Archives for category: Inequity

Congress appropriated $13.2 billion for public schools to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing cuts and layoffs.

South Carolina received $48 million in CARES funds.

Governor Henry McMaster has allotted $32 million of that total to underwrite vouchers for private schools.

Dr. Thomasena Adams, an educator and resident of Orangeburg, South Carolina, filed suit to block the Governor’s action. The lawsuit says the governor is giving a disproportionate amount of money to the 5,000 students who use vouchers, while shorting the 800,000 in public schools.

A circuit court judge in Orangeburg signed a temporary restraining order to block disbursement of the $32 million to voucher students.

Under the governor’s plan, students in Orangeburg public schools will receive $473 each, while voucher students will receive $6,500 each.

In recent days, the public learned that Jeff Bezos’ net worth has soared to more than $170 billion. Bill Gates trails Bezos at “only” $114 billion. The Walton family is in the same range ($150 billion among three of them). This vast accumulation of wealth by a very tiny number of people distorts the entire economy, especially since it contrasts with millions of people who are unemployed, homeless, and living in deep poverty. Is this the America we love? Is this the America that we want?

G.F. Brandenburg has reposted an essay here about the “looting of America” by the super-rich.

To change this imbalance which eats away at the soul of our society, we need the courage to write a new tax code. I don’t know how to write a tax code but I know what inequity looks like. It looks like what we have today.

Time to recommend an important book: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.

This is a powerful editorial written by the editorial board of the York Dispatch.

The Republican-controlled legislature has imposed a funding system that is literally forcing the school district to starve in order to survive.

It is an outrage.

This should be a cover story in every national magazine. It isn’t, because it’s all too common.

When we starve our schools, we destroy the education of the children who attend them.

The editorial says:

York City School District is trapped in a death spiral.

It’s stuck under years-long state management that limits how money can be spent. Charter schools are annually sucking more than $25 million from its budget. Miserly state lawmakers foist the responsibility for funding public education on local officials, thereby fostering a system that rewards students in rich communities and punishes those in poor ones. And York City taxpayers are fed up with paying taxes that are up to double what’s paid in richer districts with more valuable property.

It’s no wonder that, under these conditions, York City Superintendent Andrea Berry presented a slash-and-burn budget for the 2020-21 school year containing $6.2 million in cuts. And, sadly, it’s no surprise the district’s school board went even further, last week approving a budget that axed 44 positions, including 32 teachers.

And, even so, York City’s 2020-21 budget still boosted taxes. That’s how bad things really are.

Really, what choice did district officials have?

York City school officials are trapped in a budgetary spiral that’s plagued poor, largely minority communities throughout the U.S. for decades. Under-represented at the statehouse, their calls for funding reform fall flat.

Like anything stuck in a trap, eventually the grisly choice of gnawing off one’s leg is the last, best available option.

Easily available metrics, such as test scores, drive the moneyed classes from the city, exacerbating blight and crashing property values.

The poverty increases the demand for not-for-profits, which, in turn, remove more property from the tax rolls.

And, all the while, Republicans in the state Legislature tout the myth of “school choice,” a particularly insidious bit of libertarian conservative dogma — concocted in response to the integration of Southern schools — that conspires to privatize the American school system and funnel taxpayer dollars to religious institutions.

The results will be devastating for York City’s students and society at large.

Interested in the performing arts? Too bad.

Hoping to grow from an introduction in the humanities? Those options are even more limited now.

Programs such as these are, in a very real sense, the foundation of a well-rounded education, one that prepares students to take their place as active citizens in a representative republic. But, more often than not, society has decided that the liberal arts aren’t for poor kids.

Make no mistake, York City’s plight is one destroying urban districts throughout the country. Just ask Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who, in 2016, wrote a blistering ruling that attacked the very foundation of the system under which public schools are funded in this country.

His 90-page ruling was an indictment of the disparity between rich districts and poor ones that the U.S. funding model breeds.

“So change must come. The state has to accept that the schools are its blessing and its burden, and if it cannot be wise, it must at least be sensible,” Moukawsher wrote.

And yet, with the inherent systemic flaws well-established, school districts such as York City remain trapped and must eat itself just to survive.

Officials there had little choice this past week.

But the fact that they were left without any other options is neither moral nor just.

Thanks to Peter Greene for sharing this blistering but accurate editorial.

Tomorrow night, Andre Perry and I will talk about his new book Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Lives in a ZOOM discussion sponsored by the Network for Public Education. We can accommodate only 100 people, so please sign up early. If you don’t get into the first 100, the discussion will be live-streamed on NPE’s Facebook page and archived on its website.

Andre Perry was a charter school leader in New Orleans. He has since rethought the impact of charter schools on children, families, teachers, and communities.

I look forward to meeting him, virtually, and talking about what he learned. I hope you will sign up and join us.

Andre Perry writes, in a piece co-published by the Hechinger Report:

Defunding the police won’t mean much if we keep defunding schools that serve Black children and allowing a school choice movement rooted in anti-Blackness to thrive

A national uprising for racial justice and a pandemic killing disproportionately more Black people have made the call to action clear: We must dismantle the structures that generate racial disparities. Education activists have joined that call by demanding that districts defund police in schools. School boards are listening. The Los Angeles Board of Education last week voted to cut funding to its school police force by 35 percent, amounting to a $25 million reduction.

Calls to defund the police, whether in schools or in our cities, are just one part of what must become a larger movement to end taxpayer funding for institutions that are anti-Black at their core. But as millions of protestors across the country call for monies to be redirected from police to institutions that propel economic and social growth, democracy and unity, school choice advocates are holding fast to their sordid legacy of defunding already under-resourced traditional public schools that serve Black children.

Last week choice advocates won a legal battle that is out of step with the current march toward racial justice and democracy.

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that a program that grants tax credits to “those who donate to organizations that award scholarships for private school tuition” cannot prohibit families from using such scholarships for tuition at private religious schools. The scholarship tax credits were passed by the Montana legislature in 2015, but the program was effectively modified a year later when Montana’s Department of Revenue barred the scholarships from being used at religiously affiliated institutions. In support of its decision, the department cited the Montana Constitution’s Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the state from allocating public dollars to any school “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.” Kendra Espinoza and two other parents took the state to court; the case eventually reached the Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court’s conservative majority found that barring religious organizations from a “public benefit” was unconstitutional. “A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

There are several states with similar tax credit programs; this ruling could open the door to more religious schools accessing state dollars from voucher-like programs

The Black Lives Matter uprising should turn its sights to these states.

Voucher programs have largely failed at delivering better educational outcomes, and they prevent us from removing the barriers that stand in the way of quality for public schools. By diverting tax revenue and students away from school districts, states remove much-needed dollars that support a vital necessity of neighborhoods and society: public schools in which people of different religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes and genders can learn basic national principles of justice, fairness, tolerance and the common good. Vouchers support private institutions which do not have to make room for this kind of inclusion.

Public schools are not the problem. Racism is. Parents don’t need escape hatches; we need states to remove the structures that inhibit public school districts that serve Black and Brown children.

Voucher advocates use the words “choice,” “freedom” and “liberty” to promote their programs, but their use of these words is as fraudulent as that of the slave owners who signed the U.S. Constitution. The original supporters of vouchers were unabashed in proclaiming that the sole reason for these grant programs was to maintain racial segregation. After the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision struck down “separate but equal” educational systems, various state governments used public funds to facilitate the choice of many white people to send their children to private schools.

Shortly after the Brown decision was announced, Virginia Gov. Thomas Stanley was of one of many white leaders to look for a work-around. Thomas established a 32-member Commission on Public Education to study the effects of the Supreme Court decision and make recommendations that would, in essence, nullify the Court’s ruling. The group, known as the Gray Commission after its chair, state Sen. Garland Gray, met its mandate.

The Gray Commission’s 1955 Report to the Governor argued that “compulsory integration should be resisted by all proper means in our power.” It included suggestions such as using public funds to “prevent enforced integration by providing for the payment of tuition grants for the education of those children whose parents object to their attendance at mixed schools.” Across the South, many families chose private segregation academies, many faith-based, moving resources away from local districts. Ever since, choice movements in this country have been tied and rooted to anti-Blackness.

Combined with racist housing policies, the concept of school choice has often been a weapon against Black people’s pursuit of quality and justice in public schooling. The collective choice of the majority of white Americans to opt out of integrated school systems, by sending their kids to private schools or by drawing district maps that continue racial and socio-economic segregation in the suburbs or exurbs, has resulted in $23 billion less funding for schools predominated by people of color than for majority white schools.

Even charter schools, many launched as a way to better serve Black children, have been used as a tool for segregation or have been strategically concentrated in Black districts to defund traditional district schools. Many charters embedded racist disciplinary practices that helped drive the school to prison pipeline.

Just last week, the nation’s largest charter chain, KIPP, jettisoned its iconic slogan, “Work hard, be nice,” which it acknowledged “diminishes the significant effort required to dismantle systemic racism, places value on being compliant and submissive, supports the illusion of meritocracy, and does not align with our vision of students being free to create the future that they want.”

Voucher advocates, on the other hand, have celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision and doubled down on rhetoric around choice that fails to recognize the need for the communal good provided by public education and that is short on any acknowledgement that the promotion of individualism has hurt public schools that Black students attend. Choice advocates will say that Black parents should have the same options as white families, but they do not concede the cost of white choices on Black schools — and democracy itself. While public systems should not eclipse individual rights or needs, institutions like public schools that benefit the common good facilitate individual growth and societal stability. Exclusion, which private schools inherently facilitate, has distorted how people view public institutions. Private doesn’t mean better — for students or society. Filtering out students isn’t a reform we should be adopting.

At the precipice of change, we have an opportunity to do more than create escape hatches. We can actually get at the sources of inequality — anti-Black policies and practices within supposedly democratic systems. We don’t know what kind of choices traditional districts serving a majority of Black students could offer, because states have underfunded them for decades. White Americans who wave the banner of choice are promoting racism and getting in the way of real educational reform. And choice is blocking equity in public schools.

Andre Perry is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.”

This story about vouchers was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s newsletter.

Anyone who follows Twitter or other social
media platforms has seen the sickening videos of police using excessive force to attack peaceful protestors. We are witnessing in public the brutal tactics that people of color have long experienced. And we are seeing the effects of Trump’s advice to officials to “dominate” the streets even when people are exercising Constitutionally protected rights. You may even recall when he spoke to a convention of police in New York and advised them not to be too nice to the people they arrest. At the time, some police officials worried that Trump was encouraging police brutality. Of course he was.

One of the prime examples of violent action by law officers occurred a few days ago in Lafayette Park in D.C., when armed men in uniforms violently cleared away peaceful demonstrators so the president could walk with his entourage to St. John’s Church to brandish a Bible. Observers saw the political stunt as typical Trump phoniness, staged in front of a church he never attended with a book he never read. Trump retweeted a letter by his former lawyer John Dowd referring to the unarmed peaceful demonstrators as “terrorists.”

The White House has since been turned into a “fortress,” symbolizing government’s fear of the people.

Some of these videos show police beating anyone in their path. This video from Los Angeles is a shocking example. Two police officers in Buffalo were suspended for shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground, where he lay in a puddle of his blood. Police used their batons as clubs to beat back peaceful demonstrators.

The imposition of curfews, intended to curb looting, has created clashes between people exercising their First Amendment right to assemble peaceably and police tasked with enforcing the curfew. See here and here

Over 400 people who formerly worked in the de Blasio administration signed a letter strongly opposing his failure to rein in police brutality or reform the city’s policing policies. The mayor was booed when he spoke at a memorial for George Floyd.

The police are supposed to serve and protect the public. They are law officers. They are supposed to administer the law, not break it.

I respect the police. I have always respected the police. I am white and privileged. Many people like me are now at the receiving end and are seeing for the first time how people of color have long seen the police, as an occupying force.

There must be a concerted effort at every level of government to stop police brutality, to weed out those who don’t respect the rights of citizens and those who are racist.

If you want to understand how people of color see the police, listen to Jitu Brown.

These are the worst of times.

Police brutality in Minneapolis murdered a black man who allegedly used a fake $20 bill. Petty crimes are adjudicated in a court of law. Police do not have the authority or right to use lethal force when confronting an unarmed person. After a long string of similar incidents where black people were unjustly murdered, the killing of George Floyd ignited protests across the nation. Some of the protests turned violent, and fires were burning in widely scattered cities in the midst of confrontations between police and protestors.

Racism is America’s deepest, most intractable sin.

The explosion of protest is unlikely to lead to any productive change until the racists in the White House are ousted and replaced by people who are determined to fight racism. We currently have a government of old white men who have used their words and deeds to stoke the fires that are now burning. Trump has no credibility to calm the situation or to offer solace or to promise meaningful change. He has spent many years expressing the anger of racists, repeatedly claiming that President Obama was not born in the U.S., demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five (who were ultimately found innocent), pretending never to have heard of David Duke when Duke offered his endorsement of Trump, referring to the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” appealing again and again to the gun-toting, violent people who thronged to his rallies and praising them. No need to point out that Trump has stoked the fires that are now burning. We have all seen it with our own eyes. He is like a boy who plays with matches and eventually burns down his own house.

Last night on CNN, the Reverend William Barber referred to the protests as an expression of “national mourning.” The protestors are reacting, he said, not only to the death of George Floyd, but to poverty, joblessness, unequal treatment, hunger, injustice—to systematic racism and inequity that have been ignored for too long. For too long, our nation has been on a trajectory that creates and enriches billionaires while millions of people of all races, but especially black Americans, are expected to live a life of want and need and hopelessness without complaint.

Last night, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center released the text of a speech that Dr. King gave in 1967 in which he said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” He said, prophetically, “And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out an “economic bill of rights” in 1944, which has since been forgotten as a small number of extraordinarily wealthy people rig the system to intensify economic inequality, abetted by willing allies like Mitch McConnell. Even a huge multi-trillion dollar bill to relieve those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus turned out to be a package of goodies for big corporations.

Trump did not create racism, but he has used it and exploited it for his political benefit. He has ignored it, belittled its consequences, and courted the support of racists. He has made plain his contempt for his predecessor, our nation’s first black president. When Obama was elected president, many commentators declared that America was finally a post-racial society. With a man of African descent in the presidency, with a racially integrated Cabinet, with a black man leading the Justice Department, the stain of racism would at last be abolished.

The commentators were wrong. Racism is thriving. It will destroy our nation until we assure equal justice to every citizen, until we guarantee that everyone has the same rights and privileges, until we provide every man, woman, and child with decent health care, housing, education, and a decent standard of living.

We can’t eliminate racism entirely, but we can remove its adherents from the seats of power, we can stigmatize it. We can choose leaders who fight for freedom, justice, and a decent standard of living for all people. Unless we do so, our tattered democracy will not survive. We can’t let that happen. We must be willing and able to pursue genuine change, a social democracy in which every one of us is protected equally by the law and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is a heartening photograph showing a line of whites, apparently all female, arms locked together, defending black protestors against the police.

I don’t recall whites standing up to defend black protestors in the 1960s.

We must all stand together against racism, injustice, and hatred.

Juan Gonzalez is a veteran journalist who wrote a regular column for the “New York Daily News” for many years. He retired from the “News” but frequently appears on “Democracy Now” as co-host with Amy Goodman. Gonzalez is renowned as an investigative reporter and champion of justice. He wrote this post for the blog.


New Brunswick, New Jersey Community Fights to Save a Public School
From Corporate Hospital Industry Expansion

A plan by the political and financial elite of Central New Jersey to demolish a downtown New Brunswick public school this summer so that one of the state’s largest hospital chains can embark on a $750-million expansion has provoked repeated street protests since January, drawn hundreds of angry parents and community residents to public meetings and has already spawned two lawsuits – even in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown.

​The fight to save the Lincoln Annex Public School has emerged as a classic David-and-Goliath battle. On one side are New Brunswick’s low-income Latino residents. More than 50 per cent of the city’s population is Hispanic. Most are immigrants from Mexico and Central America, and many reside in rented houses surrounding the downtown business district. They have garnered support from a dozen Rutgers student organizations and the Rutgers faculty union, AAUP-AFT.

Arrayed against that community alliance is a group of powerful and entrenched institutions that have long pursued a policy of gentrifying the city. They include Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Rutgers Cancer Institute, the New Brunswick Development Corp. (DEVCO), and the Middlesex County Democratic Party machine, led by Mayor James Cahill, who has ruled New Brunswick for nearly 30 years.
​​​
​Last June, RWJ/Barnabas Health, Rutgers and several major state politicians announced plans to build a new 12-story $750-million cancer research and treatment pavilion. At the time, however, they didn’t specify the exact location of the new building, even though internal emails later obtained by parent advocates show they had already decided where. Within months, some local media began reporting that talks were underway behind the scene for the city’s Board of Education to sell a public middle school across the street from RWJ, so that the school could be demolished and the cancer pavilion erected there.

​Lincoln Annex School has an enrollment of 760 children, more than 94% of them Hispanic and more than 80% from economically disadvantaged families. Many parents of the students are not eligible voters and therefore have very little political influence. The school, however, was only opened in September of 2016, after the city purchased the former St. Peter’s elementary and high school, and completely renovated the site at a cost to taxpayers of $22 million. As a result, Lincoln Annex is in far better condition than other schools in the district, and it happens to be one of the city’s best performing schools, with an excellent gifted and talented program.

​Throughout the fall and winter, hundreds of parents and residents began attending the monthly school board meetings to ask if it was true that the city was about to sell their school. At each meeting, the BOE members insisted these were just rumors, or informal discussions, that nothing was on the table. Not until early February did Mayor Cahill officially acknowledge the school would be sold and demolished by this summer. He immediately launched a public relations campaign, claiming “cancer can’t wait,” and he labeled opponents of the plan as somehow opposed to cancer treatment.

​The plan is to relocate the Lincoln Annex students in September to a “swing space” the school district leases on the outskirts of town, nearly two miles from the current Lincoln Annex. The building is actually a warehouse in an industrial park that was converted into classrooms. The students would attend that “swing space” for at least three years until a replacement school is built. Given the notorious delays in school construction, it could likely be much longer. The last school population that was relocated there, the Redshaw School, ended up with pupils spending 10 years in the facility due to such delays.

​Robert Wood Johnson and its developer, DEVCO, have promised to pay for the new school. Initially, they mentioned $25 million. But as community opposition grew, they upped the offer to $50 million, then to $55 million. Still, the students would have to be bused to the “swing space” for years while the new school is built, disrupting their education.

​To make matters worse, Mayor Cahill initially proposed a vacant brownfield site also on the outskirts of town for the new replacement school. The Coalition to Defend Lincoln Annex, the alliance of community groups that formed, soon obtained state environmental records that revealed the site was hopelessly contaminated with heavy metals and carcinogenic chemicals, which the city and its private owners had not been able to remediate after 10 years of effort. Once the group made that information public, the city came up with a new site, one closer to the current Lincoln Annex, but one that is still a contaminated brownfield site. The extent of that contamination is not known because of delays in state responses to freedom of information requests since the COVID-19 lockdown.

​All the while, parents and community residents mounted numerous protests – at Board of Education meetings, at meetings of the Rutgers Board of Governors, at City Council meetings and at Planning Board meetings, but officials continued to ignore the public pressure and bulldoze ahead. As many as 200 people showed up to the Feb. 25 board of education meeting, all in opposition.

​Even the Catholic Church was drawn into the fray. When the Diocese of Metuchen sold the site to the Board of Education in 2013, it specifically included a deed restriction that the property had to be used as a “public school or for public administrative purposes” for fifty years. The parents, most of whom are Catholic, began to ask Bishop James Checchio to invoke the deed restriction and prevent the sale. They even appealed to Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark and to Pope Francis for help. Church leaders have declined to meet, but the bishop keeps issuing statements that he wishes to reach some kind of agreement with all parties.

​Faced with such overwhelming uproar, the New Brunswick Board of Education has resorted to limiting public testimony, ousting people from meetings, conducting official business in private, and otherwise violating state regulations on how to close or erect new public schools.

​Even after the coronavirus pandemic erupted, city officials kept moving forward with their plans, holding all meetings in telephonic conversations that further limited public participation. Initially, they claimed that the new school would not cost taxpayers a penny because Robert Wood Johnson would pay for the whole project. But then early this month, the Middlesex County Freeholders suddenly voted out of the blue to provide $25 million for the new cancer pavilion.

​At one point, members of the Coalition attempted to seek help from New Jersey’s non-profit Educational Law Center, which famously spearheaded the historic Abbott v. Burke decision thirty years ago that mandated the equalizing of state funding for public schools. But the center never responded. Only later did Coalition members learn that David Sciarra, the civil rights attorney who heads the law center, is also on the board of directors of DEVCO, the non-profit developer that is sponsoring this project!

​The Coalition eventually went outside of New Jersey, to a New York based Hispanic civil rights law firm, LatinoJustice/PRLDEF. Last week LatinoJustice filed two key actions. One is a complaint in Middlesex County Superior Court on behalf of parents and residents to enforce the deed restriction against a sale and raising key issues of violations of due process in the decision to sell the school. The other is a complaint to New Jersey Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, asking him to reject the Long-Range Facilities Plan that New Brunswick submitted a few weeks ago to the state, which must approve any school district’s amendments to its school facilities.

​The degree of wealth and power confronting this parent-community coalition is breath-taking. Twenty executives of the the non-profit RWJ hospital and its parent chain received more than $1 million in compensation in 2018, a review of their IRS 990 tax form shows, topped by RWJ/BarnabasHealth’s CEO Barry Ostrowsky’s $4.9 million, northern regional president Thomas Biga’s $3.5 million, and RWJ President John Gantner’s $2.1 million. Dr. Steven Libutti, director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute, was paid $1.1 million; Christopher Paladino, the chief executive of DEVCO, received nearly $700,000. All of this raises serious issues about how public education policy is being driven by corporate interests, how public officials are seizing on the COVID-19 pandemic, in shock doctrine style, to push through their agenda without public accountability, and why a supposed “sanctuary city” like New Brunswick is running rough-shod over the interests of its immigrant community.
​Meanwhile, parents and community leaders have repeatedly said they will continue to resist the sale of Lincoln Annex.

​For more information, follow Defend Lincoln Annex on facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Defendamos-Lincoln-Annex-110326327234225/

Nancy Bailey just keeps getting better and better as she points her pen and her blog at malfeasance in education.

In this post, she points to the recent landmark decision that recognized that the children of Detroit have a right to literacy, a right not previously acknowledged by any court (or overturned on appeal). The court quite correctly decided that young people cannot exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens if they can’t read.

What is DeVos’s role in the Detroit debacle? She has spent large sums of money to promote the false idea that the way to improve education is to expand school choice. Detroit is her handiwork, and it proves the failure of school choice. What she purchased was widespread inequity and inadequacy.

Open the link to read the full article and see the links to other sources.

Bailey writes:

The Detroit landmark decision that children deserve to learn to read in school is a case that reflects decades of troubled education in Detroit. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and school privatization are not mentioned in this case. But school privatization initiatives have been failing children in the Motor City for years. DeVos is the current face of a long line of those peddling such reforms.

Harmful school reform initiatives go back to Gov. John Engler’s administration. Many school reformers, both Republican and Democrat, have their fingerprints on the crime scene. The DeVos family is from Michigan and has affected Detroit and school reform there for years.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Detroit students who claim they were denied their rights to a “basic minimum education.” Called the “Right to Read” lawsuit, Gary B. v. Whitmer exposes the decrepit conditions found in schools run by State leaders who failed to support Detroit’s students. The case was originally filed under former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

It’s critical to recognize DeVos’s connection to the Detroit school failures. During this pandemic she is flagrantly redirecting public money to the same privatization agenda. It puts democratic public schools in jeopardy, like schools were put at risk in Detroit. Here’s a petition you can sign now to try and stop her.

School privatization cheerleaders have for years promoted the idea that choice will equalize education by giving parents choices. They’ve pushed for online charter schools and school turnarounds that get tough on teachers and students of color. Choice failed in Detroit.

Reading

Schools had no literacy programs.

The case describes what good reading instruction should consist of in school. Sometimes it appears to be delving into the Reading Wars, emphasizing the loss of explicit phonics.

The trouble is, one can’t get to a debate over how students learn to read, without overcoming the fact that students have untrained teachers and an atrocious learning environment.

It’s troubling to think the case might result in only professional development and a push for unproven programs, even online reading programs, that don’t address the need for creating quality schools, professional teachers, and more individualized attention for the children of Detroit.

School Buildings

Poor school conditions have been a part of Detroit’s schools for years. Students struggle to learn in slum-like conditions, no air-conditioning in the summer, freezing temperatures in the winter. Who can forget these pictures from 2016, the year the case was filed?

Vermin, mold, and contaminated drinking water plague the schools. Bullets, dead vermin, condoms, and sex toys have been found on the playground. Fire safety equipment and fire regulations are missing.

Betsy DeVos’s mantra is that education is about students and not buildings. She has done nothing to improve the condition of schools in Detroit or around the country.

Lacking Resources

Teaching resources were deficient. The case describes classrooms without enough textbooks, and old books that haven’t been updated in years.

The only school library mentioned had no librarian and was locked!

This is a tragic story. A 30-year-old woman, the first in her family to go to college, felt sick and sought testing in Brooklyn. Both times she was rejected. The hospital gave her Tylenol and sent her home. She died of COVID-19.

Rana Zoe Mungin was a black woman. Was she brushed off because of her race?

She must have been a remarkable young woman. She was a graduate of Wellesley College, where admission is highly selective, and UMass at Amherst.

The president of Wellesley, who is also black and is a physician, said that the death of Ms. Mungin highlights racial disparities in access to care.

Rana Zoe Mungin, a graduate of both Wellesley College and UMass Amherst, died Monday from complications associated with COVID-19. On two occasions prior to her death, her family said, Mungin went to a hospital seeking a coronavirus test but was unable to get one.

As the first member of her family to attend college, Rana Zoe Mungin quickly stood out for her work on race and class.

At Wellesley College, where she majored in psychology, she wrote about her family, and her upbringing in Brooklyn. At UMass Amherst, where she later studied creative writing, those at the school said her work added to the national discourse about institutional racism within MFA programs.

And so when Mungin, 30, died Monday from COVID-19 complications — after, her family said, she was twice denied coronavirus tests during trips to a Brooklyn hospital — some who knew her saw a tragic irony: The very biases that Mungin, who was Black, sought to bring attention to in her work ultimately played a role in her death, they say.

The circumstances surrounding her death have left those who knew her reeling. Though her sister believes the doctors and nurses who eventually treated Mungin did the best they could with the resources they had, she is also left to wonder whether earlier testing would’ve resulted in earlier treatment — and a different outcome.

“I felt like she had no fighting chance,” said Mia Mungin, who works as a registered nurse in Brooklyn, in an interview Thursday.

“Rana Zoe’s battle with coronavirus unfortunately sheds light on the systems of racial, gendered, and class bias — entrenched power dynamics — that she sought to expose and change in her work,” read a statement this week released by the English department at UMass Amherst, where Mungin earned her master of fine arts in creative writing in 2015.

“The dismissal of her symptoms is a register of the long history of economic and racial barriers to healthcare faced by Black women in this country.”

Dr. Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College and a former chief of the division of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that Mungin’s experience highlights the longstanding disparities that exist when it comes to minorities’ ability to access health care — and the manner in which they’re treated once they’re there.

“This is historic — we have data points overall for many years, and I think this pandemic has really brought to light these disparities in the most profound way,” said Johnson, who also is Black. “Here’s a young woman, a teacher, and she can not get the care she needs.”

COVID-19 death rates in communities of color have been vastly higher than overall mortality rates in many cities. Black people in New York have been twice as likely to die as white people; and at one point earlier this month, Black people in Chicago reportedly made up nearly 70 percent of the city’s coronavirus-related deaths, despite making up just 30 percent of the population.

Mungin, who worked as a social studies teacher in Brooklyn, was hospitalized in New York. But in Massachusetts, where data on the race and ethnicity of those who’ve died has been spotty — the ethnicity of half of the state’s 3,562 deaths is unknown — Black and Hispanic people have made up about 22 percent of the deaths for which race and ethnicity is known. That’s about the same percentage the groups represent in the population of Massachusetts.

But Black and Hispanic people also make up a disproportionate share of the confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state — roughly 40 percent of cases and 33 percent of hospitalizations for which race and ethnicity data is available…

According to her sister, Mungin visited Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn on two separate occasions between March 15 and March 19 with fever, chills, and shortness of breath. On both occasions, Mia Mungin said, her sister was told that the hospital wasn’t conducting COVID-19 testing.

Prior to one visit, her sister said, an EMT suggested Mungin was simply suffering from a panic attack.

“What they did was give her some Tylenol and sent her home,” said Mia Mungin.

On March 20, after her symptoms worsened, Mungin returned to the hospital for a third time, this time by ambulance. The following day, according to her sister, she finally received a test for the virus — which came back positive.

Brookdale Hospital did not immediately return an email seeking comment.