Oakland, California - On the last day of school at Parker Elementary, following tearful moving up ceremonies for fifth and eighth grades, one group of mothers — frustrated over a decision to permanently shutter the school — refused to leave. Over 50 days later, they’re still there, occupying the school alongside a network of community activists and other supporters. In the meantime, they’ve started “Parker Community School,” which offers free summer programming for schoolchildren and adults. Even as the next school year approaches, they’re refusing to back down, with plans to expand their efforts as part of a broader fight against educational racism and inequity in Oakland and across the country. “Our kids are important to us — and that’s the reason why this has to happen,” said Misty Cross, a mother of two in the district who has been one of several parents sleeping at the school.
Los Angeles, CA - On June 6, Axel Brito, Hollywood High School Class of 2022 valedictorian, gave a powerful speech during his senior graduation ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. His speech is an indictment of the entrenched corruption within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) at the expense of quality education and services for students and the working conditions of teachers and school workers. Video footage of Axel’s speech has gone viral on social media, having been viewed over 2.6 million times on TikTok, over 24,000 times on YouTube and over 11,000 times on Instagram.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday offered "another example" of the court's "conservative supermajority continuing its politicized agenda," said the head of one of the nation's largest teachers unions as the decision overturned decades of precedent which prohibited educators from leading students in religious displays. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which concerned a coach who led prayers on the 50-yard line of a Washington state high school's football field, the court's right-wing majority ruled that the coach's prayers were protected under the First Amendment and that school officials who asked him to stop were not acting in the interest of the nation's bedrock laws separating church and state.
Rebecca Wood didn’t realize she was food insecure until she wasn’t anymore. She credits the U.S. Department of Agriculture for that. Since March 2020, when the pandemic hit, the USDA has issued waivers to expand school lunch programs. This $11 billion program provided a vital lifeline to working families who were struggling to feed their kids during the pandemic, even when schools were out during the summer. Before the vouchers were issued, Wood struggled paying off her 10-year-old daughter’s school lunch debt. “Each pay period, I dumped a portion of my paycheck into my daughter Charlie’s school meal account. In doing so, I paid off her debt and added a few more dollars for future meals,” Wood told me.
There's a recent painting that sums up what's happening to public education in Virginia: A white man, white paint roller in hand, is covering up Black historical figures—Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X—their bodies whitewashed, faces stoic. The piece by Detroit artist Jonathan Harris, titled "Critical Race Theory," stuck with Cassandra Newby-Alexander, a professor at Norfolk State University, a Historically Black University, since she first saw it online. Newby-Alexander is the former co-chair of the African American History Education Commission (AAHEC), a group of educators and historians brought together by former Governor Ralph Northam in August 2019 to recommend changes to add more Black history to Virginia's K-12 curricula. The state Board of Education implemented their recommendations in the fall of 2021.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in over 450 protests across the country Saturday demanding lawmakers take action on gun control laws in the wake of recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. March for Our Lives, the youth-led organization created by students who survived the mass shooting at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, organized Saturday's rallies. Patricia and Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was among those killed in Parkland, addressed the Washington, DC crowd announcing a new campaign called I Will Avoid. “Our elected officials have betrayed us and avoid the responsibility to end gun violence…Today we announce a new call to action, because I think it's time to bring a consequence to their inaction."
For educators like myself, no matter how far we teach from Uvalde, Texas, the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary, like so many before it, is still palpable in our classrooms — among students and teachers alike. Two days after the massacre, Toni Wright, one of my students in New Haven, Conn., stood in our high school’s hallway crying. “I couldn’t even make it to school yesterday,” they told me. “I got on the bus, I made it down the street, but I had to get off and tell my mom to come get me. I was so upset that it was physically hurting me to try to go to school.” Toni’s peers might have felt this way too, but many students did not want to talk about the shooting. As Toni explained, “I don’t think anyone knows how to talk about it without being like: ‘it’s so sad, it happened again.’”
In Abbott Elementary, an ABC sitcom about an underfunded elementary school in Philadelphia, Quinta Brunson plays Janine Teagues, an enthusiastic 2nd-grade teacher who attempts to overcome every obstacle with her grit and determination — a flickering light in the back hallways, the perpetual lack of basic school supplies, a complicated reading software program. Barbara and Melissa, the older, more experienced teachers, remind her “to just worry about what you can control.” And for years, that’s what teachers have done. We’ve made do. Having kids paint with water, like Barbara, when there’s no money for paints. Ponying up pieces of our salaries to buy books for classroom libraries, highlighters for writing activities, pencils, food for hungry kids, printers, microphones, even textbooks. You name it, we’ve bought it.
Two years ago, Nicole McCormick was so passionate about teaching that she ran for vice president of the West Virginia Education Association. A music teacher for 11 years, McCormick “always had high expectations of what a music teacher should do,” and on top of lesson planning and caring for her family, she put in extra hours after school to make her union stronger, too. But now she has left the classroom and is unsure if she will ever return. The increasing workload, the uncertainty and pressure of the pandemic, the combined stress of parenting her own four children, looking after her ill mother, worrying about the health and safety of her students, and the low pay and constant disrespect drove her out.
On a Tuesday morning three years ago, Julia Ringo discovered her daughter was in terrible pain. Examining her, Ringo looked in shock at a mass of bruises and swelling on her daughter Kiorey's buttocks, a day after the 8-year-old Black girl had been paddled with a wooden board at an elementary school in Grenada, Mississippi. Ringo rushed her daughter to the emergency room and told the attending doctor what had transpired. "As soon as he looked at her behind, it was like he couldn't even look at it," she says, breaking down in tears. "He just took a deep breath, felt on her butt to see was it swollen. She was screaming." Kiorey's injuries were so severe, Ringo said, that she had to stay home the rest of the week.
Last August, when the school year began at Tyner Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, nearly 100 students walked out to protest the conditions at their public school building. These students were demonstrating because the freshman building had closed due to structural problems, while other parts of the school faced issues of mold, rust and leaky ceilings. Marching across the campus, students held signs reading “Fix our school,” “Water is dripping on our food” and “Stop diverting our funds.” While local officials approved funding to construct a new school building for Tyner by 2024 after meeting with student protest leaders, the problem is widespread—more than half of public school buildings in the county have been rated either fair, poor or unsatisfactory as opposed to “good” or “excellent.”
Friday was my last day as a high school teacher. After 15 years of teaching, this was not an easy decision. I have loved and will miss the classroom — getting excited about literature, teaching writing, asking big questions about life, discussing the human experience and getting to know students as individuals with unique perspectives. My leaving is not about advancement or money. It's not even really about COVID. I'm tired of being tired. Stress and burnout in education are real. Teaching isn't healthy and life-giving right now. If it were, I would stay. I have faith that COVID teaching will pass, but I've realized that some of my greatest stressors in teaching will not. As the education system stands now, there will always be massive amounts of overtime, and there will never be enough hours to do all the things we know are important to being excellent educators.
Bus drivers in the Jefferson Davis County went on strike Friday morning after the school board approved paying $25 an hour to emergency drivers as an incentive to help with driver shortage. The item was approved 4-1 at a recent board meeting. “I have zero problem with having anyone that is willing to drive our busses,” said District 2 School Board Member Bobby Wilson. “I do have a problem with $25 an hour. I would like to know why we are doubling the salary for certified personnel to drive versus the $12-$15 for our regular drivers.” According to Superintendent Ike Haynes, the district is facing a severe labor shortage and his solution was to reach out to former bus drivers, coaches, teachers, etc. to help fill in the gaps. “There are several former drivers in the district that have CDLs,” said Superintendent Haynes. “The $25 an hour is simply an enticement in our time of need.”
Students at several high schools in New York City coordinated a walkout from classes on Tuesday to call for remote learning as they protest what they say are unsafe learning conditions inside school buildings as COVID cases surged just as the spring semester began last week. A campaign mounted by students and activists across some of New York’s best-known high schools – including Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant – led to a walkout shortly before noon on Tuesday. While precise numbers were not immediately available, organizers estimated hundreds of students participated, with about 400 students walking out at Brooklyn Tech alone.
On Tuesday, 100 Ohio public school districts and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program under the provisions of the Ohio Constitution. EdChoice is Ohio’s rapidly growing, publicly funded school voucher program. The *Cleveland Plain Dealer*‘s [Laura Hancock reported](https://www.cleveland.com/news/2022/01/100-school-districts-sue-ohio-over-private-school-vouchers-saying-they-unconstitutionally-take-money-from-public-ed.html): “A coalition of 100 school districts sued Ohio over private school vouchers Tuesday, saying that the hundreds of millions of public dollars funneled away from public schools have created an educational system that’s unconstitutional.” The lead plaintiffs are Columbus City Schools, Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools, Richmond Heights Local School District, Lima City Schools, Barberton City Schools, Cleveland Heights parents on behalf of their minor sons—Malcolm McPherson and Fergus Donnelly, and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding. The Cleveland law firm of Walter Haverfield is representing the plaintiffs. In their lawsuit, [plaintiffs declare:](https://vouchershurtohio.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Final-Version-of-Complaint-03990616x9EF3B.pdf) “The EdChoice Scholarship Program poses an existential threat to Ohio’s public school system. Not only does this voucher program unconstitutionally usurp Ohio’s public tax dollars to subsidize private school tuitions, it does so by depleting Ohio’s foundation funding—the pool of money out of which the state funds Ohio’s public schools… The discrepancy in per pupil foundation funding is so great that some districts’ private school pupils receive, as a group, more in funding via EdChoice Vouchers than Ohio allocates in foundation funding for the entire public school districts where those students reside. This voucher program effectively cripples the public school districts’ resources, creates an ‘uncommon’, or private system of schools unconstitutionally funded by taxpayers, siphons hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds into private (and mostly religious) institutions, and discriminates against minority students by increasing segregation in Ohio’s public schools. Because private schools receiving EdChoice funding are not subject to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws or most other regulations applicable to public schools, these private facilities operate with impunity, exempt from public scrutiny despite the public funding that sustains them.” The Ohio Legislature incorporated a new “Cupp-Patterson” Fair School Funding Plan into the current biennial budget last June, but plaintiffs charge that the simultaneous expansion of EdChoice vouchers in that same budget has blocked the phase-in and full funding of that school funding plan: “The Ohio Department of Education funds EdChoice Program Vouchers from the budget appropriation designated for public schools. Because public funds are finite, funding EdChoice Program Vouchers out of the foundation funding designated for public school districts inevitably depletes the resources designated by the legislature for educating Ohio’s public school students. H.B. 110 (the state budget bill) initially incorporated the salient features of the Cupp-Patterson Fair School Funding Plan, a bipartisan effort to fund Ohio’s public schools adequately and equitably as required by the Ohio Supreme Court in *DeRolph v. State*…. However, due to the ballooning effects of the EdChoice program, the enacted version of H.B. 110 funded only up to one-third of the increases required by the proposed Fair School Funding Plan over the next two fiscal years.” “(T)he Fair School Funding Plan was not fully funded due to the ballooning costs of the EdChoice Program. Only 16.67% of the Fair School Funding Plan is being funded through Fiscal Year 2022 and 33% of the Fair School Funding Plan will be funded through Fiscal Year 2023, as specifically delineated in H.B. 110. This means the General Assembly will meet only a fraction of its constitutional obligation, *by the standards it has adopted,* to provide a thorough and efficient system of common schools for Fiscal Year 2022.” The new lawsuit charges that the Fair School Funding Plan had been formulated to address inadequate state funding of public schools over recent years: “Over the last decade, the formulas implemented by the General Assembly for funding Ohio’s public schools reflected the amount the General Assembly was willing to spend on public education, rather than the realistic cost of providing a thorough and efficient education to all of Ohio’s students. Due to budget freezes or minimal increases over the last decade, state funding to Ohio’s public school districts has not even kept pace with inflation since Fiscal Year 2011. Additionally, because the funding formula was frozen in Fiscal Year 2020-21 at the 2019 level, but vouchers and “community schools” (which is what Ohio calls charter schools) were funded by way of deductions from total school funding, affected public school districts lost approximately $193 million in state funding during these formula freezes. In contrast, the per pupil EdChoice Program Voucher payments rose by 15% for a grade 1-8 voucher and by 25% for a grade 9-12 voucher for Fiscal Year 2022 alone.” The lawsuit delineates the losses in public school funding for one of the plaintiff districts: “The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, for example, is expected to receive from the state of Ohio a total of approximately $5.6 million in foundation funding for Fiscal Year 2022 to educate the 5,000 students who attend its schools. The state of Ohio, however, will pay out over $11 million for private school tuition to the approximately 1,800 EdChoice Voucher recipients residing within the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District in Fiscal Year 2022. In other words, approximately twice as much public funding will be paid in Fiscal Year 2022 for private school tuition for CH-UH residents as the foundation funding allotted to the entire student body of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights District.” The Complaint names five counts: 1. “Creation of one or more systems of uncommon schools in violation of the Ohio Constitution, Article VI, Section 2.” 2. “Failure to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools in violation of the Ohio Constitution, Article VI, Section 2.” 3. “Segregation in violation of the thorough and efficient system of common schools as provided in Article VI, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution.” 4. “Diversion of funding in violation of the “No Religious or Other Sect Shall Ever Have Any Exclusive Right To or Control Of, Any Part of the School Funds of the State” clause of Article VI.” 5. “Declaratory Judgement—Violation of Ohio Constitution, Article I, Section 2 (asserted by Malcolm McPherson and Fergus Donnelly only).” This section continues: “No compelling or legitimate state interest can account for this discriminatory treatment of Plaintiff Students in comparison with their private school counterparts. No valid government explanation can justify spending two to ten times more per pupil to subsidize private school tuition than the per-pupil amounts paid by the state to educate Ohio’s public school students… Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff Students are also entitled to permanent injunctive relief barring further EdChoice Program payments to subsidize private school tuition made from the state’s foundation school fund.” At the [press conference where the lawsuit was announced](http://ohiocoalition.org/vouchers-hurt-ohio-and-ohio-ea-coalitionfile-lawsuit-against-private-school-voucher-program/), a member of the Richmond Heights Local School Board of Education, Nneka Jackson addressed the third count, that EdChoice Vouchers have illegally exacerbated racial segregation in Ohio’s public schools: “If someone tells you this is about helping poor minority children, hook them up to a lie detector test ASAP and stand back because the sparks are going to fly… About 40 percent of Richmond Heights residents are white. Before the EdChoice private school voucher program, about 26 percent of the students in the Richmond Heights School District were white and 74 percent were students of color. Today, after EDChoice, Richmond Heights is three percent white and 97 percent students of color. Private schools are allowed to discriminate, plain and simple, based on disability, disciplinary records, academic standing, religion and financial status. These are often proxies for race and other protected characteristics. Ohio is essentially engaged in state-sponsored discrimination in admissions and retention. You know who can’t do this? Public schools. Common schools.”