Archives for category: Closing schools

The Network for Public Education has sponsored a series of weekly ZOOM conversations in which I interview someone who has important things to say.

On Wednesday, I interviewed Jitu Brown, a prominent community organizer in Chicago and leader of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has organizations in thirty cities.

When we set up the discussion, we thought we would talk mostly about privatization and Jitu Brown’s successful fight to save the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago. Jitu Brown is one of the heroes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH, for his success in stopping Rahm Emanuel from closing Dyett.

These topics were discussed but the main focus was on the murder of George Floyd and racism in America. Jitu Brown has quite a lot to say about racism, in large part because of his experiences. We also talked about a Rahm Emanuel, and his disastrous role in running the public schools as mayor of Chicago.

Listeners said it was a “riveting” conversation.

Listen and see for yourself.

Next week, I will talk with Amy Frogge, a great leader of the resistance to privatization in Metro Nashville. She is a member of the Metro Nashville public school board, as well as a parent of public school students and a lawyer.

She too is a hero of SLAYING GOLIATH for her leadership in defending public schools.

We will talk about “The Fight for Better Public Schools in Tennessee.” The billionaires and their puppet organizations have poured many millions into school board races in an effort to capture control of the district. Amy has fought valiantly against proponents of charters and vouchers.

This is a battle that is being played out in urban districts across the nation.

Join us on Zoom on June 10 at 7:30 pm, EST.

Community organizer Jitu Brown and I will be in conversation on Wednesday June 3 at 7:30 pm EST.

Please sign up and join us.

Jitu Brown is the leader of Journey for Justice, a civil rights organization with chapters in 25 cities.

We will talk about the murder of George Floyd, about racism in America today, about the legacy of Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, about Jitu’s fight to prevent the closing of the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago, and much more.

Robert Kuttner is editor of The American Prospect. Here he writes that Biden has asked Rahm Emanuel to advise him. What Kuttner fails to mention is Rahm’s disastrous control of the Chicago public schools. He should be forever stigmatized by his decision to close 50 public schools in a single day. He was continually at war with the Chicago Teachers Union. To know him, if you value public schools, is to loathe him.

Kuttner writes:

MAY 29, 2020

Kuttner on TAP

Say It Ain’t So, Joe: Rahm Emanuel?? Just when you thought that Team Biden couldn’t get any worse than Larry Summers, we now learn courtesy of the Chicago Tribune that Clinton and Obama alum Rahm Emanuel is a Biden adviser.

A quick refresher (or maybe emetic) on Emanuel. He began as a staffer in the Clinton White House where he helped push through NAFTA, then went to Wall Street to make his fortune (he made $16 million in less than three years). From there, he got elected to Congress where he epitomized everything bad about the revolving door.

As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he arranged to load up the House Financial Services Committee with Wall Street Democrats who sought the prized seat to raise lots of Wall Street money and protect Wall Street’s financial interests. This made the job of Chairman Barney Frank much harder when Congress was working on what became the Dodd-Frank Act.

Obama, looking for someone who knew Congress, selected Emanuel as his White House chief of staff, where he was a force for lowballing recovery outlays. He tried to talk Obama out of proposing the Affordable Care Act.

After exiting the White House, he got elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, where his approval ratings dropped to 18 percent following the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the city’s bungled attempt to withhold evidence. Emanuel initially announced for a third term, but pulled out. He then joined the private equity firm Centerview Partners.

Just the guy to advise Biden. Though events are conspiring to push Biden to the left, his default setting is to reach out to the old boys of the Obama years.

Meanwhile, polls show that Elizabeth Warren is the possible running mate most likely to help Biden get elected. The two have been doing a public mating ritual, but the Wall Street Democrats close to Biden will do everything possible to keep her from being named.

If by some miracle Warren is selected, it will be trench warfare, with Wall Street Dems demanding one of their kind for the power posts of Fed Chair, Treasury Secretary, and head of the National Economic Council to balance Warren.

Rahm Emanuel! A good thing that Andrew Mellon is dead and Bernie Madoff is indisposed.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher, has posted here many times about education and politics in his home state of Oklahoma.

He writes today about the politics of the pandemic:

When David Holt was elected mayor of Oklahoma City, I shared some of the concerns of fellow educators. I worried that the former Republican state senator would push for more charters, perhaps even the so-called “portfolio model.” But, what I’ve seen has been a civil rights advocate who actually listened to all sides. I repeatedly hear from friends that Holt has probably spent more time in African-American churches than all of our city’s previous mayors combined, and I suspect that is a big reason why he hasn’t bought the simplistic spin which many other Oklahoma leaders have.

I’ve attributed Mayor Holt’s open-mindedness, in large part, to the conversations that went with his celebration of the 60th anniversary of the nation’s largest Sit-In movement, which was led by Oklahoma City teachers and students. He listens. He’s not afraid to face hard facts of life.

In his 2020 State of the City address, Mayor Holt proposed a “big picture, everything-is-on-the-table, visionary conversation” about making schooling a team effort. Holt said it would “truly” be a collaboration between the OKCPS, the City of Oklahoma City, and community partners. Our schools and city need a “unified vision,” he explained. We especially need educators who “feel free to talk about the things nobody could achieve on their own.”

https://oklahoman.com/article/5656021/holt-focuses-2020-state-of-the-city-speech-on-idea-of-collaborative-conversation-to-improve-public-schools

Mayor Holt is now facing a challenge he cannot overcome on his own. And sadly, the stakes this month are life and death. I strongly believe that most people in Oklahoma City support the mayor’s leadership and his shelter-in-place policies. But we’re also the state where “one city abandoned its mask rule after store clerks were threatened,” and a McDonald’s customer shot two employees because she was “angry that the restaurant’s dining area was closed.”

So, I’m turning to a national education blog in order to tell a full story of a conflict that is growing across the nation. And since the Oklahoma governor intends to open up the state to an even more dangerous degree on May 15, our mayor, who has listened so respectfully to all sides but, above all, to the science, needs the public’s support.

For the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic, it looked like Mayor David Holt would be going down in history as Oklahoma City’s version of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Holt deserves much of the credit for helping Oklahoma City once be ranked by the New York Times as one of the nation’s top cities where “There May Be Good News Ahead.” The Times further explains that the April contagion’s decline occurred in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, but that the state is facing a rebound of the virus.

After facing irresistible pressure to prematurely reopen the city’s economy, it might seem like the Holt-Fauci comparison won’t endure. I believe that the next few weeks could further illustrate Holt’s and Fauci’s similarities. In both cases, the outcomes could be tragic.

In early March, Mayor Holt made it clear, “We will listen to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), we will listen to our local public health officials and we will follow the best science that the world has to offer.” Despite pressure to reopen Oklahoma City’s economy to boost short-term economic outputs, Holt says, “We will prioritize life.”

Mayor Holt: Plan to reopen ‘will prioritize life’

Similarly, as explained by Stanford’s David Reiman, Dr. Fauci “has essentially become the embodiment of the bio-medical and public-health research” which must drive decision-making. He’s done so by becoming “completely a-political and nonideological.” Fauci learned from the AIDS crisis, where he was among the first to sound the warning. He listened to protesters and adjusted his thinking based on solid evidence. Then and now, and when dealing with epidemics in between, Fauci saved countless lives by placing science over politics.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/20/how-anthony-fauci-became-americas-doctor

Dr. Fauci is disparaged by rightwingers as “Dr. Doom Fauci.” Mayor Holt has faced similar pressures. He must deal with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s dangerously mixed messages. And the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), a free-market think tank, has pushed a petition, claiming it “appears to fall in line with the recent goals announced by Gov. Kevin Stitt.” The OCPA denigrated “shelter-in-place” orders as “oppressive.” In doing so, it makes the type of simplistic claim which could be doubly dangerous as we navigate the complexities of returning to a more normal economy.

https://oklahoman.com/article/5660521/tulsa-tea-party-leader-organizing-back-to-work-rallies
https://oklahoman.com/article/5659690/stitt-says-his-safer-at-home-order-is-the-same-as-a-shelter-in-place-is-it
https://www.ocpathink.org/post/citizen-petition-supports-reopening-state

OCPA President Jonathan Small argues that Oklahoma doesn’t face a shortage of hospital beds so there is no “valid reason” for not allowing people to return to work. In fact, a premature attempt to return to normal could spread the virus, undermining the economy, as well as causing avoidable deaths. This will remain especially true until widespread testing for the virus is in place.

Even worse, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Governor’s Council on Workforce Development, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, and Stitt have indicated they support policies that could require workers to choose between their health and their income. Worse still, The Frontier reports that Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Sean Kouplen is urging employers to report workers “if they refuse a job offer from their former employer as the state begins to reopen.”

As state reopens, Oklahoma workforce leaders discuss asking for end to federal unemployment payments

State encourages businesses to report workers who refuse to return to jobs

Because of Oklahomans’ pre-existing health problems, our state is especially at risk. Like Dr. Fauci, Mayor Holt’s first and probably most important contribution was the decisiveness which kept Oklahoma City from repeating the tragic quarantine delays in Italy, Spain, Detroit, and New Orleans. When the virus peaks, however, more complicated and nuanced decisions must be made. As Charles Duhigg explains in the New Yorker, “Epidemiology is a science of possibilities and persuasion, not of certainty or hard proof.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/05/04/seattles-leaders-let-scientists-take-the-lead-new-yorks-did-not

Even though it made no sense to open barber shops, hair and nail salons, and spas by May 1 or earlier, nobody knows what is the right timing for reopening the economy. As Holt explains, “May 1st is not a light switch, it is a dimmer.” After expressing his concerns about Stitt’s reopening order, Holt said he intends to monitor data and adjust accordingly, and “If there’s a sudden shift, if there’s a spike, then obviously this experiment has failed and we have to go back to an earlier phase.”


http://www.msnbc.com/transcripts/msnbc-live/2020-04-27

Holt says he wields “a pen, not an army.” He correctly adds that people are choosing to respect public health officials’ expertise. Holt shares the credit for our social distancing successes, “People are staying home because they don’t want to die.” And yes, he was correct in asking, “who in their right mind” would want to end restrictions too early?

Oklahoma City Mayor Holt issues “shelter in place” order effective Sat night

“People are staying at home because they don’t want to die,” Oklahoma mayor stresses importance of social distancing

A Greater Oklahoma City Chamber survey backs the mayor’s appraisal. It found 67 percent of responding businesses cited “employee fear” as the biggest barrier to reopening. Moreover, 37 percent of companies plan to bring employees back in stages, as opposed to 20 percent intending to return their entire staff at once.

Some businesses reopening, others remain closed

Neither Holt nor Fauci know exactly what our next steps should be and when to take them. But, as long as we can learn from their leadership, we can all make wiser decisions.

Across the nation, some are responding to President Trump’s incitements, even bringing automatic weapons into the Michigan capitol to protest that state’s stay-at-home policies and in Stillwater, Ok, threatening violence to to stop the order to wear masks in businesses.

However, the New York Times’ David Brooks offers hope that Americans will listen to leaders like Holt and Fauci. Brooks distinguishes between “weavers and rippers.” He says, “The weavers try to spiritually hold each other so we can get through this together. The rippers, from Donald Trump on down, see everything through the prism of politics and still emphasize division.” Brooks concludes, “Fortunately, the rippers are not winning. America is pretty united right now.”

He cites polls showing that “98 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans supported social distancing rules,” and that “nearly 90 percent of Americans think a second wave of the virus would be at least somewhat likely if we ended the lockdowns today.”

As Nondoc reported, the early evidence on Oklahoma City’s reopening is mixed. Were it not for Holt’s leadership, however, I wonder how many more Oklahomans would be open to an absurd campaign to discredit “weavers” like Dr. Fauci and the Oklahoma experts who haven’t been able to persuade Stitt to slow down.

https://nondoc.com/2020/05/01/some-oklahoma-businesses-re-open/

Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reports that no student will get an F grade during the coronavirus closure, and schools will remain closed this summer.

Blume writes:

No student will receive a failing grade on their spring report card and Los Angeles campuses will be closed not only for the remainder of the academic year, but throughout the summer as well, the district announced Monday.

The actions are the latest sweeping measures taken by the nation’s second-largest school system in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is still no clear picture in testing, treatments or vaccines and we will not reopen school facilities until state authorities tell us it is safe and appropriate to do so,” L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner said during a Monday video briefing. “The remainder of the school year … will be completed in the current, remote fashion and we will have a summer session in a similar manner.”

The no-fail policy was posted in a late morning bulletin and confirmed by Chief Academic Officer Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, who spoke of educators’ concerns about the family hardships that are likely to limit students’ ability to learn in the district, where 80% of them come from low-income families.

Beutner praised the work of all district staff, especially teachers, during his video briefing, but acknowledged that all students have not had the same access to academic work since campuses closed on March 16.

“Many of the examples we see of successful video learning have a significant selection bias,” Beutner said. “Affluent families with resources at home, schools with years of training and limitless budgets and students with demonstrated aptitude to learn independently. Public schools have in their DNA the commitment to serve all students, irrespective of circumstance, and it will not be so simple.”

The state did not issue a universal mandate on grading, but California Department of Education guidelines say that schools should “enable students to complete state graduation requirements with needed flexibilities” associated with online learning. In their briefings, state officials have stressed that local educators intend to be understanding of students’ situations.

The state guidelines say that schools “should weigh their policies with the lens of equity and with the primary goal of doing no harm to students.”

Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced this morning that the city’s public schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year, but lessons online would continue.

Governor Andrew Cuomo promptly contradicted the mayor and asserted the decision was his, not the mayor’s.

Parents were outraged by the childish food fight.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Natasha Capers, 347.610.2754, ncapers@nyccej.org

PRESS STATEMENT:
Parent Groups Respond to School Closure Decisions:
During a Health Crisis, Leaders Demonstrate a Lack of Leadership

New York City, NY (April 11th, 2020)- Early today, Mayor Bill DeBlasio under the advice of public health experts, announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year due to the raging coronavirus pandemic. At the epicenter of the decision is the crippling impact the virus has had on our city and people. Later today, Governor Cuomo announced that there was no decision to close schools yet and that as governor it was legally his sole decision to make.

This squabbling between the mayor and the governor is embarrassing and causing tremendous stress for families, students, and educators. Their inability to come together, and make decisions informed by the well being of students and families, is immoral and will continue to have disastrous consequences for our communities, especially those so deeply impacted by the inequity in healthcare and testing. Parents need clarity in this moment, but Governor Cuomo’s constant need to have control once again takes precedence over him making the right decision for families.

Delayed decision making has led New York City and the surrounding suburbs to become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, with far more cases than many countries have. It is time for Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to end their narcissistic feud and start working together for the benefit of all of New York’s students and families.

We need leaders to put aside egos during this crisis and prioritize the well-being of students and their families. We need them to show leadership and to be on one accord for the health and safety of New York State and City. The consequence is unnecessary confusion and additional stress in a time when school communities are already traumatized.

This post is a public apology to Erica Green of the New York Times. She wrote on March 13 that the Centers for Disease Control recommended that schools should close for at least eight weeks. A trusted reader of this blog said that the CDC guidance offered several options, depending on local circumstances. I read the CDC guidance and posted a correction implying that Green had offered the worst case scenario.

Erica Green wrote me directly to complain about my “correction.”

Let me state here publicly and without equivocation that Erica Green was right.

I apologize.

Schools should close for at least eight weeks.

It appears likely, with the virus continuing to spread, that many, most, or all schools will not reopen until September.

No one knows when the disease will subside or be under control.

In the meanwhile, we must all take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Stay home to the extent possible. Wash your hands frequently. Practice social distancing. Be glad we have the telephone, the television, and the Internet to stay in touch with the world and with friends. Send love and gratitude to the healthcare workers and first responders who protect us. This is a time for kindness.

In the fog of the pandemic, it’s hard to keep track of school closings and cancellation of state testing.

In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly ordered closure of school buildings but schooling will
continue.

CLARIFICATION: Governor Kelly didn’t cancel school for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. She closed school buildings. Schools will be working to implement Continuous Learning plans for all students.
KS Dept of Education @ksdehq

Governor Gavin Newsom said that schools in California are likely to close for what remains of the school year.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-17/schools-closures-mobilize-meals

“California public schools are likely to be closed for the remainder of the school year in response to the escalating spread of coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday afternoon.

“I don’t want to mislead you,” he said to parents and educators during an afternoon press conference.

“Nearly all school districts in the state, 98.8%, are closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Newsom said. The state education department is assembling detailed guidelines on how schools can attempt to continue teaching 6.1 million students out of their classrooms in the weeks and months ahead.

“The announcement comes as the Los Angeles school district on Tuesday was ramping up “grab and go” food services to help feed more than half a million children displaced by the closing of schools due to the coronavirus outbreak.”

Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas announced that all schools are closed for the rest of the school year.

Governor closes Kansas schools, puts most state employees on administrative leave

Be prepared to hear about more states doing the same.

No one knows how long the global pandemic will continue, but there’s no end in sight.