Virtual School Meanderings

November 20, 2020

What’s Next for PreK-12 Funding? Austerity, Subsistence or Investment?

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

What’s Next for PreK-12 Funding? Austerity, Subsistence or Investment?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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What’s Next for PreK-12 Funding? Austerity, Subsistence or Investment?

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With Joe Biden two months away from assuming the presidency, it’s goodbye to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and hello to a new administration. Now in full swing is the parlor game of guessing who the next education secretary will be. But to most educators and their students, what matters even more will be the way in which President-elect Biden and the Congress handle the economic tsunami of COVID-created declines of 10 to 20 percent in state tax revenue, coupled with rising expenses related to implementing safety measures, such as social distancing, while abruptly pivoting to remote learning, requiring new approaches and tools.

A recent NEPC policy memo lays out three possible scenarios for how Congress might handle the impending fiscal cliff faced by our nation’s schools:

  1. Austerity: Minimal federal assistance for schools. As a result, K-12 budgets are predicted to decrease by an average of 16 percent, roughly twice the decline experienced as a result of the 2008 Recession. Schools would lose thousands of teachers; class sizes, already higher than research recommends, would skyrocket; and children would receive less support coping with the trauma of illness and unemployment.
  2. Subsistence: A federal investment of $175 to $200 billion in PreK-12 education would be just enough to maintain the status quo of insufficiently and inequitably funded schools. Subsistence funding would not cover the additional costs incurred as a result of the pandemic, such as additional resources for remote learning, school meals for elevated number of children experiencing poverty as a result of pandemic-related job losses, reduced class size to maintain social distancing, cleaning and ventilation protocols designed to provide safe in-person instruction, mental health support to help students cope with the crisis, or extended school hours to compensate for learning loss. Because the pandemic has disproportionately affected low-income communities and people of color, subsistence funding would disproportionately harm Black, Native American, Latinx and low-income students.
  3. Investment: What if, instead of maintaining an unfair and inadequate status quo, policymakers picked this moment to make a New Deal-style investment that would at the same time lead to unprecedented improvements in education while infusing much-needed cash into the economy? The cost would be above and beyond the $200 billion needed for subsistence. But it would be a fraction of the $4.5 trillion set aside to bolster the financial markets through Treasury funding.

The authors of the policy memo, Frank AdamsonAllison Brown, and Kevin Welner, conclude:

The enormously expensive bailouts of airlines, financial markets, investors, and other elements of the economy are defended—and are arguably defensible—as necessary to prevent further pain that would be felt by “average Americans” if that larger economy collapses. But many of those average Americans are families with children in public schools. If policymakers choose to let those children sink, taking their futures down with them, then why bother bailing out the businesses that we hope will one day serve them and employ them?

More resources: To see how priorities can be changed to free up funding for research-based investments in education, try the new interactive game, FundEdInstead!

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 18, 2020

NEPC Talks Education: Not So Fast: Critically Assessing Ed Tech During COVID-19

The latest podcast from the National Education Policy Center that is quite relevant for readers of this space.

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Publication Announcement

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Christopher Saldaña:

(303) 492-2566

christopher.saldana@colorado.edu

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BOULDER, CO (November 17, 2020) – In this month’s episode of the NEPC Talks Education podcast, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña interviews Dr. Ben Williamson, a Chancellor’s fellow at the Centre for Research in Digital Education and the Edinburgh Futures Institute. Williamson’s research examines how digital technologies, science, and data intersect with education policy and governance. He is the author of Big Data in Education: The Digital Future of Learning, Policy and Practice and the co-author of Commercialisation and Privatisation in/of Education in the Context of Covid-19.

Saldaña and Williamson discuss why it is important for educational researchers and educational policymakers to view critically the implementation of educational technology (ed tech) in schools, especially as schools adopt more ed tech to cope with the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Williamson argues that although other fields, like media studies or digital sociology, have published studies showing the ill effects of technology on, for example, politics and discrimination, the field of education has yet to produce a critical mass of studies examining the potentially significant effect of ed tech on teaching and learning.

Williamson argues that one reason for this lack of research might be because the ed tech industry benefits from influential and well-funded advocates who silence critics. For example, Williamson explains that the ed tech industry is a multi-sector, multibillion dollar industry that includes international technology firms such as Google, Microsoft and Apple, global intergovernmental organizations such as the OECD and UNESCO, major philanthropic foundations like the Gates Foundation, profit-seeking, grant-making entities such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and educational content producers such as Pearson.

Dr. Williamson recommends that researchers examine the side effects associated with a growing ed tech sector and increased presence of technology in schools, including how this might exacerbate issues related to the digital divide and the privatization and commercialization of K-12 public schools. Williamson also encourages teachers unions to critically evaluate how the technology adopted by schools in which their members teach affects their ability to teach and their students’ ability to learn.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode, hosted by NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher, under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 13, 2020

“Curriculum Punishment.” What It Is and Why You Need To Know About It Now

An important item from the National Education Policy Center.

“Curriculum Punishment.” What It Is and Why You Need To Know About It Now

Thursday, November 12, 2020

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“Curriculum Punishment.” What It Is and Why You Need To Know About It Now

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NEPC Fellow H. Richard Milner IV has coined a new term for an old practice: “Curriculum punishment” describes a situation in which “students are harmed when they are not exposed to potentially transformative, racially just learning opportunities.” He reflected about this idea in his 2018 American Educational Research Association Brown Lecture. Milner is Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair of Education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education.

Here’s an example Milner provided earlier this year in a recap of his lecture that appeared in the peer-refereed journal Educational Researcher. Soon after school desegregation was implemented in Alabama, a Black educator (who was being interviewed by Milner) asked a White guidance counselor what he had done to try and help Black students in their district get admitted to college. The counselor replied that he had focused his efforts on “every major school in Alabama. And that’s Auburn and the University of Alabama.” As Milner notes, the counselor’s decision to ignore historically Black colleges and universities and attend only to segregated and historically White institutions, meant that Black students experienced curriculum punishment in that were never informed about HBCUs where they might have thrived. The counselor was functioning as a purveyor of curriculum in that he was teaching students about college access.

“Black students are punished for not being White,” Milner writes. “All students are punished for their counselor not being aware of historically Black colleges and universities and/or for having a counselor who does not see the value in exposing students to a learning opportunity that could benefit them.”

Milner shares another example offered by this same Black educator. He asked the educator if Black teachers in his district had, during the 1960s, led students in discussions of racist acts of violence against Black leaders such as Martin Luther King and Malcom X. The educator replied that, although the community was deeply affected by such events, they did not address them in school “because we had a White superintendent, if you addressed it, that would have been your last day at that time.” For this same reason, the educator, who Milner refers to as Mr. Williams, also refrained from sharing his own experiences participating in non-violent marches and communicating with Dr. King.

“This form of curriculum punishment is prevalent currently in many schools as educators, due to structural and systemic barriers, may not address the killing of unarmed Black bodies,” Milner writes. “Thus, the point is not to criticize Mr. Williams or the other teachers who did not teach about the killings but to stress how curriculum punishment is a manifestation of systemic challenges that worked to maintain the status quo.”

Milner emphasizes the importance of preparing teachers to address race-related issues with their students. Otherwise, he fears, we will continue to see educators actually “boast about the fact that they do not, have not, and will not address race in their talk, curriculum practices, or work more broadly.”

“[C]urriculum punishment,” he concludes, “can result in emotional, psychological, social, and traumatic cognitive strain and dissonance among young people as they attempt to make sense of societal injustices.”

In this moment of crisis, as people of color suffer disproportionately from the coronavirus pandemic and violence perpetrated through the state, this concept of curriculum punishment is more relevant than ever to our nation’s educators and schools.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 10, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett and Education: Where Does She Stand?

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Amy Coney Barrett and Education: Where Does She Stand?

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

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Amy Coney Barrett and Education: Where Does She Stand?

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With the memory of Merrick Garland’s thwarted nomination resonating and the rank hypocrisy fouling the Senate air, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues quickly ushered then-judge Amy Coney Barrett through a performative confirmation process. The U.S. Supreme Court’s newest member will soon begin to rule on cases with the potential to affect generations of students, teachers, and schools. Barrett’s writings, positions, and track record so far suggest that her education-related decisions may be the antithesis of those of her predecessor, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was known for supporting LGBTQ rights, appreciating the separation of church and state, and developing jurisprudence advancing gender equity.

Unlike Ginsberg, a graduate of New York City’s school system, Barrett has limited personal experience with public education. A graduate of a Catholic girls’ school in Louisiana, she has also sent her own children to religious schools. For nearly three years, she served on the board of trustees of a network of private, Christian schools that discriminated against LGBTQ parents, students, and employees.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Barrett said that she had “been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place.” Barrett will indeed be a very different judge, including in the realm of education. She described Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision that required the state to allow public fiscal support for religious schools even though its constitution banned the practice) as an example of the court’s view that “religious institutions cannot be discriminated against or excluded from public programs simply because they are religious.” And she called Brown v. the Board of Education a “super precedent” that would be “unthinkable” to overrule, even though an article she coauthored notes that full adherence to her doctrine of originalism (strict adherence to the original meaning of the constitution’s words) would require its reversal. Barrett has also publicly expressed doubt that Title IX protects transgender students who want to use school restrooms or locker rooms that align with their gender identities.

As a judge appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Barrett has been involved in several notable decisions involving education. Here’s a sample, culled from an article in Education Week:

Doe v. Purdue University (2019) was filed by a male former student at Indiana’s Purdue University, which had suspended him for a year after he was accused of sexual violence, leading to a discharge from the ROTC and the loss of a related scholarship. Barrett’s opinion, in favor of the student, concluded that he was “denied an educational benefit on the basis of his sex” because of a fundamentally unfair hearing and decision process that was biased in favor of the female accuser. Since that time, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has taken steps to further protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct. “Many universities and advocates for survivors of sexual assault state that these changes will make it harder to convince people to come forward and file reports, as the new guidance offers little protection and support for survivors of sexual assault,” NEPC Fellow Elizabeth Meyer said last year in an interview for this newsletter.

Consider also two cases concerning alleged discrimination based on the plaintiff’s disability. In both cases, Barnett signed onto opinions affirming the granting of so-called summary judgment (dismissing the lawsuit because the plaintiff is not entitled to win based on the facts that the plaintiff does not dispute). In Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School (2018), the plaintiff was an instructor at a Jewish private school. The panel held that the school was protected by a “ministerial exception,” based on a 2012 Supreme Court case that found that churches were exempt from discrimination claims made by their ministers.

In P.F. v. Taylor (2019), Barrett joined her colleagues in rejecting claims of Wisconsin students with disabilities who had unsuccessfully attempted to use the state’s open enrollment laws. The students were denied transfers to new school districts because those new districts said they could not meet the students’ needs. Wisconsin’s open enrollment statute, in fact, allows for denial of transfer requests by special education students due to capacity – specifically the availability of the needed “program or services” in new district. Students with disabilities have often faced discrimination or denial of services when they have tried to participate in school choice. But the Seventh Circuit panel of judges reasoned that the Wisconsin program denies services based on a district’s capacity to serve a given student with a disability (allowed) rather than denying admission by reason of the disability (not allowed).

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 6, 2020

More Than One in Five Americans is Food Insecure. It’s Even Worse for Kids.

An important item from the National Education Policy Center.

More Than One in Five Americans is Food Insecure. It’s Even Worse for Kids.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

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More Than One in Five Americans is Food Insecure. It’s Even Worse for Kids.

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The images and anecdotes are disturbing and revealing: In San Antonio, drone photos show what appears to be an enormous parking lot but is actually more than 10,000 people waiting in lines for a socially distanced food pantry that fed 50,000 people in a single day. In Central Florida, Disney fans from around the world have raised money to help support food banks that feed the many park employees who are out of work. And in California, in early October, an alliance of 36 food banks announced the packaging of the 100 millionth meal served during the pandemic.

“We’ve never experienced food insecurity at this level since we’ve been tracking the data for the last 20 years,” NEPC Fellow Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told Minnesota Public Radio last month.

As bleak as things look for adults in need, they are even worse for children.

In July, 29 percent of American adults with children reported food insecurity, compared to 23 percent for adults generally. Families with children typically experience higher rates of food insecurity—even when the world is not in the midst of a pandemic.

Food insecurity rates also typically vary by race. Among respondents with children, in October, the rates were 39 percent for Blacks, 36 percent for Hispanics, and 21 percent for Whites.

Between March and April of 2020, food insecurity skyrocketed, due to spikes in unemployment and loss of access to school meals, according to a report by Schanzenbach and Abigail Pitts. They found that 79 percent of families with children earning less than $20,000 annually, and 60 percent of those earning from $20,000 to $39,999, experienced food insecurity in April.

Food insecurity does not necessarily mean that children are hungry. For example, families may be considered food insecure if they are worried their food will run out before they could afford to buy more, even if they still have enough to eat. However, the “food insecure” status is still correlated with long-term, negative impacts on children’s cognitive development, health, and behavior.

Schools have been stepping up, making herculean efforts to provide meals to families while campuses are closed. And Congress’s Pandemic EBT program distributed money for groceries to more than half the nation’s schoolchildren, who received benefits worth about $120 per student per month.

This approach also has the benefit of minimizing exposure to the virus. “It’s not an extra trip,” Schanzenbach told CNN. “It just means that on the trips you take to the grocery store, you get more money to spend.”

The program was successful, leading to a 30 percent decline in the share of children not getting enough to eat, in the week after the funds were distributed, according to The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative of the Brookings Institution. However, despite being reauthorized by Congress for this academic year, its future is in question.

Schanzenbach is continuing to track rates of food insecurity for families with and without children, both for academic research purposes and with a public facing app powered by Census data.

“It’s crucially important to understand the economic challenges families are facing, so that we can hopefully devise effective policy solutions,” Schanzenbach told us.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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