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Learning Curves

2018 Has Seen K-12 Strike Wave Sweep U.S. — And It’s Still October

A generational upsurge of public school walkouts. For San Jose teachers, home isn’t where the NIMBYs are. Death of a black Humboldt State student.

Bill Raden

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Austin Beutner photo by Bill Raden.

“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to  braden@capitalandmain.com, @BillRaden.


 

It’s official: 2018 has already seen the highest number of teacher work stoppages in a quarter-century, according to new federal numbers crunched by the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In an October 4 Labor Notes blog post, UMass Amherst sociology professor Jasmine Kerrissey says that five percent of all K-12 teachers have walked off the job since January. “Our figures for 2018 don’t yet include the teacher strikes around Washington State in September — or the big ones that may still be ahead this fall in Los Angeles and Oakland,” she adds. Chalk it up to stagnant wages and years of draconian austerity.

Whether or not L.A. Unified follows suit now is a matter between United Teachers Los Angeles, LAUSD negotiators and state mediators. Last week saw the climax to a legal tug of war between the union (United Teachers Los Angeles) and LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner over a public records request for Beutner’s official appointments calendar. The resulting cache appears to confirm longstanding union suspicions that Beutner has been working closely and in secret with “charter operators, wealthy privatizers and related organizations.” UTLA documented at least 11 meetings between the superintendent and high-powered charter interests, including Jed Wallace of the California Charter Schools Association, Republican donor and charter backer Frank E. Baxter, and charter-aligned LAUSD lobbyists Mercury Public Affairs. How the discovery might impact contract talks remains to be seen. The next mediation is scheduled for today.

A NIMBY uproar by neighbors of San Jose Unified could threaten at least part of an innovative district solution to affordable teacher housing. With skyrocketing housing costs already a prime driver of SJUSD’s annual 200-teacher turnover, and with downtown San Jose in the running for a massive mixed-use Google development, the district has been considering nine properties on which existing schools with declining enrollments could be moved to make way for as much as several hundred housing units for teachers and school employees. The angriest battles have been in the tony South San Jose neighborhood of Almaden Valley, where residents signed an online petition, complaining that employee housing for public school teachers “will negatively impact the aesthetics of the area” and “will negatively impact home values.”

Inside Higher Ed is reporting that a disconnect between diversity recruitment goals by California colleges and the state’s least diverse communities is at the center of an unsolved April 2017 murder of a 19-year-old black Humboldt State University sophomore. David Josiah Lawson was stabbed to death during a fight at an off-campus party in the mostly white Northern California town of Arcata. Charges against a 24-year-old white local, identified by partygoers as the assailant, were dismissed for insufficient evidence.

The victim’s mother, Charmaine Lawson, has blamed police indifference and a lack of urgency by the university for the stalled investigation — charges that were bolstered by complaints from a consulting retired FBI agent over the lack of cooperation and honesty from the Arcata police department. Lawson has joined with students in demanding greater accountability from HSU: “They knew the type of environment where my son was going to school, and yet they recruited him. They recruited many students of color knowing that Arcata isn’t a safe town.”


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