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California education news: What’s the latest?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021, 2:12 pm

Link copied.USC Rossier School focuses on hiring diverse faculty

The Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California has focused on hiring diverse faculty under the leadership of Pedro Noguera, the school’s dean.

Of the school’s 14 most recent faculty hires, 12 are people of color, according to diverseeducation.com. Noguera, who became dean in July 2020, told the website that the school needs faculty of color “who are speaking about the ways in which race and diversity are shaping our society.”

“Other universities cannot take the position that there are not enough people of color out there to hire. What are they doing to build the pipeline? We’re showing that with a concerted effort and institutional support, it can be done,” Noguera added.

Noguera said the school has been “assertive in our recruitment efforts” to add to a faculty body that has previously lacked in diversity. Most full-time faculty were white and male as of 2020, according to diverseeducation.com, with only 3% identifying as Black and 5% identifying as Latino or Hispanic.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, November 23, 2021, 12:12 pm

Link copied.California prison staff must be vaccinated by Jan. 12, federal judge orders

A federal judge has ordered California prison employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Jan. 12, potentially reducing the number of Covid-19 cases among young and adult inmates. Inside the state’s four youth correctional institutions, a total of 255 youth and 278 staff members have contracted the virus since the onset of the pandemic, even as the number of incarcerated youth dwindles at the state level.

Plus, a federal report found that half of the outbreaks in California’s state prisons between May and July were traced back to employees.

The order comes after months of uncertainty as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and Gov. Gavin Newsom requested a postponement of a vaccination mandate for prison staff.

As of Oct. 22, 62% of staff working at the state’s youth prison institutions were fully vaccinated. The remaining 38% were subject to weekly Covid-19 testing. For staff across all prisons in the state, the vaccination rate is currently 66%, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Tuesday, November 23, 2021, 11:24 am

Link copied.Thousands of Los Angeles Unified students miss vaccine deadline; 80% on track to comply

Though 80% of Los Angeles Unified’s students are on track to comply with the district’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, as of Monday, about 44,000 missed the first deadline, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Students 12 and older were told to have either received at least one shot, obtain a medical exemption or receive an extension by Sunday. LA Unified’s announced deadline for the second dose is Dec. 19. However, there are no repercussions if students missed the first deadline.  Students could still wait until the first week of December to get their first dose and still have enough time to get the second shot and achieve maximum immunity by Jan. 10, the start of the next term, according to the LA Times.

The families that don’t comply with the vaccine mandate by Jan. 10 will have to enroll their children outside of LA Unified or transfer to the district’s independent study program, City of Angels.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, November 23, 2021, 11:16 am

Link copied.Some parents skeptical of San Francisco Unified recall effort

As three San Francisco Unified school board members face a recall election in February, some parents fear that it could mean a halt to the progress that’s been made to expand opportunities for marginalized students.

In a story published Monday, KQED spoke with Black and Latino parents who felt as though their voices have been drowned out in the recall election that has caught national attention. Recall advocates are frustrated with three of the district’s seven school board members since schools remained closed last school year despite private schools reopening. At the same time, the board took up other issues, including the renaming of schools and changing the admissions policy for Lowell High School, San Francisco’s elite public high school. City and county officials also called on board member Alison Collins to resign over what they said were anti-Asian tweets from 2016.

Collins, Faauuga Moliga, and board President Gabriela Lopez face the recall.

District surveys found that families of color were more hesitant to return to schools in the spring than white families. KQED has reported on Asian families, especially Chinese families, feeling worried about sending their children back into classrooms.

KQED also spoke with parents who praised the board’s effort to enroll more Black and Latino students at Lowell High School, as well as the creation of the district’s first Samoan dual language immersion program since Pacific Islander Moliga has served on the school board. Tongan parent Anna Mahina said seeing a fellow Pacific Islander on the school board is empowering for both students and parents “because he knows the struggles straight from the heart.”

Collins, Moliga, and Lopez told KQED that their board actions have been in response to community needs.

“There’s no way that the recall is going to close the learning loss,” said teacher and parent Cynthia Meza. “If anything, it’s going to make it that much worse.”

Ali Tadayon

Monday, November 22, 2021, 11:23 am

Link copied.Thurmond wants more gender-neutral bathrooms in schools

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond would like to increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on California school campuses.

The superintendent announced last week that he will form a committee comprised of students, school staff and community organizations to make recommendations about how to best expand gender-neutral bathrooms in schools.

The announcement came days after a Chino Valley Unified District school board member proposed a resolution that would exclude transgender students from being able to use bathrooms and other facilities designated for the gender they identify with.

Thurmond issued a stern warning to Chino Valley Unified district officials stating that the proposed resolution violated state law. The proposal was defeated 3-2 at a school board meeting Thursday night after students, state lawmakers and faculty spoke against the measure. There were no speakers in support of the measure.

“We have to give our students all the support they need, including access to bathrooms they can use safely,” Thurmond said. “I have been inspired by the students who have advocated on this issue and want to give students the opportunity to be a part of finding the solutions.”

State Sen. Connie Leyva, who spoke against the resolution at the board meeting, has been asked to co-chair the committee, according to a news release from the California Department of Education. Her Senate district includes Chino Valley Unified.

The committee will be open to all California students, but a special effort will be made to engage students from the Chino Valley Unified School District, according to the release. For more information, contact safeschoolbathrooms@cde.ca.gov.

Diana Lambert

Monday, November 22, 2021, 10:33 am

Link copied.Two California schools win national honors for academic achievement

Two schools in California, one in Marin County and one in Shasta County, were honored as national “distinguished schools” for their students’ academic improvements and achievement.

Hall Middle School in Larkspur-Corte Madera School District in Marin and West Valley High School in Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County were honored under the National Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“Congratulations to principals Toni Brown and Joshua Mason, as well as all of the educators, staff, administrators, parents, and students at these schools,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said. “Not only were these two schools already named 2021 California Distinguished Schools, they’re also being recognized for their excellent work closing opportunity gaps among student groups and ensuring academic growth for all students.”

Carolyn Jones

Monday, November 22, 2021, 10:32 am

Link copied.Family of Black student sues school district, claiming teacher pulled him by hoodie

The family of a middle school student has sued the Brentwood Union School District in Contra Costa County, alleging that a white substitute teacher singled out the student because he is Black and pulled him by his sweatshirt hood, the Mercury News reported.

A judge rejected two motions to dismiss the case.

The incident allegedly occurred in 2019, when the student, who was 12 at the time, was standing with friends during a seventh-grade science class when the substitute grabbed him by his hood and dragged him back to his desk.

The substitute no longer works for the district. Attorneys for the district did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comments, but in an October hearing said the incident did not meet the definition of racial discrimination, according to the report.

Carolyn Jones

Friday, November 19, 2021, 5:10 pm

Link copied.Few students in special education receiving extra services they need to catch up, survey finds

Only 18% of students in special education have been offered extra services as a result of the pandemic, even though most suffered some degree of learning loss while campuses were closed, according to a national parent survey released this week.

The survey of 254 parents, by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, found that 86% felt their child had regressed or suffered learning loss during distance learning. Under federal law, students enrolled in special education are entitled to extra services, known as compensatory services, if schools don’t fulfill their obligations outlined in a student’s individual learning plan. Many special education services, such as occupational or behavioral therapy, were postponed during distance learning because those services are nearly impossible to deliver virtually.

The survey also found that only 25% of parents even knew their child was eligible for compensatory services.

The organization recommends that parents request compensatory services from their child’s school, and schools and states do a better job of communication with parents and updating students’ learning plans. The survey follows an October report outlining the status of compensatory services in each state.

Carolyn Jones

Friday, November 19, 2021, 9:36 am

Link copied.Hayward Unified to close two schools because of declining enrollment

Hayward Unified will close two elementary schools because of declining enrollment, a problem facing school districts statewide.

The district has lost about 25% of its student population over the last 20 years and is facing a $14 million budget shortfall, according to the East Bay Times.

“We have too many schools for too few students, and that’s not going to change in a year,” said Superintendent Matt Wayne.

Hayward is the second Bay Area school district to make a decision in the past month to close schools. Cupertino Union School District recently announced it will close two schools as well.

Zaidee Stavely

Friday, November 19, 2021, 9:35 am

Link copied.Alameda County to escalate oversight over Oakland Unified

The Alameda County Office of Education plans to implement stricter oversight of Oakland Unified’s finances, over concerns that the board is not taking steps necessary to balance its budget.

As reported by Oaklandside, Alameda County Superintendent L.K. Monroe wrote in a letter to board members last week that she is concerned that the district has continued to maintain the same number of staff, despite declining enrollment. Monroe is worried the board won’t be able to make tens of millions of dollars in necessary cuts in next school year’s budget. She said the county will review the district’s finances and bring in the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a state agency, to examine the district’s teacher-hiring practices.

Monroe also threatened to withhold compensation from OUSD’s school board and superintendent.

The school board and district officials say it is too early to initiate an intervention and are calling on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to step in. Board members say they plan to develop the next budget and identify cuts for next school year before they have to approve it at the end of June.

“The District is on track to addressing its long-term fiscal challenges,” wrote OUSD’s chief governance officer, Joshua Daniels, in a letter to Thurmond.

Oakland Unified has a history of financial instability. Almost 20 years ago, a state administrator was appointed to govern the school district because it was financially insolvent. In 2009, the school board was able to take over again. But the district is still under oversight while paying off a $100 million loan to the state. A county trustee has veto power over any financial decisions district leaders make.

Zaidee Stavely

Thursday, November 18, 2021, 9:07 am

Link copied.L.A. Unified updates Covid-19 protocols ahead of spring semester

Starting Jan. 11, the start of the spring semester, students and faculty attending L.A. Unified schools will be tested weekly for the coronavirus only if they have not been vaccinated. By then, faculty and most students who are age 12 and older are expected to be fully vaccinated. The change is a departure from the current testing policy that requires all faculty, staff and students to test weekly for Covid-19, regardless of vaccination status.

The district has also updated its masking policy, allowing students to remove their masks outdoors if more than 85% of their school is fully vaccinated. This change indicates that most middle and high school students could be outdoors without a mask next year.

Booster shots and vaccines for students 5-11 years old are not required, though the district is offering them on a voluntary basis.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Thursday, November 18, 2021, 9:06 am

Link copied.Police to return to Pomona Unified 4 months after being removed

Police at Pomona Unified will return to campuses soon, four months after parents and students called for their removal. The City Council voted 5-1 this week to approve a service agreement that will cost the school district $195,000 per officer, according to the Daily Bulletin.

The school board also voted unanimously to return police to school campuses after a shooting in October near one of the district’s high schools.

Police officers stationed at schools will need to undergo training on restorative justice, de-escalation, diversity and more, per the agreement with the city.

“No evidence has been brought forward from the district or city that shows cops ensure safety,” said Jesus Sanchez, co-founder and executive director of Gente Organizada, a local organizing group that has actively supported the removal of police from school campuses.

Other school districts, such as Fremont Unified, have returned police officers to campuses shortly after removing them.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 6:22 pm

Link copied.State superintendent warns Chino Valley Unified that proposed anti-transgender resolution is illegal

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on Wednesday issued a stern warning to Chino Valley Unified over its proposed resolution that would exclude transgender students from being able to use bathrooms and other facilities designated for the gender they identify with.

The resolution was proposed by school board member James Na and prompted by a recent sexual assault in a high school bathroom. However, the resolution did not say where or when the sexual assault occurred, or if it even happened at a Chino Valley Unified school.

The proposal would restrict the use of restrooms, locker rooms, physical education classes, intramural sports and interscholastic athletic programs to students based on their “biological” gender. Schools would provide gender-neutral or single-use restrooms or changing areas as well as other alternatives in order “to address any student’s privacy concerns in using sex-segregated facilities.”

If passed at tomorrow’s Chino Valley Unified school board meeting, Thurmond said, the resolution would violate Section 221.5(F) of California’s Education Code, which states:

“A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

Gender-neutral facilities may be offered by schools, but only as a matter of personal choice and not compulsion, Thurmond said.

Thurmond said the California Department of Education is “prepared to take action to defend trans and LGBTQ students should (the resolution) pass.”

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 6:19 pm

Link copied.Newsom announces 18 initial projects in $6 billion broadband plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced 18 initial projects using the $6 billion that California allocated for broadband in the 2021-22 budget.

The initial project areas include tribal communities in San Diego and Riverside counties, as well as other areas such as Oakland’s flatland neighborhoods, San Bernardino County’s high desert, inland Orange County and others.

Although more than 90% of Californians have high-speed internet, hundreds of thousands of students are estimated to still be without reliable internet access at home, according to a recent study from the University of California and the California Emerging Technology Fund

A map and a list of the 18 project areas can be found here.

The initial project locations are based on known unserved and underserved areas, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office. The state will partner with existing providers as well as local governments and agencies to build and maintain new broadband lines.

The broadband plan directs $3.25 billion to build “middle-mile” broadband lines, which connect the greater highway of broadband service to the “last mile,” which are end users. The plan also sets aside $2 billion for last-mile lines both in rural and urban areas to connect consumers’ homes and businesses with local networks.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 3:14 pm

Link copied.Fifth batch of child tax credit payments hit bank accounts this week

The Treasury Department and IRS sent out the fifth batch of monthly child tax credit payments, disbursing more than $15 billion in payments to families that include about 61 million children, as The Hill reported

The government has sent out a total of about $77 billion in monthly payments since the program began in July. Families are eligible for payments of up to $300 per month for children under age 6, and up to $250 per month for children ages 6 to 17.

The monthly child tax credit payments emerged as a result of the coronavirus relief law President Joe Biden enacted earlier this year. The relief law also made the credit fully available to the lowest-income families. The child tax credit expansion in the relief law was only for 2021, meaning the payments will end next month unless Congress acts.

The White House and congressional Democrats are hoping to enact a social spending package that extends the expanded child tax credit for one more year, while making the credit fully available to the lowest-income families permanently. 

“The Child Tax Credit is giving families across America the flexibility to pay for household essentials, school supplies, and other child care needs,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement, as The Hill cited. “This tax relief is making a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of children, and it’s crucial for Congress to extend it by passing President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda so families can continue to benefit.”

The expanded child tax credit has already lifted many children out of poverty, experts say. In California, for example, continuing the benefit has cut child poverty from 20% to 13.7% and kept more than 600,000 kids above the poverty line, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute. 

Karen D'Souza

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 12:36 pm

Link copied.Charter schools continue to enroll fewer students with disabilities, report finds

Charter schools enroll significantly fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools, although students with disabilities at charter schools are more likely to be in general education classrooms, according to a new report by the Center for Learner Equity.

The report is based on the 2020 figures from the federal Education Department’s  Civil Rights Data Collection. It shows that the percentage of students with disabilities in charter schools fell from 10.8% to 10.7% over the past four years, even while overall charter enrollment increased. In traditional public schools, students with disabilities made up 13.3% of the enrollment.

The report also looks at discipline, demographics and other details related to students with disabilities.

“The ability to provide clear data reports about how schools are enrolling and educating students with disabilities is invaluable because it equips everyone with the information needed to make sound and equitable decisions for the future,‘ said Lauren Morando Rhim, the Center for Learner Equity’s executive director.

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 11:45 am

Link copied.Merced County middle school counselor wins national honor

Alma Lopez, a longtime counselor at Livingston Middle School in the Central Valley, is the first Californian to win National Counselor of the Year, the American School Counselor Association announced on Wednesday.

Lopez was recognized for her strong advocacy on behalf of her students, nearly all of whom are low-income and Latino. At her urging, the district more than doubled its counseling staff and expanded services to improve students’ academic and social-emotional development.

“The deep commitment she has to her community and her relentless focus on providing equitable outcomes for her students … were evident throughout her application and interview process,” said Valerie Hardy, a member of the independent judging panel that selects the School Counselor of the Year finalists and the winner of the award. “As a first-generation college attendee, Ms. Lopez serves as an inspiration for her students, her community and the profession.”

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 11:13 am

Link copied.Legislative Analyst’s Office predicts a huge increase in funding for K-12 and community colleges

Benefiting from the fastest rise in state revenues in decades, the Legislative Analyst’s Office predicted Wednesday that K-12 schools and community colleges can expect $20 billion for new spending in 2022-23, a windfall that follows a record post-pandemic year of funding.

The amount through Proposition 98, the state formula that determines the minimum funding for K-14 schools from the general fund, is projected to be $102.7 billion, the first time that funding will exceed the $100 billion threshold, according to the LAO’s annual fiscal outlook. Community colleges usually receive about 11% of Proposition 98 funding, with nearly all of the remainder going to districts, county offices of education and charter schools.

Half of the additional $20 billion next year will be from revenues in 2020-21 and 2021-22 exceeding what the Legislature budgeted for the current year. That will carry over as one-time money next year. The other half will be ongoing funding from the rise in the Proposition 98 guarantee.

The LAO is also projecting a 5.35% cost of living increase next year, the highest rate of inflation in 15 years. Legislators usually factor that into increases in funding for the Local Control Funding Formula, the source of districts’ general funding, as well as funding for special education and other programs.

The LAO predicts that the K-12 average daily attendance this year will drop 3%, or 170,000 students, from pre-pandemic levels to 5.9 million students. It will drop an additional 170,000 students by 2025-26, but this will be offset by the addition of 230,000 children in transitional kindergarten, a new grade for 4-year-olds that the state is phasing in over several years.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 9:55 am

Link copied.Congressional Budget Office cost estimate on Biden bill expected to land Friday

The Congressional Budget Office said its total cost estimate of President Joe Biden’s signature spending bill might not be ready until Friday, as Bloomberg reports, which may push a planned House vote on the legislation to the weekend or later.

The CBO analysis may reveal that the legislation falls short of fully paying for itself because of differences with the White House over how much revenue could be generated by stricter enforcement of tax laws by the Internal Revenue Service. 

House moderates delayed a vote on the legislation earlier this month,  as Bloomberg notes, because they wanted a full picture of the bill’s fiscal impact. In a statement, five moderate Democrats pledged to vote for the legislation no later than this week if the CBO estimates were consistent with White House estimates.

The CBO score could fall short of that benchmark. The White House estimate of a $2 trillion bill offset by $2.15 trillion in revenue is based on generating $400 billion from increased tax audits. CBO director Phillip Swagel has said that the CBO, after talking to Treasury officials, sees a lower revenue amount.

 

Karen D'Souza

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 9:53 am

Link copied.Comments open on public charge rule that denied visas based on income, benefits

The Department of State is opening public comments on how they should change the rules used at consulates to decide whether to deny people visas to enter the United States because they are low income or have family members who used public benefits.

Those rules, which were changed in 2018, kept out people like José Ruiz Arévalos, who was refused a green card at his consulate interview and has been separated from his family for more than two years. The separation affected his children and their plans for college.

In March, the State Department restored the public charge policy in place before 2018. They are now opening public comment to decide whether and how to change it moving forward.

The comment period will be open for 60 days beginning Wednesday.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 9:29 am

Link copied.Strike by University of California part-time lecturers averted

A two-day strike planned by lecturers at the University of California was averted Wednesday, with the union representing those lecturers saying it reached a tentative agreement with the university’s management.

UC-AFT, the union for UC’s part-time faculty, was planning a strike Wednesday and Thursday that would have caused mass class cancellations across the system’s nine campuses. But the union called off the strike after coming to a tentative contract deal that includes increased job protections, higher pay and four weeks of paid family leave. UC has about 6,000 lecturers.

“This is a landmark achievement. We are pleased with how far management has come towards our position. This victory is owed to the hard work of organizing that our members have done for over two and a half years,” UC-AFT President Mia McIver said.

Letitia Silar, the executive director for UC’s Systemwide Labor Relations, said in a statement Wednesday that UC is “proud of the dedication and commitment to harmonious labor relations both sides demonstrated to achieve a fair deal that honors our lecturers and prioritizes the University’s instructional mission.”

Michael Burke

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 9:28 am

Link copied.LAUSD offers prizes to persuade students to get Covid vaccine

With a vaccination deadline days away — and roughly 72% in compliance — the Los Angeles Board of Education authorized an estimated $5 million for prizes and treats as incentives, the L0s Angeles Times reported, including Amazon gift cards, tickets to “Hamilton” and food trucks on campus.

The incentive program is part of an effort to boost student vaccination rates by Nov. 21, the school district’s deadline for students 12 and older to receive the first of two doses. Students must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10 or they will not be allowed on campus. Their options would be to pursue their education outside of Los Angeles Unified or transfer to City of Angels, a district independent study program, as the Los Angeles Times noted.

The incentives are mainly raffles, and all in compliance are eligible, including those who are vaccinated, have an approved medical exemption or have a rare authorized extension. Religious exemptions are not being granted.

Raffle prizes have also included gift cards to grocery stores; tickets to Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Universal Studios Hollywood, and graduation-night entertainment packages.

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 6:25 pm

Link copied.Calbright College partners with UC Irvine to study how students engage with the college

Calbright College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to a $4.1 million, five-year partnership with the University of California, Irvine School of Education to study  how students interact with Calbright from application to completion.

UCI data scientists and Calbright staff will study how students navigate Calbright’s systems to see how they interact with the college. They’ll also use intervention techniques like nudges and success coaches to improve how students engage in the courses, professors and advisers.  The partnership plans to collect information about the students to help them get to the right career.

The college needs to figure out what adult learners need so it can help them, explained Calbright President Ajita Menon.

“The great lie is that we have the answers to ‘how to'”, successfully engage with adult learners, she said. “And the true fact is that we don’t for these communities of learners.”

Menon said the partnership positions Calbright to figure out the most effective solutions to engaging and encouraging adult learners to reach their career goals.

The goal is that the partnership will help Calbright reach an enrollment of 5,000 students by the end of 2023 with 1,200 of those students earning a certificate.

The college reports more than 500 active students. Since October, 2019, 68 certificates have been awarded.

Calbright  receives $15 million per year in state funding and received $100 million over 7 years starting in 2019 to launch a new college aimed at helping low-income working adults over 25 gain skills and credentials to advance in their jobs or to move to higher-paying jobs.

Ashley A. Smith

Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 10:28 am

Link copied.Task Force on Improving Black Student Achievement maps out direction at first meeting

California’s Task Force on Improving Black Student Achievement decided to launch five working groups to study the school-to-prison pipeline, teacher diversity, academic achievement, mental health and housing insecurity at its first meeting last week.

“We have a moment before us now to transform education in California, to close learning gaps that have grown during the pandemic and to address the socioeconomic needs of Black students and all students,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

The task force, which will meet monthly, has 30 members from the fields of education, research, criminal justice reform and the nonprofit sector.

The working groups will make recommendations to state legislators that could potentially become legislation.

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 9:53 am

Link copied.Racist graffiti targeting Sacramento assistant principal investigated as hate crime

Racist graffiti at Sacramento’s West Campus High School as well as online attacks targeted at assistant principal Elysse Versher are now being investigated by authorities as a hate crime.

Versher, a Black woman, was made aware on Nov. 5 of racist online comments about her, she told the Sacramento Bee, including use of the N-word. The comments appeared to be sparked by Versher’s enforcement of the school’s dress code, which requires masks to be worn on campus per district policy.

The following Monday, when she arrived at school she found a racist slur written five times directly across from her designated parking spot. Her family members have also received threats via email, she says.

On Wednesday, Versher was hospitalized after suffering stress-induced seizures from the torment, KXTV reported.

Versher told the Bee that racism and hatred she has endured stems from a “culture that has gone unchecked.”

“This had nothing to do with the dress code but an opportunity for students to see that a Black woman has the audacity to make non-Black students uncomfortable and inconvenienced by enforcing the dress code,” Versher told the Bee. “(It) has been around forever and has been enforced by my white colleagues without incident for quite a long time.”

Sacramento City Unified superintendent Jorge Aguilar released a video message Tuesday calling for a “reckoning on race at all levels” at the district.

“To make all of our schools pro-social learning environments that stand against racism and hatred, our efforts must impact every aspect of our organization, and flow from our boardroom to our classroom,” Aguilar said.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 9:19 am

Link copied.After Biden administration stint, Eloy Oakley returns as Community College chancellor

After serving as a higher education adviser for the Biden administration for four months, Eloy Oakley is returning as chancellor of California’s system of 116 community colleges.

In a Twitter announcement Tuesday morning, Oakley said the time is right to transition back to his role as chancellor now that he has finished advising the Biden administration on the Build Back Better Act agenda. The $1.75 trillion domestic spending bill is expected to be passed this week by the House of Representatives.

“As I transition back, I’m happy to work with community college leaders and our amazing students to continue to work for America’s college promise, and continue to make California community colleges the greatest system of higher education in the country and the backbone of the California economy,” Oakley said in the announcement.

Biden’s initial plan called for $45.5 billion to offer two years of free community college to every student in America for the next five years, but that was scrapped after the safety net bill was cut down from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, according to Vox. The current plan increases the Pell Grant by $550 per person, expands access to financial aid for Dreamers and invests in historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, November 15, 2021, 2:50 pm

Link copied.University of California lecturers plan to strike, alleging unfair labor practices

Lecturers at the University of California plan to strike this week over what they call unfair labor practices by the university.

UC-AFT, the union that represents more than 6,000 part-time lecturers across the system’s 10 undergraduate and one graduate campuses,  announced its plan to strike Wednesday and Thursday. The union has filed seven charges within the past two years with California’s Public Employment Relations Board and most recently has alleged that UC management has refused to bargain over paid family leave and time to allow for bonding with a new child.

UC’s central office of the president did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

Mia McIver, the president of UC-AFT, said in a statement that UC management has issued “unlawful take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums that deprive us of our basic rights” and has negotiated in bad faith.

“It’s these kinds of unfair labor practices that demonstrate a lack of respect for teaching faculty and for the students who depend on us. UC lecturers have had enough, and that’s why we have called this strike to protect our collective bargaining rights,” McIver added.

Michael Burke

Monday, November 15, 2021, 10:58 am

Link copied.School for the Deaf in Riverside celebrates undefeated football season

After seven straight losing seasons, the School for the Deaf, Riverside, is two games away from winning its division football championship for the first time in school history, according to the New York Times.

Coached by physical education teacher Keith Adams, the team won its league title and is now headed to the third round of the Southern California playoffs for small schools. On Friday, the Cubs defeated the Desert Christian Knights 84-12. The team uses sign language and hand signals to call plays and communicate.

The California Department of Education operates two schools for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, in Fremont and Riverside. Both schools offer preschool through 12th grade, with dorms for students who don’t live locally.

Trevin Adams, the Cubs’ quarterback, attributed the Riverside team’s success to a winning chemistry among players.

“We can express ourselves completely,” Trevin told the New York Times. “We can be leaders. We can be assertive.”

Carolyn Jones

Monday, November 15, 2021, 10:38 am

Link copied.With 110 days off per year, Ontario-Montclair superintendent the highest paid in California

James Hammond, superintendent of Ontario-Montclair School District in San Bernardino County, is the highest-paid schools chief in the state, thanks to generous time-off policies and other perks that boost his pay to more than half a million dollars a year, according to the Press-Enterprise.

Hammond earned $562,000 in 2019, more than twice the average salary for superintendents in similar-size districts, according to the newspaper. His base pay was $320,000, but perks such as life insurance, retirement contributions, 85 days of sick time and 25 vacation days boosted his salary. He also receives lifetime health insurance for himself and his family, and 12 months’ severance pay for any termination aside from “major malfeasance,” according to the report.

School board President Elvia Rivas defended Hammond’s pay. “It is a fringe benefit which is designed to provide security in the event of sickness and to incentivize both wellness and longevity,” Rivas told the newspaper. “Students and school systems genuinely suffer from superintendent turnover. After finding the right leader for OMSD, the Board elected to structure Dr. Hammond’s compensation in a way that provided financial incentives for him to stay in OMSD and prevent the frequent turnover in the superintendent’s position that occurs in many urban school districts.”

Carolyn Jones

Monday, November 15, 2021, 10:29 am

Link copied.Jessica Holmes named to administrative position on state board

Jessica Holmes, who has represented the California Department of Finance’s positions on K-12 issues, will become the chief deputy executive director of the State Board of Education. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the appointment last week.

Holmes has worked in the Department of Finance for eight years, serving most recently as assistant program budget manager. She has advised Govs. Newsom and Jerry Brown on a range of matters, including the Local Control Funding Formula, Proposition 98 funding, state education budgets, charter schools and workforce training. Before joining the department, she taught high school math and engineering in Northern California.

John Fensterwald

Monday, November 15, 2021, 10:19 am

Link copied.Religious groups protest Biden’s early childhood education plans

Religious groups such as the Catholic Church and the country’s largest Orthodox Jewish organization are trying to block the passage of President Joe Biden’s early childhood education proposal, saying they would be excluded from it because of the bill’s non-discrimination clause, according to the New York Times.

The religious groups say that they would not be able to receive federal funding for preschool and child care programs if they engage in discriminatory practices, such as hiring teachers based on their religion or sexual preference, according to the Times.

A significant number of families would be affected. A survey last year showed that more than half of families with young children rely on preschools or child care programs affiliated with religious groups, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The early childhood education plan is part of Biden’s $1.85 trillion social policy bill, Build Back Better.

Carolyn Jones

Friday, November 12, 2021, 4:57 pm

Link copied.Biden nominates former teacher as head of special education

A former teacher and administrator known for her push to include students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms is in line to oversee the federal Office of Special Education, the U.S. Department of Education announced Friday.

President Joe Biden nominated Glenna Gallo, who leads the state of Washington’s special education division, to serve as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services for the U.S. Department of Education. Gallo is also a former special education teacher with 25 years’ experience in the classroom and as an administrator. In Washington, Gallo worked to make classrooms more inclusive, reduce red tape for school districts, hire and train more aides and boost funding for students with disabilities.

“This nomination shows a deep commitment from this administration to ensure our nation’s students with disabilities receive the services and supports they need to reach their potential,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “Glenna’s commitment to supporting the special education community will be instrumental in shaping and implementing the Department’s goals and strategies.”

 

Carolyn Jones

Friday, November 12, 2021, 9:35 am

Link copied.Student who was booed by adults in Clovis returns to school board

A student who was booed and heckled by adults at a Clovis Unified school board meeting after speaking in favor of a mask mandate returned to the school board to speak again this week.

This time, school board President Steven Fogg warned the audience not to repeat their actions from the previous meeting, according to the Fresno Bee.

“It’s inappropriate for you to be speaking while someone else is speaking, be it a member on the dais or a person giving public comments,” Fogg said. “In the unlikely event that there is a disruption, we do have officers that will escort you out. But I’m asking you not to do that. Let’s hear each other, and we can come to an understanding.”

The student received applause this time after speaking, even though many in the crowd disagreed with his comments.

Zaidee Stavely

Friday, November 12, 2021, 9:34 am

Link copied.Bomb threat prompts evacuation at USC

Three buildings at the University of Southern California were evacuated Thursday afternoon after a bomb threat, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The buildings were searched by police and declared safe shortly after.

Other threats came around the same time at New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was not clear whether the threats were related.

 

Zaidee Stavely

Friday, November 12, 2021, 9:33 am

Link copied.Thousands of teachers still unvaccinated in Northern California

The number of teachers who are vaccinated varies widely among Northern California districts, ranging from 98% in San Rafael to about 77% in Manteca, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Some school districts, such as Los Angeles Unified, require all teachers to be vaccinated. However, the state of California allows teachers to remain unvaccinated, as long as they have weekly Covid-19 testing.

According to the Chronicle, about 23% of district workers in Manteca and 16% of district workers in Tracy are unvaccinated, compared with 3% in San Francisco Unified, 5% in Fremont Unified and Oakland Unified and 2% in San Rafael.

The governor’s office declined to explain to the paper why Newsom has not yet required adults in schools to get vaccinated.

 

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 12:24 pm

Link copied.Cal State trustees vote to ask Legislature for $715.5 million for 2022-2023 operating budget

California State University Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to ask the state legislature for $715.5 million for the 2022-23 operating budget.

The funding request includes $75 million for the Graduation Initiative 2025, $20 million to address student basic needs, $16.8 million to support the state’s higher education housing grant program, and $223.3 million to increase faculty and staff salaries and benefits.

But some trustees expressed concern that the funding request to improve faculty compensation wasn’t nearly enough. The 23-campus system is currently conducting a study of faculty and staff salaries that won’t be finalized until March.

Chancellor Joseph Castro said he and the other campus presidents “feel a sense of urgency” to support improving staff and faculty salaries. The governor’s office and the legislature are also aware of the salary studies.

Trustee Romey Sabalius said he’s convinced that the study will show that CSU employees’ compensation is below and not comparable to other similar universities across the country.

“I somewhat reluctantly agree to await the study on faculty salaries … granted the results will come in too late to inform the trustees’ budget request which will be finalized today,” Trustee Romy Sabalius said, before the vote. “I hope that the results will be available before our legislators will finalize the budget of the CSU … I hope that the stakeholders of the CSU … will advocate in Sacramento for the appropriate funding for our compensation pool.”

 

 

Ashley A. Smith

Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 9:34 am

Link copied.Meghan Markle lobbies for paid family leave in Biden bill

Meghan Markle has been lobbying for paid family leave in the U.S. Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has been working the phones, as the New York Times reported, calling members of Congress to garner support for paid family leave policy, which allows workers time to bond with babies and care for sick family members.

“This is one of those issues that is not red or blue,” she said, as the Times cited. “It sets us up for economic growth and success, but it also just allows people to have that very sacred time as a family.”

Markle steps into the fray on the heels of a tense debate over whether to include paid family leave in Biden’s sweeping social policy bill. The United States is the only rich country that does not have national paid maternity leave, as the Times reported. The administration has also been meeting with business leaders to highlight the importance of paid family leave to the economy, as the share of women working outside the home is now at its lowest level since 1986.

 

Karen D'Souza

Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 9:27 am

Link copied.Most Americans give schools high marks on Covid safety, poll shows

Most Americans — including more than two-thirds of Republicans — give their local schools good grades for balancing public health and safety with education, according to the latest Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index poll.

Findings from this national survey may suggest Americans are less worried about Covid risks now, as Axios reported, and largely feel the delta variant is behind them. Asked how schools had done in terms of balancing health and safety with other priorities since the start of the pandemic, 71% of U.S. adults — and 75% of parents — said schools had done a good job as opposed to a poor job.

Many did not feel strongly either way, the poll suggests. Just 16% of overall respondents said schools had done a “very good” job, while 55% said schools had done a “somewhat good” job; 19% said schools did a “somewhat poor” job while 8% said schools had done a “very poor” job.

There was a partisan gap, but it wasn’t major, as Axios reported: 68% of Republicans, 71% of independents and 78% of Democrats said schools had done a good job. Just 12% of Republicans, 8% of independents and 4% of Democrats said schools have done a “very poor” job.

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 9:13 pm

Link copied.Cal State faculty group threatens strikes as salary negotiations reach impasse

The California Faculty Association rallied Tuesday during the California State University’s board of trustees meeting to demand salary increases and improved benefits like extended parental leave.

The faculty group, which is the union representing more than 29,000 Cal State professors both on and off tenure tracks, lecturers including part-time and contingent faculty, librarians, counselors and coaches, has been calling for a 4% retroactive raise, a 4% increase in pay this year and an additional 4% increase in pay next year. The CSU system countered with a 2% increase for this year.

“Do you really want to make the faculty go on strike just to get a cost-of-living increase?” said Lewis Call, a history professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, during the meeting’s public comment period. “That’s no way to run a university.” 

Kevin Wehr, a sociology professor at Sacramento State and CFA vice president, said the negotiations have not been going well and the union and chancellor’s office are in state-mandated mediation. Wehr said the faculty contract hasn’t been altered since 2014. That contract was extended to Sept. 30.

“The faculty is tired of (hearing) no,” he said. “If we don’t get to yes, we know where this process goes, and it’s not going to be pretty.”

The faculty union also criticized the board’s decision in September to begin increasing presidential salaries up to 10% over three years.

Meanwhile, the trustees plan to ask the state in its 2022-23 budget for an additional $223.3 million to increase salary and benefits in next year’s budget. A proposal from trustee Romey Sabalius to double that request failed 6-5 in committee.

Trustee Jack McGrory said the board should let the negotiations process work itself out and stick with the $223.3 million request.

“If we have to make adjustments as a result of that process later, we can,” he said.

Ashley A. Smith

Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 5:08 pm

Link copied.How schools can help California’s growing number of homeless students

To help California’s increasing number of homeless students, schools should offer more services and improve the way they identify students experiencing housing insecurity, according to a new brief released Tuesday by the Learning Policy Institute.

The number of homeless students in California increased by 7% over four years and has likely increased further during the pandemic, according to the report. In 2018-19, the most recent year for which data is available, 4.3% of students in California experienced homelessness at one point during the school year.

The state and federal governments have set aside billions for homeless aid in the past year, but they need to do more, according to the report. More funding for community schools, adding homeless students to the school funding formula, and training school staff to identify and help homeless students are among the report’s suggestions. It also recommends that California create a statewide “children’s cabinet” to encourage collaboration among agencies that serve children.

“Student homelessness in California is of urgent concern and may increase further still in the coming months due to the impacts of COVID-19,” according to the report. “While California has made recent investments to reduce housing insecurity and address overall homelessness, additional steps will be needed to mitigate the impacts of homelessness on student experiences and outcomes.”

Carolyn Jones

Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 10:41 am

Link copied.Oakland Unified could scrap “D” grade to boost college admissions

In an effort to boost college admissions, Oakland Unified is considering changing its grading scale to get rid of D letter grades, Oaklandside reported Monday.

D’s count as passing grades for classes at many high schools in the district, according to Oaklandside, but the University of California and California State University systems require a C or higher for the A-G course sequence. This is a set of 15 high school courses that cover history, English, math, science, a language other than English, visual and performing arts and a college preparatory elective. A student who receives a D on an A-G required class can get a diploma but is disqualified from admission to UC and CSU colleges.

District officials are working to get a preliminary plan for the grading scale change to the school board for approval by March so that it would go into effect for the 2022-23 school year, according to Oaklandside.

One of the scenarios the district is considering is defining any score below a 70% as failing — which would force students to do summer school or some other credit recovery to make up for the grade in order to graduate. Another option is lowering the C-grade threshold from 70 to 65, Oaklandside reported. Anything less than that would be marked as “incomplete” and require credit recovery.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 9:52 am

Link copied.Biden administration urges schools to hold vaccination clinics for children

About a week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended the Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, the Biden Administration is calling on schools to host vaccination clinics and provide information on the benefits of the vaccine to parents.

The administration’s nationwide campaign to promote child vaccinations kicked off Monday with a visit by First lady Jill Biden and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, the Associated Press reported. In 1954, that school was the first to administer the polio vaccine.

In the coming weeks, the first lady will visit vaccination clinics throughout the country to promote the campaign, according to AP.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona are sending letters to school districts throughout the country to urge them to hold vaccination clinics, and use federal Covid relief funds to pay for them. Federal officials are also encouraging districts to host community conversations and share fact sheets on the vaccines, according to AP.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, November 8, 2021, 10:59 am

Link copied.Federal infrastructure bill provides California with $100 million for broadband expansion

California will receive at least $100 million to expand broadband coverage through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives late Friday and awaiting the president’s signature.

The funding is aimed at providing broadband access to the at least 545,000 Californians who currently lack it, according to a White House news release in August following the Senate’s passage of the bill.

“Broadband internet is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care and to stay connected,” the news release said.

The federal funding supplements the state’s $6 billion broadband plan included in the 2021-22 state budget. That blueprint includes plans to expand the state’s internet infrastructure with a particular focus on areas that have historically been unserved or underserved by private internet service providers.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, November 8, 2021, 10:23 am

Link copied.After outcry, San Diego Unified cancels ‘mental health day’

San Diego Unified canceled a proposed “mental health” day off for students on Friday after parents complained that last-minute child-care changes would cause more, not fewer, mental health challenges.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to keep our classrooms open next Friday,” Superintendent Lamont Jackson said in a letter to parents, according to KPBS. “We will continue to offer students the chance to use that day to rest and recharge. Families that choose to keep their students out of school for a mental health day on Nov. 12 will have their absence marked as excused.”

Coming a day after Veterans Day, the proposed “mental health day” would have created a four-day weekend for students and staff. The district initially proposed the idea to give some relief to students who were still feeling stressed due to the pandemic. Families could use the extra day to relax or get their children vaccinated, the district recommended.

Carolyn Jones

Monday, November 8, 2021, 9:43 am

Link copied.Port, Long Beach Unified launch maritime career pathway for high school students

To prepare students for careers in the maritime industry, the Port of Long Beach and Long Beach Unified School District recently launched a career pathway at a local high school.

The initiative, based at Jordan High School, comes amid a tumultuous time for the maritime industry globally, as supply chain shortages affect ports around the world. In the high school academy, students will gain experience in advanced manufacturing, maritime engineering and construction.

“We have a responsibility to help educate the goods-movement workforce of the future, and we’d like to see our Long Beach-area students have every opportunity to be part of that,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal said.

Carolyn Jones

Friday, November 5, 2021, 12:48 pm

Link copied.Play may seems to reduce inequity among early learners, report finds

One of the answers to reducing inequity and addressing mental health concerns among young children may be as simple as providing more opportunities to play, some experts suggest. 

A growing body of research is making the case for play as a way to boost the well-being of young children as the pandemic drags on and concern over learning loss grows stronger, as the Hechinger Report notes. 

Play is such a powerful technique, according to a recent report by the LEGO Foundation, that it can be used as a tool to close achievement gaps between children ages 3 to 6. The report looked at 26 studies of play from 18 countries. It found that in disadvantaged communities, including those in Bangladesh, Rwanda and Ethiopia, children showed significantly greater learning gains in literacy, motor and social-emotional development when attending child care centers that used a mix of instruction and free play.

The analysis found that play sparked children to make progress in several domains of learning, including language and literacy, social-emotional skills and math. The range of mentally stimulating play includes games, open play where children can freely explore and use their imaginations and play where teachers provide materials and parameters.

These findings may suggest that, rather than focusing primarily on academic outcomes and school readiness, as Hechinger reported, play should be used as a strategy to “tackle inequality and improve the outcomes of children from different socio-economic groups.”

Karen D'Souza

Friday, November 5, 2021, 10:57 am

Link copied.Catholic schools to accept personal belief exemptions from Covid-19 vaccine

Catholic schools will accept personal belief exemptions from any students who do not want to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to the Voice of San Diego, the Catholic Diocese of San Diego sent a memo to local Catholic schools clarifying that personal exemptions are accepted for the Covid-19 vaccine.

“The question of Covid mandates divides our parent communities as it divides our societies. We hope that this course of action by the diocese balances the need to protect the health of our students, teachers and staffs with the rights of parents to decide issues vital to their children,” reads the memo.

Although schools cannot accept personal belief exemptions for other vaccines, the Covid-19 vaccine is an exception so far.

Zaidee Stavely

Friday, November 5, 2021, 10:55 am

Link copied.Teachers in Martinez picket outside schools

Teachers in Martinez, in Contra Costa County, picketed outside schools Friday morning.
The local teachers’ union, Martinez Education Association, is in the midst of negotiations with the Martinez Unified School District over teacher salaries and Covid-19 safety plans. The union says teachers’ salaries in the district are the lowest in the county, which causes high turnover and many vacancies.

“It is unacceptable for our district to ignore its revolving doors. Students need constant attention from their educators, and rather than MUSD investing in student success, they would rather let quality educators leave for other districts. Educators go above and beyond for their students, and it is time for MUSD management to recognize, value, respect, and compensate MEA members for their sacrifices,” said MEA President Brenda Leal in a press release.

Zaidee Stavely

Thursday, November 4, 2021, 2:19 pm

Link copied.U.S. Department of Education launches Covid dashboard for schools

A new federal dashboard will track Covid cases among students, youth vaccination rates and whether schools are operating in person, remote or hybrid, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.

The dashboard, which will be updated weekly in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allows users to compare schools, districts and states, as well as view national and regional data.

For California, the dashboard reports that among the schools that reported their data, 99% of students are attending school in person. About 24% of the state’s total Covid cases last week occurred among children, a number that has been stable the past few weeks and is slightly higher than neighboring states.

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, November 4, 2021, 11:17 am

Link copied.Federal government approves state plan for $15 billion in Covid aid for K-12

California became the 46th state Thursday to have its state plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education for using American Rescue Plan funding that Congress passed in March. The federal OK releases the final third of $15 billion, the state’s entitlement of the $122 billion for  K-12 schools nationwide.

Approval was delayed because the State Board of Education, at the urging of student advocacy groups, gave school districts an additional month to consult with the public in drafting plans for spending the Covid-related assistance. The deadline for completing the plans was Oct. 29.

The American Rescue Plan money is the third and biggest portion of the $24 billion that Congress gave states under the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Act since March 2020. Of the $15 billion, $13.5 billion will be sent directly to districts, charter schools and county offices of education. They have great flexibility to use the money, although they must commit 20% to remedy the learning time that students lost during the pandemic. Districts have until September 2024 to spend it.

Because Congress used the Title I formula, which ties funding to poverty rates in a community, with extra money for urban areas, districts’ shares range from a few hundred dollars per student to $11,000 per student in the case of Los Angeles Unified. It requires that districts focus on the needs of students with disabilities, migrant and foster children, English learners and low-income students, plus others most impacted by Covid-19.

The federal government reviewed the state’s plan for overseeing the districts’ use of the money and the 10% – $1.5 billion – that Congress left to the states’ discretion.  Gov. Gavin Newsom is applying the funding to subsidize the $4.6 billion Expanded Learning Opportunity grants he announced last spring. Among the uses, districts can fund summer learning, tutoring, community learning hubs and additional school hours.

John Fensterwald