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You are here: Home Newsroom Our Ideas Themes in the News Archive January 2010

January 2010

Jan. 15: For most of the past decade the field of education has been a battleground...// Jan. 15: Parents to Join "Race to the Top"

For most of the past decade the field of education has been a battleground...

  • 09-23-2009
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A weekly summary of themes in education news provided by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

Themes in the News for the week of January 11-15, 2010

We turn over our Themes today to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. On March 14, 1964, he accepted the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers and delivered this speech. The excerpt below comes a little more than 6 minutes into his address.

... For most of the past decade the field of education has been a battleground in the freedom struggle. It was not fortuitous that education became embroiled in this conflict. Education is one of the vital tools the Negro needs in order to advance. And yet it has been denied him by devises of segregation and manipulations with quality.

Historically, to keep Negroes in oppression they were deprived an education. In slave days it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write. With the ending of slavery and the emergence of quasi freedom, Negroes were only partially educated—sufficient to make their work efficient but insufficient to raise them to equality.

It is precisely because education is the road to equality and citizenship that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights. The walling off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second-class status. Therefore as Negroes have struggled to be free they have had to fight for the opportunity for a decent education....

The complete audio recording of this speech can be accessed here.


Parents to Join "Race to the Top"

  • 09-23-2009
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A weekly summary of themes in education news provided by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

For the week of January 11-15, 2010


But Who and How Many Will Participate? And Will it Matter?


By UCLA IDEA staff 

Hoping to qualify the state to receive federal ‘Race to the Top’ funds, California lawmakers passed legislation designed to empower parents and lead to meaningful school reforms. On Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to sign the bills into law. The new laws allow parents of children in the state's 1,000 lowest-scoring schools to apply to have their children enrolled in schools in other districts. And they allow parents “to overhaul up to 75 chronically underperforming schools each year by collecting signatures from a majority of parents” (Sacramento Bee). The challenge for the law is whether parents—acting individually and with school and community organizations— can access the resources and clout to press for substantive changes. Or will parents compete among themselves—school-by-school—for the scarce education funds that the state and federal governments make available?


Ben Austin, executive director of Los Angeles based Parent Revolution told the Christian Science Monitor: “This is a groundbreaking and historic new policy. We think this is a 21st century roadmap to transform public education in America … around what’s good for kids, and not for grownups” (Christian Science Monitor). Parent Revolution “has close ties to Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school management organization based in Southern California. Charters are public schools that operate independently of many district rules and are mostly nonunion” (Los Angeles Times).


“Is it a dawning of a new era of parent power?. . . It really depends on how many parents can be organized to take action here, how well informed they can be about their choices and how much pressure they can put on their school boards," according to Stanford Education Professor, Michael Kirst (Sacramento Bee).


The Christian Science Monitor reports, “Some critics question the rush to embrace certain measures – like charter schools and turnaround measures for failing schools – that have little basis in research.” Others note that the new reforms don’t amount to much change from the Bush-era ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ (NCLB). Under NCLB, students in schools with the lowest test scores must be allowed to transfer to a different school within their district. Also, “many districts, such as Sacramento City Unified, have an open-enrollment process that lets parents choose a school for their child outside their neighborhood.” However, one important distinction is that these new bills take “open enrollment” a step further by allowing designated students to transfer to a better school outside their district (Sacramento Bee).


Whether parents are able to move their children into new schools also will depend on rules established by “receiving” school districts. SB X5 4 requires districts to “adopt specific, written standards for acceptance and rejection of applications for enrollment subject to specified conditions and a specified priority scheme for applicants” (Around the Capitol). As Beverly Hills’ recent decision to rescind out of district permits suggests, some districts may be reluctant to accept students from outside their boundaries and hence create standards that lead most open enrollment applicants to be rejected (Los Angeles Times). Further, the California School Boards Association worries that “the bill does not provide enough real protection against “cherry picking,” the process of recruiting and accepting the best students from neighboring districts” (California School Boards Association).


Other skeptics, even if they are well-wishers, raise questions about whether schools (from individual charters to entire districts) can mobilize to accept shifts in student enrollments as students move to different schools across neighborhoods and across school districts. For example, Debbie Look Director of Legislation with the California State Parent Teacher Association was concerned that funding mechanisms don’t exist to transport students in high-poverty areas to a better school in another district (Sacramento Bee).


Torie England, principal of F.C. Joyce Elementary in North Highlands, says it's tough to get parents engaged in difficult economic times. “Most of her students come from families that struggle with basic necessities. Many are homeless, sleeping in cars or staying with friends. Lots of her students live in single-parent homes with moms working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Other children are in foster care or have parents who don't speak English” (Sacramento Bee).


Jeff Freitas, an advocate for the California Federation of Teachers, said the measures would divide parents and teachers at schools. While some students could transfer to other campuses, Freitas said, "you are leaving students behind with no reform for that school”” (Los Angeles Times).


“We've got to strengthen the quality of all schools rather than allowing parents to search from among fairly mediocre alternatives in a lot of communities,” said UC Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller (Sacramento Bee). According to Fuller, “We're creating the illusion of choice among schools that are collapsing among less and less state support” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Weekly Themes In The News

Each Friday “Themes in the News” explores one of the current week’s “breaking news” topics—selected by IDEA staff and its partners—for summary and reflection.   Hyperlinks of the news stories, which are cited, allow readers to explore the theme on their own.