Monday, August 23, 2021

In Case You Missed It – August 23, 2021

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

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This week we're in the midst of the annual school beginning rollouts. Many schools have already started in Indiana and we're facing a not unexpected pushback from some parents on masks, vaccines, and student (and staff) safety in our public schools.

We also include two articles from last week, which grew in readership during this week.

To begin, though, we start with a discussion of infrastructure and Critical Race Theory.


Highways And Critical Race Theory

From Sheila Kennedy
Opponents of (a dramatically-mischaracterized) Critical Race Theory are essentially arguing against the recognition of just how deeply racism has affected American law and culture. They argue–and some undoubtedly believe–that civil rights laws created a level playing field, and that it’s now up to minority folks to stop complaining and make use of their equal opportunities.

The problem with that belief–even if we leave aside the sociological effects of two hundred plus years of history–is that it is wrong.

As a society, we are just beginning to appreciate the extent to which racial animus has been baked into our laws and customs. (I was shocked to read The Color of the Law, for example, which documented how deeply the federal government was implicated in redlining and the segregation of America.) Only because I was involved in an effort to modify plans for rebuilding Indiana’s interstates within Indianapolis’ downtown did I become aware of the degree to which the original placement of those highways was the result of racist motives and assumptions.


Indiana’s governor backing schools on face mask mandates

Unlike other Republican governors, Indiana's Eric Holcomb is practicing actual conservative values in supporting local control over school mask mandates.

From AP News
Indiana’s governor gave his support Monday to the growing number of school districts across the state issuing mask mandates for students and staff as they try to head off more COVID-19 outbreaks.

Several of the state’s largest school districts in the Indianapolis area began requiring masks for indoor areas on Monday after starting the school year without such requirements, reacting to a growing number of COVID-19 infections among students as the more transmissible delta variant continues surging in the state.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would continue his policy of allowing local officials to impose mask rules and other steps to stem the coronavirus spread even as several school boards have faced vocal — and sometimes misleading — opposition to such actions.

“I think the schools that are putting mask mandates into place are making a wise decision when the facts warrant it,” Holcomb said. “I’m not surprised by the pushback having lived through the last year and a half.”
Biden orders Education Department to take action against governors who ban school mask mandates

The President pushes back against governors who are attempting to stop local school boards from doing what they need to do to protect the health and safety of students.

From the Answer Sheet
President Biden ordered Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Wednesday to take action against governors who have banned universal masking in public schools, taking a tough stand against those who he said are trying to “block and intimidate” local schools officials.

At a news conference, Biden said his administration would not “stand by” and allow governors to prevent local districts from “keeping students safe” with masking mandates for the new academic year as cases from the delta variant of the coronavirus are skyrocketing.

He did not name any specific governor, but Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, are among those state leaders who have threatened to withhold funding from districts or take other action against those districts that defy them. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest district in the country, on Wednesday passed a universal masking mandate — with only a medical opt-out — as did Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“I’m directing the secretary of education to take additional steps to protect our children,” Biden said. “This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local schools officials and educators.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said masking is one of the strongest tools that can be taken to protect the spread of the delta variant, which has caused a rise in pediatric coronavirus cases. The agency this summer, in a shift in guidance, recommended everyone over the age of 2 — even those who are vaccinated — wear masks inside school buildings.

But a handful of Republican governors and legislatures have banned mask mandates in schools.

Why Does Your Right to Unmask Usurp My Child’s Right to a Safe School?
John B. Finch, the great constitutional amendment advocate, was wont to settle this point by a single illustration. He said, “I stand alone upon a platform. I am a tall man with long arms which I may use at my pleasure. I may even double my fist and gesticulate at my own sweet will. But if another shall step upon the platform, and in the exercise of my personal liberty I bring my fist against his face, I very soon find that my personal liberty ends where that man’s nose begins.”
Where does one's right to remain unmasked or unvaccinated end?

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
We talk about rights so much we seem to have lost entirely the idea of responsibilities. They go hand-in-hand.

Yes, you have the freedom to do whatever you like so long as it doesn’t hurt another person.

When your actions do hurt others, you have a responsibility to stop. And if you won’t do that, the government has a responsibility to stop you.

But in this anti-intellectual age, we’ve almost completely given up on that idea.

If people take precautions by masking up and getting vaccinated, the worst that will happen is they’ll be unduly inconvenienced. If my daughter and I are forced to exist in the same spaces with people not taking the proper precautions, we could get sick and die.

It’s not like we’re talking about two equal sides here. This is people who believe the overwhelming scientific majority vs. those who get their answers from YouTube videos and political figures. It’s doctors, researchers and immunologists vs. conspiracy theorists, internet trolls and the MyPillow guy.

Classroom instruction vital, but so is safety

Masks are required in Fort Wayne Community Schools, but the other school systems in the county are "mask-optional." 

Keeping our students safe should not be "optional."

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Educators continue to tout the value of classroom instruction, and data released last week by the Indiana Department of Education reiterates the point as schools wade into a second academic year surrounded by coronavirus concerns.

Among Hoosier students last year, according to the department, those who attended in-person lessons fared better in math and English than counterparts whose families chose remote school options. Data show that in-person students outpaced virtual learners on test scores in both subjects.

"Educators across the state continue to lead this important work, and yet in order to overcome impacts of the pandemic, schools cannot do this alone," Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said in a statement. "This requires all of us working together : community partners, schools and families : to keep our focus on growth and improved outcomes for our Hoosier students."

A communal approach to ensuring in-person learning is key. But only one of Allen County's four public school districts : Fort Wayne Community Schools : is opting to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance calling for universal mask wearing, regardless of vaccination status. Buy-in on preventive measures from families, teachers and staff at East Allen County Schools, Northwest Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools will be more important than ever.

Schools were largely successful in 2020-21, when masks were mandatory. Nearly 50% of Indiana schools had more than 90% of their students attending in-person, state officials said.


Koch Network Infiltration of Public Schools 'Harms Students, Teachers, and Our Democracy': Report

Read the report!

From Common Dreams
A new report published Wednesday reveals how the Koch network—a shadowy group of wealthy capitalists acting to push the U.S. in a more conservative direction—is methodically working to undermine and privatize public education for financial gain.

The report (pdf), entitled The Koch Network and the Capture of K-12 Education, was compiled by the advocacy groups UnKoch My Campus and Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ) and examines tactics employed by the plutocrats' cabal—which is led by billionaire Charles Koch, and whose members pay at least $100,000 per year—"to destabilize and abolish public education."

Charter Schools Are Not Public Schools (Ex. #152,377)

Charter schools are not public schools.

From Curmudgucation
In North Carolina, Charter Day School back in 2016 was sued by parents who objected to a dress code requiring girls to wear skirts, jumpers, or skorts. They just won that suit, sort of, but revealed somethiung about themselves in the winning.

...In 2019, a federal judge passed down the ruling that any public school in the country would have expected-- a dress code requiring skirts for girls is unconstitutional. The school quietly retired the item in the dress code.

But that wasn't the end of it. Monday (Aug 9) a federal appeals court tossed out the 2019 ruling--sort of-- in a 2-1 ruling.

The two judges, both Trump appointees, ruled that contrary to the assertion of the lower court, that charter schools should not be considered state actors, and are therefore not subject to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This is yet another way for the courts to work their way around to declaring that charter schools are free to discriminate in any ways they wish. But it also makes one thing perfectly clear--

Charter schools are not public schools. They are not state actors.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information, go to


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