100 weeks ago, Tom Hanks and NBA basketball player Rudy Gobert revealed they were in quarantine after contracting Covid-19, San Francisco became the first city in America to announce that they were locking down and we recognized as a nation that a new reality had arrived. In our first issue of this newsletter, I wrote: “Most experts estimate that developing a vaccine for Covid-19 will take 12 to 18 months or longer. That means we need to accept school disruptions as a new normal that may not last only weeks or months but continue through much of the year.”
That prediction of long-term school disruptions unfortunately came true, time and time again. Now, 22 months later, Apoorva Madavalli writes for The New York Times that the “best-case scenario is that the Omicron variant is the last bad variant of the virus and that the worst is behind us. It’s possible that as early as March or April, we’ll start to get back to some version of our pre-pandemic lives.”
Yet, “back to normal” can’t be our goal for American education. At 50CAN, we’re seizing upon the desire among students and their families for something better. This push for better can be found in the work captured in our recent 2021 CANnual Report, the 2022 policy goals of our local leaders and the call for a new generation of advocates in the recently opened applications for our National Voices Fellowship, whose participants and alumni will play a key role in building support for the education system of the future among parents, journalists and the public.
Last time in The New Reality Roundup, we featured NewMexicoKidsCAN’s Amanda Aragon on the launch of her news website, NMEducation.org, and looked at the importance of building great tutoring programs to address learning loss.
This week, we explore the importance of seeing the potential in every child by spotlighting two stories: one, of our Board Chair Michael Phillips and another of a child in Georgia who was given a new chance through a special needs scholarship.
FROM THE FIELD
HawaiiKidsCAN had a strong start to the 2022 legislative session. As of the start of February, five of the team’s priority bills have passed out of their all-important first committees. Policy initiatives include a statewide family grant program, incentive funding to quality career readiness programs, and the diversification of state board of education members.
In Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee gave his State of the State address that touched on several core priorities that have been advanced by TennesseeCAN, including $750 million for a new student-based funding formula, $500 million for career and technical education, $25 million to continue summer learning camps and $32 million for charter school facilities. Providing direct aid to families, another key priority for TennesseeCAN, was filed as SB2389.
In the Peach State, progress continues toward expanding students’ right to choose the education system that works for them, with one of GeorgiaCAN’s ESA bills, HB60, passing out of the House Education Committee.
NewMexicoKidsCAN’s Amanda Aragon made the case that with New Mexico spending an additional $3,000 per student this year, the state has the necessary resources to ensure budget transparency, restart student assessments and provide students with additional learning time.
The team at Transform Education Now fought for the creation of a new, bilingual elementary charter school in the Adams 14 district. This new option for families was approved by the school board after a close vote.
50CAN President Derrell Bradford participated in a debate on school choice and public education on C-SPAN. “The idea that the place where you live—and the zone around that place where you live—are the things that fund your school is fundamentally zero-sum,” Derrell argued. “The mindset is: MY house, MY taxes, MY school.”
Moment of Resilience
Dominique Foster, the 2022 Washington DC Teacher of the Year, shared a photo of Pre-K students dressed up as the doctors of the future in celebration of Black History Month. Foster, a teacher at Friendship Public Charter School, is beloved by her students and administration. “Working with some of our youngest scholars, you really have to find creative ways to bring them in and engage them in the learning,” her principal, Gregory Spears, told the Washington Post. “That’s never a question as you walk through her space.”