From Survivor to educator

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Today is my mother, Mary Jane Wilson's, birthday. She was born on December 8, 1950, in Moorehead, Mississippi. My mother is a lifelong educator, having taught 5th grade, preschool and she recently retired from being a YMCA childcare provider.

I write this piece in honor of my mom because of one lesson she taught me which has been at the core of my beliefs as an educator and a man. In general, my work as an educator is driven by the experiences I have had as a child. In part, I do the work that I do to give back what was given to me, but also to correct what was wrong in my childhood.

Our parents are our first teachers. My mom was my first teacher in every sense of the word. She was my preschool teacher at Ham Park's Charles Drew Head Start Program. The foundational lessons I had for my education came from her at school and home. On the weekends, when I got in trouble, she had me stay inside and practice my numbers and alphabet in print and cursive. When she checked my homework and saw that it was sloppy, she'd erase the whole thing and make me start again, even if just one part was not neat. When my grades came, and they weren't the best, she'd tell me I did okay but reminded me that I could do better; she said this for A's or F's. My penmanship, understanding of consequences, attention to detail and pursuit of excellence all stem from those lessons.

But one of the most influential lessons I learned from my mom was what she did after she divorced my dad. My mother is a domestic violence survivor. My dad was verbally and physically abusive. He had a hair-trigger temper, and it seemed as if the sun shining the wrong way could set him off. Fearing for my safety and hers, my mother hid her pregnancy from my father for seven months. At times, everyone at home just did our best to stay out of his way for fear of setting him off. One night, things reached a tipping point that changed the makeup of our family and lead to a pivotal moment in my life. Thank You Mrs. Beaver The last time my dad lived with us, I was six years old.

As a domestic violence survivor, my mom volunteered countless hours for the Los Angeles YWCA where she would support and counsel battered women. The YWCA mission: "We create real change. YWCA works every day to eliminate racism and empower women. Through advocacy and local programming, we create real change for women, families, and communities." I remember tagging along with her to these meetings where she would talk to women for a while; while she spoke to them, I often played with their kids. At that age, I didn't understand where we were going or why we were going; I just wanted to tag along.

My mother empowered women to do what is best for them and their children and she found them resources and a safe haven to do so. How powerful is it when survivors breed more survivors and pass along wisdom that is vital to their healing? It wasn't until I became an adult and looked back on those days that I found meaning in them. My mother used her experiences to help and support others just as I do as I work to support students in Lynwood schools and wherever I have influence.

Mom, today and every day I honor you and the legacy you have built. You have done an excellent job raising all of us on your own. There were many days you went hungry so that we could eat. You went to work daily and came home with barely enough energy to put food on the table for us to eat. You went to bed to do it all over again the next day. You taught us to hold our heads up high no matter how things might have been. You pushed all of us to go after our dreams and never once cast a shadow of doubt on them no matter how lofty they were. And most importantly, you taught us to be safe, stay prayerful, believe in God and do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. When I wanted to give up, you pushed me to press on, and I thank you for that. I thank you for going to noonday prayer every day when you were carrying me in your womb to pray that I would be a great man. Every award I receive, every accolade I am given, every life I touch, I do so in your honor. If I am half the educator and parent you are, Lailah will be beyond blessed.

Thank you for all you do, I hope I make you proud. I love you and pray that God continues to smile on you. Happy Birthday!

 

Helping Hands Club

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Dozens of Firebaugh High School students – clad in Santa Claus caps -- will deliver toys and food to area homeless shelters this month, part of philanthropic efforts by the campus Helping Hands Club that generated more than 1,000 gift baskets for the homeless at Thanksgiving.
 
Helping Hands became an official club at Firebaugh two years ago, but has operated unofficially through the school’s network for nearly two decades. About 150 students meet twice per month on the high school campus to plan volunteer opportunities.
 
“Helping Hands is a club for anyone interested in creating a better world around them,” Firebaugh High School teacher and club organizer Jeff Ballinger said. “Whether we’re raising money for families in need or spending quality time with hospital patients, our students receive rewarding experiences that make them better people and students.”
 
Ballinger said District support has been critical in helping the club become a staple of Lynwood. Staff members, students from surrounding schools and alumni often lend their support during community outings.
 
During Thanksgiving, the group collected food donations and personal hygiene items for gift baskets delivered to Midnight Mission and homeless in the nearby Los Angeles area.
 
The club also is known to spring into action spontaneously. When a Firebaugh club member recently learned a classmate was homeless, Helping Hands raised $900 and clothing for the student and his family.
 
“Helping Hands embodies the character we hope to instill in all of our students at Lynwood Unified,” LUSD Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “I’m proud of our Firebaugh students who are volunteering their time and energy to inspire those around them.”

National Parent Involvement Day

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David and Roselvai Preciado camped out on the Wilson Elementary front lawn for the school’s family picnic awaiting each of their four children who are students of the school.

It isn’t often that the Preciado family gets to eat lunch together, but it was made possible as Lynwood Unified celebrated National Parental Involvement Day on Nov. 16 when hundreds of parents visited campuses across the district to experience their child’s educational environment firsthand.

“This is a great event that pulls the community together and allows us to get to know Lynwood teachers and staff on a personal level,” Roselvai said. “It gives us the chance to really learn about what our children are experiencing every day.”

Lynwood Unified’s 12 elementary, three middle and three high school campuses presented parents with a variety of involvement opportunities including parent breakfasts, coffee with the principal and informational sessions.

Abbott Elementary School opened a new Parent Center, which will serve as a resource hub for parents who are visiting the campus and give them an opportunity to serve as volunteers. Rosa Parks Elementary Principal Dawn Green led a tour of campus to identify focus areas for beautification while Cesar Chavez Middle School enjoyed a Thanksgiving themed potluck.

“Parental Involvement Day allows our District to show our appreciation for our parents and the continued support they provide that makes Lynwood Unified a success,” LUSD Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “The day also gave our parents the opportunity to learn and ask the critical questions that assure them their young learners are thriving in their educational environment.”

National Parental Involvement Day was initiated in 1994 by school advocacy organization Project Appleseed to encourage school districts around the nation to honor parents by hosting campus events. The hope is for parents to learn ways to continuously get engaged in their child’s education throughout the year.

 

Stay In School

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Many Latino students in California are missing school, amid immigration fears.  Education advocates are taking the lead to make sure that families know their rights.

“We’re seeing that not as many parents are attending parent workshops, school events, extracurricular activities with students — and all that is a result of the frightening immigration climate. Some districts in the state have told us of their concern for their declining attendance and enrollment.”

Read more here

Bright Lights

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In LA County, some school districts, high schools and an early education center are focusing on helping Latino students succeed academically.  By employing culturally inclusive curricula and many other initiatives, LA County is making inroads in helping this student population.

“Some of our students are transitioning from other countries. Being an immigrant myself, I know how important it is to be in school with a welcoming environment while going through that kind of transition.”

Read more here

Preschool to Prison Pipeline

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The Center for American Progress recently released findings from a study on preschool suspension and expulsions. The results of this study confirmed what many had feared all along, the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of black preschool students. Simply put, black children in preschools are at higher risk of expulsion or suspension.

On average, about 250 preschool students are expelled or suspended daily. These high suspension rates are cause for alarm even more so as the numbers are higher among black students. The Center for American Progress says the practice "worsens along racial lines and raises serious questions about discrimination."

Data from the 2016 National Survey on Children's Health produced data from public and private preschools showing 50,000 students were suspended in 2016. Of those, about 17,000 were expelled.

After examining the data, Rasheed Malik, policy analyst at CAP said, "This sobering data shows a trend of preschools engaging in exclusionary discipline in greater numbers than previously thought. Educators and leaders must engage in research-backed practices that can help transform the preschool-to-prison pipeline."

Early childhood education advocates and educators put the economic benefits of preschool at or above $83 billion annually, per CAP findings. "Research shows over and over again that preschool is both cost-effective and that students are better prepared to contribute to the economy in the long run. All children deserve access to high-quality preschool- no matter where they live- and failing to make it accessible means losing significant economic benefits in the long run," said CAP policy analyst Cristina Novoa.

Early childhood education is key to laying a foundation for educational success for all kids, specifically those institutions and practices that offer high-quality programming. The long-term benefits are hampered by regressive policies that proport inequities in education, such as expulsion and suspension in preschool. Those practices lay the foundation for the school to prison pipeline, directly injecting students into a track where education is an unpleasant experience.

It's simple; our students deserve better. Yes, even our black students who are often criminalized and rarely given the benefit of the doubt. Early childhood education shortens the distance between both the word and opportunity gap. Regressive or exclusionary discipline has no place in preschool or any school at any level. Educators and early education advocates must advocate for what is best for preschool students and demand preschools examine their behavior support strategies be amended to reflect restorative justice practices. If not, too many students will enter the school to prison pipeline long before the 3rd-grade benchmark.

 

DACA Delays

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Good news for DACA recipients as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Agency announced it would allow individuals to resubmit rejected applications that arrived after the deadline due to a delivery delay. The decision comes after the agency initially announced it would not consider the nearly 100 applications that arrived after the deadline.

DACA recipient, Simrri Juarez was among those whose application was delivered after the cutoff.

"Wow, I'm speechless," Simrri said when he heard the news last Wednesday night. "Since I'm the one that provides the most for this, it's a big relief. I'm going to be able to keep this job and not fear what I'm going to do."

Acting Department of Homeland Security announced last week the agency had been instructed to allow those applicants for renewal to resubmit their paperwork if they had proof of mailing before the October 5 deadline. Mail service delays caused applications to arrive after the deadline, which led to denials and dismay for DACA recipients.

Immigration advocates lobbied USCIS, urging them against penalizing applications for shortcomings with the US Postal Service. Director of Legal Immigration Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, Camille Mackler said, "We're glad to see USCIS do the right thing by accepting these applications. This news will come as a huge relief to DACA recipients who had been living with enormous anxiety for weeks now."

Following the decision by President Trump to end the DACA program, over 132,000 applications for renewal were submitted. An estimated 4,000 applications arrived after the deadline, according to an October 18 court deposition. It is not known how many of these are due to mail service delays. However, officials say they know of at least 115 applications were rejected due to mail delivery issues. All three USCIS intake locations were affected by service delays. Immigration attorneys believe this problem could have easily been avoided. Kate Voigt, associate director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, commented, "All of this could have been avoided by not having a very short arbitrary deadline and by responding to our concerns about having a received-by deadline.”

As litigation challenging the ruling to end the DACA program continues with a hearing scheduled for Thursday morning, the government has a deadline of its own to respond to the delayed applications. The federal lawsuit challenging the ruling is said to now include an amendment concerning delayed DACA applications.

 

Thankful

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Every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember, I have spent my mornings down on skid row. I am always astonished at the deplorable state of Skid Row in Los Angeles; each year, it seems like the population down there grows. What is most heartbreaking is seeing entire families there. One year, I ran into a family with a newborn sleeping on the street in a tent. Experiences like that always remind me of how blessed I am but also serve as a clear call to continue the work to make an impact on the lives I come in contact with.

When I was in the 3rd grade, I recall a man in a suit coming to deliver a letter one day. He sat and talked with my mom, and as they spoke, I saw her body language change, as she slumped in her chair so I knew the news she had gotten was not good. She shared with my sisters and me that the house we were living in was foreclosed on and we had 30 days to move out.

This was devastating because we had lived in this house our entire lives so far and had only 30 days to find somewhere to live only added to the stress. I remember tagging along with my mom as we went apartment hunting day in and day out. Nothing fit what we needed, and we were forced to move out of our home and had no place to go.

My family and I were homeless for about three months. I remember how we lived out of our storage unit and we would go from place to place during the day, looking for somewhere to live and trying to find someplace to be. We would stay with family members and friends, spend days out at parks or the malls. We'd stop by friends houses to shower or rest and then it was back to looking for a home or apartment to rent.

When we got the news that we had a place to stay in was after months of living in limbo. It was also the day before school started. So we were in a rush to move in, and we got in the house just in time to rummage through boxes to find our belongings for school the next day.

The next few years were far from easy. There were many days where our refrigerator and pantry was empty. But somehow, we'd get home to a box of food on the porch. This experience is what drives me to give back every year and as often as I can. My compassion for homeless individuals and families stems from my own experience being homeless and the gratefulness I have for those who stepped in to help when my family needed it. So this year I will exude gratefulness in two ways.

I will be joining 200 Firebaugh and Lynwood High School students as we head down to Skid Row to deliver blankets and hygiene care packages and food on Thanksgiving morning. I will also be joining leaders all across Los Angeles in taking part in a potluck and panel discussion around benefiting young boys and men of color in Los Angeles.

In my opinion, thankfulness is best expressed through acts of kindness that allow others to do the same. It is transferred through compassion and love. Because someone supported my family and me, the least I can do is return the favor by doing the same for others.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to live out dreams and have the opportunity to serve as means of giving back. 2017 has been a year with many highs and lows as well. But overall, I am grateful for life, health and strength as I do my best to give back what was given to me. Too often, we focus on things we do not like or what we wish to change, and we do not stop long enough to enjoy the view and be thankful for all that is going well. I encourage all of you to take time and reflect on all of the good that has come your way and find ways to spread good to others.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families; may this time be filled with love, joy, and prosperity.

 

Know your role

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If you are currently serving on a school board and do not see yourself as an educator, you should change your mindset about your role or resign. School board members who do not see themselves as educators are often excusing themselves from their number one duty, being the chief educators of a school district.

Sure, some of us were never teachers or administrators. We may not ever lead professional development, data reflection, or teach a lesson in front of a classroom, but we are educators who have an impact on the educational success or shortcomings of kids in schools. As such, we have to be held accountable for all kids in every school we govern as we determine the vision and direction of our school districts.

Recently, I was in conversation with two members of a school board who, when pressed on outcomes for black students in their schools, completely danced around answering the question and could not own up to the fact that black students were failing in their schools nor own up to the fact that is their responsibility to do something about it. Moreso, they could not name one step their district is taking to address this issue. One of them explicitly said, “I am not an educator” even though this person serves on the board. So, I wondered what this board member was doing serving on a school board in the first place.

School boards are responsible for hiring and evaluating superintendents, adoption, and oversight of the annual budgets, adopting policies and setting goals and priorities for the district. In doing so, the board and its members impact each classroom. As such, if there is something our students need, it is our job to respond to make sure they get it by directing the superintendent to respond to whatever concerns arise. If groups of students are struggling, the board has the responsibility and ability to ensure those students have the supports and resources they need to be successful. While board members are not able to do this work themselves, they certainly have an impact on whether or not this work gets done.

Many of my colleagues serving on school boards across the country do so, amicably, as they fearlessly face challenges to do what is best for all students in their schools. As often as we convene ourselves together, it is a pleasure to catch up with them, vent and give and receive updates on the work we have been doing in our schools. In conversations about their districts and their roles, I have not once heard them refer to any students as, "those students" nor have they ever not had an answer about a specific population of students when pressed about it. In the instance where any of us expressed a challenge we were unsure how to address, we reached out in search of those best practices and policies that produce the outcomes. That's what educators do; we search for answers that will make a positive impact on our students.

If communities recognize they have ineffective board members governing their schools, they need to hold these folks accountable by demanding they simply do their job and accept their role in educating kids. We cannot let anyone remain in power without accountability. So, ask questions, demand answers, and fight for action that produces the best outcomes for kids and schools.

 

A local church gives parents hope of finding quality schools for kids

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Shirley Hammonds was desperate to find a new school for her 8th-grade son. He was attending Orville Wright Middle School in LAUSD’s Local District West and had experienced bouts of bullying and teasing. More than this, she was concerned the school’s curriculum was just not challenging enough for her son.

Not knowing where to start in her process to search for a new school, she turned to an unlikely source of help that had proven to be a great resource to her in the past: her neighborhood church, West Angeles.

For the past year, Shirley’s son had attended the after-school tutoring program led by the church’s Education Ministry to receive help on his school homework. Seeing the positive results that came from his attendance after school, Shirley began to involve her son in more events at the church.

One of those events was the church’s annual High School Fair. This event invited parents to talk one-on-one with local schools to explore the array of affordable and quality school choices in the L.A. and, ultimately, to find the best fit for their child.

Faithful as she was, Shirley attended this fair. Her meeting with an up-and-coming charter school, City Charter School, led to her son eventually being admitted to this smaller, more rigorous academic environment that was more suited to her son’s needs.

On October 26, 2017, West Angeles hosted its 3rd annual School Fair, replete with over a dozen local representatives from a mixture of public, private and charter schools and a bustling crowd of proactive parents.

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The School Fair is designed to help more mothers like Shirley, many of whom feel overwhelmed by the task of picking out the best schools among a sea of choices offered by LAUSD.

And for parents like Shirley, who lived in South L.A., even if they did know where to begin in their school search, they may find disappointing options and a reality where high-achieving schools are slim to none.

Shirley’s outcome was hopeful, but many other parents are left with the feeling of being stuck in a school district that is leaving their children behind. Others, choose to shell out thousands of dollars every year, sometimes beyond what their budgets will truly allow, to send their children to private schools, in hope that their children can have a better education.

The Director of West Angeles’ Education Ministry, John Wilson, believes that parents should not have to make that choice. The idea behind the School Fair is to help students access high-quality, free schools so that parents do not have to choose between paying for groceries or paying their children’s private school tuition.

The church, which is located along the city’s predominantly African-American Crenshaw District, has had a long-term commitment to serving its community both spiritually and socially. With the backing of its visionary leader, Bishop Charles Blake, it has been at the forefront of providing academic enrichment services to its surrounding community for twenty years.

The church’s academic-focused ministry, called the Education & Enrichment Program, emphasizes the need for more churches to get involved in the social needs of their communities. Education continues to be one of the greatest civil rights issues of the 21st century, especially for those within the African American community.

Wilson hopes that more faith-based academic programs will begin to gain a foothold in the Los Angeles area. He believes that South L.A. needs more community-based resource centers for parents. What better place to start than where many black families have traditionally turned to for support than the church.

Epiphanies

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Today, I had one of those "ah ha" moments. I sat down with the executive director of a non-profit that is interested in funding the work I am doing with young boys and men of color. As we were talking, she asked me a few questions to get a better idea of how she can best support my efforts. One of those questions made me pause and think for a moment.

She asked, "What do you want for kids?"

That question caught me off guard because I am often asked about the issues that are important to me as an educational leader and politician, but rarely is it posed in such a way. Essentially, what she was asking is, "If you could craft the best educational experience for kids, what would that entail?"

I had to sum up my response with one word, epiphanies. I want our kids to have an educational experience wrought with epiphanies, moments where students: experience discovery, learn what it’s like to succeed after failing, try new things, travel and learn to utilize knowledge gained to do something meaningful.

In my mind, I could picture my daughter sounding out words in her coloring book one night a few weeks ago. She came home from school discouraged that she could not read as many words as one of her classmates. She said, "Daddy, my friend can read better than me. Does that mean she is smarter than I am?" I looked at her and said, "No, dear, just because someone can do something better than you doesn't mean you can’t work hard to do what they can do even better than they can do it. Whatever you practice, you will get better doing."

I turned to a page in her coloring book and we sounded out the letters on the page one by one for each work. I had her repeat them over and over together and asked her what it sounded like she was saying. Her eyes lit up, and she said, "OH!!! It says, Say yes!"

What happened for Lailah is what I wish for all students. If their educational experiences are missing epiphanies from opportunities to expand their horizons, to discover something new and exciting, to have the joy of mastering a skill or concept or triumph after failure, our students are wasting their time in our schools. These types of experiences are the best way we can foster our youths social-emotional and academic learning wherein they can boldly declare, "I am, I can, and I belong." As parents and as educators, we must facilitate this process for our kids.

 

National Merit Scholarship

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A love for her community and a determination to preserve the global habitat are the driving forces that compel Lynwood High School senior Abieiden Lopez to pursue a career developing and promoting renewable energy. Lopez was recently named a commended National Merit Scholar, placing her in an elite group of students who make up two percent of seniors who received the highest scores across the country.

National Merit Scholarship participants are selected based on how they score on their Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/MSQT), taken during junior year. Of the 1.6 million students who took the exam, 34,000 top scorers received a commendation.

“This is very empowering to me. I’m from Lynwood and I feel if I can do it, anyone can do it,” Lopez said. “I gain a lot of inspiration from my family and teachers, who continually push me to work as hard as I can. I want to receive the best education possible so that I can work on the big issues the world faces today, and come back to Lynwood so that I can be a role model to others and a positive force for change within our community.”

Lopez, who carries a 4.21 GPA, has a passion for both engineering and advocacy, looking to attend a university where she can major in electrical engineering and minor in political science. Taking college courses every semester, Lopez has already received enough credits to receive an AMETLL Certificate of Engineering Design, through a partnership with District partner Cerritos College.

Lopez balances four to five AP classes per semester with a full schedule of extracurricular activities. Lopez is the founder of the Lynwood High Community Service Club, which is now affiliated with the Kiwanis Club, and is currently Vice President of LHS’ National Honor Society chapter. As a strong proponent of developing sustainable energy technologies to combat climate change, Lopez was Director of the District’s second annual Girls STEM Conference, held in April.

During summer break, Lopez attended the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) residency, a six-week science and engineering program at MIT for rising high school seniors from across the country. Upon her return, Lopez participated in a UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science Tech Camp, a four-week program where high school students receive tutorials and mentoring from UCLA engineering students.

Lopez has also been named a finalist for a QuestBridge scholarship which would provide a full, four-year scholarship worth over $200,000 to a QuestBridge partner university.

“Abieiden Lopez is an outstanding student who pushes herself to achieve great things for herself, her family, her classmates and her community,” LUSD Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “She’s a shining example of what’s possible for all of our Lynwood Unified students.”

 

The GOP Doesn’t Care that Teachers Buy Their Own Classroom Supplies

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By Shawnta Barnes

We give our blood, our sweat, and our tears.  We sacrifice time we should be spending with family and friends.  We spend money from our salaries, which aren’t up to par with other professionals with four-year degrees, to buy supplies for our classrooms and now the GOP wants to eliminate a benefit that helps us with that cost.  

The educator expense deduction allows teachers and administrators to deduct $250 on their taxes for out-of-pocket expenses for classroom items or professional development.  The National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) and Scholastic recently released studies showing educators are spending hundreds of their hard earned money each year to supply basic necessities to ensure students can learn.  Republicans stated they want to eliminate this deduction to simplify the tax system, but how does this help students who attend resource-strapped schools?

Each school has its own needs.  When I worked in one urban school, most of my students had supplies and the school was able to provide additional supplies I needed, so I did not buy much. When I switched to another school, 15 minutes away, I was in for a rude awakening.  I remember going to the office and asking for the supply form to request some paper, pencils and folders for students to track their own data as I did at my previous school.  The school secretary responded by laughing and then said, “Poor thing, I know you are serious. But if the students don’t bring it, we don’t have money to buy it.”  That school year, I spent my money on class novel sets, data folders, pencils, markers, etc. just to get through the year.  I also went online to DonorsChoose.org to obtain additional novels.  

Teachers should not have to panhandle on the street, create Go Fund Me or Donors Choose campaigns to get supplies and resources.  Why take away this tax credit when we know teachers will still have to continue to go into their own pockets?  Another benefit for teachers is being taken away without solutions being offered to solve the root cause of the problem.  Will this be another reason teachers leave the profession?  How are we going to stop the teacher shortage when we keep taking things away from teachers?

College Accessibility

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Undocumented students do not always know that college is a real possibility for their lives.  Maria Lopez Lozano, a teacher with LAUSD who was an undocumented student, has made it her mission to educate other undocumented students about college accessibility.

“It’s very sad for me to hear my undocumented students saying they didn’t know they can go to college. They never heard from counselors or teachers or even their parents that they can have access to higher education. That means it is a failure in the (school) system.”

Read more here

Weapons Search

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LA Unified School District is conducting random weapons searches, and students have mixed feelings about it.  Some students believe that it is a strong safety feature, while others feel violated. 

“I value my safety and I don’t think it’s a violation, but I was nervous doing it in front of everyone.  I think most of my friends think wanding is very beneficial and know you’re not in trouble if you have to be searched. They are very respectful and not rude.”

Read more here

To Stop The Cycle Of Poverty, We Need To Invest In Mothers

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By Chris Stewart

Traveling back to New Orleans, my birthplace and where I spent all of my years growing up, always brings me to a realization that, while change is happening in this great city, time seems to stand still for those who need change the most. It’s an area where ― although measures are being put in place for some to thrive ― families living in poverty continue to yearn for the basic necessities of life: a quality education, safe communities, affordable housing and the means by which one can attain all three.

Standing at the root of these families is typically a woman. A mom. A warrior. A “she-ro” who is tired and, yet, continues to press on for her family and her community, because if she doesn’t, she knows no one else will.

The Wayfinder Foundation was founded on the principle that if we invest in women, we will change the world. We believe that in order to truly eradicate intergenerational poverty, we must change who we empower by allowing them to be “in power.” We believe what global anti-poverty advocates have learned: by investing in women and girls, we can change a nation.

However, in the United States, we do the opposite. We create welfare policies that perpetuate the cycles of poverty by providing only subsistence-level cash assistance which narrows the doors to education and training, and pushes recipients into low-wage, no-benefit employment. Too often, work requirements for public assistance funnel mothers toward highly feminized industries ― hospitality, retail, low-end health care, etc. ― that pay low wages, offer no sick leave, and have no unemployment benefits. I know this because I worked with these mothers during my employment in the direct social services industry.

Find a job that makes too much money? Your public assistance is cut off. Use your EBT card to buy something that’s not on the “approved” list? You receive a red flag and you’re in trouble. Try to get your child in a high-performing school? The best options are often too far away, or require admission tests or have one of many other barriers.

The average recipient of welfare benefits in Louisiana is a mother with two children, and the average cash grant is $200 per month. For a family of 10, the cash grant tops out at $512 per month. Families can receive assistance for 24 months, but doing so requires jumping through many hoops (which can include drug screening). The system is designed to stabilize a financial crisis, but not to replace it with family economic security. That’s wrong.

After years of education and welfare reform, one thing is clear: we cannot improve child welfare without improving the lives of mothers.

We believe the system must transform from one that sustains poverty to one that supports women entering poverty-ending occupations. That won’t happen without challenging the policies that are failing women today. The solution to these very real woes for women and children in poverty is creating a fund that frees women to become the true advocates they are. We’ve all seen them in our communities. It was common, in my extended community, to find that key person who everyone turned to when they needed help navigating the “system.” She knew exactly who to call, what to say and most importantly, how mobilize parents and community members when needed to make bigger, bolder statements and, ultimately, create the change we needed.

Usually, that woman did it all with no pay. Imagine if someone saw her value to the community and invested in her becoming a leader. How much more impact could she have if she had the resources to do more and to help the masses instead of the few? What type of changes do you think we would see in cities like New Orleans?

After years of education and welfare reform, one thing is clear: We cannot improve child welfare without improving the lives of mothers.Only a two-generation strategy that supports parents and children will make a difference. Where others see deficiencies, lack and want, the Wayfinder Foundation sees opportunity for little revolutions that place demands on power and change systems for the better. We see the need to fight fiercely for foundational supports that strengthen the positions of parents and guardians. We get there by investing directly in the most basic unit of change in a child’s life, their mother.

This is why the Wayfinder Foundation exists. Through philanthropy, we want to change the game by making direct investments into poverty-ending advocacy by investing in moms. We believe that until women, parents and guardians lead the charge to challenge the systems that serve them ― education, human services and elections ― we can’t expect to win our ceaseless battle against poverty.

This post was first posted on www.huffingtonpost.com

Instability on LAUSD Board

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LAUSD Superintendent, Michelle King, is on medical leave for the rest of 2017.  Acting Supt. Vivian Ekchian is doing well to keep the district moving in the right direction, but questions about King’s health continue.

“There is a lot of instability right now. People would like clarity, but we don’t have it. I have respected the rights of Supt. King under the law. She is covered by all laws that protect employees.”

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