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State report points to reforming mayoral control of NYC schools

The Gothamist, Jessica Gould, Apr 9, 2024

A report from the New York state education department suggested some reforms to mayoral control of New York City’s schools on Tuesday, prompting furious backlash from Mayor Eric Adams.

The nearly 300-page state education department report did not recommend transformative change to the New York City school system’s oversight. But it did note that the city’s top-down approach to education gives the mayor more power than any other district in the United States, and suggested possibly diluting City Hall’s influence over a panel that votes on education department contracts.

State legislators said they’ll use the report to inform their vote on whether to extend mayoral control of schools, which expires at the end of June.

“This report is a thorough, research-based presentation of school governance models in New York City and elsewhere,” state education department spokesperson J.P. O’Hare said in a statement.

Adams lashed out before the report was publicly released, attacking its authors and questioning its methodology.

“So I’m concerned. Is this more political? Or is it about the way we have done it and [what] Chancellor [David] Banks has done,” Adams said during a press conference prior to the report’s public release. “When we sat down and communicated with them, it was clear that either someone did not read the law, or they determined that they were going to do it the way they wanted to do.”

Read More: The Gothamist

50 Years Older and Deeper in Debt

RETHINKING SCHOOLS, Stan Karp, August 1, 2023 

The Shaky Foundations of U.S. School Funding

This year marks the 50th anniversary of San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the landmark 5-4 Supreme Court decision that held that education is not a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution. The decision dashed hopes that the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling that ended legal segregation in 1954 would be followed by a sustained federal commitment to making education equality a reality.

Demetrio Rodriguez was a sheet metal worker and a member of the Edgewood Concerned Parent Association when he became the lead plaintiff in the case. He thought his three children were being shortchanged by wide disparities in schooling across the sprawling San Antonio school district and the state of Texas. Parents hoped the case would clearly establish a federal right to education.


The Finnish Secret to Happiness? Knowing When You Have Enough.

(NYTimes) Penelope Colston, April 2, 2023

The Nordic nation has been ranked the happiest country on earth for six consecutive years. But when you talk to individual Finns, the reality is a bit more complicated.

On March 20, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network released its annual World Happiness Report, which rates well-being in countries around the world. For the sixth year in a row, Finland was ranked at the very top.

But Finns themselves say the ranking points to a more complex reality.

“I wouldn’t say that I consider us very happy,” said Nina Hansen, 58, a high school English teacher from Kokkola, a midsize city on Finland’s west coast. “I’m a little suspicious of that word, actually.”

Ms. Hansen was one of more than a dozen Finns we spoke to — including a Zimbabwean immigrant, a folk metal violinist, a former Olympian and a retired dairy farmer — about what, supposedly, makes Finland so happy. Our subjects ranged in age from 13 to 88 and represented a variety of genders, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds and professions. They came from Kokkola as well as the capital, Helsinki; Turku, a city on the southwestern coast; and three villages in southern, eastern and western Finland.

While people praised Finland’s strong social safety net and spoke glowingly of the psychological benefits of nature and the personal joys of sports or music, they also talked about guilt, anxiety and loneliness. Rather than “happy,” they were more likely to characterize Finns as “quite gloomy,” “a little moody” or not given to unnecessary smiling.

Many also shared concerns about threats to their way of life, including possible gains by a far-right party in the country’s elections in April, the war in Ukraine and a tense relationship with Russia, which could worsen now that Finland is set to join NATO.

It turns out even the happiest people in the world aren’t that happy. But they are something more like content.

Finns derive satisfaction from leading sustainable lives and perceive financial success as being able to identify and meet basic needs, Arto O. Salonen, a professor at the University of Eastern Finland who has researched well-being in Finnish society, explained. “In other words,” he wrote in an email, “when you know what is enough, you are happy.”

Read More: NYTimes

Why We Must Defend Against the GOP Plan To Destroy Public Education

COMMON DREAMS, Randi Weingarten, March 29, 2023

Our public schools shouldn’t be pawns for politicians’ ambitions. Or defunded and destroyed by ideologues. We are at a crossroads: Fear and division, or hope and opportunity. A great nation does not fear people being educated.

The following are the prepared remarks by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten delivered on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at the National Press Club.


Today, we once again grieve for families shattered by senseless gun violence. Please join me in a moment of silence for the lives lost at the Covenant School in Nashville, and for all victims of gun violence.

Today we renew our call for commonsense gun safety legislation including a ban on assault weapons. This is an epidemic that our great nation must solve.


Charter schools’ expansion becomes key battle in NY budget negotiations

Gothamist, Jessica Gould, March 29, 2023

The expansion of charter schools in New York has become a central issue in Albany this year as Gov. Kathy Hochul and lawmakers battle over the state’s budget, which is due April 1.

Hochul wants the Legislature to lift a regional cap that would free up licenses held by now-closed charter schools in New York City. If passed in the final budget, the change would allow up to 108 new charter schools to open in the city.

Hochul earlier this month told reporters the change is necessary because some charter schools have lengthy waitlists. “There’s a groundswell of support” for charter schools, she said. “Children deserve to have options.”

Lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly have so far pushed back on the governor’s proposal, and omitted the change in their joint budget response earlier this month. Opponents of the governor’s proposal argue that new charter schools could lead to declines in enrollment — and therefore funding — for public schools.

“They’re all nonstarters,” state Sen. John Liu said of the governor’s proposals to remove the regional cap and allow so-called ‘zombie’ charter licenses to be revived. “Choice exists already. There are plenty of vacancies in charter schools as there are in [traditional] public schools.”

But with the state budget deadline looming, groups on both sides of the charter school issue have launched a media and lobbying blitz with protests, press conferences and school tours.

Read More: Gothamist

Paul Vallas Gave Wall Street Massive Amounts of Money As Chicago Schools CEO

JACOBIN, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, March 27, 2023

Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas helped create a financial disaster as head of Chicago Public Schools, making bond deals worth $666 million — whose exorbitant interest payments to Wall Street are now robbing the city’s school system.

When he led the Chicago school system, mayoral candidate Paul Vallas took actions that resulted in more than $1.5 billion being transferred out of the city’s budget-strapped public schools and to some of the wealthiest individuals and banks on the planet, a new report shows.

Now, Vallas is in an election runoff against Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson to lead the city of Chicago, with big support from wealthy investors and other corporate interests — including from executives at law firms and banks that benefited from the controversial financing methods Vallas used as CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001.

With less than two weeks left before the April 4 election — which polls show is a tight race — Vallas has faced little scrutiny over his tenure as the Chicago Public Schools chief, even though he helped create a slow-moving financial disaster for America’s fourth-largest school system.


A Michigan town may lose its only library after its staff refused to remove an LGBTQ book

(WASHINGTON POST)  Danielle Paquette, September 11, 2022

JAMESTOWN, Mich. — Two librarians had quit since the trouble began, and Kaitlin McLaughlin didn’t want to be the third.

But the same term kept coming up in board meetings and on yard signs, making her feel awkward and wrongly accused: grooming.

People in this western Michigan farming town said the Patmos Library was “grooming” children and, according to fliers that one group printed, promoting an “LGBTQ ideology.” They said bookshelves meant for young readers featured same-sex pornography. They called the staff pedophiles, McLaughlin said. Then one August morning, they voted to defund Jamestown’s only public library, jeopardizing the institution’s future as neighbors clashed over who gets to decide free speech in this deep-red corner of America.

“I’m not a ‘groomer,’ ” said McLaughlin, 34, gathering children’s books for a lunchtime story hour. “I’m not a pedophile. I’m afraid of what people see when they look at me.”

Source: Washington Post

A California school district is asking families to rent rooms to teachers

(NPR) JOE HERNANDEZ, September 11, 2022

A Northern California school district is testing out a novel solution to its housing shortage for teachers: asking community members to rent them rooms.

The Milpitas Unified School District put out the call to families in late August in response to staff losses and sky-high housing costs that have made it difficult for educators to live near where they work.

Superintendent Cheryl Jordan said in a statement to NPR that the district had already gotten 55 responses to its request.

It was proof that district staff members were “valued by our Milpitas community members, parents and caregivers,” she said.

Spokesperson Scott Forstner said the district had not yet heard from any employees who had secured a unit through the roughly week-old request to families.

The median home price in Milpitas, located just outside San Jose, is $1.3 million, according to Realtor.com.

Roughly 4 in 5 California counties are seeing their median home prices rise year over year, data released in August by the California Association of Realtors shows.

In the last year, the Milpitas Unified School District lost 10 teachers, officials said. Seven moved to “more affordable” communities, and three left California.

Source: NPR

US universities are pipelines to the defense industry. What does that say about our morals?


Indigo Olivier

Much of our higher education system is a glorified feeder for Lockheed Martin and other defense industry firms

In his 1961 farewell address, Dwight D Eisenhower warned the nation against the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex. But a lesser known part of the speech was addressed to universities: “In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.”

We didn’t listen.

For the better part of the pandemic, I’ve been researching the defense industry’s ties to college campuses as part of an investigative fellowship for the magazine In These Times. On 11 August, we published a 4,300-word feature article on Lockheed Martin’s sweeping recruitment on college campuses.

We found an environment in which Stem students are funneled into the defense industry through recruitment, research, financial assistance or some combination of the three.

Lockheed offers cash-prize competitions, scholarships and paid internships to students which have served as pipelines to employment. In 2020, the company hired 2,600 interns and claimed over 60% of graduating former interns converted to full-time jobs.

On campus, Lockheed has set up recruiting tables in the lobbies and hallways of student buildings and hosts workshops on everything from space exploration to résumé-building. At the University of Texas at Arlington, a $1.5m donation resulted in one of their buildings being renamed the Lockheed Martin Career Development Center.

But the company’s signature recruiting event, which is hosted at more than a dozen universities, is something called Lockheed Martin Day. Recruiters attract students with virtual reality demos, flight simulators and, in some cases, landing their helicopters directly on campus. Company officials have been known to offer on-the-spot job and internship opportunities to students during the event.

Additionally, Lockheed has poured resources into the financial support and recruitment of students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), earning its place as the number one industry supporter of HBCU engineering institutions for seven years in a row.


But before anyone says this is a good thing, it’s worth pausing to ask ourselves how we got here in the first place.

When Black women hold the highest average student loan debt ($41,466), it’s hard to argue against additional financial support no matter where it comes from. Unless you start with a more basic question: why do Black women graduate with the largest debt burden? Why are HBCU endowments, on average, 70% smaller than other universities?

More: The Guardian