It is week 166 of our new reality and we are thinking about why policy changes that empower families get labeled as “emergencies” by politicians, while systems that consistently fail kids do not.
“Is it an emergency when you’re losing an argument?” asks J.D. Tuccille in an article for Reason. “North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper thinks it is; he declared ‘a state of emergency for public education’ because state lawmakers propose what he calls ‘extreme legislation’ regarding education choice … It’s worth noting that Cooper declared a state of emergency not just because he’s losing an argument with lawmakers, but also because he’s losing an argument with the people of North Carolina.”
The legislation in question, the product of eight years of grassroots advocacy by CarolinaCAN Executive Director Marcus Brandon and supported by 73 percent of North Carolina families, would provide all families in the Tar Heel state with the same opportunities to find a school that best fits their children’s needs as wealthy families now enjoy (including the governor’s own family). It provides up to $7,600 in educational aid per child, with low-income families receiving the most aid and wealthy families receiving the least. “That doesn’t sound like much of an emergency,” Tuccille notes.
Perhaps more striking than declaring Marcus’ policy success “a state of emergency,” is what Gov. Cooper doesn’t consider an emergency. “Never has a ‘State of Emergency’ been declared for black and brown kids being 30-40 points behind in every category,” Marcus writes. This educational emergency only rises to the level of a political emergency when taking families’ “money with no accountability is about to end.”
Last time, we talked with HawaiiKidsCAN’s David Miyashiro about new wellness supports for students, computer science education and other Aloha State innovations and we explored the findings from a new EdChoice poll of America’s teens. This week we look at what it will take to end educational redlining and check in on new developments in educational innovation.
Help end educational redlining
In our latest video interview, Available To All Founder Tim DeRoche shares a story with 50CAN President Derrell Bradford: “This family had moved just outside of the boundaries of their district because they couldn’t afford a home. Their lease ended and they had to find a new home, but couldn’t find one in the district that was less than $8,000 a month. They moved just outside the lines. In the meantime, their son had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. And the school used the combination of those two things to turn the child away, to basically expel the kid from the school. ‘You can’t come back as a second-grader. You live outside the lines, and you have a disability.’”
In the wide-ranging conversation, Tim elaborates on points he made in his new piece in Time, “How Public Schools Cherry-Pick Their Students,” as he and Derrell question if our public schools can ever live up to the promise of providing equal access to the American dream when the system was designed from the ground up to restrict student movement based on racist boundary lines.
Tim also shares more details on the next steps for his new organization, Available To All, which will serve as a watchdog by gathering and sharing stories of families who have been wrongfully excluded from an equitable public education. The group is also gearing up for a legal strategy, including public records requests and filing suit against districts that are breaking the law.
He makes a request of our readers: “I’m very, very interested in people’s stories. So if you’re amped up about this because you have personal experience of something like this, maybe the school that’s closest to your home is not the school that your family is assigned to, you’re assigned to go to a school a little further away and maybe that’s not quite as good a school, or maybe the district hired a private investigator to follow you around and found out that you were using someone else’s address, we want to hear those stories. And we want to share those stories with the world.” You can reach out to Tim via Twitter or at his website, availabletoall.org.
- The task this week is to gather and share stories of families’ exclusion from public schools to help focus attention on the harsh disparities created by educational redlining.
Make uncommon education models commonplace
If there was ever any doubt as to the lengths parents would go to provide their children with a quality education, they were silenced with the unexpected and explosive growth of microschools during the pandemic.
Now, the VELA Education Fund has released a new report, “Open for Business” which surveys over 400 microschool leaders to gain insight into these programs’ student population, financial models and staffing. The report comes at the perfect time. With the wave of legislation across the country that empowers families to choose the education that’s right for their children, we find ourselves on the frontier of further growth of these “unconventional education” programs.
Among the findings: 93 percent of the surveyed schools reported serving low-income or historically underrepresented populations, with 38 percent reporting having a core focus on this population. That includes 50CAN National Voices Fellow Isis Spann, who launched her own microschool, FUNdamentals of Learning, in the early days of the pandemic. Janelle Wood’s Black Mothers Forum operates five microschools in Phoenix, Arizona and is providing an example of how microschooling can be one pillar of a multifaceted approach to community change.
Additionally, the leaders of these microschools are well aware of the demand and desire from parents to scale these programs–and it’s a demand they want to meet. Two-thirds of respondents stated that over the next few years they want to grow “a lot.”
Mike McShane and Paul DiPerna at EdChoice estimated last year that there are between 1.1 and 2.2 million children who are microschooling full-time.
- The task this week is to absorb the lessons of the “Open for Business” report to inform legislators and remove the barriers to serving even more families.
As shared by 50CAN President Derrell Bradford in an announcement last week and discussed in our opening letter this week, CarolinaCAN is celebrating the legislative progress on a universal ESA, nearly a decade in the making, that gives 100% of North Carolina students access to the education that’s right for them. Under the bill families will be eligible for up to $7,600 per child for tuition or other education expenses.
HawaiiKidsCAN announced the Afford College campaign, a new initiative that provides free financial literacy courses to Hawaii’s students. The effort was sparked through community feedback highlighting the need for asynchronous support for families to apply for FAFSA and budget for college or other career pathways. In addition, the HawaiiKidsCAN team is working with college counselors and educators at three pilot partnership high schools to maximize participation in the program.
NewMexicoKidsCAN ended the legislative session with a key victory on implementing structured literacy based on the science of reading. Now, the team has doubled down by releasing a new Literacy Toolkit for parents. While several of the recommendations are New Mexico-specific, the toolkit provides excellent resources for every parent seeking to understand how their children are being taught literacy, no matter where they live.
JerseyCAN is taking their advocacy for a better approach to literacy on the road. Over the past two weeks, the team has held film screenings and discussions of the “Right to Read” documentary across the state in an effort to inform parents about the state of literacy in the Garden State and the need for a new approach.
The National Center for Education Statistics released their “Report on the Condition of Education 2023.” The 74 reported on the key takeaways, including an increased demand for mental health services.
National School Choice Week is playing a critical role in helping parents navigate the process of receiving and spending ESAs amidst the deluge of new legislation. They’ve released state-by-state guides, such as Florida and Iowa, to demystify the process.
Sharif El-Mekki’s Center for Black Excellence was featured in a PBS News Hour report on the need for a greater number of Black educators in our schools. In Philadelphia, 48 percent of the student population is Black but that’s true for only 4 percent of teachers.
The Educational Testing Service and Carnegie Foundation have teamed up to create new mastery-based assessments, which should provide better information to parents about how their children are progressing while also enabling families to navigate a world of educational choices.
Brookings Institution’s new report on high-schoolers’ unequal access to extracurricular activities concludes that there are deep disparities in the current system.
Ramon Garcia and Marisabel Huarca Eguizabal, two of ConnCAN’s parent fellows, traveled to the state capitol last week to advocate for HB6663, which establishes an English Learner Bill of Rights. The fellows rallied with over a dozen representatives, eight Senators and Governor Ned Lamont, a key supporter of the legislation. Alongside coalition partners Make the Road and UPAS, the ConnCAN parent fellows made their voices heard on this crucial legislation.