Monday, November 20, 2017

Californians for Justice calling for attention to School Climate Issues

Just reading this was stressful to me.  These statistics stuck right out—that I imagine might be similar in other states, including Texas:
Each student, one after another, drove the message home that youth of color are the most impacted by school climate, especially when there’s no meaningful relationships with adults in their school. Alena Cotton, a youth leader from Fresno, shared that “right now, students are experiencing a lot in and outside our schools:
  • More than  50 percent of students of color are experiencing high levels of stress because of the political moment.
  • More than 200,000 of California’s students are homeless or have unstable housing.
  • One-third of students report chronic sadness.
  • One-third of students report being bullied or harassed at school.
  • One-third of students cannot report at least one caring adult at school

Children and youth feel isolated from adults and this is not at all healthy for our society or for a democracy.  
Appropriately, the students say, "School climate is the heart."  Positive, constructive relationships with adults at school.  For all that they need to accomplish in life, what could be more important?

I found this to be true, as well, in the research that I did for Subtractive Schooling: U.S. Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring which I see is available now on Kindle. 
I like to think that our push for Ethnic Studies in Texas will go a long way toward addressing school climate matters, but so much more clearly needs to be done.  Hats off to CFJ for bringing this to light.

Angela Valenzuela


http://caljustice.org/

On November 8, more than 30 students of color and parents from across California, including representatives from the California Teachers Association, Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO), Faith in Merced, California Youth Connection (CYC), and Families in Schools, mobilized to send a clear message: school climate is a top priority and the State Board of Education (SBE) and California legislators must take action.  In a visual display inside the SBE, students painted the picture of what’s at stake for students of color when school climate is not prioritized: 
“School climate is the heart of our education system. Climate surveys are our school’s annual check-up. And when we don’t have these check ups, we are neglecting our heart,” expressed Armon Mathews, a youth leader in Oakland. 
In an orchestrated action, students stood by Armon and cut a red ribbon that symbolized school climate as a lifeline for so many students of color around California. As Armon stated, “when we neglect our heart...students don’t have a caring adult in their classroom. When we neglect our heart...foster youth and homeless youth remained uncared for. When we neglect our heart...a parent doesn’t feel welcomed on their child’s campus. When we neglect our heart….students aren’t prepared to go to college. When we neglect our heart...students drop out of school.” 
Each student, one after another, drove the message home that youth of color are the most impacted by school climate, especially when there’s no meaningful relationships with adults in their school. Alena Cotton, a youth leader from Fresno, shared that “right now, students are experiencing a lot in and outside our schools:
  • More than  50 percent of students of color are experiencing high levels of stress because of the political moment.
  • More than 200,000 of California’s students are homeless or have unstable housing.
  • One-third of students report chronic sadness.
  • One-third of students report being bullied or harassed at school.
  • One-third of students cannot report at least one caring adult at school.”
She went on to underscore the fact that, “right now, School Climate is being singled out. It’s not being treated like [other] indicators. It’s not annual like all the academic indicators. There is no funding to support it. There’s also not the same attention or direction. You need to ask, what kind of message does that send to us as students?”

Taryn Ishida, Executive Director of         Californians for Justice, presented as a member of the CA Department of Education's School Conditions & Climate Workgroup on the recommendation framework to advance school conditions &climate in the state
Taryn connected the importance of school climate data in addressing equity gaps for students of color, English Learners, and students with disabilities in the new CA School Dashboard and closed by asking state leaders to "walk the talk" on making school climate and student voice a priority.  
As expressed by Armon, students have been putting in a lot of time to improve our education system in our districts, schools, and here at the state capitol. We’ve been doing our part. It’s been 23 months since we first asked you to prioritize school climate as an indicator. Students can’t wait, we don’t want to keep talking about how important school climate is; we want action. We need you to lead with us.
Inside the State Capitol
As students and parents continued to speak at the State Board of Education hearing, another group of students, parents, and allies led delegation visits to eight Senate and Assembly education committee members to engage their support to defend and mend the Local Control Funding Formula, California’s public school fair funding system. As we go into 2018 and in the wake of critical elections, including new CA governor and state superintendent, it is imperative that we work together with our legislators to support and improve the LCFF, and to create  potential legislation and budgetary action to  strengthen student and parent engagement and school climate. 
During the legislative visits, we obtained critical information and gained insight on how vested each legislator is in the LCFF and in further collaboration with us. We also gained  helpful feedback on our efforts to organize an effective statewide push for budgetary action to further fund school climate and student and parent engagement. As a next step, we will be convening with the “Defend and Mend” coalition, a coalition made up of more than 15 grassroots organizations across the state representing more than 30 districts composed of student and parent groups engaged with their district LCAPs on the ground, in order to advance efforts to defend and mend the LCFF in the next year.

At the end of the day, school climate retook center stage in Sacramento, instilling in each State Board of Education member and legislator that school climate IS the heart of education and the lifeline for students of color.  Action is needed now; students of color can no longer wait. 

Connect with Us
  

  
Californians for Justice
1971 Las Plumas Ave
San Jose, 95133
510-452-2728
info@caljustice.org

Sunday, November 19, 2017

FULMORE MIDDLE SCHOOL PROTEST

A teacher, now on administrative leave because of a racist statement she made, led to the student walkout appearing in this video below.  So disappointed that this happened.  However, I am glad to see the students exercise agency by raising their voices and protesting injustice. 

-Angela


VIDEO: Austin middle school students walk out in protest of teacher’s comment

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An “insensitive statement” made by a Fulmore Middle School teacher prompted students to walk out of school as they chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”
Social media posts by students and family members about the incident claim the teacher told a student to “go back to Mexico” after the student spoke in Spanish. They say Wednesday’s walkout protest was a result of administrators not punishing the staff member. Wednesday evening, the district said the staff member has been placed on administrative leave for her comments made two weeks ago.
In an email to parents, Principal Lisa A. Bush said the teacher made the statement to a student but did not specify what exactly was said. “Comments such as that are not tolerated at any level and appropriate actions were taken,” Bush said.
Video posted online showed students filling the hallways of the school, located at 201 E. Mary St. in south Austin. The Austin Independent School District said several dozen students were involved in the walkout that started at 1:15 p.m. and lasted about 40 minutes — officials say it was “mostly peaceful” and Austin ISD police were called to the school.
“We the students felt that that comment had tones of racism,” 8th grader Jack Waters said. “And for a teacher to tell a student that was downright inappropriate.” Another student, Fidelmar Martinez, said the student involved is from Honduras, not Mexico.
The principal said, after learning about the staff member’s comments, the school’s counseling and administrative team engaged with students in “restorative circles,” designed to give students a chance to voice their concerns and feelings in a non-threatening environment.
“We encourage students that when they hear language that does not align to our school’s vision and values to report it immediately to an adult,” Principal Bush said. “Relaying information on social media may create misguided information.”
The school says it will continue multi-cultural education and training of its staff.

Here is another helpful link/story:


Teacher told student ‘Go back to Mexico,’ Fulmore Middle School protesters say


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Inconvenient Truth about Charter Schools in Texas: Look at the Evidence


This press release by former, two-term SBOE Member and Vice-Chair Thomas Ratliff (R-District 9) that came out, I believe, sometime in October 2017, offers an evidence-based, unblinking look at the status of charter schools in Texas.  Not a pretty picture.

If you want access to the data that he is referencing, go to this link (which expires in early December 2017).  It should concern us as parents, communities, and taxpayers that we are indeed "throwing money at the problem" as Ratliff notes, yet "legislative outrage for these substandard achievement numbers" simply is not there.  However inconvenient this truth about charter schools in Texas—which is really an insidious national-level, highly problematic agenda to corporatize and marketize public education—I say enough with experimenting on children and exploiting the public's ignorance and good will on the matter.

Do give this press release a close read and check out the evidence for yourself.

Angela Valenzuela

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Thomas Ratliff  (903) 717-1190





HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO WAIT?



When charter schools recently were accused of sub-standard performance, the Texas Charter School Association defended charter school performance as “steadily improving” over time.



While charter schools have seen improvement over the 20 years since their inception, it’s clear from five years of TEA data, that charter schools underperform as a whole compared to their ISD counterparts.  This isn’t an opinion; it’s the facts.



The evidence is in the past five years of TEA Snapshot Data available on TEA’s website.  Keep in mind, this isn’t based on the A-F Accountability System (which I agree is far from perfect).  These are the raw numbers, and the data shows the following:



Since 2012, charter schools have had fewer students in special education, career and technical education, and gifted and talented education programs.  Not just by a little, but a lot.  It’s interesting that a “random lottery” of public school students generates such a skewed student population compared to the state as a whole.  Maybe if a charter doesn’t offer those programs, the students don’t bother applying to attend that school?  Just a thought.



From 2012 through 2016, charter schools had a dropout rate of 3.5 times that of ISDs.  The five-year average was 5.7% for charters and 1.6% for ISDs.  The high was 7% in 2012 for charters and a low of 4.7% in both 2015 and 2016. So, the Charter School Association is correct.  Their dropout rate has improved, but they still fall well behind ISDs.



From 2012 through 2016, charter schools had a four-year graduation rate of 59.9% while ISDs achieved 90.8%.  Again, the Charter School Association is correct.  They improved from 52.8% in 2012 to 64.9% in 2016.  While this is an improvement, it is still nowhere close to ISDs.



From 2012 through 2016, charter schools tested an average of 43% of their students for “college admissions” tests like ACT and SAT.  At the same time, ISDs tested 68%.  So, given this difference, you would assume that charter schools outperform ISDs on the ACT and SAT tests, right?  Wrong.



For the past 5 years, ISDs have outperformed charter schools on ACT and SAT test scores, except for the 2016 SAT test where charters outperformed ISDs by 6 points (1399/1393).  This is partly due to only testing 50% of their students while ISDs test almost 70% of their students.



Say what you will about the STAAR tests, but over the past 5 years, ISDs outperformed charter schools on the STAAR tests.  Enough said.  Moving on to the next point.



Charters talk about how they have less money per student than the “average” ISD.  This is a point of disagreement that I won’t go into here, but let’s look at how that money is spent.



From 2012 through 2016, charter schools spent an average of 51% of their “actual expenditures” on “instructional” expenses.  During the same time, ISDs spent 57.5% on the same expenses.  Charters improved from 51% in 2012 to 51.4% in 2016.  Not much improvement here.



From 2012 through 2016, charter schools spent an average of 13% of their “actual expenditures” on “central administrative” expenses.  During the same time, ISDs spent 6% on the same expenses.  Charters improved from 15% in 2012 to 11.5% in 2016.  As you can see, while they are improving, charters still spend far more on central administrative expenses than ISDs.



Finally, if we give a nod to the state’s accountability system and look at districts that “met standard” or “alternative standard” (this is only available to dropout recovery charters), the charter schools have lagged behind the ISDs since 2012.  Charters have improved, however, from 80% to 85% of their districts having “met standard or alternative standard” while the ISDs have 97% of their districts achieving that measurement.



A few observations:



1.     Charters are improving, but they are still lagging well behind the ISDs across the board after 20 years of charter schools in Texas.

2.     ISDs leave the “college door” open longer by giving more of their kids the ACT & SAT.

3.     ISDs graduate a far greater percentage of students on time.

4.     ISDs spend more money in the classroom and less in the central office.

5.     We only know all of this because charters are ACCOUNTABLE to the state for these tax dollars, unlike virtually every voucher proposal floated out this year at the legislature.



So, we have to ask ourselves a few questions after reading this data.



1.      Where is the legislative outrage for these substandard achievement numbers?

2.     If we can’t or shouldn’t “throw money at the problem” then why did the legislature INCREASE state aid for charter schools by $1.46 billion while DECREASING state aid for ISDs by $2.6 billion (based on the adopted state budget)?

3.     If “competition” is supposed to help kids, how long will the state subsidize lower-performing competitors just for the sake of “competition” in public education?



Finally, “How long do we have to wait for the charters to fulfill their promise of improving student learning” compared to the ISDs that educate EVERY child that walks in the door?”  If this is “steady” improvement, how many more years will it be before charters meet or exceed ISDs and how many kids will be negatively impacted while we wait?



Thomas Ratliff is a former member of the State Board of Education where he served two terms as the board’s Vice Chairman.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Austin Am-Statesman Editorial Board Opinion: Texas needs to help — not pick on — children with disabilities


I fully agree with the Austin American-Statesman editorial review board that we must never hurt children with disabilities, particularly by denying them services.  This piece outlines the tawdry legislative history associated with serving children with disabilities involving the privatization of Medicaid as "part of a multiyear transition into the state-created STAR Kids managed care program, approved by the Legislature in 2013."  

It should concern us deeply that "Between February and May, 12 percent of children with the severest disabilities were denied Medicaid services, triple the overall rate of 2016, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission." (A-7, Nov. 11, 2017)  More than 2, 500 registered complaints this year signal that something is woefully wrong.  Other recommendations listed herein:
 The commission should mandate that no child with a disability be denied service or coverage until all necessary fixes to the assessment tool are complete.
Legislators must demand transparency and appoint resources to ensure that, in this case, managed care organizations deliver on contract expectations.
C'mon Statesman board.  You can do better than that.  With the word, "until," your sentence suggests that at some point, under some conditions, some kids can be denied services that they need!?  What the heck is government for if not to take care of our state's most vulnerable?  


It should enrage us that right now in Texas, many "children are being denied coverage and services without explanations."  I would therefore amend the Austin American-Statesman's Editorial Board Opinion by suggesting that no child in Texas that needs disability services ever gets denied these.  

This troubling tale provides yet another example of why privatizing services is the wrong way to go.  Our senators and representatives need to hear from our communities. 

We're not at all helpless as parents or communities.  We are all "constituents" to some legislator that represents us and they need to hear from them or else the status quo prevails.  If you do not know who represents you, visit the Texas Legislature online and plug in your information here, and it'll let you know.  

Disability Rights Texas is an excellent advocacy group to reach out to, by the way.   Follow them on Twitter: @DisRightsTx

Let's also be forward looking and let's get these people who fail to respect democratic principles like the public good out of office. 

Angela Valenzuela 
c/s



Viewpoints: Texas needs to help — not pick on — children with disabilities





Picking on the most vulnerable is not the Texas way. Yet, it is exactly what state lawmakers do each time they take aim at programs that serve children with disabilities. It’s no surprise then that in its quest to change how it handles Medicaid, Texas has hurt more than help hundreds of children with disabilities.
The list of hurt caused by cuts and the privatization of Medicaid is long. Families report less access to much-needed medical services, such as life-altering therapies and critical prescription drugs for children, the American-Statesman’s Julie Chang reported. Less timely access to services has created life-or-death situations for some children and regressed hard-fought progress for others.
The list of hurt caused by cuts and the privatization of Medicaid is long. Families report less access to much-needed medical services, such as life-altering therapies and critical prescription drugs for children, the American-Statesman’s Julie Chang reported. Less timely access to services has created life-or-death situations for some children and regressed hard-fought progress for others.
This can’t continue. The Legislature needs to help Texas find its way back to standing up for these children, not knocking them down.
SPECIAL REPORT: How Texas Medicaid is failing children with disabilities.
Lawmakers can start by reinstating funds for therapy services and to early intervention programs that help improve the quality of life for children with disabilities. State leaders should also demand transparency from organizations managing Medicaid programs and set aside enough resources to properly supervise those contracts.
For years now, a Republican-dominated Legislature has cut programs that serve the state’s poor and vulnerable. That includes the Legislature’s steady course to the privatization of Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that has successfully served children with disabilities from families of all economic statuses. Cuts to such programs, lawmakers say, save us money. Meanwhile, the state’s most vulnerable continue to pay the price.
Consider that in 2011, a tough budget year for the state, lawmakers cut costs by limiting eligibility for Early Childhood Intervention services to children with the severest disabilities. Such services for children up to 3 years old help kids with developmental delays and disabilities prepare for kindergarten while saving the state money on costly special education services down the road.
Since the state’s narrower eligibility requirement, enrollment for Early Childhood Intervention services has dropped 14 percent statewide to 59,000. Funding for services has declined 11 percent to $142 million in 2017, Chang reported.
In 2015, the Texas Legislature lowered Medicaid reimbursement rates to physical, occupational and speech therapists that serve children with disabilities by $350 million. Lawmakers restored a quarter of the cuts this year, but health commission officials made more reductions in September.
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Without proper therapy, progress a child has achieved can stall or reverse. Legislators should reinstate those funds.
Then last year, Texas turned over Medicaid services for children with disabilities to private companies and hospitals, called managed care organizations.
The move was part of a multiyear transition into the state-created STAR Kids managed care program approved by the Legislature in 2013. Now, instead of handling the medical services for 164,000 children with disabilities, Texas pays managed care organizations by the patient, not the services delivered. The program is expected to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
As many suspected, the move has been anything but smooth.
Between February and May, 12 percent of children with the severest disabilities were denied Medicaid services, triple the overall rate of 2016, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Under STAR Kids, surgeries previously approved are now being denied; access to critical medication and medical supplies has become difficult; patients are waiting longer periods between appointments and receiving less time with specialists and therapists; and children are being denied coverage and services without explanations.
It’s not surprising. Less services mean more profits for managed care organizations.
Texas’ least fine hour came when the Legislature chose to continue with a managed care model knowing it would be riddled with problems. State leaders know that health insurers cut corners and can inflate diagnoses to maximize profits. Still, they proceeded.
Shameful.
As expected, grievances have been plentiful. Since last November, more than 2,500 complaints from providers and families have been lodged against STAR Kids, according to the health commission.
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The commission is addressing the increase in denials by analyzing whether the STAR Kids assessment tool used by managed care organizations to determine services is accurate. The commission should mandate that no child with a disability be denied service or coverage until all necessary fixes to the assessment tool are complete.
Legislators must demand transparency and appoint resources to ensure that, in this case, managed care organizations deliver on contract expectations.
Texas once placed importance on investments that help our most vulnerable. We need to get back to those values.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Among UT grads, Latina women earn less than white men

This wage gap is systemic and this wage-gap differential is massive, even impacting graduates today from the University of Texas at Austin. 

The 54 cent pay gap for Latinas represents the average across all states, but in Texas, Latinas earn 44 cents for every $1 a white male makes, according to a 2017 National Partnership for Women and Families report.

 It's not as simple as Latinas working in lower-earning fields like teaching.  We should also as a society value the teaching field as we value any other and pay teachers well. Let's not shunt our responsibiities here and blame the victim. 

-Angela

Among UT grads, Latina women earn less than white men

Photo Credit: Rena Li | Daily Texan Staff
Public relations senior Joy Puder worries she will not earn what her white male counterparts earn after graduation.
“A Latina woman, to make the same amount of money a white man does in a full year, has to work the whole year and up to November just to get what he does,” said Puder, who is Latina herself. “She has to work, like, twice as hard.”
Latinas in the U.S. earn on average 54 cents for every $1 a white male earns, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Last Thursday marked Latina Equal Pay Day, the day an average Latina would catch up to a white male’s yearly earnings from 2016.
The national gender pay gap consists of women earning 80 cents for every $1 a white male makes regardless of industry, according to the National Women’s Law Center. 
“In general, Latinas are going to be (some) of the lowest earning individuals by race and gender,” said Megan Fasules, an author of a 2017 report about earnings for UT System graduates.
Fasules said the gender pay gap among UT System college graduates often results from differences in the fields women tend to be attracted to for majors and careers. For example, more women tend to go into education, which is a lower-earning field compared to the more male-dominated science, technology, engineering and math fields.
“A big factor is what women choose to major in,” Fasules said. “We tend to have different interests than men, and, unfortunately, our interests tend to earn us less money.”
The 54 cent pay gap for Latinas represents the average across all states, but in Texas, Latinas earn 44 cents for every $1 a white male makes, according to a 2017 National Partnership for Women and Families report.
“In the nation as a whole, Latinas, once they get a bachelor’s degree … do tend to have higher median earnings,” Fasules said. “In Texas, that’s not the case.”
According to the study, Latina UT System graduates earned 75 percent of what white male graduates earned in the three years following graduation. The pay gap between males and females exists among UT graduates of all races. When compared to Latino graduates, Latina graduates earn 93 percent of their pay. White women earn 83 percent of what white male graduates do.
Lecturer Victoria DeFrancesco Soto said fixing the general pay gap can be hard because women also lose wages when they become mothers. She said Latinas tend to usually have more children, widening the pay gap.
“The truth is that Latinas, in general, have a lower educational attainment than other groups, and we also tend to have more children,” DeFrancesco said.
Fasules said providing students with more information about their potential earnings in different fields could help increase the number of Latinas and females in higher-earning fields. UT students can explore earnings by career through the online tool SeekUT.
Puder, who is graduating in December, said she wishes she knew more about entry-level wages when she began her search for public relations jobs.
“It’s important for me, because I’m a woman of color, and I want to get paid the same because I work just as hard as white men,” Puder said.