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Thursday, June 9, 2022, 10:17 am

Link copied.Fresno teachers question security after incident at elementary school

The Fresno Unified School District’s teachers union is claiming the district botched its response when an angry parent burst into an elementary school classroom last month, the Fresno Bee reported Thursday.

Teachers’ criticism included questioning why district leaders did not place Pyle Elementary School on lockdown when the incident occurred on May 17, the newspaper reported.

School officials, in a statement to the Bee, countered that locking down the school would have trapped students and teachers with the abusive parent. Instead, the school’s principal and vice principals went to the classroom to evacuate students and teachers. There was “no immediate threat” to the rest of the campus after the administration contained the parent, so no lockdown was issued, district officials said.

In a letter to the district,  the union said a security guard was not posted at the school following the incident despite multiple requests.

District officials said they will meet with local police about school security.

EdSource staff

Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 7:21 pm

Link copied.New UCLA interactive tool provides access to homelessness data for all CA school districts

A report released Wednesday  by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools reveals the unique educational challenges of K-12 students experiencing homelessness across California’s school districts, with a sharp focus on 10 districts that have a large enrollment of such students, according to data from the 2018-19 school year.

Those 10 school districts are Anaheim Union High, Fresno Unified, Kern High, Long Beach High, Oakland Unified, Pajaro Valley High, Redlands Unified, San Bernardino City Unified, San Diego Unified, and San Juan Unified.

The report, “State of Crisis: Understanding School District Educational Patterns for California Students Experiencing Homelessness,” relies largely on student data from the 2018-19 school year because the Covid-19 pandemic has hindered data collection since 2020.

Accompanying the report is an interactive table to search for district-level data on students experiencing homelessness. The table was created in a format that makes the data easy to access and understand. There, anyone can see data on suspensions, graduation, enrollment, chronic absenteeism as it pertains to students experiencing homelessness at each school district.

The idea for the report and the interactive table grew from the response to a related report, also on students experiencing homelessness, that was released in 2020. The report authors received requests from school districts asking for guidance in downloading data from the state’s education databases. While the data can be accessed by the public, it can be difficult to navigate the databases.

The author for the recently-released report, Edwin Rivera, would join video calls with school district personnel and share his screen, guiding them through the databases in search of numbers related to that specific district.

“I, firsthand having collected the data, know how difficult it is to just get through all those [data points],” said Rivera, a research analyst for the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools. “So to be able to have it in one place and print out a PDF report that districts can use, that’s one of my goals.”

Betty Márquez Rosales

Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 10:52 am

Link copied.Pandemic took a great toll on child care workers, study shows

Child care workers were more likely to die of COVID in 2020, according to new research, than the typical American worker.  

Among roughly 1 million child care workers, 405 died from COVID in 2020, the national study found, as Chalkbeat reported. That translates to about 38 deaths for every 100,000 child care workers — a higher rate than workers in general but similar to others in “essential” sectors of the economy that demand in-person working conditions. 

Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, by contrast, had somewhat lower mortality rates than the average worker. Eight hundred and eight school teachers died from COVID in the first year of the pandemic, at a rate of 15 deaths of every 100,000 teachers.

This study, which examined the death rates among 155 million working Americans across 46 states, offers a vivid snapshot of the toll that the pandemic took on American child care workers. 

“There’s no way to know from this particular research whether or not it’s the child care work itself that caused the increased morbidity,” said Walter Gilliam, a Yale professor who studies child care, as Chalkbeat reported. “It doesn’t change the fact that this is a workforce that we don’t adequately support.”

Karen D'Souza

Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 9:56 am

Link copied.Two Los Angeles Unified school board seats may be heading to a runoff

Early voting results indicate two Los Angeles Unified school board races may be heading to runoff in November in an election season that has largely focused on pandemic recovery and declining enrollment rather than clashing over charter schools. The other seat up for grabs this year appears to have garnered enough votes to secure reelection. 

Most of the focus this election season has been on Board District 2 — the only race without an incumbent running for the seat. A District 2 runoff may be joined by one in District 6, where incumbent Kelly Gonez appears to be just around the threshold for reelection. Voters appear to have secured the seat for incumbent Nick Melvoin in District 4.

District 2 candidates Rocio Rivas and Maria Brenes will most likely face each other in November. Rivas, who has garnered the support of United Teachers Los Angeles, is leading the polls per initial results, followed by Brenes, who garnered the support of the Local 99 of Service Employees International Union. 

Rivas is the policy deputy for current board member Jackie Goldberg, and Brenes is the executive director of nonprofit InnerCity Struggle. Brenes also has the closest ties to outgoing District 2 board member Monica Garcia, who has termed out. 

In District 6, Gonez is just under the 50% of votes she would need to avoid moving on to a November runoff. Gonez received the support of both UTLA and pro-charter supporters in an unusual alignment between the two groups. 

In District 4, Melvoin appears to have passed the threshold to secure his seat this primary. UTLA did not endorse Melvoin or any candidates in this race. Neither of Melvoin’s opponents reportedly raised money for their campaigns. 

Kate Sequeira

Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 9:54 am

Link copied.Report says Los Angeles Unified should focus on retaining, recruiting Black educators

Los Angeles Unified should direct its focus to supporting, retaining and recruiting Black teachers, according to an independent analysis released last month. The report was conducted as part of the “Black Student Excellence through Educator Diversity, Preparation and Retention” resolution passed in February and was meant to shape the district’s strategic plan for the distribution of Black educators and students.

The report found that the percentage of Black teachers in the district is similar to the percentage of its Black students. While 8% of LAUSD students are Black, 9% of its teachers are, a proportion higher than that of the county and state. More than 90% of Black students in LAUSD attend school with a Black educator. 

In contrast to other demographics within the district, LAUSD’s Black educators are actually better represented among administrators than teachers, accounting for a fifth of administrators.

However, the number of Black educators is decreasing, which means LAUSD must focus on providing more support to its current educators as well as focus on recruitment, according to the report. Since 2016, LAUSD has lost 700 Black teachers. Black educators also skew older in comparison to other demographics, with 28% of Black teachers under the age of 45.

Because of that, the report recommends that the district focus on recruiting early career teachers as well as teachers at the elementary school level, where kids are less likely to encounter Black teachers. It does note, however, that LAUSD’s pool is limited because the proportion of Black educators aligns with the county’s demographic breakdown. According to census data, the Black population accounts for 9% of the total county population as of 2021.

Diversity in Leadership Institute CEO Laura McGowan-Robinson considers the report a good first step in the right direction as LAUSD moves forward in its commitment to Black educators. 

“The concern is there are more Black educators nearing retirement than there are younger Black educators coming into the system,” she said. “While there isn’t an issue in terms of representation yet, the concern was that there will be one on the horizon.”

The Diversity in Leadership Institute and other members of the Charting the Course to Equity Coalition are awaiting next steps and urging LAUSD to move forward with the recommendations in the report. They are also requesting the district formally present the report to the community.

Kate Sequeira

Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 9:31 am

Link copied.Universal pre-kindergarten helps women in the workforce, study suggests

While educators often hail the benefits of universal pre-kindergarten for young children, these programs also help mothers — both low and high-income women — return to the workforce, experts say.

A 2021 study found that free pre-k programs significantly increased the labor supply for women with incomes below 200% of the poverty line as well as those earning 400% above the poverty line, as Yahoo Money reported. These findings echo a 2018 study that showed universal pre-k boosted the labor force participation rate for both poor and affluent mothers.

This research may also help bolster the case for many local and state efforts to expand universal pre-k offerings while federal funding for the childhood programs remains stalled in Washington.

“For the pennies we taxpayers spend on universal pre-k, we get dollars in return,” said Rasheed Malik, one of the 2018 study’s authors and a Center for American Progress senior policy analyst for early childhood policy, as Yahoo Money reported. “Childcare workers do the work that enables all others to work. Decades of research has shown that the care and education that children receive is crucial to the health of our society, to families, and our broader economy.”

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, June 7, 2022, 1:20 pm

Link copied.Oakland Unified orders protesters to end sit-in at closed K-8 school

A dozen or so protesters who’ve occupied a shuttered K-8 school in East Oakland must leave the property immediately due to health and safety hazards, Oakland Unified officials said this week.

“The district has serious safety concerns about what these individuals are doing on the closed campus — especially as it relates to children,” district spokesperson John Sasaki said. “We request that they find a different and safer means of expressing their disagreement (with the school closure).”

Parker K-8 school is one of a dozen or so schools Oakland Unified decided earlier this year to close due to declining enrollment. Parker’s enrollment in 2020-21 was 257 students, a drop of 30% since 2017-18. Most Parker students have transferred to nearby schools.

On May 25, the day Parker officially closed, a dozen or so parents, students and other protesters began occupying the campus, operating a “community school” with summer activities for children and meals. They say the district’s closure of Parker and other schools disproportionately affects Black and Latino communities, wasn’t based on sufficient public input and will hurt the district financially in the long run.

“OUSD might view Parker as an insignificant obstacle in its effort to defund Oakland schools, but Parker is now ground zero in the fight for access to quality, sustainable education in low-income neighborhoods,” said Rochelle Jenkins, a parent of two Parker students and one of the protest organizers. “We will not allow the district to intimidate us.”

The “community school,” according to district officials, is rife with safety hazards, including a lack of background checks for adults and protective equipment for children who use skateboards or roller skates. In addition, children aren’t adequately supervised, and the buildings contain fire hazards.

“As the individuals are trespassing on OUSD property, and this ‘program’ is NOT sanctioned by OUSD, we continue to demand that they cease operating and leave the premises immediately,” Sasaki said.

— Carolyn Jones

Carolyn Jones

Tuesday, June 7, 2022, 10:01 am

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified to scale back Covid testing

Los Angeles Unified is implementing new Covid-19 testing policies as the district heads into summer. Beginning June 13, LAUSD students and employees will no longer be required to test weekly but instead test only if they experience symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. Those who need to test will take a rapid antigen test at home. 

LAUSD continues to strongly recommend masking, and schools will continue to use the district’s daily health screening and monitor test results. Schools will also continue to notify families of close contact among students.

This change follows the agreement between LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles, which kept weekly testing in place through the end of the school year. This protocol will continue into the fall, according to the district’s announcement.

Kate Sequeira

Tuesday, June 7, 2022, 9:55 am

Link copied.Four vie for open Los Angeles Unified School Board seat in toned-down election

Eastside Los Angeles voters will decide Tuesday which of four political newcomers will advance to the general election to replace termed-out school board member Monica Garcia in what may be the most low-key Los Angeles School board election in more than a decade.

L.A. school board races in recent years have been battlegrounds between charter school advocates and the district’s teachers union, according to the Los Angeles Times. L.A. school board elections often break national spending records, and there’s usually mudslinging.

Spending by outside political groups leading into this year’s primary is around a third of what it was two years ago, according to the Los Angeles Times; the LAist reported that the groups have spent significantly less on negative advertising this year compared with 2020.

The District 2 school board candidates include nonprofit director Maria Brenes, finance officer Erica Vilardi-Espinosa, substitute teacher Miguel Angel Segura, and Rocio Rivas, who is a research and policy deputy for school board member Jackie Goldberg.

Rivas and Brenes may be the frontrunners in the race: Rivas has the endorsement of the United Teachers Los Angeles, and Brenes leads in fundraising with support from non-teacher labor union Service Employees International Union Local 99 and charter school advocates.

Two incumbents on the seven-person school board, Kelly Gonez and Nick Melvoin, are also up for reelection but don’t face a well-funded challenge, according to the Times.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, June 7, 2022, 9:54 am

Link copied.USDA invests in programs to bring more healthy, fresh food to schools

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will investment millions in bringing healthy, fresh food to schools as part of its overall plan to “transform” the American food system.

Last year, California committed to providing free school meals to every student. The state’s universal school meals program will begin next school year when the USDA will stop reimbursing districts for providing free meals to all students as it’s done since the start of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, districts were only reimbursed for feeding students who were enrolled in the National School Lunch Program.

The USDA will put $60 million toward “farm-to-school” grants, which schools and districts can use to establish supply chains with local farms, plant school gardens, create new menu items to include local ingredients, and for other efforts to connect students with the sources of their food.

The USDA is also putting $100 million toward establishing a Healthy Food Incentive Fund, which will support efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school meals.

 

Ali Tadayon

Monday, June 6, 2022, 4:16 pm

Link copied.Sonoma State president resigns amid sexual harassment scandal

Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki announced today that she’s resigning from the presidency effectively July 31.

Her resignation follows faculty criticism for how she handled sexual harassment allegations by a former university administrator against her husband, Patrick McCallum.

“Serving as Sonoma State President has truly been an honor. After thoughtful reflection and discussions with my family, I made the decision to step away as president of this wonderful campus,” Sakaki said, in a statement. “I care deeply about Sonoma State and believe this choice will allow the campus community to move forward in a timely manner. I am incredibly grateful to the entire SSU and the North Bay communities for the opportunity to serve during such a challenging and transformative time at Sonoma State.”

Sakaki, who was the first Japanese American woman to serve as a university president, has been under fire following allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation lodged against her.

Last month, state lawmakers urged her to step down following a vote of no confidence by the university’s faculty. She’s been criticized for how she handled sexual harassment allegations made against her husband, who was a lobbyist for the state’s Fire Victims Trust. In April, Sakaki announced she and McCallum had separated.

Lisa Vollendorf, the campus’s former provost, was paid $600,000 earlier this year to settle a claim she filed alleging that she had been sexually harassed by McCallum. Although not a university employee, McCallum was an “official university volunteer,” the Los Angeles Times reported, accompanying his wife at official functions.

The university’s faculty and staff also argued that Sakaki had failed to address declining enrollment, a budget crisis and low morale among students and employees across Sonoma State.

Prior to her tenure at Sonoma State, Sakaki spent more than 40 years in various administrative positions across the California State University system and in the University of California system. In 2017, Sakaki was named President of the Year by the California State Student Association. She also was a founding board member of the Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education.

“Throughout her career in higher education, President Sakaki has demonstrated a steadfast passion for the transformative power of a college degree,” said Cal State interim Chancellor Jolene Koester. “We are grateful for her many years of service in higher learning including at Sonoma State and Fresno State.”

An interim president is expected to be announced soon.

Ashley A. Smith

Monday, June 6, 2022, 11:35 am

Link copied.State announces $57 million in grants expanding access to the outdoors

California has world-class national and state parks, and yet both national and local surveys find that people of color and low-income residents are vastly underrepresented among park visitors.

To address this inequity, California State Parks announced that it has awarded $57 million in grants as a part of the state’s “Outdoor Access for All” initiative. Most of the 125 recipients in this first round of Outdoor Equity Program grants are K-12 schools, colleges and other youth-focused programs.

“These programs will turn parks into outdoor classrooms, inspiring a new generation of environmental leadership in California,”  said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero in a news release.

Alum Rock Union Elementary, Merced Union High and Oakland Unified were among the K-12 school districts awarded funding, as well as the county superintendents of schools in Del Norte, Fresno and Kern counties. Among those institutions of higher education awarded grants are Regents of the University of California, West Hills Community College District, Loma Linda University and University Corporation at Monterey Bay.

Plumas Charter School, which was rebuilt after being destroyed by wildfire, was awarded $447,000 for to rebuild connections to nature after the Dixie fire. This will include camping and field trips to national and state parks, as well as funding career technical education pathways for outdoor education and wildland fire training.

Brian Boomer, district director of grants at West Hills Community College District, told the Hanford Sentinel the $692,000 will fund the creation of a citizen and undergraduate science project program for residents in the district. This will allow the community to take trips to parks in the Channel Islands, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic National Park and more at no cost.

“As a district, our focus has always been on equitably providing educational opportunities,” Boomer said. “Many in our communities have not had the opportunity to experience California’s beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, and parks.”

Many of the other recipients, including local municipalities and nature-oriented groups, received awards to work with schools or youth groups, including the city of Richmond, Friends of the Los Angeles River and San Diego-based Outdoor Outreach.

The concept for the program came out of a 2015 report by the Parks Forward Initiative that called for expanding park access for California’s underserved, young and urban populations.

Emma Gallegos

Monday, June 6, 2022, 8:39 am

Link copied.Oakland middle schoolers raise alarm about lead in soil

Sixth graders at an Oakland middle school are calling on public officials to remediate high levels of lead in the soil at their school and in their neighborhood.

As reported by Oaklandside, the students, who attend United for Success Academy, in Fruitvale, a predominantly Latino neighborhood of Oakland, tested lead levels in the soil at their school, at a nearby park and at their homes, with the help of an environmental justice organization.

They found lead levels of 997 parts per million (ppm) on their campus, 800 ppm at nearby Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, and 728 ppm at their own homes. Those levels are far above the 400 ppm limit that the Environmental Protection Agency recommends for areas where children play.

The students organized a town hall to share what they learned with their neighbors and give them kits to test their own soil, and they came up with some ideas for solutions, like covering soil that contains lead with fake grass or sod.

The neighborhood has been a known hot spot for lead poisoning, with high levels of lead found in children’s blood in past years. A recent lawsuit settlement will give millions to Alameda County and Oakland to address lead contamination.

 

EdSource staff

Monday, June 6, 2022, 8:38 am

Link copied.Teen arrested in Menifee after allegedly threatening school shooting

Police arrested a 17-year-old this weekend who had allegedly threatened to “shoot up a school” and “kids” in Menifee, California, about 75 miles east of Los Angeles.

As reported by ABC News, and the Orange County Register, the teen had allegedly made the threats on social media. Police said they arrested him after finding him with a “ghost gun,” a gun without a serial number making it untraceable.

The teen is a student at Heritage High School in Perris Union School District.

There have been a number of threats of school shootings in California since the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. A Berkeley teen was arrested last week after allegedly trying to recruit students for a school shooting that would include explosives.

EdSource staff

Friday, June 3, 2022, 8:13 am

Link copied.Discounts on insurance for colleges that implement mental health programs

United Educators, an insurance company owned by 1,600 K-12 and higher education institutions, will offer colleges and universities a discount on their premiums if they implement a schoolwide mental health program designed by the nonprofit JED, which focuses on emotional health and suicide prevention.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the mental health programs designed by JED require institutions to “create a team of administrators, faculty, staff and students to examine mental health on campus; conduct a student mental health survey; complete a self-assessment; and create a strategic plan to address mental health concerns.”

According to the nonprofit’s executive director, John MacPhee, some institutions have also created a 24/7 crisis hotline for students and shortened wait times at campus counseling centers.

EdSource staff

Friday, June 3, 2022, 8:13 am

Link copied.Central Unified in Fresno to consider changing school names

A committee recommended that Fresno’s Central Unified School District consider changing the names of two schools — Houghton-Kearney K-8 School and James K. Polk Elementary, and the logo of Madison Elementary School, according to the Fresno Bee.

The school board is expected to address the recommendation at its June 28 meeting.

The committee had originally considered whether to change the name of seven schools and two logos. In the end, they only chose two schools, because of racist views and history of President James K. Polk and local nineteenth-century land developer Martin Theodore Kearney. In addition, they are recommending considering changing the Native American logo of Madison Elementary School.

The process of considering changing the names has been tense, with students, family members and others arguing fervently on both sides.

In the case of Polk Elementary, a student Malachi Suarez gathered more than 3,300 signatures in favor of changing the name.

EdSource staff

Thursday, June 2, 2022, 3:12 pm

Link copied.Covid vaccines for children younger than 5 could be available by June 21

Children younger than age 5 may be able to get their first Covid-19 vaccinations as early as June 21, according to the Biden administration.

A panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will meet June 14-15 to evaluate the Pfizer and Moderna shots for younger children, the Associated Press reported. If authorized, vaccinations will be available in medical offices and pediatric care facilities as soon as a week later.

President Joe Biden would like states to prioritize the distribution of the vaccine to large-volume sites like children’s hospitals, according to the report. He is asking that vaccination appointments be available outside of regular work hours to make it easier for parents to vaccinate their children.

EdSource staff

Thursday, June 2, 2022, 9:39 am

Link copied.‘Life changing’ forgiveness of Corinthian Colleges student loans wipes out $58 billion in debts

The federal Department of Education has forgiven $58 billion in student debt owed by 560,000 people who attended Corinthian Colleges, a large for-profit chain of schools that collapsed in 2015, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

“For far too long, Corinthian engaged in the wholesale financial exploitation of students, misleading them into taking on more and more debt to pay for promises they would never keep,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said, the newspaper reported.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Californian Attorney General Rob Bonta said the loan forgiveness affects 93,000 Californians with an estimated $960 million of debt. California sued Corinthian in 2017, alleging it defrauded students. Corinthian operated the Heald, Everest, and WyoTech colleges in the state.

“Today’s announcement is life changing for the tens of thousands of borrowers who have long paid the price for Corinthian Colleges’ lies and deception,” Bonta said in the statement.

The action taken by the Department of Education automatically erases the debt of former Corinthian students, the Times reported, meaning that those with loans taken to attend Corinthian schools don’t have to apply for debt relief.

Thomas Peele

Thursday, June 2, 2022, 7:33 am

Link copied.Berkeley teen arrested after trying to recruit students for a school shooting that ‘included explosives’

A 16-year-old boy was arrested Monday in Berkeley, days after police received a tip that the teen was attempting to recruit others to join in a shooting at  Berkeley High School “that included explosives,” police said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Berkeley police first received the tip on May 21 and conducted an investigation that included searching the boy’s home. They found “parts to explosives and assault rifles, several knives, and electronic items that could be used to create additional weapons,” police said. The Chronicle reported that authorities said they also alerted Berkeley’s mobile crisis team to “evaluate” the teen.

The student turned himself in to the Berkeley Police Department on Monday afternoon. He was arrested on suspicion of possessing destructive device materials and threatening to commit a crime that would result in death or great bodily injury, police said.

The arrest was disclosed on Wednesday. The 16-year-old is being charged as a juvenile by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Police told the Chronicle that school officials were “apprised of any safety-critical information” during the investigation.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Brent Stephens said the district will conduct its own investigation as well.

“We are committed to conducting our own separate investigation, within the parameters of our authority as a school district, and as the evidence warrants, pursuing all possible steps, including discipline, that will support student and community safety,” Stephens wrote.

Stephens noted that the arrest followed an apparently unrelated non-fatal shooting of a 17-year-old in Civic Center Park near the high school on May 26.  The shooting and the arrest of the 16-year old “may result in our students and staff feeling anxious and upset,” he wrote. Counseling is being provided at the high school, he said.

The Berkeley arrest comes a week after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, by an 18-year-old gunman who was killed at the scene.  The mass shooting prompted police agencies across the Bay Area to increase patrols around local schools last week out of an abundance of caution, the Chronicle reported.

EdSource staff

Wednesday, June 1, 2022, 9:19 pm

Link copied.Student shot outside Los Angeles high school

A student was shot outside of Grant High School in the San Fernando Valley on Wednesday. The student is in the hospital but stable, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

According to LAPD, the student was shot in front of the Los Angeles Unified school at 3:24 p.m. Police believe the incident was gang related. Grant High School was put under lockdown following the incident, and the L.A. School Police Department assisted staff with a modified dismissal. The incident is still under investigation.

“It’s a sad day when our children are exposed to community violence,” LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and school board President Kelly Gonez wrote in a joint statement. “We as adults have a collective responsibility to ensure we are buffers to our children by listening, protecting, connecting, modeling and making sure they continue to thrive and feel safe.”

LAUSD will have counselors available at Grant High School for students and employees, according to the statement. The district also has a student and family wellness hotline available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kate Sequeira

Wednesday, June 1, 2022, 2:49 pm

Link copied.Youth mental health investments need to be systemic and lasting, panel says

California has made historic investments in children’s mental health recently, but those efforts won’t result in long-term improvements unless they’re streamlined, accelerated and targeted to specific groups of students, according to a panel of experts convened by the Public Policy Institute of California on Wednesday.

“We talk about the youth mental health crisis, but we really need to treat this like a crisis,” said Lishaun Francis, director of behavioral health at the advocacy group Children Now. The state needs to move faster with funding initiatives, set higher expectations and remove barriers to mental health care – namely, by pressuring private insurers to improve their mental health coverage, she said.

Responding to the Youth Mental Health Crisis” offers a summary of the current mental health challenges children face, with a focus on the pandemic and school shootings, as well as perspectives on school, government and community responses.

Youth mental health was declining before the pandemic and dropped steeply when school campuses closed in March 2020. Isolation, anxiety, grief and depression compounded for many students, resulting in a 31% uptick in suicide attempts from 2019 to 2020, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost half of high school students said they felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, the CDC reported.

California has poured billions into programs to help young people through these difficult times. Much of it falls under the umbrella of the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative. The $4.4 billion effort expands access to mental health services, especially for children who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and other stressful conditions such as racism and inequality.

Despite the urgency, lasting changes are not going to happen overnight, said Melissa Stafford Jones, the initiative’s director.

“These are long-term issues. We need to make changes to the entire system because the system we have now is producing the inequitable results we see today,” Jones said. “There are no quick fixes.”

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho underscored the importance of partnering with community agencies, which are already doing on-the-ground work and have a better idea of the unique needs of specific LAUSD student groups.

“There’s a trust factor,” he said. “We need different approaches for different communities. It can’t be a crusader’s journey, a savior’s journey. … The answers reside within the agencies that already serve these communities.”

At the state level, efforts are underway to train more mental health workers, streamline mental health services between different agencies and simplify the mental health billing process for Medi-Cal. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget also calls for investments in suicide prevention and infant and toddler programs, both of which panelists expect to have a positive impact on youth mental health.

“People are willing to roll their sleeves up and do the hard work. And youth themselves are incredibly knowledgeable about their own health and well-being. They’re good at advocating for themselves,” Jones said. “That gives me hope.”

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, June 1, 2022, 9:30 am

Link copied.Democrats hold last-ditch talks with Manchin on spending

Democrats are hoping quiet negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin can produce an agreement on key elements of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda before the window to pass ambitious legislation ahead of the midterm elections closes, as the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Manchin, a conservative-leaning West Virginia Democrat, and Schumer, a New York Democrat, have held a series of meetings in recent weeks on a package focused on lowering prescription drug costs, raising taxes and bolstering energy production in the U.S. Some expect a potential bill that could raise roughly $1 trillion in revenue and spend about $500 billion, though the senators’ discussions could still fall apart, as the Journal noted.

Whether this package would contain pressing elements of Biden’s original ambitious plan, including universal prekindergarten, an expanded child tax credit and child-care subsidies, remains to be seen. Manchin torpedoed that package last year in the closely divided Senate. 

Karen D'Souza

Wednesday, June 1, 2022, 9:29 am

Link copied.TK may offer best-paying jobs in early childhood education, report says

The expansion of transitional kindergarten to all California 4-year-olds will create plum employment opportunities for the roughly 17,000 current early childhood teachers who meet the state’s vetting standards, according to a new analysis from Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment).

The report shows that center-based teachers with a bachelor’s degree could see their salary double with a job in transitional kindergarten. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree running a home-based family child care program could see their take-home pay increase nearly two and a half times (240%). 

Other key findings include the significance of health benefits in a field that often lacks them. TK jobs, as part of the TK-12 system, offer health and retirement benefits. That’s a stark contrast to the fact that only 70% of child care centers offer health care coverage. Roughly 80% of family child care providers have no retirement savings. 

Child care workers, predominantly women of color, have long been among the lowest-paid workers in the country, experts say. About a third of all child care workers are on some kind of public assistance, research shows.

While some child care advocates worry that access to TK employment will drain teachers out of the already struggling sector in a tight labor market, others are pushing to create more equitable pathways between the professions and raise wages across the field. 

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, May 31, 2022, 11:31 am

Link copied.Santa Clara County to start looking for teacher housing sites in West Valley

Acknowledging a lack of housing affordable to teachers and school employees, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted last week to begin the process of developing teacher housing in the West Valley, the Bay Area News Group reported.

The county will identify possible project sites in the broader West Valley area, according to BANG. That includes the Fremont Union High School District, which serves Cupertino, Sunnyvale and parts of Saratoga and San Jose.

The West Valley proposal follows a similar proposal in Palo Alto, which seeks to provide 110 apartments for teachers and staff who work at schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, May 31, 2022, 10:57 am

Link copied.Sacramento City Unified fails to find who painted racist graffiti at high school targeting Black assistant principal

After a six-month investigation including 45 witness interviews and a review of social media messages, the Sacramento City Unified School District failed to find the person who targeted Black high school assistant principal Elysse Versher with racist graffiti and social media messages, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Versher told the Sacramento Bee that she plans to resign from the school district because of the trauma she experienced, and feels the district has not taken the situation and other incidents of racism seriously.

Sacramento City Unified’s superintendent told the Bee he was “frustrated and disappointed” that the district failed to identify a suspect, and he insisted the district “remains committed to treating incidents of racism with the utmost seriousness.”

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, May 31, 2022, 10:51 am

Link copied.More than half of California community colleges still direct students to remedial classes

Despite a 2017 law that said colleges must enroll students in transfer-level courses and not remedial classes unless they are deemed highly unlikely to success in transfer-level classes, more than half of California’s 116 community college campuses are still placing students in remedial classes, according to The Hechinger Report.

Remedial classes, sometimes called prerequisites, are classes some colleges require for students to begin coursework toward a degree but don’t earn credit for transfer to a four-year university. Opponents say it’s not fair that students have to pay for classes that don’t count toward a degree, when many students can handle the college-level work if given the opportunity and with help from tutors or supplemental classes, according to The Hechinger Report.

Last week, the state Assembly passed AB 1705, which aims to help more community college students skip remedial classes, by directing colleges to presume that students would take the transfer courses. It clarifies when a community college is allowed to enroll students in remedial courses, building off the vague 2017 law that allowed the practice to continue at many schools.

The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges opposes AB 1705. Executive Director Evan Hawkins told The Hechinger Report that thousands of students failed college-level courses after the previous law went into effect.

Ali Tadayon

Friday, May 27, 2022, 9:23 am

Link copied.Students walk out to protest inaction on school shootings

Students at schools across the country walked out of class on Thursday to protest inaction to stop school shootings.

“It’s devastating. It’s heart-wrenching,” said Ashley Castillo, who led the walkout at Hollywood High School, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re stuck with the responsibility of planning these events and having to advocate for ourselves … thoughts and prayers are not getting us anywhere after years and years.”

NBC San Diego also reported on students walking out. “We just wanted to show that we do have a voice and we hope legislators will listen,” said Sarah Strasberg, an 11th grader at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego.

Many of the protests were organized by the group Students Demand Action, which was started after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

EdSource staff

Friday, May 27, 2022, 9:05 am

Link copied.Education Secretary Cardona calls for Congress to act to prevent school shootings

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called for action to prevent more school shootings on Thursday, at a hearing for the House Education and Labor Committee.

Cardona said actions taken so far are not sufficient, and he is ashamed the country is becoming “desensitized to the murder of children.”

“I’d be failing you as Secretary of Education if I didn’t use this platform to say that students and teachers and school leaders are scared,” Cardona said.

 

 

EdSource staff

Thursday, May 26, 2022, 2:21 pm

Link copied.State announces recipients of $108.6 million in grants to streamline transition from school to college and career

The Governor’s Office today announced the six recipients of regional grants aimed at streamlining the transitions between the K-12 education system, higher education and career.

“We’re creating new regional pipelines – K-12 schools to higher education to the workforce – for California’s students that will prepare our kids for the jobs of the future in their communities,” said Governor Gavin Newsom  in a statement. “This essential collaboration will help bridge equity gaps and provide more resources to help our students achieve their career goals right in their own communities.”

Each recipient of the Regional K-16 Education Collaboratives Grant Program will receive $18.1 million. Each award has been granted to collaboratives that include K-12 school districts, community colleges, CSUs or UCs and industry partners.

The six regions in California that will be receiving a total of $108.6 million include the Central San Joaquin Valley, North State, Kern County, Redwood Coast, Orange County and Sacramento. More information about each of the collaboratives awarded funding in the first round can be viewed on the Regional K-16 Education site.

Collaboratives must commit to creating at least two occupational pathways in health care, education, business management and engineering or computing.

They also must commit to a set of recommendations aimed at promoting equity and inclusion, which include improving college affordability, supporting early college credit, improving diversity among educators, subsidizing internet access, student retention and inclusive supports.

There’s significant overlap between the goals of awardees but each one has unique features, depending on the region’s needs.

The Redwood Coast K16 Education Collaborative, led by Cal Poly Humboldt, has a special focus on improving the college-going culture, especially for Native American and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. The Sacramento K16 Collaborative, led by the Los Rios Community College District, is investing in a regional data sharing system to support its efforts. Kern Regional K16 Education Collaborative, led by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, is focused on dismantling economic inequity in the region.

Fresno was the site of the signature initiative promoted by the Governor’s Council on Postsecondary Education. Now the Central San Joaquin Valley K16 partnership includes Madera County, as well as the work being done by the Tulare-Kings College + Career Collaborative.

The collaborations are getting larger and larger, said Karri Hammerstrom, the executive director of the Fresno-Madera Collaborative.

The work of the Fresno-Madera Collaborative has been blurring the lines between high school and college. It is focused on putting students on the pathway to jobs in engineering, accounting and financial management and single-subject teaching.

Dual enrollment has been a “cornerstone” of the collaborative’s work, said Hammerstrom. To enable a broader rollout, the region is supporting high school teachers who are interested in teaching college-level courses by helping them obtain a master’s degree and also offering them mentoring from community college professors. It is also creating a virtual dual enrollment hub for those students who may not currently have the option to take courses at their schools.

Hammerstrom is hopeful that this grant will help expand the work throughout the four counties, improve collaboration with parent and community groups and also encourage more school districts to expand opportunities for students in dual enrollment and career technical education.

Emma Gallegos

Thursday, May 26, 2022, 10:47 am

Link copied.Freshmen received more Ds and Fs at SF’s elite Lowell High after switch to admissions lottery

Teachers at San Francisco’s Lowell High School gave freshman students significantly more D and F grades this past fall, the first semester after the school board eliminated the merit-based admissions it had relied on for decades, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Those grades are likely to become part of a fervid debate over Lowell that touches on race, equity and achievement. The grades raise questions about how students — and the school’s teachers and administrators — are adapting to the changes, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

It is not yet clear  how much the change in admissions policy factored into the rise in D’s and F’s among Lowell’s ninth-graders, compared with other possible factors such as the pandemic, the newspaper reported.

Of the 620 students in Lowell’s freshman class, 24.4% received at least one D or F grade during the fall semester, compared with 7.9% of first-year students in fall 2020 and 7.7% in fall 2019, according to internal San Francisco Unified School District figures obtained by The Chronicle.

The jump coincided with the first year that Lowell admitted its freshman class based primarily on a lottery — as almost all other city high schools do — instead of test scores and grades.

EdSource staff

Thursday, May 26, 2022, 10:45 am

Link copied.Gun and ammunition found in second grader’s desk at Sacramento school

On the same day a gunman in Texas killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers, a second-grader in Sacramento brought a gun and loaded magazine to school, the Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday.

Other students told staff at Edward Kemble Elementary about the weapon on Tuesday.  Staff “found the gun and ‘an accessible loaded magazine’ in the desk of the pupil,” according to the district’s statement, the newspaper reported.

Read more at: https://www.sacbee.com/article261773402.html#storylink=cpy

“We are grateful that this incident did not result in a tragedy such as those that districts have experienced, including today’s tragic and senseless mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas,” read a late-night email to families from Sacramento City Unified obtained by the Bee. “This is due in large part to the bravery and awareness of the students who came forward and alerted staff at Kemble today.”

Further details were not immediately available, the Bee reported, as a police investigation continues into how the child obtained the weapon.

Several weapons have been found on and near Sacramento-area campuses in recent months, the Bee reported. A Luther Burbank High student was arrested for bringing a loaded Glock 9mm handgun to school in January.

Thomas Peele

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 5:43 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified moves to strengthen safety protocols in light of Texas shooting

Los Angeles Unified is expanding its safety protocols in light of the mass shooting that occurred at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday. The district is evaluating extra measures as well as reevaluating current mental health offerings.

LAUSD announced it would perform an access assessment to reduce entry points and identify the safest areas at each school for families, employees and first responders. It will also begin sharing school maps with first responders and is considering using GPS apps in schools to better guide them during crises, though it’s not yet clear what that would look like.

The district also said it is working on providing more mental health support to students focused on prevention and early identification and is considering reducing its student-to-counselor ratio and providing sensitivity training to employees.

These moves follow the mass shooting Tuesday during which a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at a Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The shooting was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Kate Sequeira

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 5:18 pm

Link copied.California pledges gun reform in response to Texas school shooting

Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders in the state senate and assembly have committed to moving along gun reform legislation in response to the mass shooting Tuesday at a Texas elementary school that has left at least 19 children and two adults dead.

“California will not stand by as kids across the country are gunned down,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday. “Guns are now the leading cause of death for kids in America. While the U.S. Senate stands idly by and activist federal judges strike down commonsense gun laws across our nation, California will act with the urgency this crisis demands.”

Among the four senate and assembly bills that Newsom has pledged to sign is AB 2571, which restricts advertising of firearms to minors. Other legislation is aimed at limiting the spread of illegal assault weapons and “ghost guns,” which come in kits and are untraceable.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta also supported the legislation, and committed to cracking down on gun violence.

“Active shooter drills, metal detectors, and schools that look like prisons are not the answer,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “We need commonsense gun safety laws. We are sick and tired of seeing young and promising lives cut short due to gun violence.”

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 10:44 am

Link copied.Tips on how to talk to kids about school violence

Conversations with kids about school shootings are sensitive and difficult, but also critically important, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times notes these important discussions are made even more sensitive due to the trauma of the pandemic, which has raised the level of stress and anxiety in both children and adults.

Experts suggest finding ways to reassure your children about their safety, as well as limiting access to media coverage, as effective strategies for helping children come to terms with tragedies like the school shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead in Uvalde, Texas.

For the full story and complete list of tips, read the complete LA Times story here.

EdSource staff

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 9:12 am

Link copied.The last two years of trauma may have lasting impact, report suggests

The pandemic has surely been the most traumatic collective event of our lifetimes. After two grim years and more than a million deaths, it is still unclear when the pandemic will end. But it is clear, experts say, that the trauma may have a long-lasting impact.

In a new report, researchers at Georgia State University who have been studying how people are coping with the stress of the pandemic, suggest the mental health crisis is just beginning and that uncertainty is one of the key stressors, along with worries about health, family, and finances that take a toll on mental health. The risk to those in caregiving roles, such as nurses, teachers or parents, may be the greatest, experts say. 

In a recent survey, the American Psychological Association also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents said their lives have been permanently changed by the pandemic. The report showed that many people have been living in “sustained survival mode” with grave consequences for mental health. The rise of anxiety and depression may just be beginning, some warn.

“I think the mental health issue is percolating, just like a virus incubating,” says Laura Shannonhouse, associate professor of counseling and psychological services at Georgia State College of Education and Human Development. “We’re seeing little pieces now, but it’s like an iceberg. Most of it is still below the surface.”

Jeff Ashby, co-director of Georgia State’s Ken Matheny Center for the Study of Stress, Trauma and Resilience, recently surveyed 745 people to examine whether the strain of the pandemic could lead to stress disorders, and if so, which groups are most at risk. The results, published in the Journal of Community Psychology, showed the pandemic is an independent source of traumatic stress and, for some people, that stress can predict post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When we first began our research, we thought, ‘We must hurry, because of course, this will be over soon…’ and two years later we still don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Ashby. “I think that’s the hard part. It’s still a moving target.”

 

 

 

Karen D'Souza

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 9:11 am

Link copied.The state of motherhood is strained, survey suggests

About half of American moms are the primary breadwinner. Women also manage most of the household workload, according to an annual report from Motherly, from doing laundry to making pediatrician appointments.

The report surveyed more than 17,000 women who are balancing family and work to find out just what the “state of motherhood” is in 2022. The main takeaway, research suggests, is that the pandemic has been rough on caregivers, taking a huge toll on mothers. 

Key findings include the fact that the number of women who want to have another child is down 9% from last year nationally. The report also found that lack of child care was the single biggest reason women left a job in 2021.

President Joe Biden had been pushing for a plan to bolster the struggling child care sector as part of his social spending package. That proposal, unable to find support among conservative factions, appears to have died.  The U.S. currently ranks 35th out of 37 major economies in public investment in young children. 

 

 

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 2:38 pm

Link copied.19 children, 2 adults dead in Texas elementary school shooting

At least 19 elementary school students and two adults, including a teacher, are dead after a shooting at a school in Texas that started shortly before noon. The mass shooting took place at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, according to The New York Times. It was the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Salvador Ramos, 18, was identified as the suspected shooter. He was killed by officers, according to news reports.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot updated reporters a few hours after the shooting in a rural area west of San Antonio. He said Ramos came on the school campus with a handgun or a rifle.

“I have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to fully investigate this crime,” said Abbott in a statement.  “The Texas Division of Emergency Management is charged with providing local officials all resources necessary to respond to this tragedy as the State of Texas works to ensure the community has what it needs to heal.”

It isn’t clear how many students and staff were injured in the attack, but hospitals have reported treating additional patients in their emergency rooms.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also reacted to news of the shooting on Twitter.

“14 children and a teacher dead,” he said. “Another shooting. And the GOP won’t do a damn thing about it. Who the hell are we if we cannot keep our kids safe. This is preventable. Our inaction is a choice. We need nationwide, comprehensive, commonsense gun safety NOW.”

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 2:23 pm

Link copied.Gates Foundation offers grants to scale high school pathway programs

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it is wading into the world of dual enrollment and career technical education. Through its new “Accelerate ED” initiative, it is donating $175,000 each to twelve teams across the country, including one in California led by the Linked Learning Alliance.

The Gates Foundation is interested in researching and accelerating ways to ensure that every high school graduate has the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree or an industry-equivalent certificate within a year of graduating, according to Sara Allan, the director of Early Learning and Pathways for the Foundation.

The initiative is especially focused on Black, Latino and low-income students,  who receive less support as they transition from high school to college and the workforce. Allan said it’s important dual enrollment programs don’t just offer a random smattering of college courses, but that they set up students for post-secondary success.

The Linked Learning Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for and certifies career pathway programs in schools, will be leading a team that includes Oakland Unified, Long Beach and Antelope Valley Union High school districts. Their higher education partners are Peralta Community College, Long Beach City College and Antelope Valley College. Local youth agencies, employers and economic development agencies are also key partners, said Anne Stanton, president of the Linked Learning Alliance.

Stanton said these three districts were chosen in the initial cohort because they represent diverse communities, geography and demographics across the state that have been working on thirteenth year strategies for the last decade.

The team will be researching what works and what doesn’t for students in California, considering factors such as scheduling, student supports, advising and counseling. Stanton said said the timing of this planning grant is key for a generation of students whose educations were disrupted by the pandemic.

“It allows us to really lean it at a time that is critical,” Stanton said.

Allan noted these planning grants allow programs to take advantage of increasing federal and state funding. In California, the governor’s budget proposes an addition $500 million to increase dual enrollment attainment and another $1.5 billion to Golden State Pathways to develop high school pathway programs that increase college and career readiness.

Emma Gallegos

Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 8:55 am

Link copied.Rialto school counselor third to be charged for failing to report student’s sexual assault

Rialto school counselor Lindsay Morton has been charged with failing to report allegations of sexual assault against a student, the third Wilmer Amina Carter High School educator charged in the case for violating the state’s mandated reporter law.

Educators and others are required by law to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement. Morton, as well as Wilmer Amina Carter High School assistant principals David Shenhan Yang and Natasha Harris are accused of failing to report sexual assault allegations by multiple female students against a 17-year-old male student at the school, the Southern California News Group reported Monday.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson told SCNG that this is the first time in the county’s history that public school officials have been criminally charged with mandated reporter violations, which are misdemeanor offenses. Yang and Harris were also charged with a felony county of child abuse under circumstances or conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death.

Authorities said three female students alleged sexual assault by the offending student, which  Yang and Harris did not report to authorities. After Yang and Harris were arrested, police discovered that one of the alleged victims had also reported to Morton that the offending student had touched her inappropriately. Morton did not report the incident to authorities. Morton remains on paid administrative leave.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 8:47 am

Link copied.Proposed San Francisco ballot measure would bring schools extra $70 million a year for special programs

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen and five other supervisors are proposing a ballot measure that would give San Francisco Unified an extra $70 million in city funds every year for the next 25 years to pay for new programs aimed at boosting enrollment, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

The proposal would fund programs like accelerated math and literacy curriculum in addition to academic specialists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, after-school programs and athletic or artistic programs, according to the Chronicle. Ronen expects the Board of Supervisors to vote in the next month to send the measure to the November ballot, where it would need simple majority approval to pass.

The fund would use money from existing state property taxes, the Chronicle reported, so it would not raise property taxes.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, May 23, 2022, 9:47 am

Link copied.Modesto considering $198 million bond for school upgrades

The Modesto City Schools board will decide next month whether to put a $198 million bond on the November ballot to pay for upgrades at the district’s eight high schools, the Modesto Bee reported.

The bond, which would need 55% of the vote to pass, would pay for improvements like roof repairs, ventilation upgrades, security systems, improved access for students with disabilities, and modernization of science labs and arts and athletic facilities.

“While Modest City Schools provide high-quality instruction to local high school students, most of our high schools were built 50 to 100 years ago,” according to the district website. “Our aging education facilities need repairs and upgrades to meet modern academic and safety standards. To maintain high-quality instruction for local students, updates are needed to classrooms, technology and science labs so students graduate with the skills needed for competitive 21st century careers.”

The board is likely to decide at its June 20 meeting whether to move forward with the bond.

–Carolyn Jones

 

Carolyn Jones

Monday, May 23, 2022, 9:47 am

Link copied.Berkeley Unified returns to indoor mask mandate

Due to a surge in Covid cases, Berkeley Unified is requiring students, staff and visitors at Berkeley Unified to wear masks indoors starting immediately, the district announced.

The decision, which comes two weeks before the end of the school year, was based on a recommendation from the city’s public health director. The district’s Covid dashboard shows steep increases in the number of positive Covid cases at many schools, including Berkeley High, where the number of cases went from 8 in March to 86 so far in May.

“Our collective goal in the final weeks of school is to ensure the last two weeks and accompanying celebrations can be attended by as many of our students and families as possible,” Superintendent Brent Stephens.

–Carolyn Jones 

Carolyn Jones

Friday, May 20, 2022, 9:51 am

Link copied.Black vice principal in Sacramento resigns after racist harassment

A Black vice principal is resigning from the Sacramento City Unified School District, saying the district did not protect her from a series of incidents of targeted racist harassment.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the n-word was painted on a campus building near West Campus High School Assistant Principal Elysse Versher’s parking spot in November 2021. In addition, anonymous people posted a series of hateful messages to her social media accounts. The school district opened an investigation but has not announced any findings.

“Unfortunately, the district has not taken this seriously and still does not take incidents of racism and hate crimes seriously, so I have to seek accountability through the legal system,” Versher said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.

Versher said the harassment she experienced caused multiple stress-induced seizures in November and an unsuccessful suicide attempt in December.

EdSource staff

Friday, May 20, 2022, 9:30 am

Link copied.Senate votes to preserve segregated ‘Mexican’ school site

The site of a former school that was segregated for Mexican American students will now become a historic site, after the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to pass legislation co-sponsored by California Sen. Alex Padilla.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Blackwell School in Marfa, Texas, is one of many segregated schools that educated Mexican American children across the Southwest. More than 4,000 children were educated there between 1909 and 1965, when it closed.

Segregated schools for Black students are designated national historic sites, which make them part of the national park system, but that is not true for segregated schools for Latino students.

Former students of the Blackwell School fought to preserve the school and turn it into a museum to educate others about segregation and how they were paddled by teachers for speaking Spanish.

Padilla celebrated the vote Thursday. “Understanding our nation’s history of segregation and discrimination in places like the Blackwell School … is integral to building a more inclusive and just future for our country,” he said.

 

EdSource staff

Thursday, May 19, 2022, 1:36 pm

Link copied.Key California higher education bills clear Assembly committee

Two key higher education bills — one to expand financial aid in California and another to help community college students access transfer-level classes — advanced Thursday in the Legislature, passing in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 1746 would expand state financial aid to an estimated 150,000 students, mostly in community college, by changing and easing eligibility requirements. It would also simplify the Cal Grant, the state’s financial aid program, which critics say is overly complex. Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year and his administration has already indicated that the latest bill would, in the administration’s view, be too expensive to implement. 

He did not include funding for the expansion in his revised state budget for 2022-23 despite pleas from supporters.

The other bill, AB 1705, aims to help more community college students skip remedial classes, which don’t earn credit for transfer to a four-year university. The bill directs colleges to presume that students would take the transfer courses. It clarifies when a community college is allowed to enroll students in remedial courses. It would build off a 2017 landmark law, AB 705, that said colleges must enroll students directly in transfer-level courses and not remedial classes unless they are deemed highly unlikely to succeed in transfer-level classes. 

Michael Burke

Thursday, May 19, 2022, 10:14 am

Link copied.Tiny university making a big hit in art world with auction of painting that could sell for $12 million

A tiny private university in San Bernardino County is making big news in the art world by putting up for auction on Thursday a painting by the artist  Kerry James Marshall, “Beauty Examined,” that is expected to fetch up to $12 million, the Mercury News reported.

Loma Linda University is auctioning the painting through Sotheby’s.

Charles Simms, a  1960 alumnus of the school who co-founded California Cryobank, the nation’s largest human sperm bank, gave the painting to the college. Sims, of Brentwood, is an avid art collector with more than 300 pieces, the newspaper reported.

Rachelle Bussell,  Loma Linda’s senior vice president for advancement, told the newspaper that the sale will help fund the school’s Center for Genomics, which was established in 2013 and studies the molecular mechanisms of human disease and health disparities.

The university, established in 1905 by members of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, has eight schools, 4,500 students and a $1 billion endowment, the newspaper reported.

Thomas Peele

Thursday, May 19, 2022, 9:56 am

Link copied.Many questions exist as Biden ponders student loan forgiveness

As President Joe Biden weighs forgiving  $1.7 trillion in student loan debt for more than 40 million borrowers, both Democrats and Republicans and higher education experts are questioning the plan’s feasibility, Inside Higher Ed reported Thursday.

Questions involve debt relief’s long-term implications which includes the need to reform the country’s highly complex student loan and servicing programs and system, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“It seems increasingly apparent that the Biden administration intends to announce some sort of loan cancellation or forgiveness effort, but there is absolutely no information available to help people understand even the most basic elements of what such a policy would look like,” Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education told Inside Higher Ed. “There’s a great deal of confusion and uncertainty about what might happen.”

One issue is whether there should be an income cap on any debt relief. Democratic senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, want Biden to use his executive authority to erase at least $50,000 of debt per borrower. But Inside Higher Ed is reporting that that is unlikely and that the administration may exclude borrowers with yearly incomes of more than $125,000 to $150,000. Republicans, meanwhile, are  arguing that student-loan forgiveness is a wasteful use of federal resources.

Thomas Peele

Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 1:10 pm

Link copied.State Board of Education approves $635 million in community school grants

The State Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved $635 million in planning and implementation grants for 265 school districts, county offices of education and charter schools in low-income areas to transition to full-service community schools.

Community schools act as community hubs that offer “wraparound services” such as health care, family support, counseling and housing assistance to students and families.

Of the 265 recipients, 192 are receiving $200,000 two-year planning grants to begin the process of becoming community schools. The other 73 are receiving five-year implementation grants covering 444 schools, with amounts ranging between $712,500 and $2.375 million.

The board appointed the Alameda County Office of Education to facilitate the grants, in collaboration with the UCLA Center for Community Schools, Californians for Justice and the National Education Association.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 10:54 am

Link copied.LAUSD leaders express worries on budget, spending

Los Angeles Unified says it’s facing difficult choices as enrollment continues to steeply decline across the district. At Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole, LAUSD said it will reassess staffing and funding for programming in light of the decline and current financial realities.

Though enrollment has dropped by 70,000 students over the past five years, 10,000 positions have been added since then. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho made it clear at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting that the current overstaffing would not result in layoffs. Rather, LAUSD would redirect staff and reevaluate the current system, he said. The district will also have to reevaluate its administrator-to-teacher ratio, which has surpassed state requirements and may result in a fine if not addressed. 

The district emphasized the importance of maintaining programs like Primary Promise, which has brought additional teachers into the classroom to support students struggling with literacy and math. Tuesday’s budget workshop didn’t take into consideration upcoming priorities and programming changes expected as a result of Carvalho’s 100-day plan, though Carvalho acknowledged difficult decisions remained ahead. 

Chief Financial Officer David Hart stressed the importance of remaining wary of spending as LAUSD navigates its temporary extra funding. 

“There seems to be a sense that it’s just there for the taking; there is a sense that it has not been allocated,” Hart said. “I need to clarify clearly, that is not the case. We have expenditure plans; we do not have excess funds. We will be able to expend all of the Covid monies without exception.”

LAUSD, which currently enrolls more than 430,000 students, predicts that its enrollment decline will continue at a faster rate than predicted for both Los Angeles County and California, with a loss of another 100,000 students over the next 10 years. 

“What we know about forecasts is the further out we go, the more likely we are to be wrong,” Hart said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “But the order of magnitude here we think is concerning on a variety of fronts. This is what causes our structural imbalance.”

That, along with the lack of a centralized budget system for schools and local districts led to the current overstaffing, Carvalho said. The decentralization has led LAUSD to also exceed the state’s 8% cap on district administrative positions, he said. Until this year, the district has had a three-year waiver for the requirement, but if not met this upcoming year, the district will have to pay a $36 million fee.

“There is no vetting process,” Carvalho said. “There are no business rules that prevent individuals who have decision-making ability over their own budgets and protect the integrity of the district as a whole.”

Schoolteachers not assigned to the classroom are also considered administrative — something LAUSD has pushed the state to reconsider, Carvalho said. 

LAUSD is working on developing its strategic plan, which it hopes to finalize next month alongside the budget. The goals that will soon be outlined in the strategic plan are expected to guide budget planning through 2026.

Kate Sequeira

Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 9:24 am

Link copied.Two U.S. senators push a more modest proposal on child care

Amid the deepening child care crisis, two Democratic senators, Patty Murray of Washington and Tim Kaine of Virginia, are joining forces to push a scaled-back version of the ambitious child care program that was part of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation, as HuffPost reported.

Under the proposal from Murray and Kaine, the government would invest between $150 billion and $200 billion to rescue the struggling sector over 10 years, far less than the Biden plan, which failed to pass in the Senate. The bulk of the newly proposed spending would go through the Child Care Development and Block Grant, which states use to subsidize child care for low- and sometimes middle-income families. The proposal would triple the block grant’s usual funding, according to a new analysis from the Center on Law and Social Policy, allowing it to reach at least 1 million more kids while also setting aside some funds for beleaguered providers.

“The child care sector is on the brink of collapse and we have to act now to save it ― or families across the country will pay the price,” Murray said in a statement,  HuffPost reported. “I have spoken to so many moms and parents who had to quit their jobs entirely because they either couldn’t afford child care or they couldn’t find it, and to child care workers who are being paid poverty wages and can’t make ends meet ― it’s clear, this is an urgent crisis and it’s putting a huge strain on our entire economy.”

Karen D'Souza