Archive for October, 2016

As the November 2016 Election Nears

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

News about government legal action seems more important when the presidential elections are coming.

In September 2016, the news told about the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision that the legislature’s funding for schools in the state was unconstitutional and purposely inequitable among the public school districts. In essence, school infrastructure is inadequate, teachers are poorly evaluated, students graduate unable to read well, achievement gaps persist between high-income and low-income communities. These problems pop up country-wide, in spite of the celebrated move from No Child Left Behind Act to Every Student Succeeds Act, the new name for the congressional Elementary and Secondary Education Act revised in 2015.

The Connecticut’s Supreme Court decision has come after a decade of legal action, and other states are facing the same actions about adequate and equitable funding for public schools –  in Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey.

However, some states moved forward long ago. In 1993, facing a school funding lawsuit, Massachusetts legislature passed an act that evened out funding between well-to-do districts and poor districts and set high achievement standards that has resulted in improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams. Massachusetts is now considered to have a high-achieving system of public schools.

The presidential candidates are wrangling about federal tax rates which affect funding for schools. So, what are states around the country doing to fund schools and address issues to help schools improve, instead of waiting for lawsuits that take years to reach a decision from state Supreme Courts and even end up at the United States Supreme Court?

For example, in California two propositions on the November election ballot advocate for a kindergarten through community college public education facilities Bond Act of 2016 to bring infrastructure up to code for earthquake, fire, and asbestos – still an issue for California. How about states facing tornado damage, hurricanes, and flooding?

In addition, a measure for an extension on tax rates for the wealthiest to fund children’s education and healthcare – not bureaucracy or administration – is on the ballot.

Although Santa Clara County is one of the wealthiest counties in the state, the legislature addressed an issue – AB 2368. It will ease restrictions for low-income families in the county, giving Santa Clara County government limited flexibility regarding child care and early childhood education subsidy funds so that all low-income pre-school-aged children have the advantages of well-to-do families.

Look at your state legislature and local government action in the November election!

Let’s look at what’s happening in the schools during this controversial election.

From last Spring to Fall, an on-line survey of 2,00 K-12 teachers, nationwide, report the toxic outcomes of what educators call the Trump Effect. Although many articles have been written and discussed in previous Take Care posts about teaching student collaboration and responsibility for their actions and words, the survey reports in elementary and high schools an increase in bullying and students fearful for their status as immigrants.

For instance, in Silicon Valley’s city of Mountain View, California, using social media to make threats against the school, though not targeting specific students or staff members, “three (Mountain View High School) suspects…were detained, questioned, and eventually arrested at the Mountain View Police Department Monday morning October 10. The teens were all arrested on charges of making criminal threats and conspiring to commit a crime.” Mountain View Voice Online, “Three MVHS teens arrested over social media threats” by Kevin Forestieri, October 10, 2016.

In a year of news about war, shouting lies and claiming truth, shooting people of color, and targeting attacks on police officers, how can teachers “explain the unexplainable”? nea Today “The Trump Effect” by Amanda Litvinov, Summer 2016.

Tolerance versus hate-filled language is a troubling concern for teachers, but perhaps we can take heart when a teacher notes after the second presidential debate that “My fourth graders give better presentations than Trump,” Sarah Noonan on Facebook, October 10, 2016. The post may be partisan, but it’s not hate-filled.

Perhaps teachers can find ways to teach students to do as Michelle Obama said, “When they take the low road, we take the high.” Difficult, but maybe a way to address the unexplainable.