Court Blocks Trump's Changes to Immigration Rule That Created Fear of Accepting Free School Lunch

Court Blocks Trump's Changes to Immigration Rule That Created Fear of Accepting Free School Lunch

A Court on Tuesday blocked proposed Trump administration changes that would have prevented more immigrants who use social services from seeking permanent residence in the United States. Fear of Trump’s “public charge” rule changes had made some immigrant families wary of using public school services such as free school lunch.

California is one of nine states fighting this policy in federal court that won an injunction stopping proposed changes that would have denied green cards to immigrants using social services such as CalFresh/SNAP food stamps, Medicaid health programs or  public housing assistance.

The changes had been set to take effect on Oct. 15. Even though school services used by children of immigrants would not have changed a parent’s status, uncertainty was affecting parent behavior in Los Angeles and across the country.

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My South L.A. child with Down Syndrome should be starting kindergarten. Here’s why he’ll be home with me instead.

 My South L.A. child with Down Syndrome should be starting kindergarten. Here’s why he’ll be home with me instead.

By Noel Scott

I’m the mother of a biracial 5-year-old boy who has Down Syndrome. In less than two weeks, my beautiful boy should be starting kindergarten with all the other kids in LAUSD. Tonight, rather than writing this blog, I should be doing some back-to-school shopping or making a crafty chalkboard prop for the classic “First Day of School” photos to brighten our social media. But as we approach mid-August, LAUSD has yet to provide an appropriate school placement for my son. In fact, his Individualized Education Plan is blank for a school placement. He literally has no place to enroll in school. It is likely that he will spend the first several weeks of school at home, rather than with his peers in a classroom. 

This is heartbreaking. But the fact is, I live in South Los Angeles, and until we tackle the systemic racism that has led to decades of severe neglect, it’s clear that LAUSD does not consider the vulnerable kids in my zip code a priority. What I have witnessed while touring LAUSD’s special education classrooms in South L.A. has shaken me to my core.

I should start by saying that I am accustomed to working with vulnerable populations under difficult conditions. For the past 15 years, I have worked as a Special Education teacher for incarcerated youth and adults in New York and Los Angeles. I have worked tirelessly to implement an inclusion model, which allows those with special needs to be educated alongside typical peers, and to support learners of all abilities in some of the most notorious jails. I have delivered special education services with dignity and advocated for every student as if they were family. I had no idea that I would eventually be a mom to a child with disabilities. I had no idea that I would have to fight this hard for him to receive an equitable education and the services he needs to access it.

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New Report: Kids Will Benefit If We Pay Teachers More, Make Prep Programs More Selective

New Report: Kids Will Benefit If We Pay Teachers More, Make Prep Programs More Selective

One of the best ways to improve the quality of education for kids is to pay teachers more and make teacher preparation programs more selective, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C.

“Teachers are notoriously underpaid,” the report said. “Public school teachers make less than other comparable professionals in every state,” earning 13.1 percent less on average in 2018, when accounting for non-wage benefits. Given low pay, teachers are about 30 percent more likely than non-teachers to work a second job, and 94 percent pay out of pocket for classroom supplies.

The report, titled A Quality Education for Every Child, presents a bleak picture of public education in the United States. Between 2000 and 2017, the U.S. slipped from 5th to 10th in its rate of postsecondary degree attainment, and results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a middle school standard sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card, have stagnated in recent years in both reading and math.

“Compared with the United States, other countries with higher-performing educational systems tend to have more rigorous selection processes for admission into teacher preparation programs,” the report said.    

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Free Summer Learning and Fun for L.A. Kids

Free Summer Learning and Fun for L.A. Kids

Nearly one month into summer, if your child is spending a bit too much time on screens or complaining about boredom, rest assured there are options. Speak UP has put together a list of free summer activities for L.A. kids. While some offerings are restricted to students who quality for free and reduced lunch, there is truly something for everyone, from swim lessons to computer and art classes to the opportunity to enjoy a good book with a former Dodgers player.

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Parents at Angeles Mesa in South L.A. Speak UP to Improve Conditions at Their School

Parents at Angeles Mesa in South L.A. Speak UP to Improve Conditions at Their School

Three years ago, Soralia Castro made the difficult decision to remove her daughter Amy Carranza from Angeles Mesa elementary school in South Los Angeles. After Amy had lost her teacher and faced the prospect of a school year with a sub who was not credentialed, Soralia complained to the school administration. The school principal asked her why she cared since, "the children of Angeles Mesa do not graduate anyway," Soralia said.

Despite her 13-year-old daughter Amy’s success at her new district school, Soralia is still indignant years later. That’s why she joined a group of parents whose kids currently attend Angeles Mesa to speak up at the LAUSD board meeting Tuesday about problems they are facing at the school. Issues the parents raised include low student achievement, safety issues, disrespect for parents, lack of budget transparency, harsh physical discipline against students and discrimination against Spanish-speaking families.

"For me it's still very painful, because my daughter did not graduate with the children she grew up with,” Soralia said. “That still affects us. And this is 100 percent the fault of the principal. She humiliates parents. She says about us, ‘If you do not speak English, how are your kids going to get out of the hole?' It is true that I do not speak 100 percent English, but I'm not going to let a person who does not recognize the value of a child, or the intelligence of a child, discourage us.”

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Nurse and LAUSD Parent: New Contract Won’t Solve School Nursing Shortage

Nurse and LAUSD Parent: New Contract Won’t Solve School Nursing Shortage

As an LAUSD parent and registered nurse of 18 years, the UTLA strike left me frustrated that our labor and district leaders seemed to be looking through a 1980s lens to address the 21st century needs of our students – specifically the need for more school nurses to ensure that our kids’ learning is not hindered by health issues.  

In the three decades since the last teachers strike, everything from demographic trends to technology to workforce realities and employee expectations has changed. Nevertheless, UTLA leadership looked back 30 years to benchmark what could be gained.

UTLA’s call for an increase in the number of school nurses was one demand that the union seemingly won from the strike. The new agreement adds 300 new positions over the next two years. I have my doubts, though, that a significant number of the new positions will ever be filled. Even before the strike, there were over 30 fully funded school nurse vacancies across the district. If LAUSD could not fill those 30, what makes us think they can fill another 300?

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LAUSD Teacher: Combine More Funding With Reform To Realize Education Gains Teachers Fought For And Kids Deserve

LAUSD Teacher: Combine More Funding With Reform To Realize Education Gains Teachers Fought For And Kids Deserve

As an LAUSD elementary school teacher, I have found the tangible campus gains from the teachers strike in January to be disappointing. But the strike did accomplish one very important thing. It brought much-needed attention to the consequences of chronic public school under-funding.

As we walked the picket line, teachers felt more supported and more empowered than we have in decades. Many students and their parents joined us at protests and on the picket lines, calling for more funding for our schools. It is clear that the community appreciates us and strongly supports teachers, as well as more investment in our schools.

Increasing funding for education is only part of the picture, though. Teachers, we too need to consider agreeing to some changes. The reality is that district healthcare and pension costs currently take up close to 30 percent of the LAUSD annual budget. That number is projected to rise to 50 percent by the year 2031. Not only are these costs unsustainable, but every dollar that covers these expenses is taken from the same pot that funds our salaries and our schools.

As union members we need to ask our union leadership to begin exploring cost-saving options, and we need to demand that we be included as active and informed participants in this conversation.

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