This Week in Education Organizing - April 27, 2018

Major Victory in Coalition for Educational Justice Fight for Culturally Responsive Education

The Coalition for Educational Justice in New York City won a major victory this week as Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced an investment of $23 million in implicit bias and culturally responsive practice training for all DOE staff members over the next four years.

The Mayor’s announcement is a major victory in CEJ’s year-long effort to embed Culturally Responsive Education inside the largest, and one of the most diverse school systems in the nation.

CEJ has called on the NYC Department of Education to ensure that school and district staff represent the diversity of the district’s population, provide classes, curricula and resources designated to celebrate that diversity, cultivate a positive, culturally responsive culture in schools and champion increased parent engagement efforts that are culturally responsive and promote collaborative efforts to help students grow. Take a look at CEJ’s full Culturally Responsive Education Platform and well as their Culturally Responsive Education Fact Sheet.

The announcement from the Mayor’s office outlines the district’s intention to train 10,000 staff in the coming school year. Trainings will be conducted by outside experts as well as the DOE and will include topics such as Implicit Bias, Culturally Responsive Education, Educating Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, Empowering Families, Power and Privilege, Critical and Courageous Conversations about Race, Embracing Diversity, and Leading for Equity and Excellence.

Additional steps will include grounding the city’s teacher leadership and new principal mentoring programs in a racial equity lens, developing a new Social Studies Scope and Sequence and Passport to Social Studies curriculum, and using the keynote address at the citywide principal’s conference this spring to focus on the subject of culturally responsive teaching.

For more information on the Mayor’s announcement, click HERE.

Michigan Judge Orders State Not to Distribute Public Funds to Private Schools

A lawsuit filed by the Michigan ACLU, AROS partner 482 Forward, the Michigan Association of School Boards and others, won a victory this week when a judge ordered the state not to distribute $5 million in public funding to private schools.

Last year, the Michigan legislature allocated $5 million to private schools to help them cover the cost of complying with state mandates over the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. The lawsuit contended that public funding for private schools violates the state constitution.

Judge Cynthia Stephens agreed. “The appropriations authorized by the statute are rendered suspect because they effectuate the direct payment of public funds to nonpublic schools,” the Judge wrote.

Defendants in the case, Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan Department of Education and State Superintendent Brian Whiston are expected to appeal the ruling.

 Houston Beats Back Effort to Turn 10 Schools Over to Charter Operator

A proposal to charterized ten low-performing schools in Houston was withdrawn after fierce opposition was expressed at the Tuesday night school board meeting where the board was scheduled to vote on the proposal. Over 30 people testified against the plan before the board president abruptly ended the meeting. Two people were arrested including one who was physically dragged from the board room. The two spend the night in jail, charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.

Groups opposing the charterization called the plan racist because of its impact on African American and Latino schools. The groups included HISD Parent Advocates, Indivisible Houston, Houston Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter and others.

On Wednesday, the day after the board meeting, all charges were dropped against the two women, and the board announced that it was withdrawing the charter proposal. Instead, said board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, the district would meet with parents, teachers and community members from the 10 school communities, to develop alternative turnaround plans.

In 2015 the Texas legislature passed a law that would allow the Texas Education Agency (TEA) close schools or replace an entire school board if a district has even a single school that has failed to meet the state’s education standards for five consecutive years. The Houston Independent School District was hoping that the conversion of the schools to charters would hold off a state takeover. It is unclear how or whether the TEA might respond to the withdrawal of the charter proposal. However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he plans to seek a one-year waiver of the law, particularly in light of the disruption of the city’s education system after Hurricane Harvey last fall. More HERE.

Louisville Schools Threatened With State Takeover

The battle between educators in Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public schools and the state’s governor is heating up. In the aftermath of the teacher walk-outs this spring, and as the union heads in to negotiations for a new contract, the Governor is threatening a takeover of the city’s schools.

All sides are awaiting the release of the results of a comprehensive management audit of the district’s schools. Once the audit is released, union and community groups fear that the state’s interim education commissioner will recommend some form of state oversight of the schools.

Earlier this week a group of pro-charter pastors from West Louisville in conjunction with the extreme right-wing anti-public education think tank, the Bluegrass Institute of Public Policy, held a press conference to call on the Interim Commissioner to authorize a state takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools and to end the ability of the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) and the other JCPS employee unions to bargain collectively. The JCTA responded with a statement affirming the right of the district’s employees to be included in local school decision-making and the right of local control. 

The DeVos Office for Civil Rights is Dismissing Complaints of Discrimination in School Discipline. That Doesn’t Mean it Isn’t Happening

ProPublica and Mother Jones have jointly reported on the growing impact of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s massive scaling back on investigations of discrimination in the use of school discipline. In an April 23rd  article, reporter Annie Waldman tells the story of a 13 year old African American girl in Bryan, Texas, who was thrown in to juvenile detention last October after an incident in her middle school.

Bryan has been the subject of investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights where Black students are almost four times as likely to be suspended or referred to a disciplinary school as their white peers. Between 2011 and 2014, Waldman reports, Black students, who account for about 20% of total enrollment in Bryan, accounted for more than 60% of arrests in school.

But since DeVos took over the Department of Education, the OCR has reversed course on school discipline complaints, instructing regional OCR offices to no longer consider systemic and historic patterns in addressing individual complaints. DeVos is now threatening to rescind guidance issued under President Obama, aimed at helping schools and districts avoid the discriminatory use of discipline codes. At least 65 school discipline complaints opened during the Obama Administration—including a sweeping investigation of discrimination in Bryan, Texas—have been dismissed.

The Waldman must-read article concludes with a powerful statement from the mother of the 13-year-old, whose academic progress has slowed since her detention. “My child might grow up to be a doctor and save one of your kid’s lives, but the school system don’t see it like that,” she told Waldman. “It’s just a pattern, like, this one is in trouble, and this one going to be in trouble, and this one is going to be just like this one.”

2015-2016 OCR Civil Rights Data Collection Released

On April 24, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).  This data, self-reported by 17,300 public school districts and 96,400 public schools and educational programs, is collected and published annually by OCR.  The CRDC includes, for the first time, comprehensive data regarding incidents of criminal offenses in schools, as well as several new categories of data on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) course taking.

 

Users can find selected facts about a district or school, as well as tables and graphics of reported data, here.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Backpack Full of Cash in DALLAS. May 10th at 6:00pm at the Alliance/AFT Office, 334 Centre Street, Dallas. A panel discussion will follow the screening.


Follow the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools on Facebook and Twitter and learn more at www.reclaimourschools.org.


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