The Educator-Activist’s To-Do List – NEA Today

Whether you are a new or veteran educator, the start of a new school year can be overwhelming. The entire community counts on educators to set up the school, help students get situated, and solve whatever problems crop up along the way.

But your community is also counting on you to keep advocating for the resources your students deserve, by telling local, state, and federal policymakers what your kids need to succeed. The educator voice is trusted and needs to be heard.

For Alaska special education teacher Winter Marshall-Allen, being an educator-activist means calling for better school funding and restorative justice practices to ensure that her special needs students are treated fairly and receive the services they need.

Marshall-Allen uses more than just facts and figures to make her case with policymakers. It’s the personal stories that resonate, and her own story is a starting point.

“I would not have my current job and opportunities as an educator were it not for the efforts of social justice and civil rights activists who preceded me,” says Marshall-Allen. “I had an Individualized Education Plan for visual impairment thanks to the American with Disabilities Act. Now, I am able to advocate for those who might be seen as less able or undeserving because they differ from societal expectations.”

True, it can be hard to find time for advocacy work, which can be emotionally taxing. But it’s worth it, says Marshall-Allen.

“Fighting with one’s heart is the most rewarding and significant display of love we can show our students,” she says. “Advocating for education and seeing how that affects my community and my students reaffirms that the struggle is worth it.”

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Add Everyone Who Represents You to Your Mobile Contacts

Include all elected leaders—from your district school board members to your members of Congress—with their D.C. and back-home office numbers! Be ready to hold them accountable, and thank them when they do right by public schools.

Get the News that Public School Advocates Need is an essential resource that helps busy educators stay in-the-know on state and national politics, legislation, and events that affect public education. It offers quick and easy ways to support good initiatives, speak out against bad ones, and to share your story with decision makers.

Follow EdVotes on Facebook and Twitter and you won’t miss a beat. For more on what’s happening on Capitol Hill, sign up for NEA’s Education Insider. You’ll receive federal legislative updates on the topics of most interest to you, plus action alerts to let you know when it’s time to reach out to the folks who represent you in Congress.

Finally, check out your state association website and make sure you’re taking advantage of the insights and information their political experts have to offer. Follow your state association on social media and sign up for legislative newsletters or text alerts.

Start Spreading the Word

Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Make sure everyone in your networks knows that you care passionately about public education—and show them how they can help us defend it!

“Like” Speak Up for Education & Kids, and share EdVotes articles on Facebook and Twitter (follow our feed!). And make sure you’re connected to your state association’s social media, too.

But don’t forget what always works best—face-to-face conversations are still the most potent tool for engaging others. Activism starts with the everyday conversations you have with friends, your family, colleagues and people you meet. By knowing your issues and actively listening to what others have to say, you are more likely to encourage others to get involved in the fight to invest in our public schools.

Make Your Voice Heard in the 2020 Presidential Election

November 2020 is more than a year away, you say? True, but the presidential candidates are defining their education policy right now, and will soon debate the issues.

That’s why NEA has already launched its Strong Public Schools 2020 campaign. Now is the time for educators to get involved and ensure that their voices are heard—by their union, by the presidential candidates, and within their own communities.

Go to to:
• Find information about the 2020 candidate and compare their positions on important issues;
• Find events hosted by presidential candidates and NEA;
• Learn about every step of NEA’s candidate recommendation process

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California State Bar ‘Inadvertently’ Leaks Essay Topics Ahead Of Exam

The State Bar of California admitted Sunday to “inadvertently” leaking essay topics for Tuesday’s exam to more than a dozen law school deans last week.

The agency became aware on Saturday that it prematurely gave deans at 16 California law schools a list of general topics that are in this month’s California bar exam that takes place Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a statement released Sunday by Donna Hershkowitz, chief of programs. The statement said the release was a memo that is usually sent after the exam as part of an invitation to observe a grading session of the exam.

“We have no evidence the information was shared with students. However, out of an abundance of caution and fairness, and in an attempt to level the playing field should any applicants have had access to the information contained in the memo, on Saturday evening, we emailed the same information, verbatim, to all those preparing to take the examination,” the statement read. “We apologize for the error.”

The National Conference of Bar Examiners confirmed to the California State Bar that the leak did not affect the national component of the exam, only the portion about California law.

The essay topics that were leaked are civil procedure; remedies/constitutional law; criminal law and procedure; professional responsibility; and contracts. The leak also included the performance test question’s task and topic, which was respectively “objective memo” and “evidence.”

Teresa Ruano, a program supervisor for the Office of Strategic Communications with the State Bar of California, said that the exam will take place without the changes despite the leak, according to The Mercury News.

“The good news for exam takers is that it eliminates about a dozen possible essay topics, so they know exactly which essay topics to focus on and which to ignore in their last days of preparation,” said Kaplan Bar Review Vice President Tammi Rice, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The topics cover the written portion of the exam, which takes place on Tuesday. The multiple-choice questions will happen on Wednesday. The Bee reports that approximately 9,000 people this week are expected to take the exam, which is generally considered to be one of the toughest tests in the country.

Pass rates for California’s bar exam have declined in recent years, resulting in law school deans to call for an overhaul of the exam. Deans have said the state’s minimum passing score is too high at 144, compared to the national average of 135.

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Student Group Says Harvard ‘Woefully Failed’ To Address Racist, Sexist Messages

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — An association of black students at Harvard Law School says the university “woefully failed to act” after four students received offensive emails and text messages from an anonymous sender.

The Harvard Black Law Students Association issued a statement Friday criticizing the school after it was unable to determine who sent the “hateful, racist and sexist” messages, and after officials refused to share details of an investigation with students who received the messages.

Four students, including two who are black, notified school officials this year that they had separately received messages with comments including “we all hate u,” “you know you don’t belong here” and “youre just here because of affirmative action.”

Harvard officials say the case was investigated by university police, information technology officials and an outside law firm hired by the school, but they have been unable to determine who was behind the messages.

“Sadly, the realities of technology sometimes permit those who commit such acts to evade detection, and we are disappointed that we were unable to identify who is responsible despite our efforts along multiple fronts,” a Harvard Law School spokesman said in a statement.

The student group believes the messages came from another student or students, but Harvard officials say that has not been confirmed. The group says the messages were sent from “retailer display phones” and two anonymous Gmail accounts.

Part of the dispute arises from a request to share details of Harvard’s investigation. The four students say Harvard officials promised to provide the findings of the investigation but have refused to do so. Harvard officials say student privacy laws prohibit them from sharing the findings.

“For reasons of student privacy and confidentiality reflected in federal law and HLS practice, Harvard Law School will not publicly disclose details of investigations,” Marcia Sells, the dean of students, said in a statement. “This practice is designed to protect the respective rights of all parties involved in any investigation.”

Sells added that the school’s administrators “continue to condemn in the strongest terms any communication or action that is intended to demean people.” But the group says the four students relied on the administration’s promise when they agreed to a school investigation.

“Now, more than seven months since the first hateful message was sent, the sender of this message remains unidentified and free to continue harassing Black and women students, meanwhile the targeted students have been left to continue fearing for their safety,” the group said in its statement.

Simmering racial tensions have occasionally flared at the elite law school in recent years. In 2015, portraits of several black professors were vandalized in a Harvard Law building, with slashes of black tape placed over the photos. Harvard police eventually closed the case without finding a culprit.

Later, in 2016, the law school agreed to retire its official crest after students protested its connection to an 18th-century slaveholder, Isaac Royall Jr., who donated his estate to create the first law professorship at Harvard.

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South Dakota Requires Public Schools To Display ‘In God We Trust’

South Dakota now requires public schools across the state to inscribe their walls with “In God We Trust,” the nation’s motto rooted in religion.

Gov. Kristi Noem signed the law in March requiring that the message be displayed in prominent areas of public schools. The law went into effect this month, meaning students in all 149 South Dakota school districts will see the motto on their first day of classes for the 2019-2020 school year.

State lawmakers who introduced the bill said the new mandate is meant to inspire patriotism in schools, according to The Associated Press.

According to the law, the displays of “In God We Trust” must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches and approved by the school’s principal. The message can be painted, stenciled or hung as a plaque, but the law does not provide funding for schools to install the displays.

Rapid City Area Schools has already worked to install the motto in all 23 of its schools and chose to stencil it to save money. Stenciling cost about $2,800, district community relations manager Katy Urban told NPR.

Urban told the radio network that the community is fairly conservative and believes “it’s a really great thing for our schools and our districts and that kids are seeing it posted on a daily basis.” But she added that she’s seen vocal criticism and comments online that threaten a lawsuit.

“Our position is that it’s a terrible violation of freedom of conscience to inflict a godly message on a captive audience of school children,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, told AP on Wednesday.

If someone should file a lawsuit against a school district, employee, school board or school board member over the message, South Dakota’s attorney general is required to represent them at no cost, according to the law. The attorney general’s office said it had not received any lawsuits as of Thursday, NPR reported.

In May, a group of students from Rapid City’s Stevens High School told their school board that the motto appears to favor Christianity over other religions, according to the Rapid City Journal. The group, called Working to Initiate Societal Equality (WISE), suggested that the district display a different version of the message that includes Buddha, Yahweh, Allah, science and the spirits. 

“I think that’s a really foundational element of American society, is that we are a cultural melting pot and it is really important that we make all people who come to America to feel welcome and to be more in accordance with the First Amendment, since we all have the freedom of religion,” Stevens High student Abigail Ryan told KOTA-TV.

Urban said there’s “been no discussion among the board about any alternative,” according to the Journal.

“In God We Trust” was adopted as the country’s motto in 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the proposal into law, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. It appeared on paper money the following year but had been displayed on coins since 1864 amid increased religious sentiment during the Civil War.

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Almost One-Third of New Teachers Take on Second Jobs

Jess Marboe, a fifth-grade teacher, waits tables during her second job at Jaker’s Bar and Grill in Idaho Falls, Idaho. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP)

One of the most persistent and annoying myths about educators is that they have “summers off.” Far from enjoying a two- or three-month vacation, they use a good chunk of that time writing curriculum, attending workshops, catching up on professional reading, etc.

And many of them work summer jobs, generating additional income necessary to make ends meet.

Overall, 16 percent of teachers have non-school jobs over the summer. If you’re younger and newer to the profession, however, it’s more likely you’ve been spending a good part of the summer earning another wage, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Digging into data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) covering the 2015-16 school year (the most recent figures available), Pew found that roughly one-third of teachers with one year or less experience had non-school jobs over the summer. About 20 percent of teachers with two to four years experience had summer jobs, compared with 17 percent of teachers with five to nine years.

For those newer teachers, the money earned during the summer amounted to 12 percent of their annual earnings, higher than the 7 percent it generated for more experienced educators.

Pew also found that teachers younger than 30 are more likely to hold summer jobs than their older colleagues. About a quarter of teachers under 30 worked during the summer of 2015, compared with 16 percent of those ages 30 to 39, 14 percent of those 40 to 49, and 12 percent of those 50 and older.

Of course, second jobs are not exclusive to the summer months. The financial strain that compels teachers and education support professionals of all ages and experience levels to take on second, sometimes third, jobs doesn’t subside after Labor Day.

Krista Degerness, a teacher in Colorado, worked 40 to 70 hours every week during the summer of 2017 and 15 to 25 hours a week at her second job during the school year.

“We work second jobs because our salaries alone are not sufficient to pay our bills, let alone save for the future,” Degerness told NEA Today in 2018.

Overall, about 20 percent of teachers hold second jobs during the school year, accounting for roughly 9 percent of their annual income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers are about three times as likely as other U.S. workers to take on this burden.

While none of this is breaking news to public school educators, the #RedforEd movement that began in West Virginia in early 2018 and quickly spread to other states has forced lawmakers and the general public to recognize the financial plight of the individuals charged with educating their children. In an apparently healthy economy, educator salaries continue to stagnate. According to NEA’s annual Rankings and Estimates report, the average classroom teacher’s salary in the U.S. has declined 4.5 percent since 2009-10.

Jess Marboe, who graduated in 2017, took on two additional jobs during her first year in the classroom. Workdays started at 4 am and sometimes didn’t end until 10 pm. Marboe teaches fifth grade in Idaho, which ranks 44th in average teacher salary. She told the Idaho Falls Post Register in July that she was exhausted most days. “I feel like I’m always on the go.”

Stress and Disengagement

Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently found that when you factor in second jobs within the school system, the percentage of moonlighting educators increases substantially to 59 percent.

According to a EPI report released in April, 44 percent of those educators with second jobs were earning this extra pay by coaching, mentoring other teachers, or teaching evening classes. In one Virginia school district, teachers stepped in to fill a bus driver shortage.

The high numbers of educators supplementing their income with jobs inside or outside the school system is glaring evidence that teacher pay is too low, a major factor in the growing teacher shortage. Carrying extra jobs only exacerbates the stress that drives too many educators out of the profession, EPI economists Emma García and Elaine Weiss write:

“Moonlighting can increase stress and drive disengagement, as teachers are forced to juggle multiple schedules and have their family and leisure time reduced. And if moonlighting occurs outside the school system, the challenges of juggling the extra work are likely greater. For these reasons, the causes and conditions under which this moonlighting occurs determine whether it makes teaching more or less attractive.”

García and Weiss recognize that second jobs within the school system can be rewarding professionally, allowing educators to “engage more deeply with their schools, enjoy enhanced collegiality with other peers, or further their professional development.” Many educators, however, don’t have access to these sorts of paid opportunities in their districts — particularly if they work in high-poverty districts.

“It’s an appalling reality that many of the professionals whom we entrust with the critical job of teaching our children are under such financial stress that they work a second or third job to supplement their paycheck,” said Weiss. “And the pay penalties are worse in high-poverty schools, where we must provide extra supports and funding, not only to support students directly, but to reduce the teacher shortage.”

While #RedforEd actions have notched up some key victories for improved school funding, including higher pay, educators across the nation are keeping up the pressure on lawmakers and the general public.

“While I think most Americans have all intentions of improving education and funding education better, it’s kind of like, OK so when? When are we actually going to do it?” said Jess Marboe. “I don’t think you can have top-notch education in Idaho if you don’t have great educators. And in order to have better educators, we have to pay better.”


Nationwide, many public school teachers and education support professionals work nights and weekends to supplement the income they receive from teaching.

How Economic Pressure Affects Teachers
What happens when teachers not only have to contend with poor pay, but also with rising home cost? It’s not good—for them, or their students.

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Pete Buttigieg’s High School Wouldn’t Hire Him Today — Because He’s Gay.

The Roman Catholic high school that Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg attended has a policy against hiring educators in same-sex relationships, HuffPost has learned. This means even Buttigieg, the nation’s first openly gay White House contender, would not be able to get a job at his alma mater on the basis of his sexuality.

“The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (in Indiana) requires our educators to adhere to Catholic teachings on the respect for the dignity of all persons and on marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” diocese spokeswoman Jennifer Simerman said in an e-mail.

According to diocese policy, entering into a same-sex relationship or marriage is “incompatible with the mission of the Catholic school educator,” Simerman wrote. 

The diocese oversees Saint Joseph High School, where Buttigieg started as a student at age 14. He went on to Harvard University, served in the Navy (deploying at one point to Afghanistan) and first won election as South Bend’s mayor in 2011.

Buttigieg publicly came out as gay in 2015 and married his partner, Chasten Buttigieg, last year. 

Saint Joseph’s policy highlights stark contradictions between the nation’s laws and widespread cultural attitudes toward LGBTQ people. Buttigieg could ascend to the nation’s highest office, yet current laws would allow his alma mater to legally discriminate against him based on his sexuality.

While he remains a longshot in the race for his party’s nomination, Buttigieg’s candidacy already has exceeded expectations for a politician who lacked a national profile, attracting impressive fundraising support and garnering the backing of some big-name celebrities. Several polls have shown he is among the Democrats who could defeat President Donald Trump in next year’s general election.

“It perfectly underscores the very difficult situation of LGBTQ people in our country right now,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ students. “We are part of the national community to the extent there is an out presidential candidate who is himself married,” but legally enshrined discrimination still limit his employment options. 

Buttigieg’s campaign declined to comment on St. Joseph High School’s hiring policy.

Dollars For Discrimination

It is unclear if anyone has been explicitly barred from employment or fired because of their marital status at Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese schools. In 2011, a woman who worked at one of the diocese’s schools was fired after pursuing in vitro fertilization treatments, which leadership said was contradictory to Catholic teaching on procreation. 

The Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese also disapproves of transgender and gender non-conforming students.

“Educators are expected to encourage all students to accept their own bodies with their biological sex as God created them,” Simerman said in her email. 

Still, Simerman maintained that the diocese is accepting of gay people, despite its policies. The issue is not with people who experience “same-sex inclinations,” who deserve sensitivity and compassion, she said. Rather, “the issue is about persons who enter into ‘same-sex marriages’ or same-sex relationships.” 

Buttigieg appears to have maintained a relationship with Saint Joseph High School over the years. He spoke to one of the school’s economics classes in 2015, per the school’s website

Although Saint Joseph’s is a private school, it receives millions in public dollars each year as a participant in Indiana’s school voucher program. This program gives low- and middle-income students publicly funded scholarships to attend private schools. 

During the 2018-2019 school year, the school received over $1.6 million in public dollars. Over the past three school years, it has received over $4.5 million, per a report from the Indiana Department of Education

Saint Joseph’s and the diocese’s dozens of other schools are hardly alone in their discriminatory policies. Cathedral High School, part of the Indianapolis archdiocese, recently came under fire for terminating an educator in a same-sex marriage. 

Cathedral High School received over $1.1 million in public funding through the state’s voucher program in 2018-2019.     

Such discrimination in voucher programs is common around the country. A previous HuffPost investigation found that nationwide, at least 14% of religious schools that participate in school voucher programs explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ students and staff. 

Indiana has not adopted statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. However, under Buttigieg, South Bend adopted its own ordinance that includes such protections. The ordinance, though, includes exceptions for religious institutions. 

The Indiana school voucher program does not include protections from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. 

“We live in a country where in some states it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people,” Byard said. “Religiously based schools like [Buttigieg’s] high school have the legal right to refuse to hire people who are LGBTQ.”

H.R. Jung, who runs the LGBTQ Center in South Bend, says the city is generally accepting of LGBTQ people, though pockets of prejudice persist. 

“If the Catholic Church is going to double down on these things it’s going to be more difficult for people to be out in their workplace, in their own town, and in their own home. It’s a mixed bag,” Jung said. 

But he added that he believed Buttigieg has helped accelerate progress. 

“I think having Mayor Pete be open and out and married emboldened a lot of the members of the community to feel like they can be who they are, a little louder and more openly than they have previously been,” Jung said.

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How to Evaluate Tech Tools You’ve Never Used in Less Than Seven Minutes

Ready or not, it’s almost time to go back to school. If you’re like me, you’ve been spending the summer attending webinars, seminars, and conferences. You chatted with colleagues on Twitter and Facebook about learning tools they loved. You collected a long list of highly recommended resources that you can’t wait to try in your classroom. But you could spend hours just previewing one item from that list, and many will turn out to be a waste of effort. How do you find the best of the bunch without running through all of your free time?

Maybe because I’m a technology teacher, I can usually sort through this list pretty quickly. I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me what new web tools, apps, or programs I’ll like, what will engage my students, or what will be more trouble than it’s worth. Instead, I have checklists. Two of them. The first evaluates the big picture. Programs that make the cut move to the second checklist where I judge usefulness in my particular circumstances. In the end, I’ve eliminated everything that wastes time, is confusing, and/or doesn’t fit my needs.

This two-step process doesn’t assure that once I try the program in a real classroom, it’ll perform as promised. Nor does it guarantee the program will survive the onslaught of student use. What it does is help me to waste as little of my time as possible while finding the best fit for my unique situation.

Step One: Qualify (Two Minutes)

I won’t even open the app unless it passes these three questions:

Is it free or a small fee? If you have a school or district license on the app, software, or webtool, skip this one. Trust that your IT folks have already determined it will fit their budget and is a good value for the money.

Will it work with my learning management system (LMS)? This is a big plus. If it will, the roll out and application just became easier. Many classroom learning apps are aligned with LMS applications like Google Classroom, Schoology, and Canvas.

Is it easy to install and set up? If you can’t get the program up and running in about two minutes (not counting time required to register, upload classes, and personalize goals), it’s too complicated. Really. Take it from someone who’s done this for over a decade. If you can’t intuitively set the program up—it doesn’t matter how wonderful it seems—you’ll struggle to use it. I’ll never forget my first experience with Moodle. This amazing web tool is legitimately one of the most versatile class organization tools out there but it is just too darn complicated for most people to use. I took hours (and hours) to setup it up, and then more hours teaching teachers to use it, only to find they still just didn’t get it and wouldn’t use it.

Step Two: Playtime (Five Minutes)

If the program gets past Step One, I test it. Here’s what I look for:

It’s easy to use (after set up and installation). If you spend a lot of time learning the app, you’ll spend too much time helping students figure it out.

It supports the ‘4 C’s’–creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration.

It isn’t distracting or overwhelming in colors, music, or activity.

It offers levels that become increasingly more difficult, providing differentiation for student needs.

It will stand the test of time.

It has none or few ads–and those that are there do not take up a significant portion of the screen.

It is easily applied to a variety of educational environments.

It doesn’t collect personal information other than user credentials or data required to operate the app.

It is rated ‘for everyone’ (or whatever the program’s version of G is).

It has no in-app purchases or billing.

In a nutshell: If it’s not easy to set up, I might walk. If it’s not intuitive to use, I do walk.

There are programs that don’t pass these checklists and are in fact great choices. Most of these perform multiple functions such as assigning homework, planning lessons, collecting work, and grading it. For example, when I first used the LMS Canvas, it took me hours of time and too many mistakes to understand its intricacies.

But it now saves me lots of time on grading, running my classes, assigning work, moderating groups, chatting with students, and so much more.

What’s your secret for evaluating new web tools, apps, or programs?

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K–18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K–12 technology curriculum, K–8 keyboard curriculum, K–8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and TeachHUB, and author of two tech thrillers. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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Elizabeth Warren Introduces Bill To Cancel $640 Billion In Student Loan Debt

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wants to relieve student debt for 42 million people — an estimated $640 billion in loans held by mainly middle- and lower-income Americans.

The Massachusetts senator and the House majority whip, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), introduced the Student Loan Debt Relief Act on Tuesday. The bill would eliminate student debt entirely for 75% of borrowers and partially for another 20% of borrowers. 

“[Student loan] debt not only affects the people who try to carry it ― it affects our entire economy,” Warren said at a press conference. “Finding a way to cancel a big chunk of that student loan debt means freeing up young people to do more.” 

The proposed legislation only addresses existing student debt, not the rising cost of higher education or predatory for-profit colleges, although both Democratic lawmakers aim to address those issues in other legislation. It’s also unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate or be signed by President Donald Trump. But the bill does offer another look at how Warren aims to reshape the education system if she becomes president. 

The goal of this legislation is to make it easier to cancel both private and federal loan debt, as well as to take considerable steps toward closing the racial wealth gap, Warren and Clyburn said on Tuesday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. James Clyburn speak about a bill to cancel student loan debt at a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday.

Tuition prices have doubled for private universities and tripled for public universities since the 1980s, according to a 2017 report by the College Board, which administers standardized placement tests. The rising prices and an increase in the number of those attending college caused student borrowing ― and student debt ― to skyrocket over the last decade. Forbes reported in April that $1.56 trillion in student loans is owed by 44.7 million Americans. That’s more than Americans’ total outstanding credit card debt or auto loans.

Clyburn said he was shocked when he heard that statistic. “That is something that should not be,” he said.

A college education should be a “springboard” for students, the congressman said. “Today, it seems to be an anchor around their necks, when it comes to trying to fulfill their dreams and aspirations.”

The legislation from Warren and Clyburn would automatically cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for individuals with a household income of $100,000 or less, based on data already available to the federal government. Student borrowers with private loans would be able to take advantage of the loan cancellation program by refinancing and converting their debt into federal student loans.

Warren and Clyburn propose a yearlong freeze on loan payments, wage garnishment and interest accrual on student loans while the debt cancellation is being implemented. Their legislation would also bar the government from treating canceled debt as taxable income.

The plan could be funded by several means, Warren said, including a two-cent wealth tax on fortunes over $50 million. The so-called “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” is also part of her presidential campaign platform. She said the tax would provide enough money to pay for student loan debt elimination, as well as several other programs like universal child care and tuition-free college.

Warren and Clyburn hope to “iron out any kinks” while the bill is in the Democrat-controlled House, she said, in preparation for a less Republican Senate and a Democratic president in the future. 

Howard University Ph.D. student Ashley Murray (center) talks about her struggles with student loan debt as Warren and Clyburn

Howard University Ph.D. student Ashley Murray (center) talks about her struggles with student loan debt as Warren and Clyburn look on.

This issue is personal, Warren said. She first called for a massive cancellation of student loan debt ― and advocated for free public college ― back in April. But she has been working to reduce student debt since she got to Capitol Hill. Warren’s first bill in Congress proposed lower interest rates for federal student loans. 

Fellow 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also proposed a plan to cancel student loan debt, but he takes it a step further. While Warren’s bill focuses on eliminating debt for mostly middle- and lower-income borrowers, Sanders’ plan would wipe out all existing student debt.

The plan from Warren and Clyburn has income caps because they are aiming not just to relieve student debt but to close the racial wealth gap, they said. “The numbers we picked are the numbers that do that best,” Warren said. “They get the maximum help to the people who will help close that black-white wealth gap.”

Clyburn made it clear that their efforts to tackle the problems of higher education start with this bill, but won’t end with it. The lawmakers said they have separate plans to address the affordability of college and other issues affecting future students. 

“I believe very strongly that we have got to erase this cancer that is growing on the lives of our young people,” Clyburn said. “That must be done.” 

Several prominent organizations — including the American Federation of Teachers, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and Americans for Financial Reform — have already come out in support of the new legislation.

“This bill would release millions of borrowers from their ‘debt sentence’ so they can live their lives, care for their families and have a fair shot at the American dream,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement.

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Of Course, Lifetime Is Already Doing A College Admissions Scandal Movie

The college admissions bribery scandal is already getting the Lifetime treatment in a series of new projects that the cable network announced on Tuesday.

The Lifetime movie — temporarily titled just “College Admissions Scandal” — is set to air as soon as this fall, according to Rob Sharenow, president of Lifetime’s parent company A&E Networks.

The movie is among a slew of projects that network executives announced at a presentation for the Television Critics Association.

Lifetime also revealed that it has commissioned a documentary called “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein,” chronicling the revelations that the Manhattan money manager allegedly preyed on and sexually abused dozens of girls, some as young as 14.

Epstein was charged earlier this month, following investigative reporting from the Miami Herald that reexamined previous allegations and identified as many as 80 women whom he allegedly abused.

In addition, the team behind “Surviving R. Kelly” is working on a four-hour follow-up special to the January documentary series, a searing examination of the serial sexual abuse claims against the R&B singer.

“Surviving R. Kelly: The Aftermath” will examine the many developments since the series aired in January, including interviews with more women who have come forward with allegations. The Emmy-nominated series led to renewed scrutiny on the decades of allegations against Kelly, who now faces new federal and state charges and is currently in jail without bond.

Lifetime’s college admissions movie is one of several forthcoming Hollywood dramatizations of the saga. The network did not announce details such as casting, but in a statement it said that the movie would focus on “two wealthy mothers who share an obsession with getting their teenagers into the best possible college,” and “must face the consequences of their crimes and the loss of trust and respect from their families.” 

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among the scores of wealthy parents indicted in the scandal. It’s unclear who among the parents the movie will feature as its main characters.

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All-Girls School Becomes 1st In U.S. With Varsity Esports

As a liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, J Collins watched as colleges by the dozen rolled out varsity esports programs, complete with scholarships, coaches and even some arenas. Collins had a gnawing concern: Gaming was beginning to have an impact on education, and at least anecdotally, the benefits were going largely toward male students.

Now, Collins is on the ground attempting to solve a puzzle that’s perplexed an industry approaching $1 billion revenues — where are all the female gamers?

Collins helped a private school near Cleveland become the first U.S. all-girls school to launch a varsity esports program during last school year. With Collins as coach, the 10-person team at Hathaway Brown competed against local schools and libraries, with players ranging from novices to avid gamers. The players reported many of the benefits associated with traditional sports — bonding, teamwork and improved confidence among them — and some say they might pursue college scholarships. Collins hopes the program can set an example for how high schools can attract more girl and gender minority gamers so they can take advantage of expanding opportunities at the university level.

Coach J Collins watches Kaila Morris play “Heroes of the Storm,” at Hathaway Brown School, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Collins has a background in game-based education and was the first to broach the topic of esports at the Department of Education late in President Barack Obama’s final term. Football became a go-to analogy — the sport has impacted high school and college education in major ways, with resources poured into aiding its almost exclusively male participants.

Esports has already begun to spread in similar fashion. Over 100 colleges have varsity esports programs, and more are joining each year, with many smaller schools using teams as recruiting tools. That expansion could open doors for students of all genders, especially since video games don’t have the same physical barriers as most traditional sports.

“There was an imperative for us to be involved with it from an early outset, so that we could ensure there was equity across implementations,” Collins said.

Collins found that collegiate esports teams were struggling to find non-male players. The same complaint kept coming up: Girls and women aren’t in esports because they don’t play video games.

That didn’t jive with the data, which shows that 45% of gamers in the U.S. are female .

“It got us thinking, maybe the problem isn’t that there aren’t girl gamers and gender minority gamers,” Collins said. “Maybe the problem is that they’re in different places than the esports teams are looking.”

Claire Hofstra, left, and Kaila Morris play "Heroes of the Storm," at Hathaway Brown School, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Sha

Claire Hofstra, left, and Kaila Morris play “Heroes of the Storm,” at Hathaway Brown School, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Collins suspects the trajectory for girls in gaming is similar to girls and gender minorities in STEM. Research shows many girls shy away from science, technology, engineering and math tracks around middle school due to “lack of role models, toxic culture and generally feeling like they don’t fit in in that world,” Collins said.

League of Legends, the world’s most popular esport, fits a similar description. There are no women in its highest professional circuit, and its largely male player base has been criticized for its toxic reputation. After leaving the Department of Education to teach at Hathaway Brown last fall, Collins polled students, who reported enthusiastically playing games like Super Smash Bros., a fighting game from Nintendo, and Just Dance, a motion-based dance game. Hardly any were interested in League of Legends.

“That got me thinking that maybe it wasn’t just the structure of some of these things,” Collins said. “Maybe it was the game selection.”

Collins helped organize a league comprised of 10 schools and libraries from varying backgrounds, including rural, urban, underserved and all-girls. In order to attract a wider selection of students, a panel selected three games for the first year of the league. It settled on a sports game (Rocket League), a digital card game (Hearthstone), and a multiplayer online battle arena game (Heroes of the Storm) — not the games requested by female students, necessarily, but none with reputations similar to League of Legends, either.

Ninth grader Claire Hofstra was among the most enthusiastic respondents, and Collins asked her to find four other freshmen to fill out a Heroes of the Storm squad. Even though the game is similar in playstyle to League of Legends — the kind of thing girls supposedly don’t like — the ninth graders enjoyed it so much they continued to get together and play, even when the season ended.

The benefits for the girls were plenty. Julianna Reineks was in her first year at HB and lives an hour away from the school, and the esports team helped her make friends. Kaila Morris, another freshman who described herself as “pretty shy,” found her voice as a broadcaster during the league’s championship matches. And Hofstra — an avid gamer before joining the HB team — overcame the peer pressure she felt at her previous public school to give up gaming.

“This helped me stick with it,” she said. “I definitely felt the pressure, just because I’m a girl, people don’t really take you seriously.”

Kaila Morris, left, and Claire Hofstra plan out a strategy on the computer game "Heroes of the Storm," at Hathaway Brown Scho

Kaila Morris, left, and Claire Hofstra plan out a strategy on the computer game “Heroes of the Storm,” at Hathaway Brown School, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Shaker Heights, 

All three students who spoke to The Associated Press plan to return to the esports team next season, and they’re hoping the league will adopt games even better targeted to them and their friends — Super Smash Bros and Splatoon are the big ones. They’re still a few years off from making college decisions, but all three also said they’d consider playing collegiate esports, especially if a scholarship is involved.

It’s a small but encouraging step to Collins, who is transgender and has felt alternately better connected and more isolated from people in their own life because of video games. Perhaps the most heartwarming takeaway from the first-year esports league for Collins was that the loudest complaint from students was they didn’t get enough interaction with kids from other schools.

“I was stunned,” Collins said. “That’s pretty incredible.

“Games can bring people together. They can just sit down and start playing together. That’s a beautiful thing. We need to make sure that the systems that we have in place encourage that instead of discourage that.”

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NEA Calls For More Accurate Measure of Special Educator Workloads

The National Education Association (NEA) is advocating for schools to shift to a workload analysis model for special education professionals that would more fairly measure their growing responsibilities today and the heightened intensity of their work.

The model would replace the traditional caseload structure that is based on the number of students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) that are assigned to each educator, which critics say does not adequately account for a shift toward more consuming inclusionary practices and mounting pressure to meet academic standards.

“This is important to special educators because we want to provide the best academic and social emotional support for our students,” says Sharon Schultz, a former teacher, administrator, and professor in special education who has worked extensively on the model through an NEA resource cadre addressing issues related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. “In order to do that, we need to have the appropriate amount of time or it is impossible to meet student needs.”

The model, detailed in an NEA backgrounder report, notes that workload data takes into consideration the direct and indirect services and supports provided by special education professionals through specially designed instruction.

“Given the transition to more inclusionary practices such as co-teaching and supported instruction in the general education setting, thinking in terms of workload more accurately addresses the service demands of special education teachers, paraeducators, and specialized instructional support personnel,” the report says.

The model spells out the responsibilities that should be considered in order to accurately measure their workload, including both direct instruction and a wide range of indirect services that are specific to each student. They include inclusionary practices such as co-teaching, supported instruction and “push-in” or specialized services, along with multiple responsibilities related to management of IEPs.

It also recommends a three-step process for assessing workload considering minutes devoted to caseload, inclusionary practices and IEP management. It suggests that a desirable allocation of time be developed based on available instructional minutes per week, and a determination be made about whether enough time is available.

It also provides two examples of the workload calculation, for both a “desirable” and “typical” special educator workload. Under ideal circumstances a special education staff person would have about an hour available for consultation with parents, emergencies or other unplanned work, but the report indicates that in a typical setting they actually are expected to devote significantly more time to assigned responsibilities than they have available – nearly six hours in a week.

“This model allows educators to have a framework to analyze their workload and a tool to advocate for their profession, whether it’s for more time for preparation or instruction or even to advocate for hiring additional personnel,” says Katherine Bishop, a veteran special education teacher who also has served on the NEA cadre working on the issue for several years.

Bishop, who is vice president of the Oklahoma Education Association, says while the problems stem from the structure of the caseload calculation and growing responsibilities growing from increasing inclusion, a shortage of qualified special education teachers and a lack of funding for hiring has exacerbated issues for special educators.

“The reality of a teacher shortage in many states becomes front and center for our most vulnerable students,” she says. “Not having time to prepare or instruct and provide students with the specialized instruction they need is the reason many professionals are leaving the field of special education. We have to attract aspiring educators into the field, and then provide them with the pay, support and resources they need.”

Schultz agrees, and says that the new model should be promoted with state and district officials.

“Changes are needed at both levels, but realistically, the district level is where the action is,” she says. “When a district understands and embraces this workload model there often is more lasting positive change that survives into the future.”

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School District Threatens Kids Could End Up In Foster Care Over Unpaid Lunches

KINGSTON, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania school district is warning that children could end up in foster care if their parents do not pay overdue school lunch bills.

The letters sent recently to about 1,000 parents in Wyoming Valley West School District have led to complaints from parents and a stern rebuke from Luzerne County child welfare authorities.

The district says that it is trying to collect more than $20,000, and that other methods to get parents to pay have not been successful. Four parents owe at least $450 apiece.

The letter claims the unpaid bills could lead to dependency hearings and removal of their children for not providing them with food.

“You can be sent to dependency court for neglecting your child’s right to food. The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care,” the letter read.

After complaints, district officials announced they plan to send out a less threatening letter next week.

Luzerne County’s manager and child welfare agency director have written the superintendent, insisting the district stop making what they call false claims.

Their letter calls the district’s actions troubling and a misrepresentation of how the Children and Youth Services Department and its foster care program operate.

Wyoming Valley West’s lawyer, Charles Coslett, said he did not consider the letters to be threatening.

“Hopefully, that gets their attention and it certainly did, didn’t it? I mean, if you think about it, you’re here this morning because some parents cried foul because he or she doesn’t want to pay a debt attributed to feeding their kids. How shameful,” Coslett told WYOU-TV.

The district’s federal programs director, Joseph Muth, told WNEP-TV the district had considered serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to students with delinquent accounts, but received legal advice warning against it.

School district officials say they plan to pursue other legal avenues to get the lunch money, such as filing a district court complaint or placing liens on properties.

For the coming year, the district will qualify for funding to provide free lunches to all students.

The district underwrote free lunches for four elementary and middle schools during the 2018-19 year, and WNEP-TV said school officials suspect some parents did not pay their lunch bills as a form of protest.

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Obviously Stylish Teen Wears His Bathrobe For His Senior Portraits

Evan Dennison was just an ordinary teenager in Portage, Indiana, with a dream of becoming a “legend.”

Sure, many teens have that dream, but Dennison believes he has achieved that goal at the tender age of 17 ― with the help of his trusty bathrobe.

The incoming high school senior wore the bathrobe for his senior photos in lieu of some itchy suit and neck-choking tie.

“Most graduation pictures I see are really formal and stuff, so I didn’t want to do that,” Evan told Inside Edition. “I wanted it to be something that was like really funny, not so formal, kind of goofy, so I decided it would be way better done in a bathrobe.”

Instead of informing his mother of his plan to achieve fashion immortality, Dennison sprang it on photographer and cousin Tiffany Clark when she picked him up for a photo session in a nearby field.

When Dennison showed up wearing sweats, not khakis or jeans, Clark wondered where his actual clothes were, she told the Indianapolis Star. Dennison promised he would change once they got to their location.

He did ― into that beloved bathrobe of his. Clark tried to talk him out of it, to no avail.

“He’s stubborn. He absolutely refused to do anything except for in his bathrobe. I didn’t want to do it, and I couldn’t stop laughing,” she said, per the IndyStar. “When I get home, I had like 95 pictures of him in his bathrobe doing weird stuff.”

Dennison enjoyed the shoot but admitted to the IndyStar that it was weird when people he knew drove by. The moment he broke the news to his mom was a little awkward, too, especially since his photos went viral after Clark posted them on Facebook.

In a move that probably won’t be described by anyone as a shocker, Dennison’s mom has chosen not to hang his bathrobe photos anywhere in the house.

“She loves that everyone loves them and that they reflect my personality so well, but she’s still very unhappy with them as my senior photos,” Dennison told

Still, he and Clark have promised they will eventually take more photos in “mom-appropriate” clothing, per

As for his goal of becoming a “legend”? Dennison said that was never in doubt.

“I’ll be honest with you, I considered myself a legend before I did this,” Dennison told the IndyStar. “This just took it to the next level.”

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New Hampshire Passes Law Requiring Free Menstrual Products In All Public Schools

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed a bill into law on Wednesday that requires all public schools to provide free tampons and pads to students. 

“This legislation is about equality and dignity,” Sununu tweeted. “SB 142 will help ensure young women in New Hampshire public schools will have the freedom to learn without disruption ― and free of shame, or fear of stigma.”

The legislation, also known as the period poverty bill, requires menstrual products to be provided in all female and gender-neutral bathrooms in public middle and high schools across the state.

Democratic state Rep. Polly Campion, a co-sponsor of the bill, called the legislation an “essential measure for equality” in a Wednesday statement

“Being an adolescent middle or high-schooler is hard enough without the fear and embarrassment of lacking proper care products during the school-day because you cannot afford them,” she said. ”… Providing access to free menstrual care products in public middle and high school bathrooms is not idealistic, it’s a basic, essential measure for equality and is long overdue.”  

The bill was spearheaded by New Hampshire high school senior Caroline Dillon after she learned about how many people are forced to miss school or work because they can’t afford pads and tampons. Dillon, who worked with Democratic state Sen. Martha Hennessey to draft the measure in March, testified in front of the state Senate’s Education and Workforce Development Committee in February.  

“It was sad to think about,” Dillon said during the committee hearing, the Concord Monitor reported. “Girls in middle and high school would never dream of telling somebody that they have to miss school or use socks because they can’t pay for pads.”

Hennessey thanked Dillon for all of her hard work on the bill in a Wednesday statement

“I am grateful for the hard work of high school student Caroline Dillon, whose advocacy brought this issue to light,” she wrote. “Today’s step forward to address period poverty in New Hampshire would not have been possible without her.

Last month, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) announced that the city would provide free menstrual products in all public middle and high schools. New York and Illinois are among other states that also provide free tampons and pads to students in public schools. 

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Florida To Require Mental Health Classes For Public School Students

Florida’s public schools will now require its students to attend mandatory mental health classes, starting in the 6th grade, following a vote Wednesday by the state’s Board of Education.

The new requirement means students will receive at least five hours of mental health classes each year until the 12th grade, according to the education board.

These classes will instruct students on how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness and how to seek help for themselves or others. The classes will also educate students about resources available to them as well as what to do or say to peers who are struggling with mental health disorders.

Public school students in Florida must receive at least five hours of mental health classes each year until the 12th grade, according to a new rule.

“Time is a critical factor. Approximately 1 in 5 youth in Florida, and worldwide, experience mental health disorders prior to turning age 25,” the rule’s summary notes.

New York and Virginia became the first states to require schools to include mental health education in their curriculums last year.

Florida’s program is expected to cost $75 million for this upcoming fiscal year. It will be covered by the state legislature using a mental health assistance allocation, Florida Politics reported.

Florida first lady Casey DeSantis, who was appointed by her husband, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), to chair the state’s Children and Youth Cabinet in April, praised the program’s passage as an “important step forward in supporting our kids and parents.”

“As I travel the state, I am hearing from many families and know that 50% of all mental illness cases begin by age 14, so we are being proactive in our commitment to provide our kids with the necessary tools to see them through their successes and challenges,” she said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran similarly praised the program’s launch as “just the beginning” and vowed to transform Florida into “the number one state in the nation in terms of mental health outreach and school safety.”

“It’s no secret that mental illness robs students of the ability to reach their full potential, and we are joining forces to combat this disease and give our students the tools they need to thrive,” he said in a statement.

Florida, which is the third highest-populated state in the country, has consistently received low ratings in how it addresses youth mental health, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America.

The mental health organization’s 2019 State of Mental Health in America report ranked Florida number 32, with 51 being the worst, in its assessment of the state’s youth. This ranking, released in May, is up from the 37 ranking it received in 2018.

An annual review of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., by Mental Health America has found that Florida’s youth need mo

An annual review of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., by Mental Health America has found that Florida’s youth need more access to mental health care.

Lower rankings indicate that the state’s youth have a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care. The list included Washington, D.C.

The state’s rate of youth suffering from major depressive episodes was found to have increased from 11.93% to 12.63% over the past year. Data also showed that 62% of these children received no treatment for their depression.

Florida lawmakers have rallied around amping up mental health programs and regulations in the wake of last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a 19-year-old former student with a history of mental health problems.

In May, the state legally allowed trained teachers in certain Florida districts to volunteer as “school guardians” and carry a firearm as protection on school campuses. The law also expanded funding for mental health services to students.

The following mental health resources are available to anyone, regardless of their state of residence:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), provides free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources.

The National Helpline, at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), provides treatment referral and information that’s free and confidential.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, at 1-800-985-5990, provides immediate crisis counseling to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters, including acts of mass violence or severe storms. Its counselors can also be reached by texting TalkWithUs to 66746.

The Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator helps individuals find treatment facilities confidentially and anonymously.

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I Grew Up In A City Where Busing Worked

Kamala Harris’ takedown of Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden over his past opposition to busingthe euphemistic name for America’s halfhearted attempts, in the 1970s and ’80s, to desegregate public schools — was undeniably compelling political theater. In the weeks since, Harris has risen in the polls, while Biden has struggled to contain the damage.

Less discussed in this scuffle is the fact that few politicians actually support court-ordered busing today — not even the California senator who later qualified her position by saying that busing should be considered but not mandated. The consensus opinion, it seems, even from those who benefited personally from busing like Harris, is that the policy had largely failed and is overwhelmingly unpopular.

That’s not always true. I know. I attended public schools in Louisville, Kentucky, from 1993 to 2006 and earned my education in classrooms that were among the most integrated in the nation. 

School buses at a compound for the Jefferson County Public Schools.

That wasn’t an accident or a product of the “voluntary” desegregation programs the former vice president said he supported. Louisville was the first major metropolitan area to implement a court-ordered busing plan to desegregate its city and county schools all at once, and in the four decades since the federal government first told Louisville to integrate its schools, the city has done so with an unrivaled commitment. Its desegregation efforts eventually became broadly popular among students, teachers, administrators and parents, white and black alike, and Louisville has kept at them, even as many other cities and federal policymakers — many current Democratic presidential candidates included — have abandoned the cause.

If you really want to understand the fight over desegregating public schools, you should take a look at the place that’s still committed to doing it.

Desegregation wasn’t popular when it arrived in Louisville. Forty-four years ago, a federal judge ruled that the city had failed to comply with Brown v. Board of Education ― the landmark 1954 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that separate-but-equal schooling violated the Constitution ― and ordered it to desegregate its schools. The ruling forced the merger of city and county schools into a single district, called Jefferson County Public Schools, and instituted racial quotas for student populations.

Six weeks later, on the second day of the school year, thousands of angry white students walked out of their classrooms and rioted. They torched school buses and chucked rocks at the police, who had been dispatched to help enforce the court ruling. Protests took place especially in the south end of the city, where largely white, working-class schools took in black students, some of them for the first time. 

It was a typical scene for 1975, in the midst of a national effort, led by the U.S. Department of Education, the Supreme Court and the federal courts below it, to desegregate America’s schools. 

Images like those from Louisville remain seared in the national conscience when it comes to those debates and help inform why so many seem to regard “busing” as a cosmic and total failure of American policymaking. 

Protesters in southern Jefferson County, Kentucky, march against school desegregation on Aug. 31, 1976, the day before t

Protesters in southern Jefferson County, Kentucky, march against school desegregation on Aug. 31, 1976, the day before the start of the second year of court-ordered school busing.

But it’s what happened next, in the weeks and years and decades after those protests died down, that should inform those debates instead. 

By the end of the first week, the majority of residents in Louisville seemed “overwhelmingly to be accepting, quietly if grudgingly, the busing of 11,300 black students from the city to the suburbs and of 11,300 white students — out of a total of 118,000 students of both races — in the opposite direction,” The New York Times reported at the time

Eventually, the National Guardsmen who had tried to help ensure smooth implementation of the busing program moved on to other causes, and, although some white Louisvillians fled the public school system for the surrounding counties or enrolled their children in all-white parochial and private schools, the city largely moved ahead with the busing program.

By the time I enrolled in kindergarten, in the fall of 1993, a program that had once been controversial enough to inspire a visit from the KKK had become as fundamental an aspect of Louisville education as textbooks and whiteboards. I was a mere generation removed from the busing fight ― my mother began her senior year at Westport High, the school that was featured in The New York Times story about Louisville, the year busing began. But when I started school, the ideal behind the district’s desegregation efforts ― that white and black kids benefited from going to school together ― enjoyed broader popular support across the city, from political stakeholders and black and white parents alike. 

My experience is not a perfect rebuttal to the arguments that busing skeptics make, perhaps, as I wasn’t sent across the city to a school in a mostly black neighborhood. Rather, I attended one of Louisville’s best schools, but it too was subject to racial quotas, and enrollment was based on a lottery system meant, in large part, to maintain racial balance. (The student body at my alma mater is now roughly 34% black and 40% non-white overall, according to ProPublica.)

And that experience still helps explain the program’s success and why Louisville has continued its efforts to desegregate even without the federal oversight that once compelled it to.

My trips to middle and high school included a stop at a bus compound at another school; arriving on time for the 7:40 morning bell meant boarding a bus a few minutes before 6:30 a.m. Anecdotal skepticism of hourlong, cross-county bus rides provides some of the most potent ― if often misguided and dishonest ― ammunition for forced integration critics, but what they see as a problem, I saw as a feature: The bus ride was a valuable piece of my education, a place to make friends and bond with classmates and kids from other schools outside the confines of a more rigid classroom environment.

That paled in comparison to my experience in school, though: Louisville’s aggressive desegregation efforts meant that I was exposed to an environment that didn’t exist in my corner of southeastern Jefferson County. 

In my neighborhood, at Little League games, at the pool or anywhere else, almost everyone I knew was white. My school, by contrast, looked more like Louisville itself: Roughly 40% of students in my graduating class were racial or ethnic minorities ― most of them were black. Our student body included rich kids from the exclusively white neighborhoods in the east end, students from the almost entirely black neighborhoods of West Louisville, and those of us from the blue-collar suburbs of the south and southeastern parts of the county. Inside those walls, we became classmates, friends, teammates, girlfriends and boyfriends, kids who were exposed to and able to learn from the things that made us different, and those that made us the same, too. 

Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott, who is black and graduated from high school just a few years before me, left downtown Louisville and the Beecher Terrace housing project to attend duPont Manual High School, one of Louisville’s best schools. 

“I was traveling farther than many white students,” Scott told me last year when I asked about her experience with busing. “But it was worth it to me.”

When the national political mood was becoming inhospitable to school desegregation plans…in Louisville and Jefferson County a biracial integrationist coalition and eventually the school board itself fought to protect diversity in the local schools.
Tracy K’Meyer, University of Louisville history professor

Critiques of desegregation policies often focus on their effects on academic achievement, and on that front, districts like JCPS have acquitted themselves well: “The peak years of desegregation” saw “mixed test score results but a positive trend toward higher African American student achievement,” as well as “long-term academic and professional gains for African American adults who had attended racially mixed schools,” one review of school desegregation studies found. Other studies have suggested that students from all races make achievement gains when they attend diverse schools. 

And, although racial and ethnic achievement gaps still persist, research has shown that the gulf between black and white students is smaller in integrated schools. Black and Latino students who attend integrated schools also score higher on college entrance exams like the SAT, studies have suggested, and students in such schools are less likely to drop out and more likely to go to college than those who attend heavily segregated schools. White students, meanwhile, show no real change in pure educational achievement at integrated schools, so, although busing is often viewed by white parents as a zero-sum affair, the data suggests the downsides are virtually nonexistent. School integration is beneficial to black and white students who experience it alike.

The benefits, however, extend beyond achievement alone, and JCPS has never limited its evaluation of desegregation to its effects on test scores. It has also seen integration as an important tool of social integration and a crucial part of a comprehensive education, a point to which I can attest: Although the schooling I received in the classroom across 13 years in Louisville’s public schools was valuable, when it comes to the real world, what I learned on tests and in textbooks often pales in comparison to the lessons, life experiences and perspectives I gained from going to school with kids who came from backgrounds different from mine. 

Teachers, administrators and white and minority parents and students in Jefferson County tend to agree, according to a 2011 survey. And more comprehensive research has found that students who attend desegregated schools “benefit from access to integrated social networks and positive interactions with students of different races and ethnicities, and are more likely to live and work in integrated environments upon reaching adulthood.” It is said to reduce racial bias and prejudice, especially among whites. 

“Forced busing,” in other words, has had profound effects on the city as a whole and the people who live there, and almost immediately the Louisvillians who’d experienced it under the first iteration of desegregation became its biggest champions ― white students who were bused were later among those who started a nonprofit group that advocated for school integration.

Which may be why Louisville hasn’t given up on school desegregation efforts even when the federal government has given it a chance to. 

In the 1980s and then again in the 1990s, Jefferson County Public Schools, believing it had satisfied the federal requirements, attempted to make major changes to its desegregation policies in ways that many in the community feared would result in the re-segregation of its schools. But each attempt was met instead by broad and racially diverse coalitions of activists and organizations who “stood up for preserving integration and diversity in the schools,” as University of Louisville history professor Tracy E. K’Meyer has observed. “As a result, the school board over time altered but did not end the busing plan.”

So, during a period “when the national political mood was becoming inhospitable to school desegregation plans,” K’Meyer wrote in her book about desegregation in the city, “in Louisville and Jefferson County a biracial integrationist coalition and eventually the school board itself fought to protect diversity in the local schools.”

And instead of dramatic overhauls, JCPS constantly tweaked its approach to desegregation, giving parents slightly more choice in where their children went to school, attempting to reduce the inequitable burden busing placed on black students, reintegrating some aspects of neighborhood schooling and implementing magnet programs across the city to make schools more attractive — all while maintaining desegregation as an overarching goal of how it assigned students to various schools. 

Then, in 2007, the year after I graduated from high school, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the quota-based busing plan Jefferson County Public Schools had used to desegregate, giving forced integration skeptics yet another opening and the district an out. For the last decade, conservatives and well-funded education “reform” groups have pushed various policies that, whether by design or by accident, have rolled back a half-century of progress across the country, and today, many of the nation’s public school districts are as segregated ― and in some cases even more segregated ― than they were when Brown v. Board of Education was handed down in 1954. 

But Louisville and JCPS have remained committed to desegregation. School officials there responded to the Supreme Court decision by implementing a new student assignment plan meant to comply with the law but achieve the same ends: Instead of relying solely on race, it incorporated socio-economic and poverty statistics into its plans, too. 

It was, by and large, successful, and that persistence has earned Louisville plaudits as “the city that believed in desegregation” and made Jefferson County Public Schools, as Penn State education researcher Erica Frankenberg told me last year, “a real national model for commitment” to integration.

Despite the protests that occurred in the immediate aftermath of busing’s implementation, it seems that forced integration fostered support among Louisvillians for it ― especially as a generation that went to integrated schools became parents who wanted their children to learn in integrated spaces, too.   

In 1975, as many as 90% of local residents ― and 98% of white parents ― opposed the plan. A 2011 poll, however, found that 89% of parents who had children in Jefferson County Public Schools supported desegregation in theory, and surveys of students themselves found broad support as well. The same survey suggested that residents’ commitment to desegregation was more than philosophical, as nearly half of white parents said they’d support desegregation policies even if it meant their own child had to cross neighborhoods to attend school. 

It’s possible such polls overstate the popularity of specific desegregation policies, but Louisvillians have consistently shown support for the city’s actual plans at the ballot box: School board candidates who have run against the district’s student-assignment plan have faced overwhelming defeats even in the wake of the 2007 Supreme Court ruling, according to The Atlantic

In the years since, opaque organizations with nondescript names have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into school board races to no avail. Two years ago, a Republican-backed “neighborhood schools plan” that would have effectively ended Jefferson County’s desegregation efforts stalled amid vocal opposition. And last year, a proposed state takeover of JCPS that threatened the district’s aggressive desegregation efforts drew widespread opposition in Louisville, in part because locals saw it as an effort to “effectively re-segregate our schools,” as Chris Brady, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education, told me at the time. 

Students board a bus heading to Atherton High School on March, 2, 2017, in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Students board a bus heading to Atherton High School on March, 2, 2017, in Louisville, Kentucky. 

That’s not to say Jefferson County is perfect or that it doesn’t need to make substantial progress to achieve equality and improve its schools. Too many of its students, especially those in black neighborhoods, still attend schools with high concentrations of poverty, and its low-income schools ― which are largely located in the overwhelmingly black neighborhoods west of the city ― remain far behind in terms of equity and achievement. Its efforts at desegregation might not be ambitious enough, in practical or idealistic terms. And inside school, white kids like me were and still are more likely to wind up in Advanced Placement classes, meaning there were still pockets of segregation even in a broadly desegregated space ― a problem many integrated schools haven’t adequately addressed. Students of color are more likely to be suspended. And, though most black Louisvillians support desegregation efforts, there has long been concern that the district’s efforts still place an unequal burden on black children. The list goes on. 

A survey JCPS conducted last year suggested that the overall plan isn’t popular: Just 20% of Louisville parents believe the current method of assigning children to schools is working, and the numbers are even worse among black parents. Just 40% of white Louisvillians, meanwhile, expressed “high agreement” with the idea that the district’s guidelines should “ensure diversity” among its student bodies. But dig deeper, and the chief concern with the plan is its ability to get children into quality schools ― a broader problem JCPS needs to address ― rather than its focus on desegregation. Among students, parents and Louisvillians generally, the survey found that less than 10% disagreed with “using enrollment guidelines to ensure that students learn alongside peers from races and backgrounds other than their own.”

School officials in Jefferson County have, at least publicly, taken those shortcomings seriously, launching new policies aimed at addressing existing iniquities. And amid threats of a state takeover last year, they promised to re-evaluate, and possibly overhaul, its current processes for assigning students to schools ― a move that will keep the reform process in the hands of local officials who see desegregation as a priority. And whatever changes occur, it seems clear, a half-century after the federal government forced it to start desegregating its schools through busing, that Louisville remains committed to building on that foundation and keeping its schools from re-segregating.

There, at least, the question is one of how rather than if. But how Jefferson County reached that point still matters historically. 

“I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America’s schools,” Harris said days after the debate in what some viewed as an effort to walk back her criticism of Biden. “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.”

Busing was in the toolbox in Louisville. But only because the federal government put it there.

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‘Really Good Speller’ Trump’s Handwritten Note Shows Embarrassing Mistakes

Just last week, President Donald Trump bragged that he was really a “good speller” despite his reputation for Twitter typos. However, another handwritten note caught on camera shows he struggles with writing simple words on paper.

In this case: “people,” which the president spelled as “peopel.”  

The note from Trump’s comments on Monday when he doubled down on racist attacks against several lawmakers also contained another gaffe, with the president misspelling “al Qaeda” as “alcaida.”

The mistakes were caught by several photographers, including Jabin Botsford of the Washington Post: 

Last week, Trump claimed his well-documented spelling struggles were simply a matter of clumsy fingers on a smartphone screen. 

Really I’m actually a good speller,” he said. “But everyone said the fingers aren’t as good as the brain.”

Yet Trump’s handwritten notes have consistently contained spelling errors as well, including one last month torching Democrats for having “no achomlishments.” 

The latest mistakes caused “alcaida” to trend on Twitter as Trump’s critics schooled him on basic spelling: 

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As Hate Incidents Grow, More States Require Schools To Teach The Holocaust

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Claire Sarnowski of Lake Oswego, Oregon, met Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener at a school event five years ago when she was 9 years old.

Because her aunt had arranged the talk by the Holocaust survivor, and served as his escort to the school and back, Sarnowski got to ride along when Wiener was driven home. The two started talking and formed an immediate bond. They kept in touch, with Sarnowski often persuading someone to drive her to see Wiener at his home in Hillsboro, Oregon, about an hour away from where he spoke. They shared meals and stories. Sarnowski became increasingly interested in Wiener’s tales of living under Hitler during World War II and his life since then.

She thought other kids should learn about them too and began a campaign to get a state law requiring Holocaust education in Oregon schools. Last month, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed that law, with Sarnowski, now age 14, looking on. Even though Wiener died late last year at 92, Oregon students will continue to learn the lessons he shared.

Oregon is the 12th state to enact such a law, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Most of the states have acted in the past few years, and bills are pending in another dozen states.

In a telephone interview, Sarnowski said it’s very hard for young people to relate to the Holocaust, particularly in that there are fewer survivors around for them to talk to. It was the personal talks with Wiener, she said, that made it real for her. Surveys show that Sarnowski’s instinct is on target regarding young people.

Ignorance about the Holocaust is growing, particularly among young people. A survey last year showed that two-thirds of U.S. millennials were not familiar with Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp complex, located near Krakow, Poland. More than 1.1 million people were gassed, shot or starved at Auschwitz, including nearly a million Jews. Overall, the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, plus millions of Roma, homosexuals and others.

The Holocaust was the largest genocide in history, but not the last one. More recent examples include the Khmer Rouge’s killing of about 2 million Cambodian dissidents between 1975 and 1979; the Hutu slaughter of about 800,000 mostly Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994; and the Sudanese government’s killing of 300,000 civilians in the Darfur region, beginning in 2003.

“For me, being able to hear stories of survivors … that connection was the most valuable piece of my education,” said Sarnowski, who is not Jewish. “Just to know what happened, what led up to it … and that this is considered our recent history. It’s important to learn for the future and what we can do to make a difference in our own community. How we can stop the persecution of people in our schools for racial, religious [reasons] or just people who are different.”

She forged a special bond with Wiener, who was born in 1926 in Chrzanow, Poland, near the German border. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Wiener, his stepmother and his brothers fled, leaving his father, a grocer, behind to supply Nazi troops with food. When the family returned three months later, their father had been killed. Wiener, then 13, was sent to several concentration camps and was eventually freed by Russian troops in 1945. The rest of his family died.

Wiener moved to what was then Palestine after the war and eventually joined cousins in the United States, according to the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. He moved to Oregon in 2000 and began speaking to student groups, eventually making about a thousand appearances in schools, the museum said.

Sarnowski visited Wiener nearly every week in the last couple of years of his life, she said, hearing his stories over and over and becoming special friends.

When the two approached Oregon state Sen. Rob Wagner, a Democrat, about passing a law, Wagner sensed that feeling too. “That friendship was pretty magical,” he said by telephone from his Lake Oswego home. He said the planned 15-minute meeting lasted 2½ hours and — along with work with Oregon Jewish groups and Holocaust educators — led to the bill that became law.

Wagner also said he was spurred to act by the rise of anti-Semitism in his neighborhood in suburban Portland. “Near a synagogue in my own neighborhood, there were anti-Semitic posters put up on light poles,” he said. “There’s definitely a rise in racism and anti-Semitism in the last couple of years.”

The point was underscored in hearings in the Oregon legislature on the bill. In a House hearing in May, several people presented testimony that denied the Holocaust took place and said the deaths were exaggerated. Salem resident Tom Madison, in his written testimony, said there were “no gas chambers capable of killing humans” and “Soviet propaganda created the Nazi ‘death camp’ myth.”

The testimony got so emotional that Education Committee Chairwoman Margaret Doherty, a Democrat, recessed the hearing to allow members to compose themselves. The bill passed unanimously.

Sondra Perl, director of U.S. programs for the Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights in New York City, said most programs on the Holocaust, including her organization’s, stick strictly to historical fact so as “not to give fuel to deniers.”

That institute, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Shoah Holocaust remembrance foundation and other organizations are creating a rich catalogue of survivors’ stories — many on video recordings — to preserve their experiences even after they die. “When they are gone, the eyewitnesses will be gone,” Perl said.

The Anti-Defamation League, which keeps tabs on hate crimes nationwide, and — along with the FBI — statistics on incidents, reported that anti-Semitic acts hit near record levels last year, with a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults, including the deadliest in American history: the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 died.

The overall number of anti-Semitic incidents last year, nearly 1,900, was a slight decline from the nearly 2,000 reported in 2017. But it was still nearly half again as high as the number reported in 2016 and nearly twice as high as in 2015.

Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel for the ADL, said the purpose of the mandated Holocaust education courses should be as much about looking forward as looking back.

“If you can craft them in an age-appropriate way, it’s a study of democracy and the teaching of core values … and how anti-Semitism and racism can run amok even in a democratic country,” Lieberman said. “These are lessons that are not just looking back, but also looking forward.”

The relevance of such lessons was driven home earlier this month, when a high school principal in Palm Beach County, Florida, was removed from his post after the release of emails in which he refused to state that the Holocaust was a historical fact. Spanish River High School Principal William Latson was sacked following reports that he told a parent that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” and that he couldn’t say that it was a “factual, historical event,” the Palm Beach Post reported.

This, despite the fact that Florida is one of the states that require public schools to teach the Holocaust. The state laws vary widely — some provide funds or suggest curricula, others do not. Some specify when or how the lessons should be incorporated into courses, while others are less prescriptive.

The Illinois law is one of the most specific, saying that every public school “shall include in its curriculum a unit of instruction studying the events of the Nazi atrocities of … the Holocaust.” The Pennsylvania statute, in addition to curriculum guidelines, calls for in-service training for Holocaust teachers.

Nick Haberman, a Pittsburgh high school teacher who attended last week’s course on teaching the Holocaust here at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington,  said while Pennsylvania requires teaching the Holocaust, it doesn’t spell out just how it is to be taught.

“We were very excited to have the mandate, but it was unfunded,” Haberman said, and he called for more teacher participation in the process. He said the Tree of Life shooting spurred local residents to work on more community-based events to “teach the living history of anti-Semitism. The best weapon against anti-Semitism is education.”

The weeklong course here at the museum, called the Museum Teacher Fellowship Program, is designed to train teachers to create outreach projects on the Holocaust in their schools and communities. Most of the teachers attending the program this month already teach the Holocaust to their students and were hoping to expand their understanding and efforts.

An exercise involving looking at pictures taken during World War II was particularly instructive to the teachers who were attending, underscoring how, for example, an ordinary-looking family appearing to enjoy a swimming pool was actually a photo of a Nazi general, his wife and kids, taken just outside the boundary of a concentration camp where he worked to slaughter thousands.

“It just shows how our perceptions can be wrong,” said Kelsey Cansler, who teaches sixth and seventh grade in Townsend, Tennessee.

Lisa Clarke, who has been teaching middle school units on the Holocaust in Maryland for 16 years, said her students can relate to exclusionary laws, like those aimed at Jews in Germany in the 1930s, because “middle schoolers are all about who’s in the club and who’s not in the club.”

“I’d never say that ‘the Holocaust is just like middle school’ but I want them to get the sense that it is human,” Clarke said. “Part of the things that happened in the Holocaust are human nature. We want to be part of a group … even if that goes against our values and morals.”

Many of the units on the Holocaust talk about the difference between “bystanders and upstanders,” and how students may respond either way to bullying, for example.

Massachusetts state Rep. Jeffrey Roy, a Democrat who represents the near-western suburbs of Boston, is sponsoring a bill in his state that would require Holocaust education, despite the fact that the topic already is included in the state’s education “framework” that forms the basis for instruction in many of the state’s schools.

“The frameworks are voluntary, local school committees have the option to adopt the frameworks as much or as little as they want,” he said. “The legislation would require them to incorporate it into the curriculum.”

Roy said he did not know how many of the 351 local school districts in the state teach the Holocaust, but he suspects it’s a pretty large number.

“No child should graduate from a high school in Massachusetts without being exposed to this type of curriculum,” he said, noting that the ADL reported a more than 90% increase in hate crimes in Massachusetts from 2016 to 2017.

James Waller, a professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Keene State College in New Hampshire who taught a session at last week’s seminar for teachers here at the Holocaust museum, said there is merit to teaching in “ways that connect the Holocaust and genocide with everyday people … in dehumanizing, ‘other-izing,’ discrimination and so on.”

“I think when teachers are intentional about those connections, I think it can do some good,” he said. “It is when the course is just taught as history that it makes it easy for students to say, ‘It happened then, it happened there, it has no relevance here.’”

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Jeffrey Epstein Was Their Teacher. He Became A Monster.

Some remember him as a caring teacher; others remember him as lousy. Some remember him as a creep. Some remember him as just one of many young faculty members, who barely would have stood out if not for his penchant for dressing in long, flamboyant fur coats. 

In recent days, former teachers and alumni from The Dalton School in New York City have been reconnecting via long group email chains and Facebook comments to discuss memories of the infamous financier Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein, who was charged with the sex trafficking of minors on Monday, worked as an educator at the private school for two years, teaching math and science to students who were just a few years younger than he was at the time, according to The New York Times

In conversations with 15 former Dalton students, parents and teachers, HuffPost learned that some are reconciling the fond or amusing memories they have of Epstein with allegations of monstrous misconduct. Others recall seeing red flags in Epstein’s behavior, even as teenagers. Some are using the present moment to reconsider certain memories of their alma mater, where sexual student-faculty relationships were occasionally an open secret at a time when the Me Too reckoning was still decades away. 

And many are in awe that their former headmaster Donald Barr ― a man who was known for being strict, polarizing and conservative ― is suddenly a relevant part of Epstein’s story, too. Barr, Dalton’s headmaster throughout the late ’60s until the mid-’70s, is the father of Attorney General William Barr. As the nation’s highest law enforcement officer, William Barr oversees the office that is prosecuting Epstein.

The joke has been this is the Epstein-Barr problem at Dalton,” said Harry Segal, a senior lecturer at Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medical College who graduated from Dalton in 1974. The Epstein-Barr virus, which is a type of herpes that can cause mono, coincidentally contains the name of the men at the center of Dalton’s latest controversy. 

Karin Williams, who left Dalton before her junior year in 1976, never had Epstein as a teacher. But she can still picture him clearly in the hallways of Dalton, standing by the school elevators, often surrounded by a gaggle of female students, with whom he seemed to have flirtations, she said.

“He stood out as this young guy in this weird coat,” said Williams, who now lives in Sweden and works in consulting, and has largely fond memories of Dalton. “You noticed him.”

Jeffrey Epstein at The Dalton School during the 1970s.

The elder Barr hired Epstein to teach at Dalton when Epstein was merely a 20-year-old college dropout from both Cooper Union and New York University. Epstein only lasted at Dalton two years before he was hired by the investment bank Bear Stearns after tutoring the chairman’s son.

Now, Epstein stands accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in New York during the early 2000s. In 2018, the Miami Herald also identified about 80 women who said Epstein abused them around the same time

Dalton is one of New York City’s most storied and prestigious private schools, known for its sky-high cost and enrollment of the sons and daughters of New York’s richest and most influential families. And while even in the ’70s the school had an outsized reputation, former students describe a largely supportive environment where they were encouraged to pursue intellectual curiosities ranging from ancient Greek to Russian literature. They took classes with notable figures like Yves Volel, a Haitian presidential candidate who was assassinated in 1987.

Still, teachers like Epstein weren’t totally unusual at Dalton during the 1970s, according to seven former students. Barr liked to hire young people in their early-to-mid-20s whom he saw as smart and energetic and full of potential, they say. 

It was, however, unusual for a teacher to be as young as Epstein. And to lack a college degree. 

And while some Dalton alumni don’t remember him at all, some say he stood out for his youth.

The Dalton School did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment about the circumstances behind hiring Epstein and whether the school’s hiring policies have changed today. Epstein’s legal team did not respond to a request for comment by press time. 

Epstein was known for his informal dress and casual relationships with students, whom he could sometimes treat more as peers than pupils, according to four former students. Indeed, as he was only 20, his general immaturity stuck out, they say.

He has garnered mixed reviews about his abilities as an educator. 

Dr. Susan Cohn, class of ’75, recalls Epstein telling students not to stress over the class because they were all going to get A’s. Cohn is now a professor of medicine at Northwestern University. 

“I didn’t learn a whole lot. He didn’t take the classes very seriously,” said Cohn, who said Epstein seemed more concerned with having fun. She described him as someone who seemed like he had just walked off the movie “Saturday Night Fever” and was “a bit smarmy.”

Now, some alumni wonder how Epstein could have gotten hired at Dalton. Though private schools don’t require staff to have the same credentials as public schools, they imagine such a young, inexperienced hire would be unheard of in the present day.

But at Dalton, Epstein ― a young man who seemed to enjoy the company of his female students ― existed within a specific context. It was just a few years before the release of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” which told the story of a 17-year-old Dalton student in a relationship with a much older man. 

Students from the ’70s recall a boundary-pushing atmosphere at the school during a particularly sexually permissive period in American history. Student-faculty relationships were generally seen as eyebrow-raising rather than abusive. 

“What’s sickening is that a creep like Epstein took that and never let go of it,” said an alumna from the class of ’74 whose name is not being used for privacy reasons. 

Indeed, In the years since, a similarly situated private school in New York City, Horace Mann, has come under scrutiny for widespread issues of sexual abuse during the ’70s and ’80s. 

“There were a number of teachers who looked at the student body as their next meal,” said Mark Robinson, class of ’74. Robinson, who is writing a book about his experience as one of Dalton’s few black students, recalled having wonderful educators overall. 

Donald Barr, too, existed in a specific context at Dalton. The headmaster is credited with transforming the school from a progressive bastion into an elite prep school where uniforms were strict, only certain hairstyles were allowed, discipline was emphasized and leadership was conservative. 

After years of strained relations with the school’s board of trustees, he resigned in ’74 and passed away in 2004. 

But if, at the time, students liked rock n’ roll, Donald Barr liked bagpipes. He even had students gather at one point to watch his son William perform the instrument for them, according to Mickey Rolfe, class of ’74. 

And if students were protesting Vietnam, then Barr was threatening to suspend them if it interfered with class time, according to Segal. 

Indeed, Barr was not shy about his conservative beliefs. In a 1968 New York Times article, he sounded off on the youth activism of the time. 

“They think they can cheat on tests, steal from one another’s lockers and exploit each other emotionally so long as they have the right opinions about the war or civil rights or something else. That is not morality,” Barr said. 

Segal even recalls learning as a young person that Barr had a son in the CIA. Amid the anti-war fervor and the school’s young men fearing that they would be shipped off next, this fact felt like a betrayal. 

It was only during the time of William Barr’s confirmation hearings for attorney general that Segal realized who the headmaster’s son had grown up to become. The resemblance ― father and son had similar glasses ― was uncanny.

For some, the connection between Epstein and Dalton seems random and useless. For others, it’s fascinating. And others find it entirely unpleasant. 

“It’s a little icky; you want to have positive memories, clear, clean, nostalgic memories of your school days,” said Robinson. “You don’t like to remember the things that are unpleasant. And this kind of pushes it up in your face.”

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Teacher Fired For Pro-Choice Facebook Posts Sues Catholic School, Citing Free Speech

A teacher who says she was fired from a South Carolina Catholic school for sharing progressive Facebook posts about abortion has filed a lawsuit alleging the school violated her freedom of speech.

Elizabeth Cox says she was fired from Bishop England High School in Charleston, South Carolina, at the end of the last school year because of three Facebook posts, the Charlotte Observer reports. 

Two of the posts called out hypocrisy within the anti-abortion movement, and the third was about efforts to oppose Alabama’s strict new law banning abortions in almost all circumstances — including in cases of rape and incest.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, argues that the Catholic school and its principal “committed a criminal offense” by firing Cox because of her “political opinions, free speech and/or exercising the political rights and privileges guaranteed by the United States and/or the South Carolina Constitutions.” She is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, lost wages, and reinstatement. 

Cox was a teacher at the Roman Catholic school in the Diocese of Charleston for about 16 years, according to the lawsuit. She accepted the school’s offer to renew her employment for the 2019-2020 school year. But in early June, Cox received a letter from principal Patrick Finneran stating that she was being fired because she had supported abortion on a public Facebook account that identified her as a teacher at the school. 

“When we confronted you with the post, you admitted to it and, moreover, reacted in a manner leading us to conclude you would not do differently in the future,” Finneran wrote in the letter, which was included in the complaint.

“Parents send their students to our school expressly because they want a Catholic teaching and upbringing, and your public expression of disagreement with Catholic values undermines that,” he continued.

In a Facebook post from May, Cox shared a quote about abortion popularly misattributed to the feminist activist Gloria Steinem. The quote points out how differently conservatives treat young women who seek abortions and young men who want to buy guns. 

How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion – mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence … Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off works, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and big him not to buy a gun.

Cox commented that the quote was “brilliant,” according to a copy of her Facebook post included in the complaint.  

Cox’s second post also called out double standards within the anti-abortion movement. 

I’ll start believing you’re pro-life when you:

– ban guns

– have free healthcare for all

– stop separating families at the border

– offer cheap, prescribed birth control

– raise minimum wage

– improve the quality of education in schools

– act on the climate crisis

– improve mental health care

The third Facebook post mentioned in the lawsuit was a link to an article from The Washington Post with the headline, “Leslie Jones leads the charge against Alabama’s abortion ban in the SNL season finale.”

Bishop England High School’s teacher employment contract contains a line stating that all teachers and employees are considered active ministers who understand they must “at all times publicly speak and act in accordance with the mission and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” according to the complaint. 

Cox’s lawsuit names as defendants the high school, Finneran, and four unnamed individuals involved in the decision to terminate her employment. 

The Diocese of Charleston told HuffPost on Friday that it and the school are reviewing the complaint and will “file a response to the lawsuit with the court in due time.” 

Catholic leaders often speak against abortion, but studies show that Catholics in the pews are divided on the issue. About 22% of Catholics believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. About 53% said it should be legal in certain circumstances.

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Fired Gay High School Teacher Sues Indiana Catholic Archdiocese

A gay teacher who was fired from an Indiana Catholic high school for getting married has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. 

Joshua Payne-Elliott, who was booted from his job at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis last month, claims the archdiocese interfered with his employment contract by demanding that the school fire him.

Payne-Elliott, who worked at Cathedral for 13 years, is seeking unspecified damages for lost wages, benefits, emotional distress, and damage to his reputation, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

“We hope that this case will put a stop to the targeting of LGBTQ employees and their families,” Payne-Elliott said in a statement obtained by the Indianapolis Star.

Joshua Payne-Elliott is married to Layton Payne-Elliott, a teacher who works at the nearby Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. The pair were married in 2017. Both men have been at the center of a debate in the Indianapolis archdiocese over whether Catholic schools can employ gay, married teachers. The Payne-Elliotts had refrained from publicly identifying themselves before the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday.

Joshua Payne-Elliott (right) and his husband, Layton Payne-Elliott, were both employed as Catholic school teachers in Indianapolis. Joshua Payne-Elliott was fired from his job last month.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis gave Brebeuf the same ultimatum about employing Layton Payne-Elliott ― threatening to cut ties with the school if it didn’t fire the gay teacher. Last month, Brebeuf announced that it was standing its ground, claiming that firing the “highly capable and qualified teacher” math teacher would violate its “informed conscience on this particular matter.” The Jesuit school, part of the global religious order’s Midwest province, also resented that a local archdiocese was interfering in an employment decision.

As a result of Brebeuf’s stance, Indianapolis archbishop Archbishop Charles Thompson has kicked the school out of his archdiocese and is refusing to recognize it as Catholic.

Cathedral’s leaders say that its situation was different. The school relies heavily on its local archdiocese, according to leaders, and risked losing its nonprofit status, its diocesan priests and its ability to offer the Eucharist, a key Christian rite, if it disobeyed the archbishop.

Archbishop Charles Thompson leads the Indianapolis archdiocese. 

Archbishop Charles Thompson leads the Indianapolis archdiocese. 

Joshua Payne-Elliott, a social studies and world language teacher, worked at Cathedral from August 2006 to June 23, 2019, according to the lawsuit. In May, Cathedral allegedly offered to renew his teaching contract for the 2019-2020 school year. But a month later, the school told him it was terminating his employment “at the direction of the Archdiocese.”

Cathedral’s president, Robert Bridges, told Joshua Payne-Elliott that he was a “very good teacher” and that there was no performance-based reason for the termination, the lawsuit states. Bridges allegedly asserted that Payne-Elliott  was only getting fired because the Archbishop mandated that the school couldn’t employ a teacher in a “public same-sex marriage here and remain Catholic.”  Bridges apparently told the teacher that he felt like the school was making the decision “with a gun to our head.” 

Joshua Payne-Elliott’s lawyer announced Tuesday that the teacher had reached a settlement with Cathedral High School. In it, the teacher reportedly expressed that he did not wish Cathedral any harm. The archdiocese was not part of that settlement, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Joshua Payne-Elliott has also reportedly filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation.

The archdiocese has said that Catholic school teachers are “ministers” who are required to uphold church teachings, which prohibit same-sex marriages. The archdiocese maintains that, because of its right to religious liberty, it should have the ability to decide what conduct is appropriate for employees. 

In a Q&A on the issue published in a diocesan newspaper earlier this month, Archbishop Charles Thompson suggested that society “has pushed the Church to the margins and peripheries.”

“We must continue to engage the world, engage society and engage culture with our message, with that Good News, with those teachings, and what we believe the word of God and the tradition of the Church has revealed and brought to us—and calls us to take to others,” Thompson said.  

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When Small Local Unions Make a Big Impact

While educators from big cities—like Los Angeles, Oakland, and Denver—have garnered national attention for their massive strikes, walkouts, work stoppages, and rallies over student learning conditions, wages, and benefits, educators in smaller towns have been just as successful.

Take California’s Lincoln Unified Teachers Association (LUTA), a mid-sized local of nearly 500 members who mobilized, held informational pickets, packed school board meetings, worked bell-to-bell, and won big.

In April, after spending 15 months negotiating and two years without a contract, LUTA educators ratified a landmark contract that improves the learning conditions for all 9,400 students. Negotiations weren’t over wages and benefits, according to the California Educator—both sides came to an agreement on those a year ago. Instead, educators bargained for more music programs for kindergarten kids and the restoration of music instruction for third graders.

The contract also includes district-paid induction costs for new teachers, which help to recruit and retain committed teachers. For new teachers, this goes a long way.

“Being a new teacher is hard enough without having to pay extra costs,” says Angela Quitasol, a science teacher at Sierra Middle School. “I’m so grateful to get reimbursed for the fees that I’ve already paid and that I won’t have to pay any more next year.”

Additionally, each K-8 class districtwide will receive a “classroom budget” of no less than $400. This will cover classroom supplies needed for students to be successful. Previously the amount would vary: some classrooms received only $100 while others received $400.

Wins like these don’t happen overnight. It takes time and intentional effort to engage members. LUTA President Tiffany Fuhrmeister said to the California Educator that “the victory wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment of all LUTA educators to fighting side-by-side for each other, their students, and the Lincoln Unified community.”

And when Fuhrmeister says “all,” she means all.

‘Let’s Empower People’

With small local unions, it’s not uncommon for a handful of leaders to task themselves with all of the work. LUTA leaders, however, made a long-term investment and a commitment in making the local more democratic by empowering its members to run their own contract bargaining.

Two years ago, NEA’s Center for Organizing and the California Teachers Association partnered with a few northern Golden State locals to help develop campaigns around their contract negotiations. With guidance from the national and state affiliates, LUTA leaders shifted its negotiation’s structure to include more voices in their decision-making process. This included parents, education support professionals, and new teachers.

“We keep talking about this notion of collective action,” says Fuhrmeister, an elementary school teacher with nearly 20 years of experience. “There are all these people who want to get involved and have deep-rooted insight on what their students need. If we’re going to empower people, let’s empower people.”

Additionally, public forums were held, school-site visits were scheduled, and a campaign plan was built to address the concerns of parents and educators throughout the district.

“Having three or four people wasn’t enough. We expanded the bargaining team to 25 people. This allowed us to focus on school- and student-friendly platforms, as well as speak on behalf of our entire membership.”

Inclusivity and the openness to share leadership roles have gone a long way. Initially, during the first public forum in the spring of 2018, 120 LUTA members were in attendance—less than half of the overall membership. By fall of the same year, after the new bargaining format was adopted, a board action drew 350 members to the meeting.

What’s next for LUTA? With Election Day fast approaching, the local now has the experience to organize around upcoming school board elections, as well as state and federal races.

“A teachers’ union is only as strong as its members. We need to continue to know our worth, the worth of our students, and the worth of our profession,” Fuhrmeister said. “This is just the beginning of a new day at [Lincoln Unified School District].”

On the Opposite Side of the Country

With more than 950 students, the Newport School District in New Hampshire prides itself on its small-town flavor: school Halloween parades down Main Street; Homecomings at the high school and the bonfires that follow; and pancake breakfasts to salute veterans. But even small districts like these go through difficult contract negotiations.

Previously, members of the Newport Teachers Association (NTA), a local of nearly 100 members, would go one year with a contract and then without the following year.

This swaying pattern lasted ten years, until this past March, when the district, local, and the town’s voting bloc approved a three-contract. (In New Hampshire, collective-bargaining agreements require voter approval.)

The main issue was teacher pay. The yo-yo effect of the bargaining agreement created a lag in salaries. Teachers were between one and eight steps behind the salary schedule. For small locals like Newport, this is “crippling.”

At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, for example, the district saw a 33 percent teacher turnover (33 of 100 teachers left). Some of them were new teachers who left a few weeks after the school year started. These turnovers left huge gaps in special education and elementary school positions.

“Teachers would turn down jobs once they found out what they were going to get paid—despite their years of experience and credentials,” says Melissa Mitchler, a 22-year veteran math teacher and co-president of the local association. “This was crippling the district’s ability to hire. It was crippling our profession because over time we were losing money to rising health-care costs, and it was crippling our students, who struggled to connect with new teachers every year.”

What Changed After a Decade?

Similar to California’s Lincoln Unified Teachers Association, the Newport local began to plan and organize long before leaders met with the district and voters. NTA Co-Presidents Mitchler and Lisa Ferrigno, an elementary school teacher with 14 years of experience, recruited more rank-and-file members, as well as community members, to be involved in their negotiation efforts.

NEA-New Hampshire staff offered guidance and support every step of the way, including a fact-finding brief that was hard to disprove. Additionally, a partnership with American Votes helped the local create a solid campaign plan that included targeted post cards, walking sheets for door-knocking efforts, and visibility via lawn signs. The local’s leadership attended select school board meeting, budget committee meeting, and took to the air waves to enlist public support.

Together, the trio launched a massive organizing effort that led to winning a three-year contract. The contract was its own item on the ballot, which included the school district budget and the collective-bargaining agreement for the Newport Support Staff Association. In March, more than 1,000 voters hit the polls. It was the largest voter turnout for a school budget vote on record, according to reports from district officials. NTA’s three-year agreement passed by 17 votes (629 to 612). The contract for support staff also passed and was a significant win.

The first-year cost of the contract, including salary and benefits is listed at $347,000. The second year is $301,000 and the last year is $140,000. At the end of the third year, all staff will be on a step that properly equates to their years of experience, instead of being one to eight steps behind.

“While this was momentous for the district, the association, and for our students,” says Ferrigno, “this is just the first step toward bringing our district pay closer in line with neighboring districts. We have more work to do to keep teachers in the profession, giving our students consistency in their education.”

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Florida Principal Could Lose Job Over Email Defending Holocaust Deniers

A Florida high school principal, now reassigned to a school district office, may lose his job completely for telling a parent in a shocking email that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.” The email, sent in 2018, was made public this week after the Palm Beach Post reported on its public records request for the email.

In a filmed statement on Wednesday, Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy said he recommended the school board not renew the contract of William Latson, who was principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton.

The school district reassigned Latson on Monday after his 2018 email was uncovered, but he still has 11 months left on his contract, according to The Associated Press.

Fennoy said on Wednesday that Latson’s remarks caused “real distress” at his school and said that people in Boca Raton and beyond are deeply concerned by them. 

“Our children need to be taught the facts of our history, period,” Fennoy said. 

He also reaffirmed that “all students are taught about the Holocaust as an established fact.”

“Our schools can never be fact-neutral environments,” Fennoy added. “It’s our job as educators that our students learn the facts and know our history. This is non-negotiable for a strong society.”

In 2018, a parent sent an email to Latson asking if the school made lessons about the Holocaust “a priority” for its students, the Palm Beach Post reported. 

Latson replied that the school offered a one-day lesson to 10th-graders but noted that the lesson wasn’t mandatory since some parents wouldn’t want their children to participate, according to the Post.

When the parent countered Latson’s email, saying the Holocaust is a “factual, historical event” and “not a right or belief,” Latson disagreed, the emails show.

“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently,” the principal wrote back, according to the Post. “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”

Latson offered an apology in a statement to the Post this week, saying he regretted “the verbiage” used in the emails. He also claimed that his emails “did not accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust.”

However, in a message to school staffers on Monday, Latson falsely accused the parent he exchanged emails with of misrepresenting his emails, according to The Associated Press ― even though the Post had obtained those emails in a records request.

“I have been reassigned to the district office due to a statement that was not accurately relayed to the newspaper by one of our parents,” Latson reportedly wrote to school staffers. “It is unfortunate that someone can make a false statement and do so anonymously and it holds credibility but that is the world we live in.”

Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 6 million Jewish people were murdered under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in Europe. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate and extremist groups in the U.S., notes that some influential people who deny the Holocaust “seek to rehabilitate the Nazi regime” and bring the ideology of national socialism and anti-Semitism “to new, broader audiences.” 

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Inside a Trauma-Informed Classroom – NEA Today

A student models the “cool down” corner in a trauma-informed classroom at Highland Elementary in Newark, Del. (Photo: Luis Gomez)

On a recent morning, Wilmington, Del., school nurse Donna O’Connor was reading the local news online “and saw that one of our fathers had been shot the night before.” She knew it would mean a bad day—week, month, year—for his children, and a new challenge for their educators. And, unfortunately, that kind of trauma isn’t unusual in their community, she says. “What does normal mean? What we consider normal [may not be] normal for them. How many of our students sleep in a bed?”

Scientists tell us that a child’s brain changes when they witness violence at home or in their communities, or experience poverty, eviction, and hunger. It adapts, altering its structure in a way that can be observed in brain scans. As a result, educators of these children will notice frequent “fight, flight, or freeze” responses to stress.

But what educators need to know is that they can adapt too, says Deb Stevens, director of instructional advocacy for the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA).

With professional training, they can reduce the impact of traumatic experiences and help all children learn. “You must believe you can make a difference,” she tells educators.

In 2017, DSEA won a $253,683, three-year NEA Great Public Schools grant for a collaborative project supporting educators at five Wilmington and Newark, Del., schools through frequent after-school and summer trainings, book studies, and more. “This is not another program,” says Stevens. It is a promise by the union, rooted in compassion and science, to change everything.

trauma-informed classroom

Dim The Lights!

Heather Harrison’s second-grade classroom at Highlands Elementary in Newark, Del., is an oasis of tranquility. The ceiling fluorescent lights are off. Natural light filters through sheer, handmade shades, while floor lamps glow in the corners. Wall posters say: “Relax” and “Just Breathe.”

Against the back wall, dozens of yoga mats and bolsters are stacked. “That classroom is a happy place for me!” says Principal Barbara Land. It’s also a trauma-informed space with flexible seating that allows for small movements by students, and a cool-down corner for students who need a break. During a recent math lesson, when a student yawns loudly, Harrison points to her own head and whispers to him: “Mindful! Be mindful of our actions!” Down the hall, in Sabra Lyons’ first-grade classroom, another math lesson is going on: “Last week, our brains were warming up,” she tells her students. “This week our brains are building on.”

Inside the Cool-Down Corner

Predictability and consistency help. But educators can’t always know what might spark fear or anger in a traumatized student. A “cool-down” or quiet corner can help stressed-out students avoid eruptions by taking a break, and almost every trauma-informed classroom has one. These places can be equipped with audio headphones, children’s books (Grumpy Bird is a favorite), or calm-down kits with stress-relieving putty, magic sand, stress balls, etc. “These are not toys,” says Stevens. They’re sensory tools that help students regulate their emotions. Recently Harrison had every one of her second graders visit her cool-down corner to practice their self-soothing skills. When they feel the need, they should be able to freely relocate there—and know what to do to take care of themselves.

At Shortlidge Academy in Wilmington, first grader Taralyn explains it like this: “You play there if you’re mad.”

trauma-informed classroom

Highland Elementary teacher Shayna Moon (Photo: Luis Gomez)

Social and Emotional Learning

“Good morning, Henrietta!” say Highlands Elementary kindergartners to their hedgehog puppet mascot. But it is not a good morning! Henrietta, a character from Highland’s social and emotional learning curriculum, is feeling frustrated and losing her cool. “Boys and girls, what should Henrietta do to calm down to think about her choices?” asks teacher Shayna Moon.

Says kindergartner Serenity: “Do turtle.” Sitting with crossed legs, Moon’s kindergartners demonstrate by tucking their heads against their chests, and getting “in their shells.” They breath deeply, and then “say the problem and how you feel.” These kinds of lessons will help their students in all aspects of their lives, educators believe. Meanwhile, at Shortlidge Academy in Wilmington, kindergartners learn about their brains as engines—if you’re revving too fast, it’s not a safe time to drive! “We teach the same thing,the same language, to our families,” says O’Connor.

Deb Stevens, director of instructional advocacy for
the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA). (Photo: Luis Gomez)

It’s a Good Thing She Loves Her Job…

From early Monday classroom visits to all-day trainings on Saturdays, the trauma project means DSEA’s Stevens is always on the go with bags full of handouts, books, and other resources.

Her recommended reading? Disrupting Poverty: Five Powerful Classroom Practices by Kathleen Budge and William Parrett; Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kirstin Souers and Peter Hall (who came to Delaware this summer to work with DSEA members); and Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Children in the Classroom by Heather Forbes.

Recently, Forbes visited a book study group that Stevens coordinated with interested teachers, where they talked about the importance of making kids feel safe and building community in classrooms.

In the first year of the NEA GPS grant, Stevens focused on steering committee members at each school—doing poverty simulations and brain-architecture maps, and exploring school strategies that can counteract those effects. This past year, compassionate- schools training unfolded to all staff members.

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Catholic School Promises To Help Fired Gay Teacher Find New Job

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An attorney says a Catholic high school teacher fired for being in a same-sex marriage has reached a settlement in which the Indianapolis school will help the teacher with future employment options.

Attorney Kathleen DeLaney announced the settlement with Cathedral High School in a news release Tuesday. In it, the teacher thanks Cathedral for the opportunities and experiences that he has had teaching there and does not wish the school any harm. Cathedral thanks the teacher for the years of service, contributions, and achievements.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether a monetary settlement was included.

Archbishop Charles Thompson pressured Cathedral High School into firing a gay teacher in a same-sex marriage.

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Preschool For Children With Disabilities Works. But Federal Funding For It Is Plumeeting.

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Lindsey Eakin’s son Corbin was only six months old when she started to suspect something was wrong. Corbin, her third child, wasn’t babbling or cooing like his two older siblings had at his age and he was experiencing chronic, painful ear infections. His pediatrician at the time wasn’t concerned. But by the time he turned 1, Corbin wasn’t meeting developmental milestones in speech and Eakins was frustrated that nobody seemed to have answers for her.

“I didn’t know where to go with him,” she said. “I knew he wasn’t getting the help he needed.”

For her son’s 12-month appointment, Eakins took Corbin to a different pediatrician, who immediately agreed with her concerns. The doctor thought the ear infections could be affecting Corbin’s hearing. Tubes were placed in Corbin’s ears to help drain fluid and improve his hearing, but Corbin’s speech did not improve. Just before his third birthday, he was tested for speech delays and diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, a speech disorder that can lead to a delayed or limited ability to make sounds or form words.

Eakins soon learned that Corbin qualified for speech therapy and also for a preschool program offered through her local school district, Dysart Unified, about 20 miles northwest of Phoenix. The federally funded program, often called developmental preschool, serves young children ages 3 to 5 with disabilities. The goal of the program is to give kids with disabilities the services they need and a head start in school.

Dysart Unified’s preschool program for students with disabilities, which is offered at each of its elementary schools and staffed with teams of teachers, therapists and paraprofessionals, has become a model for Arizona. It’s the kind of inclusive, widespread program that experts say is ideal for young children with disabilities and can lead to impressive outcomes. Some children do so well in these programs they no longer need special education services by the time they enter school.

Corbin attended Dysart’s preschool five days a week for two-and-a-half hours a day. It wasn’t long before his speech skyrocketed.

“It’s had a major impact,” his mother said. “He went from not talking to full blown sentences.”

But comprehensive programs like the one in Dysart are a rarity, especially in a state where public pre-K is not yet widely available for all students, let alone children with disabilities. In 2016, Arizona offered public preschool to only 4% of its 4-year-olds and 2% of 3-year-olds. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), every state in the country is required to offer, at a minimum, services like speech or occupational therapy for preschool students with disabilities, beginning at age 3. But the local school districts that must provide the programs are receiving fewer federal dollars: Federal funding to support these efforts has been declining steadily for decades.

The government’s overall appropriation of funds for special education preschool programs has varied by year, but generally decreased between 2002 and 2015, from $390 million to $353 million, before getting a slight bump to about $368 million in 2016 and 2017. At the same time, the number of children served by the programs more than doubled from the early 1990s to 2017, when 753,000 children ages 3 to 5 were served.

The growth in enrollment without adequate federal funding means per pupil spending has decreased sharply, by 40% per child from 1994 to 2014. Without funds, states may struggle to offer a robust special education preschool program and services, which means kids who could greatly benefit from having a head start in school are missing out and losing valuable time to catch up with their peers.

Experts say this delay can impact kids when they finally do enter school. “We know ‘wait and see’ doesn’t work,” said Amanda Morin, an expert at Understood, a nonprofit that gives parents resources and information about learning and attention issues. “So kids who are not getting services at younger ages will most likely need services when they get into school.”

The lack of adequate federal funding also means these federally required special education programs and services must often be subsidized by state funds and local sources, and thus vary widely by state and district. In Indiana, for example, preschool funding for children with disabilities has not changed in almost 30 years.

While some states and districts lean more toward offering piecemeal services for kids, such as therapy at home or at school, others have rearranged funding to invest in brick-and-mortar preschool classrooms that give kids with disabilities the opportunity to attend a pre-K program while also getting services catered to their needs.

There is also wide variability within pre-K programs. Some districts offer just one special education preschool classroom for the entire district, while others offer several. Some are inclusive and enroll students without disabilities as well, while others only serve children with disabilities.

Ashley Navarette reads a book to her morning preschool class.

Nicol Russell, deputy associate superintendent for early childhood at the Arizona Department of Education, said the lack of funding hamstrings many districts that recognize the long-term benefits of developmental preschool and want to expand their programs.

“We believe [districts] really want to offer children the best setting possible,” Russell said. “Many of them, because of the level of funding, just don’t know how to make that happen. It is costly to do quality in any situation when it comes to early childhood, but especially when it comes to special education services.”

Dysart’s developmental preschool program is funded by its maintenance and operation budget, which is cobbled together from state per-pupil allocations for each child enrolled in the district and local taxpayer dollars. The maintenance and operation funds mostly cover the salaries for preschool teachers in the program. The district covers the preschools’ other costs by pulling from the budget for all special education programs and by charging tuition for children without disabilities who attend the preschool program.

Marydel Speidell, the district’s director of finance, said the district has not done anything drastic to fund its special education preschools; administrators have simply prioritized spending money on the program, which cost $2.5 million this fiscal year. The finance department starts as early as possible to create the next year’s budget, working closely with district department leaders, Speidell said. She added that the special education department has a budget specialist who helps the district’s special education director identify where to shift funds within the overall special education budget to cover shortfalls.

In the district, which serves about 25,000 students, about 400 students with disabilities participate in special education preschool classes in 25 classrooms, with at least one classroom on each of the district’s 19 elementary campuses. Therapists serve an additional 40 students with disabilities outside of the preschool program. The program is free to students with disabilities, but a fee is charged to general education students. Beginning this fall, those students will be charged $250 a month, a $100 increase from the tuition in effect for the past five years.

On a recent morning in Ashley Navarette’s developmental preschool classroom at Surprise Elementary, nine 4-year-olds were busily engaged in activities at three pint-sized tables. Half the children had disabilities and attended the school for free; half did not, and paid to participate in the program.

At one table, a boy wearing a striped shirt carefully lined up plastic dinosaurs. “This is a ‘dramadasaurus,’” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s red.”

Another boy sitting next to him picked up a green stegosaurus and roared as he pretended his dinosaur was eating the red one. “Ms. Ashley! He’s trying to scare me!” the first boy said. Navarette swooped in and crouched down. “Why don’t we arrange the dinosaurs by color,” she suggested.

As Navarette guided the students to play together, a speech therapist walked into the classroom and found a little girl at another table.

“Are you ready for speech?” she asked the girl. The girl nodded and got up from the table.

“What’s that pink thing?” another student asked, pointing to a tiny device in the little girl’s ear.

“That helps her hear better!” the speech therapist said with a smile.

“Ohh!” the other student said, returning to her activity.

Typically, a child being pulled out for special services is the only clue that a student in Navarette’s class has a disability. And often, therapists will come into the classroom and run a center, allowing all students to receive exposure to speech therapy or work on their fine motor skills.

 A student in Dysart Unified School District’s developmental preschool program works on an activity during class.

A student in Dysart Unified School District’s developmental preschool program works on an activity during class.

Research shows providing opportunities for students with disabilities to attend preschool programs works: An analysis of data by the Early Childhood Outcomes Center found over 75% of children who participate in federally-funded special education preschool programs and services show “greater than expected growth in knowledge and skills, social relationships and taking action to meet needs,” according to a 2014 report. Nearly every state reported that at least 70% of kids enrolled in special education preschool and services showed a substantially increased rate of growth in positive social-emotional skills, according to a 2016 report by the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.

Clark Crace, director of exceptional student services for Dysart, said many students who leave Dysart’s developmental preschool program and enter the district’s kindergarten program no longer require services or are able to exit special education completely “because those early intervening services helped close those developmental gaps.” This year, 40% of the district’s developmental preschool students will start kindergarten either without the need for any special education services, or needing only services to improve speech. Twenty percent exited special education completely.

And while every child may not be able to exit special education, educators say the preschool program better prepares students with disabilities to be comfortable and confident in school, which is especially important for students who may start behind their peers in academic or developmental skills.

“The first week of school, the kindergarten teacher will be like, ‘That kid was in preschool.’ They know how to navigate the classroom. They know how to line up, go to the bus, go to the playground,” said Crace.

Nationwide, most kids in developmental pre-K qualify under one of two disability categories, developmental delays and speech-language delays. Heather Fogelson, a preschool liaison for the district who helps children transition into preschool, said the presence of peers without such disabilities is especially helpful for children who have speech delays. Those children are able to hear speech from their peers and learn how to converse despite challenges. “You really see that communication blossom,” Fogelson said.

But developmental preschool has traditionally separated kids with disabilities from their peers, according to Suzanne Perry with the Arizona Department of Education. In 2016, 35 states reported that fewer than 50% of children ages 3 to 5 with disabilities were served mostly in a regular education setting.

Perry said there has been some recent momentum to prioritize inclusiveness, after the release of a 2017 “Dear Colleague” letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of special education and rehabilitative services, encouraging districts to expand inclusive practices.

 Dysart preschool teacher Megan Jones waits for students in her afternoon class to arrive at school.

Dysart preschool teacher Megan Jones waits for students in her afternoon class to arrive at school.

Dysart preschool teacher Megan Jones said inclusion immediately integrates kids with disabilities into the school community. “They have a sense of belonging,” she said. “They become close as a class.”

On a recent afternoon in her inclusive developmental preschool classroom at Sonoran Heights Elementary, she stood by the entrance as her students filed in. “Can you find your name?” Jones said to the first student who entered the room. The girl looked at a large reader board and found a colorful card with her name on it. She moved it to the top of the board to show she was present.

“Let’s go wash our hands,” said a paraprofessional, gently guiding the student toward the sink.

The rest of Jones’ class filed in, found their names, washed their hands, and chose their seats from three tables, with various toys and activities scattered on top, set up on the side of the classroom. While most children sat down, eager to play with the toys, others were distracted.

One little boy in a red shirt sat for a few seconds before jumping up from his chair, grabbing some colorful plastic bears off a table and throwing them across the classroom. Jones turned and walked over to him. “Go get those bears,” she said in an upbeat but firm voice. The child laid down on the ground. “Pick up!” she said again, helping him stand up. “Can you put them in the bucket?” The child turned and tried to go sit at a table. “Pick up first!” she reminded him. The child ran over, picked up the bears, and took them back to the table.

“He just started in January,” Jones said as she watched him play at a table. “We’re still learning.”

Jones’ goal is to expose children to concepts like letter names and sounds, but also to skills like how to line up, how to transition to new activities, and how to follow rules. Fifteen minutes later, after every student had arrived, Jones instructed the children to clean up and join her at a brightly-colored carpet in the middle of the room. Kids quickly wiped off small white boards and threw plastic body parts from a Mr. Potato Head game back into buckets and meandered over to the carpet, each choosing their own colorful square to sit on.

Jones sat at the top of the carpet on a small chair and started to lead the students in a song. “Here we are together, together, together, here we are together,” Jones sang as the children joined. The little boy in the red shirt sat briefly, then got up, running circles around the classroom with the plastic bears stuck on five of his fingers. “He can get up,” Jones said quietly to a paraprofessional, who was deciding whether to encourage him to sit or let him run around.

“It’s so crucial to get these kids served early,” Jones said later. “It makes the world of a difference. It sets them up for the rest of their lives.”

Lindsey Eakins, whose son is in Jones’ class, said Corbin has continued to progress during his first year of preschool. He’s learned his shapes, numbers and colors and has made friends with his classmates. His speech has improved to the point where he no longer gets frustrated because people can’t understand him. “Now he talks too much,” Eakins joked.

She’s encouraged by his growing self-esteem. “I want him to be confident,” she said. “This is a lifelong diagnosis. But I want him to have that confidence to say, ‘I have apraxia, but I can overcome it.’”

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

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Florida Principal Removed After Defending Holocaust Deniers

A high school principal in Florida who defended Holocaust deniers in an email to a parent has been removed from his position.

William Latson, who as head of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton told a parent that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” was reassigned effective immediately, the Palm Beach County School District announced Monday.

“In addition to being offensive, the principal’s statement is not supported by either the School District Administration or the School Board,” the district said in a statement. It added that its Holocaust curriculum is “based on historical fact.”

Latson has been reassigned to an unspecified job as the district searches for his replacement at the high school.

A high school principal in Florida who defended Holocaust deniers to a parent when asked about his school’s Holocaust curriculum has been removed from his position. A Jewish cemetery in Krakow, Poland, is seen.

Latson, in an April 2018 email exchange with an unidentified parent who asked how his school teaches about the World War II atrocity that killed 6 million Jews, said he had to be respectful of those who don’t accept the Holocaust as historical fact.

“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently,” Latson told the mother, according to copies of emails obtained by the Palm Beach Post through a public records request. “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”

Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently.

He added that instruction and an assembly about the genocide were not mandatory for students, as some parents “don’t want their children to participate.”

Latson was privately counseled by district administrators shortly after the emails, but he was not disciplined. He later visited Washington’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to educate himself, the Palm Beach Post reported.

It wasn’t until the Palm Beach Post obtained and published the emails on Friday that the principal’s comments made national news, generating calls for his removal.

″(The) fact that someone charged with educating children would be unable to speak unequivocally on the realities & horrors of the holocaust is incredibly concerning,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) tweeted. “Our children and communities deserve better. There’s no excuse for anti-Semitism in any form.”

Politicians leading the Holocaust remembrance "March of the Living" for the six million for Holocaust victims walk through th

Politicians leading the Holocaust remembrance “March of the Living” for the six million for Holocaust victims walk through the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate at the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland in May.

Latson, who did not respond to a request for comment, issued an apology to the Palm Beach Post last week, saying his emails did not reflect who he is.

“I regret that the verbiage that I used when responding to an email message from a parent, one year ago, did not accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust,” he said.

The school district in its statement called Latson’s leadership “a major distraction for the school community.”

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Former Wharton Admissions Officer Says Trump Benefited From Family Connections

“I went to the Wharton School of Business,” he’ll have you know. “I’m, like, a really smart person.”

However, a former admissions officer at the school said that the president got into the prestigious school mostly due to his genes rather than his genius.

James Nolan told the Washington Post that he was working in the admissions office in 1966 when a good friend, Fred Trump Jr., called asking for a favor.

“He called me and said, ‘You remember my brother Donald?’ Which I didn’t,” Nolan, 81, told the paper in an article published Monday.“[Trump Jr.] said, ‘He’s at Fordham and he would like to transfer to Wharton. Will you interview him?’ I was happy to do that.”

Nolan recalled that when he met with the future president, he saw no signs he was dealing with a world-class intellect.

 “I certainly was not struck by any sense that I’m sitting before a genius,” he said. “Certainly not a super genius.” 

Nolan said he wrote a report about Trump and said he doesn’t remember the details, but “it must have been decent enough to support his candidacy.”

Although it was common for children of wealthy and influential people to be admitted before other applicants ― especially if there were big donations made to the school ― the Post said there is no evidence that Fred Trump Sr. made a large donation to the school to help his son.

Still, the interview is just another example of how Trump, a self-proclaimed self-made man, benefited greatly from family connections and wealth.

Last year, the New York Times reported that, contrary to the president’s claims that he transformed a “small loan” of $1 million from his father into a “massive empire,” Fred Trump Sr. actually loaned his son at least $140 million in today’s dollars.

Trump’s dad also helped his son avoid financial ruin more than a few times, such as in 1990 when he sent one of his bookkeepers to Atlantic City in 1990 to buy $3.5 million in casino chips so his son could make a bond payment.  

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Malala Would Have To Remove Her Headscarf To Teach In Quebec: Education Minister

Quebec’s education minister is facing criticism for tweeting a photo of himself with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai after his government banned public employees from wearing headscarves like hers.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge then further enraged critics by tweeting that, if the 21-year-old educational activist were to teach in Quebec, she would not be able to use the religious head covering she normally wears.

Roberge’s comment comes less than a month after Quebec passed Bill 21 — a controversial piece of legislation introduced by Coalition Avenir Québec, the province’s new anti-immigrant, center right, government. The bill bans public servants such as teachers, police officers and judges from wearing religious symbols, including hijabs, kippas, turbans and crosses.

Critics say the ban unfairly targets Muslim women, while its supporters argue that the legislation is meant to uphold the province’s secular nature. 

Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize Laureate and an advocate for girls’ right to education, gained international attention in 2012 after Taliban gunmen shot her in the head for going to school. She met Roberge in France to discuss “access to education and international development,” according to the politician, who is in Paris for a series of education meetings before the G-7 summit next month.

After Roberge shared the photo of himself posing with Yousafzai on Friday, Montreal-based journalist Salim Nadim Valji asked the minister how he would respond if Yousafzai wanted to become a teacher in Quebec. 

Roberge responded that having Yousafzai teach in the province would be an “immense honor,” but “that in Quebec, as is the case in France (where we are now) and in other open and tolerant countries, teachers cannot wear religious symbols in performing their duties.” 

Roberge did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, and Yousafzai was unavailable to comment, according to her spokespeople.

“It’s frankly hysterically and tragically absurd,” Mustafa Farooq, executive director at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told HuffPost of Roberge’s tweet. “It just stands to show the nature of what happens when you start introducing legislation that strips away from the civil liberties of people.”

“It leads to absurd, unconstitutional consequences that have devastating effects on the way that people can live and how they can feel as citizens,” Farooq added.

Alongside the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, NCCM is set to challenge the legislation in court on Tuesday with Ichrak Nour El Hak, a hijab-wearing Muslim student at the University of Montreal studying to be a teacher. Hak said she fears the law will stop her from teaching in public schools. 

Hak is one of possibly hundreds of Muslim women who could be affected by Quebec’s ban. Even before the legislation passed, Muslim women in the region said they faced an increase in hate attacks. 

For decades, Quebec has long struggled with Islamophobia in the name of secularism. In 2017, a gunman killed six worshippers and injured 19 others at a mosque in Quebec City in what is now Canada’s worst mass murder in a house of worship. Nonetheless, the current premier of Quebec insisted early this year that the province didn’t have a problem with Islamophobia.

Outside of Quebec, members of far-right hate groups entered a mosque uninvited and harassed worshippers on their way to Friday prayers in Edmonton, Albertaearlier this year, stoking fears in the Muslim community.  Reported hate crimes against Muslims in Canada nearly tripled between 2016 and 2017 alone, with many civil rights organizations noting that the number of crimes is likely higher. 

Were you a victim of an anti-Muslim hate crime? Get in touch:

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At NEA Representative Assembly, Educators Prepare to Make an Impact in 2020

Galvanized by the historic mobilization of public school educators that caught the attention of the entire nation, educators converged on the George E. Brown convention center in Houston, Texas on July 4 for the 157th National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA). The theme of the 2019 RA was Our Democracy. Our Responsibility. Our Time! After four busy and exciting days, the more than 6,000 delegates left Houston ready to carry the momentum of the #RedforEd movement into 2020 and play a pivotal in choosing the next president.

“This movement has created something better for millions of students and educators, but it’s bigger than that,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told delegates in her keynote address. ” We’ve created something better for communities—for this country that we love.”

And that unnerves people like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the army of billionaires who are funding the school privatization schemes that driver her agenda. But if we are to bring real change, Eskelsen García said, we need to look to the top.

Electing a new U.S. president in November 2020, she said, should be a priority of anyone who cares about public education. And public school educators should not shy away from working toward that goal.

“Political action isn’t subversive,” Eskelsen García said. “It’s the essence of democracy. … We will use our collective power to listen and learn and teach and reach and engage and organize and convince.”

At this year’s RA, NEA took a big first step in leading the conversation around public education and Election 2020 with the #StrongPublicSchools presidential forum.

For two hours, ten presidential hopefuls – former Vice President Joe Biden, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Kamala Harris, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Ryan, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren – made their case to the delegates (and viewers nationwide who watched the forum via livestream). They fielded questions from NEA members on everything from education funding, privatization, testing, school safety, and student debt.

Although NEA members undoubtedly had their preferred candidates, most came away impressed by the substantive conversation and the fact that – as Eskelsen García pointed out in her opening remarks – while educators were hearing from the candidates, “the candidates were listening to you.”

“They have clearly been listening to teachers,” said Oklahoma teacher Brendan Jarvis. “Only a strong and large organization can make an event like this possible, and give teachers a seat at the table in the next administration.”

‘Our Kids Deserve Better’

Taking a seat at the table (and keeping it) is a goal shared by all teachers and education support professionals, said 2019 NEA ESP of the Year Matthew Powell. Powell, a custodial supervisor in Kentucky and one of the most politically active educators in the state, addressed the RA on July 6.

“I want to remind all of us of the influence and power we have in the lives of our students, in our schools, and our communities,” he said. “That power is available to each and every one of us, every day, in big ways and in seemingly small ways …Never forget, we are the experts when it comes to public education.”

National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson carried the inspiring message forward with a powerful speech later in the afternoon. Robinson, a social studies in a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center in Virginia, made an impassioned plea for diversity, inclusion and greater educational opportunities for our most vulnerable students.

“We have hit the point of a national emergency, as we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters all over this great nation, and we need leaders who are willing to stand with us,” Robinson said.

In his closing, Robinson put lawmakers across the country on notice.

“Thousands of students, teachers, parents, and administrators are stepping up and saying enough is enough. And I promise you your judgement day will not be on your final day on this earth, but on Election Day when millions of Americans–led by every single person in this crowd-march to the polls, break down the doors, kick you out of office and say our kids deserve better!”

Strong and effective activism sometimes starts with a strong image. Hundreds of delegates discovered that when they visited a designated area in the hall, where artists from the Milwaukee-based Art Build Workers helped them create powerful protest art for signs, posters, and parachute banners.

“Creating images that go along with a movement, whether it’s racial or social justice [or the national #RedforEd movement], brings people together, and creates ownership in the movement,” said Wyoming art teacher Paige Gustafson.

Paige Gustafson at the NEA RA Art Build

John Stocks, in his last address as NEA executive director, urged the delegates and educators everywhere to embrace their growing power. “We need you to come together and make this country whole. Our democracy is calling out for social justice patriots.

“Let’s be perfectly honest. An educator can do more for our democracy in five minutes than some lawmakers can do over their entire career,” said Stocks.

Dolores McCracken, former president of the Pennsylvania Education Association, posthumously received the NEA’s highest honor, the NEA Friend of Education Award. McCracken’s two adult children accepted the award.

The RA awarded David Schneider, a communications professor at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) in University Center, Mich., as the 2019 Higher Educator of the Year.

What Democracy Looks Like

It wouldn’t be an RA, however, without New Business Items, lots and lots of New Business Items. The RA is a democratic body, so delegates spend most of their time debating and voting on new NBI’s – policies, resolutions, amendments that will direct much of the Association’s work in the coming year.

This year, delegates adopted more than 60 out of 160 proposed, dealing with topics as far ranging as the impact of technology on students, the opioid crisis, immigration advocacy, charter school “co-location,” and ethnic studies.

RA delegates also elected two educators to NEA’s Executive Committee, the Association’s highest-level governing body. Robert Rodriguez, a special education teacher from San Bernardino, Calif., and a champion for diversity and LGBTQ rights in schools, was re-elected to a second two-year term.

RA delegates debate a New Business Item.

The newest member of the executive committee is Christine Sampson-Clark of New Jersey, also a special education teacher.

“I’m honored to join NEA’s Executive Committee and look forward to representing the voices of my fellow education professionals in this role,” said Sampson-Clark. “Our members deserve professional respect as well as the resources needed to provide all our students with great schools. NEA is vital to these goals.”

RA delegates got the chance on the last day to say hello to NEA’s new executive director, Kim Anglin Anderson, who effective Sept. 1 will replace John Stocks. Anderson was previously with NEA for 15 years, creating and leading NEA’s Center for Advocacy and Outreach in 2016 before leaving to serve as executive vice president of the Democracy Alliance.

In a brief address to the RA, Anderson told the delegates how thrilled she was to be “coming home” to the NEA.

“What’s in my heart is what’s in yours: a love of the students we serve. And the responsibility we share to instill the values of democracy and equal opportunity in order to model in our schools what a just society should look like.”

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