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Here and Now in the Education World

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Taking on the latest in the controversy about the best for public school students from the viewpoints in a family of teachers and trainers.

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Guns Anywhere Near Schools

August 30th, 2019
Post by CJN

From the mass murders by young men with a gun this summer at a busy location with lots of people, the first thing that comes to mind is how many more children won’t grow up. After the El Paso shooting, how many more children younger than three will grow up never knowing their parents?

Even though the summer shooting sprees were not at schools, the effects on children once they return to school will be traumatic, and teachers and administrators will have to deal with the difficulties of students staying on task, uncontrolled crying, withdrawal, and anger. All of which will hinder learning during the year. Does any child need to live with these consequences?

In fact, most killings called mass murders happen at home from domestic violence, at parties, or at drive-by shootings. Same difficulties, though, for children.

Does the NRA or anyone who refuses to address the gun safety issue, understand the vast dimensions of the crisis?

If we ban assault ‘rifles’, large quantity ammunition magazines, bump stocks, and printed plastic guns, there will still be murders. If we upgrade and enforce the procedures for universal background checks and make all gun owners license and register their firearms, it won’t stop someone killing someone. But it will be far better than it is now.

And it will not stop the large numbers of youth who kill themselves with guns, by accident or on purpose. No school, no college, no work, no happy days for them. So, how about stiffer laws demanding gun owners to lock up their armaments to prevent suicide or ‘accidents.’ Does such a law take away their rights?

Think about it. The registration and licensing money could be used to provide for the current president’s and NRA’s favorite culprit – lack of mental health services for shooters in this country. Believe me, all the children subjected to any shootings need mental health support. Teenagers who are thinking of killing themselves need more and better support before the worst happens.

Look at the currently collected data on shootings, arranged by the two final years of the former president’s term from 2015-2016 and the first two years of the current president’s term. Numbers differ according to source. But according to the Gun Violence Archives (with horrendous numbers), in two years from January 2015-December 2016, 28, 648 people were killed and 4,391 were killed or injured children and teens. From January 2017-December 2018 there were 30,448 killings and 7,524 were killed or injured children and teens.

The administration changed in January 2017 and that year has been considered the deadliest year with 159 killed in mass shootings. In 2019, however, up to August 29, 2019, there have already been 273 mass shootings and 9,809 total killings so far and 2,489 children and teens killed or wounded.

Look at gun safety legislation. After the 2012 Aurora shootings at which 12 were killed and 2 were aged 6 and 18, Colorado passed gun control legislation and then in the next election the two sponsors of the legislation were defeated, and the laws repealed.

In 2012 after the Sandy Hook shootings in Newton, Connecticut, when 26 were murdered, 20 of them children, Congress could not bring itself to pass gun safety legislation.

Between 2009-2016 one hundred bills had been introduced in Congress and none passed. In 2016 polling statistics, 89% of the respondents approved of universal background checks and 57% approved of a ban on assault weapons. In 2019, there has been gun safety legislation passed by the House of Representatives, but it is sitting in the Senate, not even brought to the floor.

August 21, 2019, the March for Our Lives organization, made up of student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, created a Peace Plan for a Safer America that delineates eight points for national legislation that include raising the minimum age for gun possession to 21 and the appointment of a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention.

The 2019-2020 school year has started. Now what? Are teachers going to be asked to carry pistols, revolvers, or rifles and go through firearms training, just so that in the midst of fury and turmoil and screaming they might manage to strike the perpetrator and not some innocent child?

Or will lack of needed legislation allow another unhinged young man to decide that it is his duty to kill his school mates at his former high school or children at the wrong religious site or kids at home, a festival, or shopping mall?

California is one of six with the stiffest gun legislation in the country. Still shootings are happening. So are teachers, parents, grandparents, and friends going to urge, insist, demand that their legislators in their state, both state and national, address gun safety?




Before the 2019-2020 School Year Begins

August 1st, 2019
Post by CJN
Florida rally against arming teachers

Florida rally against arming teachers

Before a new school year starts, concern is rampant over the huge challenges to recruiting and/or retaining a teacher. Why? In school districts across the country, anyone in education can tick off the continuing reasons: high cost of higher education, low pay, insufficient support for new teachers and programs, unrepaired facilities, revolving doors for administrators, and violence – especially over gun policy.

On July 17 the House Committee on Education and Labor’s hearing on how federal policy can provide more support for teachers hasn’t yet produced any new policy or budget changes. However, problems for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF) are being examined in Congress at this time also.

Currently, fewer than 1 percent of eligible public servants who apply actually receive the loan forgiveness they were promised. If they are accepted into the PSLF program, they must reapply each year. Sometimes if they get a raise, they might not even qualify for the program anymore. OR they might have to pay a higher monthly payment, making it harder to pay off the loan and remain qualified for the program.

Fortunately, the new bill in Congress would simplify the public service loan forgiveness process and expand the number of people who qualify. If it passes, it could be life-changing for educators and other public servants. See S1203 and HR2441.

In addition, on July 25, the House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (HR 3877), which lifts the budget caps introduced in 2011 and prevents severe cuts in non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding for fiscal years 2020-2021. Not only will Title I and IDEA be expanded, but funds for teachers. Now, as TakeCareSchools has said many times before, the legislation must get enough votes in the Senate and then the president must sign.

From cuts in disability funding for pre-school to fights over actions by the Civil Rights Office (CRO) of the Department of Education, U. S. Education Superintendent Betsy DeVos and her DOE administration continue to throw wrenches at policies that help children in schools. The CRO has gone back on orders developed during the Obama administration to disregard rights for LGBTQ students and for other discriminatory acts, such a paddling. DOE uses different statistics defining the number of cases dismissed vs. righting discrimination in order to dispute reports by Propublica.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education continues various attempts to stall the implementation of federal regulations created by the Obama administration to address racial disparities in special education. Despite repeated efforts by supporters to force compliance, it has ballooned into a civil rights issue for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her team’s desire to block the implementation of the law designed to help disabled minority students.

Speaking of disability funding, the Federal government’s overall appropriation of funds for special education preschool programs has varied by year, but generally decreased between 2002 and 2015, from $390 million to $353 million, before getting a slight bump to about $368 million in 2016 and 2017. At the same time, the number of children served by the programs more than doubled from the early 1990s to 2017.

Finally, conflicts about attempts to prepare for school violence by arming teachers has set off resistance actions. Brady Unified Against Violence has started Team ENOUGH for students, the Florida PTA, and other activists in Florida, who are searching for actions to adopt after the shootings in Parkland. Brady has provided a toolkit of activities to use against the state’s law about arming teachers. So far, the team counts victory in four of sixty-seven Florida counties because the school boards of the counties voted against arming teachers.

A good 2019-2020 school year start.








School is Out, but Legislation Is Still In

June 24th, 2019
Post by CJN
Parkland, Florida student activists register to vote

Parkland, Florida student activists register to vote

June is time for school graduation. Think about the artists, scientists, doctors, legislators, presidents and people from all walks of life who contribute to our society and were proud graduates of public schools.

First, after all the fuss about graduates getting into prestigious colleges by faking scores on SAT or paying off officials, you should know that studies admit that scores on SAT/ACT indicate a student’s family wealth. If your family makes under $80,000 a year, it’s likely that your scores will be lower, and the gap has increased from 2012-2016. Only changes in government policy that attempt to increase minimum wage and improve community resources have bearing on helping students get better exam scores.

What is happening in legislation to improve the lot of the country’s future graduates?

On June 4, 2019, the American Dream and Promise Act (HR 6) passed in the House of Representatives. It will provide a path to citizenship for 2.7 million students. In addition, the Temporary Protected Status will allow 37,000 teachers to remain in the country. However, we wait for the Senate to do its duty.

Finally, on June 19, 2019, the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education funding bill (HR2740) passed in the House. It increases overall funding investment for schools by $4.4 billion in FY2020. Title I and IDEA will increase by $1 billion; Title II (class size and professional development) by $500 million; Pell ad other student financial aid by $492 million; $40 million increase to “community schools,” helping students in low-income communities to improve and do better on scores to graduate to colleges of their choice. Again, we hold our breath for the Senate to do its duty.

For local legislation, Chicago’s new mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed an interim seven-member school board. They will work only until a legislation change in the state law allows election of school board members by the public.

What else to improve the future for grads?

To make legislation move forward the country needs legislators that are willing to make laws. Registering more voters will help. That’s why California that allows pre-registration at 16 with help from the League of Women Voters is initiating a 2020 project to register and pre-register all high school students to vote as soon as they are eighteen. Did you know that fourteen states allow students to pre-register when they are sixteen in order to be prepared to vote when they are eighteen? Four states allow pre-registration when students reach seventeen? Students who are now 17 and 1/2 will be able to vote in the November general election. League of Women Voters is a national organization and can register high school students in all those states. In Santa Clara County California, and many other California counties, the League is working with all high schools to register and pre-register students. The time is now to work on legislation to allow pre-registration in the 32 mid-west and southern states.

Although not all newly registered voters will be concerned about schools, they will know that their vote is their voice. What an excellent graduation gift.



Legislation on the School Year’s Last Days 

May 27th, 2019
Post by CJN

End of May. Another school year is almost over including state testing and continuing conflict over ‘school choice.’ What does choice mean to U. S. Department of Education Superintendent Betsy de Vos versus to families in marginal communities?

De Vos and the Trump administration keeps promoting vouchers for school choice, but Congress and federal departments have passed legislation to assure other kinds of choice.

HR 5, the Equality Act, was passed by the House of Representatives in May 2019 to specify that equality is a protected characteristic under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for all students no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Not only is a student’s choice protected in education, but in public accommodation, facilities, and employment. A similar bill, S 788, is under consideration in the Senate, but it is hard to expect the majority party to choose to take up the issue.

This month the U.S. Department of Agriculture has chosen to restore payments to the Secure Rural Schools Act. These funds have been allowed to lapse and be reduced over the last several years. Since the USDA and Department of the Interior oversee forest and other public lands, and so school districts in these rural areas can’t count on taxes to provide district services in the communities. The U.S. departments covers 800 counties with 4,000 school districts, providing for 9 million students in forty states. More than restoring funds to Secure Rural Schools, the problem needs a permanent fix. Senators Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Mike Crapo (Idaho) have introduced an extension and plan to introduce legislation to create an endowment fund especially for forest land communities. Watch to see if 9 million kids will have the choice of a well-financed basic public education.

National Education Association has found that the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) which oversees schools on fourteen U. S. military installations has chosen, without negotiation, to require 24 unpaid additional hours per academic quarter for teachers and school staff to pursue professional development – read articles, write reflections, take surveys – all of which may provide useful information – but not under the mandated circumstances. The accumulated time of 96 hours out of a 180-day school year does not mean that coaching, team planning, mentoring, supervising clubs – all part of providing a well-rounded education – is now excluded. Also, teachers spend plenty of extra time helping students succeed, but they choose to do it. Originally, a flexible bank of hours with advance notice for special meetings was part of a school year agreed to by DoDEA. The Federal Education Association is researching the current action. What choices will students in those schools have now?

On May 22, 2019, the Day of Action in Washington, D.C. and around the country, three main demands were brought up at the rally in front of the Supreme Court – educational equality, adequate investment in neighborhood public schools, and swift passage of the bicameral Keep our PACT (Promise to Children and Teachers) Act, introduced again on April 11, 2019 by Senator Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Representative Susie Lee (Nevada). As teachers have read, the Trump administration has chosen to reduce Title I funds in its budget proposals. The bill will fully fund Title I and IDEA (disabilities legislation) for ten years. To understand the need, between 2005-2017 Title I, providing assistance to America’s highest need students and schools, has been underfunded $347 billion (Alliance to Reclaim Our School statistics). After the rally, buses toured two schools, one well-resourced in a predominately while neighborhood and one under-resourced, with predominately students of color.

The choice of Journey for Justice Alliance, associated with AROS, is to promote 25,000 community schools by 2025, also a project of the Schott Family Foundation.






What More Can Ts Administration Do to Schools?

March 25th, 2019
Post by CJN
2020 budget for schools  -back to chalkboards?

2020 budget for schools -back to chalkboards?

The news media has caught our attention with the articles that reveal more and more, day after day, about the  prestigious colleges and universities that can be entered at side and back doors with loads of dollars.

On top of the dispiriting news to students who struggle to get the best grades in the toughest classes offered at their high school, to get the best references, to do the most community service, and to scrounge for financial resources and scholarships to enroll in college, we also get the news that very few minority group students get to attend the high quality high schools that they prefer. The media attention is about New York City high schools, but the same can be said about big urban school districts all over the country, entrance exams or not.

It takes a strong, mature, astute student to climb over these man-made obstacles.

Then what happens? The Trump administration’s budget proposal for 2020 is revealed. The U.S. Department of Education, with Betsy DeVos’ agreement, will get $7.1 billion dollars less than in 2019. In addition, $5 billion dollars are for vouchers, rejected, if you recall, in the 2017 tax bill debate. With less money, what will be eliminated? Public service loan forgiveness, subsidized student loans, Title II funding for teacher development and enrichment, Title IV funding for academic support and after-school activities are examples.

In the meantime, the Alliance for Quality Education reports on examples of chronic underfunding in New York for urban and rural schools. And so, what does less money mean? Limits are created on educational opportunities and challenges for students – for instance, shortage of support staff, large class sizes, and lack of computers and science lab equipment to name a few. The 2020 Trump budget is not going to address these deficits and make schools better, is it?

Now, how has Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Superintendent of Education, been spending her days lately? On May 10, 2019 she overturned long-standing regulations in the latest edition of ESEA, Every Student Succeeds Act. Up to now, every district using federal funds must offer low-income and vulnerable students in private schools the same services as those offered in public schools. The funds could not be used by a contractor with religious affiliation to provide any services to the school. Then the U.S. Supreme Court, as you may recall, changed that rule in the Trinity Lutheran Church, Inc v Comer decision, stating that it is unconstitutional to deny a federal grant to resurface the church’s school playground because of religious affiliation. Somehow Ms. DeVos has used that limited decision to say that “she will no longer enforce [the] provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools.” The New York Times, “Secretary Eases Church-State Separation in Education” by Erica I. Green, March 11, 2019.

In other words, is the superintendent spending her time worrying that religious observance and practice is part of the secular public school? Rather than worry if enough federal, state, and local funds are used to improve academic success for public school students in America – which is her obligation?

On the other hand, the Dream and Promise Act 2019, HR 6, introduced on March 12, 2019, by two New York representatives and one California representative, gives 2.5 million people the opportunity for legal status and a path to citizenship. Most important, it allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and move to citizenship whether it’s via higher education, military service, or employment. The bill includes students brought to this country before their 18th birthday, regardless of whether they participate in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or were allowed to remain here for humanitarian reasons under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

Opportunity for all students is money well-spent. The bill needs much support to make its way through the House and Senate, much less to get the unreliable administration to tweet that the dollars spent are for a good reason.




Ongoing posts by CJN, Claire Noonan, M.A., elementary teacher in large urban schools with fifteen years in the classroom and twenty years supervising and coaching the reading/language arts curriculum.

Occasional posts by PEN, Paula Noonan, Ph.D., thirty years in training and consulting services to companies across the nation and content expert/teacher of M.Ed. programs for Jones International University.

Periodic posts by SEN, Sarah Noonan, the teacher starting her career in a suburban elementary school hit with all the budget and achievement dilemmas in beautiful California.