brains directly, which you can do with monkeys but not humans. Older kids can be relied upon to sit still in the noisy, dark MRI tubes, but 3 year olds not so much. An EEG scan involves a series of electrodes fitted into a cap that is placed on the child’s head. “Most kids don’t mind it,” Noble said. “They can sit on their caretaker’s lap. It gives a pretty good window into the electric brain function.”

Children who grow up in more well-off families have vastly different experiences than  those in poverty today. Living in a poor neighborhood has been shown to have physiological effects: A mother’s address at pregnancy predicted cortisol response and length of telomeres, DNA sequences that protect chromosomes, in their children at 12 months. The poor tend to live in more polluted areas, increasing exposure to toxins, and in more crowded and less stable housing environments, which can cause stress. They may live in violent neighborhoods; exposure to violence has been shown to affect the length of children’s telomeres, effectively aging them prematurely, according to research published in 2012 in Molecular Psychiatry. Poor moms have higher rates of psychological distress and depression, which can affect how they interact with their children. They tend to be in lower-quality childcare if they are in childcare, and to have less stable family relationships.

“None of this is to say poor children don’t often live in incredibly loving and warm families who do their best to support their children,” Magnuson emphasized. “But it’s hard to be the parent of a young child in our country—there are very few supports for it—and incredibly hard to do it with very limited financial resources.”

The debit cards will show how participants are spending the money, but not what they spend it on; researchers will need to rely on surveys for that information. They are trusting that families are “able to optimize and understand their own needs,” Magnuson said. Some moms might put their kids in better quality childcare; others might spend the money on ESL classes. Some may decide to move into an apartment in a safer neighborhood; others may calculate they can afford to delay returning to work and thereby spend more time with their infant. The money is expected to just generally reduce mothers’ stress. “If they’re less depressed maybe they’ll have more bandwidth to talk more to their children, or take them to the library,” Magnuson suggested. “Anything that’s going to reduce the child’s experience of stress could very likely improve their brain development.” The surveys, physiological samples and videotaped interactions should provide such data.

“Greg and I have been studying child poverty for a lot of years, particularly Greg,” Magnuson said. “We come from the perspective of wanting to know if something is causal or not, because you want to know how much money really does matter. We’re not here to find something that doesn’t exist. Then I’ll think of other ways to help children.”


Copyright Capital & Main

Continue Reading

California Game Changers

California Game Changers: Reaffirming Affirmative Action

Co-published by International Business Times
Of all the national trendsetting ballot measures decided by California voters in the last generation, perhaps none was more divisive than Proposition 209. It banned racial considerations — otherwise known as affirmative action.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Erin Aubry Kaplan

Published

 

on

Illustration: Nicolás Zúñiga

Reinstating affirmative action is not as pie-in-the-sky as it sounds. A 2014 Field Poll found strong support for it across the board.


Co-published by International Business Times

Of all the controversial, national trendsetting ballot measures decided by California voters in the last generation, perhaps none was more hotly debated or divisive than Proposition 209. Passed in 1996, the initiative banned racial considerations — otherwise known as affirmative action — as a criteria in state university admissions, as well as in state contracting and hiring. But it was the potential impact on higher education that stoked the most passion among Prop. 209 supporters and detractors alike. The latter decried the ban from the beginning, predicting that the numbers of blacks and other underrepresented ethnic minorities would fall off precipitously and begin to erode California’s vaunted public higher education model of quality and access for all. Despite the accuracy of that prediction, Prop. 209 has for 21 years withstood court challenges and high-profile critiques.

See Other Stories in This Series

The opposition to Prop. 209 went underground, but it never went away. Now, possibly because of the open hostility to matters of racial justice that’s already defined the fledgling Trump era, California’s pro-affirmative action movement is going public again. In August, black and Latino lawmakers in Sacramento made it clear they are preparing to make the repeal of Prop. 209 an issue in next year’s gubernatorial race.

Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) sent a letter on behalf of the state Black and Latino Legislative Caucuses to the candidates running for governor in 2018, asking them if they would support a repeal of Prop. 209. The Democratic candidates all said yes. The notably diverse candidate group includes former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, former state schools chief Delaine Eastin and State Treasurer John Chiang. Holden, who chairs the Black Caucus, says the key to eventual repeal is a campaign that thoroughly educates, or re-educates the public about how affirmative action benefits everyone by increasing fairness and access to institutions that are, after all, supported by all California taxpayers.

From 1994 to 2010, black acceptance rates dropped from 51% to 15% at UC Berkeley, and from 58% to 14% at UCLA.

“We need to get conversations going around the need for looking at how students of color, especially blacks and Latinos, are not making the cut for UC and Cal State,” says Holden. “There’s a lot of misunderstanding and confusion out there, and ways to drive wedges. We need to be more proactive about the issue.”

Reinstating affirmative action is not as pie-in-the-sky as it sounds. A 2014 Field Poll found that a state far more diverse than it was in 1996 strongly supports affirmative action across the board—57 percent of whites, 81 percent of Latinos, 83 percent of blacks. The numbers suggest that if Prop. 209 were voted on today it would likely lose (but only if it was worded accurately—the original Prop. 209, which was called a “civil rights initiative,” asked voters if they opposed “discrimination” and never mentioned the phrase affirmative action). Twenty-one years later, there is good reason to be concerned: Since the passage of Prop. 209, the University of California student body has become much less diverse and increasingly less representative of California demographics. The fact that the UC system, notably on its Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses, has become more elite and more competitive in the last generation has only worsened the education crisis.

A 2013 report by the Campaign for College Opportunity showed that black students have particularly suffered. From 1994 to 2010, the percentage of African-American applicants admitted to the university system dropped to 58 percent, from about 75 percent, according to the report, based on data provided by the colleges and universities. By comparison, 83 percent of white students who applied in 2010 were admitted, along with 85 percent of Asians and 76 percent of Latinos.

The drop in black acceptance is more stark at the two most elite campuses. From 1994 to 2010, black acceptance rates dropped from 51 percent to 15 percent at the University of California at Berkeley, and from 58 percent to 14 percent at UCLA, the study showed. In 2006, black acceptance reached its nadir at UCLA, where the black freshman class numbered a paltry 96 students, the lowest since 1973.

Latinos have made some gains; in 2014, the percentage of Latino admits to UC was higher than whites for the first time. But overall the numbers and the admissions rate did not keep pace with the growing Latino population. It was partly because of this chronic lagging behind that led state Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) that year to author a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the Prop. 209 ban of racial considerations in university admissions. Known as Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5, it passed the Senate and was widely expected to pass the Assembly; despite Prop. 209’s longevity, affirmative action has always been supported by Democrats.

But then the bill hit an unexpected and unpleasant snag. Groups of Asian-Americans, notably Chinese American parents, raised concerns that that their considerable representation in UC schools, especially on the most sought-after campuses, would be threatened by affirmative action’s goal of ethnic balance. Three Asian-American senators who had initially supported Hernandez’s bill reversed course, and other Asian lawmakers in the Assembly vowed to oppose it. The bill was ultimately shelved. The incident sparked intra-party, intra-ethnic political tensions and raised questions about the presumed solidarity of people of color around supporting affirmative action.

Still, the ensuing political fallout in Sacramento did not officially change Asian support of affirmative action. Holden is hoping that part of the new public education campaign for next year will involve John Chiang, one of many Asian-Americans who actively opposed Prop. 209 in 1996 (though he was somewhat vague on the issue in 2014 during the dust-up over SCA 5.) Asians as a group have historically supported affirmative action goals and still do; the challenge going forward is channeling that support into reviving a public policy that most equitably serves the state’s increasingly multi-ethnic public.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, an associate dean at UC Riverside’s School of Public Policy, said in 2014 that Democrats would do well need to keep closer track of attitudes and concerns as demographics in the state shift further away from majority white, a shift that includes a fast-growing, and more diverse, Asian population.

Holden says the time is ripe: “We want to make sure that the doors are open, [especially] because there’s such a critical need for students trained in science, technology, engineering and math to work in places like Silicon Valley. Black and brown students need to be educated at the highest levels.” There’s also the bigger picture of political culture — a picture California could positively influence.“With every presidential tweet there’s a new effort at racial separation in this country,” Holden says. “This is an important time for California on a lot of fronts—environmentally, health-care-wise, educational access– to create a more just society and give opportunities to all.”


Copyright Capital & Main

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

California Game Changers

California Game Changers: Making College Free Again

Co-published by International Business Times
Since 2004, California’s public university students have collectively racked up student debt in excess of $12 billion. There was a time when tuition-free college was the norm in California.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Bill Raden

Published

 

on

Illustration: Nicolás Zúñiga

For an increasing number of education and political leaders, bringing debt-free higher education back to California is long overdue.


Co-published by International Business Times

When Bernie Sanders, and then Hillary Clinton, made debt-free higher education a byword of the 2016 presidential race, University of California graduates like retired Los Angeles anesthesiologist Steve Auer unexpectedly found themselves the poster children for a time when free college tuition was the norm in California, rather than the radical proposition it seems today.

“Education was nearly free,” the 75-year-old Auer recalls in a phone interview with Capital & Main. “Tuition, of course, was nominal, was just almost nothing. That was the reality of that magical period that I was fortunate enough to grow up under and get my education.”

See Other Stories in This Series

In the 1960s, the state picked up the tuition for residents attending California’s public universities and colleges. Auer was merely charged, according to the 1963-64 UC Berkeley catalogue, $75 per semester for “services other than teaching facilities.” But even that “incidental fee” (roughly $600 in 2017 dollars) didn’t derail his education when the then-21-year-old suddenly left home after a falling out with his “Eastern European control freak” immigrant father.

“I rented a room in a house that four other guys were already renting,” he remembers. “I had a couple of part-time jobs. I basically scraped by. But it was adequate to get through college with those. No borrowed money at all.”

Today a year at a UC, including living expenses, costs $34,000. At a state university

the price tag is $25,060.

Graduating with a degree in chemistry, Auer went on to get a tuition-free medical degree from UC San Francisco and, on receiving his medical license, immediately entered the economy by buying a home, raising a family and enjoying a level of prosperity that was then still synonymous with the California Dream.

But Golden State tuitions have skyrocketed since former Republican Governor George Deukmejian officially pulled the plug on free tuition in 1984. The incidental fees of Auer’s generation have morphed into today’s $34,000 sticker price (including living expenses) for a year at a UC. At a California State University (CSU), the price tag is $25,060. To help pay for it, California families will resort to a patchwork of Cal Grants, federal Pell Grants, university grants and Middle Class Scholarships. Borrowing will fill in the gaps.

For an increasing number of education and political leaders, bringing debt-free higher education back to California is long overdue. In 2015 alone, over half of UC and CSU seniors graduated with a staggering $1.3 billion debt load. Since 2004, California’s public university students have collectively racked up student debt in excess of $12 billion. That liability has been a catastrophe, according to UC San Francisco medical professor Stanton Glantz, president of the Council of University of California Faculty Associations.

“Even if you take a fairly conservative approach, it’s had huge negative effects on the California economy,” he explains in a phone interview, “because people who graduate with this ridiculous amount of debt have to delay starting families, starting businesses, and it just becomes a weight on the whole economy. … The same people, if you look at the state as a whole, are going to end up paying for higher ed. It’s just, [with free tuition] you give it to everybody, and then the society recoups the costs over the long run by creating more wealth, [rather than] what we’re doing now, which is where you take the people who are actually getting educated and saddle them with [the cost].”

For the first time in 30 years, however, the higher education tide may finally be turning in Californians’ favor. In March, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) unveiled an ambitious proposal for a $1.6 billion-per-year “Degrees Not Debt” scholarship program, aimed at eliminating the need for nearly 400,000 UC and CSU students to take out loans to finance their living expenses. The plan also included a proposal by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) to make the first year of California Community Colleges (CCC) tuition-free for all full-time students.

Ultimately, McCarty’s measure failed to make it into the July budget. A separate bill by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) that would have funded free tuition for community colleges, CSU and UC for California residents died in committee. Santiago’s free-first-year community college bill, Assembly Bill 19, eventually made it to the the governor’s desk, though whether Jerry Brown will sign it is still unclear. For their part, McCarty and Eggman have vowed to press on. “We were able to get tuition-free higher education on California’s agenda, and push the threshold of what we, as policymakers, think is possible,” Eggman said by email. “But there is more work to be done to convince policy makers that this is a critical investment in our future that we must make — and to foster the political will to get it done.”

The argument that a university degree benefits both the graduate and society has been made repeatedly over the years. For the college graduate, it means significantly increased lifetime earnings; for the state, increased tax revenue and reduced costs for social welfare programs and incarceration. A 2012 study by UC Berkeley’s Institute for the Study of Societal Issues estimated that ongoing returns to the state from UC and CSU graduates averaged $12 billion annually, “well above the general fund expenditures for the UC, CSU and CCC systems combined.”

College tuitions are “a gigantic problem that is eminently solvable

if the political will is there to do it.”

Since 2005, however, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has been sounding the alarm that the state isn’t producing enough bachelor’s degrees to drive its own economy. The PPIC routinely points out that California’s degree gap threatens economic growth and is a significant factor in the income inequality that has already arrested economic mobility in the U.S.

Far more dire is the Frankenstein threat posed by what is being called “the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Last year, a World Economic Forum report estimated that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are at risk from automation and artificial intelligence. A robotized workforce, economists predict, will hollow out an already battered middle class, and its expected collateral damage has ironically led even Silicon Valley cyber-billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk to warn that “some kind of universal basic income is going to be necessary.” The evidence suggests that those without any postsecondary education will be among the hardest hit.

How California went from tuition-free to tuitions that can now cost middle-income families thousands of dollars over that of Harvard College or Yale can be chalked up to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s failed experiment in privatization.

“He came in as a straight, dyed-in-the-blue, or red I guess, free market, Milton Friedman conservative,” quips Glantz, who chaired the budget committee for the UC system at that time. “His view was that going to college was a good [personal] investment. If you went to college, you made more money. And if [people] aren’t willing to spend the money or borrow the money, then that means they don’t want to get educated that much, so why are we distorting things by having the taxpayer subsidize it?”

Although Sacramento’s attempts to fix the cost of higher education are over for this legislative session, Glantz thinks the momentum will carry over into next year’s gubernatorial race. To that end, he has made sure that all of the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidates have a copy of The $48 Fix, the debt-free college blueprint authored by the Reclaim CA Higher Education coalition, his working group of state university faculty and labor leaders. With a funding mechanism hinted at in its title, the plan lays out a path not only for debt-free college, but for restoring California’s three-tier system of colleges and universities as both the public good and the robust economic engine envisioned by the state’s landmark 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education.

“We basically show that you could restore quality and fund all the people who’ve been shoved out of the system and [restore] access if you were to do an income tax surcharge [of] $4 a month for median households [earning $64,500 annually],” he explains. “This is a gigantic problem that is eminently solvable if the political will is there to do it.”

“I think,” adds Glantz, “if you went to the typical family and said, ‘Would you be willing to pay a little bit more in taxes so that you wouldn’t have to worry about this for your kids and your grandchildren and your friends, and the kids you don’t have yet, and all that?’ — most people would say, ‘Yes.’”

[Note: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that AB 19 had failed to make it into the budget.]


Copyright Capital & Main

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Education

College Accrediting Commission Gets Reform Overhaul

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges had fought to close City College of San Francisco, only to find its own policies come under harsh public scrutiny.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Seth Sandronsky

Published

 

on

Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges office in Novato. (Photo: Capital & Main Staff)


The California Federation of Teachers has settled its long-standing lawsuit against the commission that accredits community and junior colleges, ensuring that “fair accreditation practices will be the norm going forward,” a union official told Capital & Main. 

“The agreement is a tremendous achievement for all California community colleges,” federation president Josh Pechthalt said.

Richard Winn, the new president of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), agreed. “We are very pleased to arrive at a mutually satisfactory settlement,” Winn said. “We look forward to a collaborative relationship with the [union] going forward.”

The commission ignited a firestorm of controversy five years ago when it attempted to strip the City College of San Francisco of its accreditation. The CFT and the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 sued, and the San Francisco city attorney won an injunction keeping the school open with its accreditation. When ACCJC sanctions result in a school losing accreditation, the school may close or, as in the case of Compton Community College, be absorbed by another district. Without accreditation, students are no longer eligible for federal and state financial aid programs, and their degrees become worthless. (Disclosure: CFT and AFT are financial supporters of this website.)

The agency had criticized the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) for having too few administrators but too many faculty, and for staff salaries it considered too high–salaries set through collective bargaining. The agreement, reached in August, formalizes a policy banning the commission from interfering in collective bargaining as it previously had done, said Tim Killikelly, president of the AFT local that represents CCSF faculty.

The agreement also ends the ACCJC’s use of student learning outcomes to evaluate faculty.

Under the agreement the ACCJC must “ensure at least three members of any evaluation team are currently employed as active duty faculty members.” The ACCJC had earlier favored increasing non-faculty members as faculty evaluators.

“This was a real sticking point for us,” Pechthalt said. The ACCJC’s Winn declined to comment on faculty evaluators or any other policies the agreement amends, deletes or formalizes.

The agreement bars conflicts of interest from the community college evaluations. Former ACCJC President Barbara Beno’s husband, Peter Crabtree, had been a commission evaluator of the CCSF.

The California Community Colleges Consultation Council, an 18-member panel reporting to the state’s Community College Chancellor, becomes a new reviewer of ACCJC accreditation policy proposals under the agreement. This provision aims to provide more transparency in the way the ACCJC develops policies, a move away from the nepotism that had allegedly been a past factor in naming evaluators. Another of the agreement’s main issues is how fairly the ACCJC financially evaluates California community colleges. The ACCJC must apply consistency “in the review of all institutions,” the settlement says.

The ACCJC admits in the agreement that it had practiced an inconsistent policy in its past financial evaluation of community colleges. For example, the agency had criticized CCSF for receiving a grant from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while praising other community colleges for getting money from the same federal source, the AFT’s Killikelly said.

The agreement also lengthens the ACCJC’s reaffirmation of accreditation from 18 months to seven years. This policy change will provide community colleges with more time to address “remaining compliance issues” to maintain accreditation requirements that ensure vital government funding.

Finally, the agreement contains a dispute resolution process over the ACCJC’s performance as the sole accrediting agency for California’s community colleges. A jointly funded professional mediator will be available if the commission and the unions are unable to reach a resolution.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who won the 2014 injunction that urged the commission to end its threat to close CCSF, said by email that he applauds the unions “for ensuring that there are fair accreditation practices for all community colleges in California. Like our success in San Francisco, their work has helped pave the way for a quality education for any Californian who wants it.”


Copyright Capital & Main

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Top Stories