Denver Takes Bold Step Toward Eliminating Its School-to-Prison Pipeline – COLORLINES

Already home to one of the most progressive school discipline policies in the country, Denver has set out to best even its own record. On Tuesday, Denver Public Schools and local and county police departments inked a five-year agreement specifically designed to limit student interaction with the juvenile justice system. The agreement offers a rare example of a school system that is bucking the national trend toward criminalizing student misbehavior

Read the full article here: Denver Takes Bold Step Toward Eliminating Its School-to-Prison Pipeline


The End of the Neighborhood School


The End of the Neighborhood School

The End of the Neighborhood School

There’s something romantic about the idea of a neighborhood public school. Not only is it the place where your child can walk or bike on a daily basis, it’s where you can meet your neighbors, attend a school play and otherwise build a community.

But that neighborhood school—the school were a child goes as a matter of right—is withering in many American cities.

Read the full article here: The End of the Neighborhood School.

Rethink TFA | The Harvard Crimson

Originally a 2009 Teach For America Mississippi Delta Corps Member, I am now a fourth-year teacher of low-income and minority students at a public charter high school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I would not be a teacher today without the support of TFA, and the majority of my incredible colleagues are Teach For America alumni. My principal—the most effective school leader I have ever witnessed as a teacher or a student—is a TFA alumnus.

But February 15 marks the final deadline to apply to be a 2013 TFA Corps Member, and you should not click “submit.”

Read the full article here: Rethink TFA | The Harvard Crimson.

Diane Ravitch's blog

On January 20, I published a post by a teacher who asked about how to deal with the heterogeneity of the student population. She said that charters appealed to parents who wanted less heterogeneity.
Here is an excerpt:
“We complain that charters are skimming the top, we have to take all comers and we can’t cherrypick; we can’t dump the least school ready students. We wear it as a badge of honor; we’re a force for egalitarian education for all. We’re a place where all children come together to learn. Well, that’s great.”BUT… a parent who wants to limit negative influences or increase challenge of instruction may not care about the general mission if the impact of that mission upon their child is negative. I’m not sure we can stem the tide of charters when we use middle class children as social equalizers and consider the annual limitation upon their…

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Are These Schools or Pre-Prison Detainment Camps

How many Chicago juvenile arrests happen at school?    African American students were arrested at a rate nearly four times that of whites or Latinos

By Linda Paul
From The Black Star Project, February 4, 2013

Arrests on CPS property by age:


Source: Chicago Police Department. Final column indicates total juvenile arrests on CPS property.

Tens of thousands of young people get arrested each year in Chicago, and a lot of those arrests happen on the grounds of Chicago Public Schools. Of course, arrests at school happen all across the country.

The connection even has a name: some people say schools are a worrisome ‘pipeline’ to the criminal justice system for many young people. In fact, last December, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin held the first ever congressional hearings on the topic. One big worry for people who work with kids is the lingering records kids can get from those arrests.

I’m visiting the home of Chicago Public School teacher Valerie Collins, and her son, daughter and I are crowded around a laptop on their dining room table. Valerie’s kids are both public school graduates. I’d heard about a YouTube video that showed a really nasty fight at Sullivan High School in Chicago, and asked them to watch it with me.

“It’s got a million hits!,” Collins is exclaiming. “A million five hits. A million six!” They’re listening to a television announcers account: “We have video of this and first of all the video is graphic. Okay, it’s literally two girls, 17 and 18 beating up a 14 year old. The 14 year old suffered a concussion.”

I’m here to talk to Collins about arrests at school. She’s a math teacher at Simeon Career Academy, and before that she taught at both Lakeview and Phillips. I wanted to know if fights like the one we’re watching are once-in-a-blue moon events.

Collins says serious fights like this happen at some, but not all, public schools maybe a couple times a year. Her daughter says it “sucks,” but while she was in school she became sort of desensitized to such fights, “I wanna say it starts out as a joke because usually the way these, like fights, start off is off of something so ridiculous, so that it gets around the school and then everyone’s just like, ‘Oh, you know, there’s gonna be a fight this period, you know. Let’s all go out and see.”

“It’s worse with cell phones now,” Collins adds, “because with cell phones they text people that there’s going to be a fight. That’s what they do. They text that there’s going to be a fight and then unless we find out about it, everybody knows except for the administration. That’s what happens.”

There were about 4,600 arrests on public school grounds in 2011. That’s about a fifth of the 25,000 arrests of kids 17 and under that year in Chicago.

But of those 4,600 arrests, only 14 percent were for the really serious stuff, the felonies, like robbery, burglary and fights with serious injuries — like that one on the YouTube video.

Most arrests at school are for the still troubling, but less serious stuff — the misdemeanors.

“So you’ve got some smart-mouthed 15-year-old girl, who the teacher says to her, you know, Miss Thang, sit down.”

Here’s Herschella Conyers, clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago.

“And she says to the teacher, ‘You ain’t talkin’ to me.’ And off they go! And the teacher says, ‘I’ll put you outta my room.’ And the student says, you know, ‘I’ll whip your ass.’ Uh –here come the police ! It’s an ag assault. Now. Is the student absolutely wrong? Absolutely. Is there a better way to handle it? Yes.”

Conyers says there was a time when conduct wasn’t governed by the threat that the police would arrest. “It was, you know, here comes the principal, or God forbid – they’re about to call my mother. In those days it would be, could you just call the police and not my mother, you know?”

There were over 3,500 misdemeanor arrests at Chicago public schools in 2011. The biggest category was for simple battery. That could be a punch, a shove, or a fight –seemingly minor confrontations that these days are taken seriously because they can lead to retaliations.

Next was disorderly conduct. Basically? Kids creating a ruckus. No serious injuries.

And the third biggest category? Drug abuse violations. These are usually arrests for small quantities of marijuana, because if it was a large quantity, or drugs like cocaine or heroin-that would be a felony.

That last category, in particular, bothers Conyers’ colleague down the hall, Craig Futterman – also a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago. National studies, he says, show that white kids use and sell drugs at a rate higher than black kids do. And, says Futterman, that’s true in Chicago too.

“Where the vast majority of kids who use and sell drugs in high school are white. The vast majority of kids who are arrested for drugs, and or, worse, go to juvenile jail or go to juvenile prison for drugs, are African-American,” says Futterman.

Here’s what the numbers say about arrests at Chicago Public Schools in 2011. Almost 75 percent — three quarters — of all arrests were of African-American students. At the same time, in that same year, African-American students comprised about 42 percent of the student body. In fact in 2011, African American students were arrested at a rate nearly four times that of whites or Latinos.

This kind of imbalance is causing a lot of consternation and was a big topic of conversation at Senator Durbin’s national hearings last month.

Craig Futterman and Herschella Conyers think that lower level offenses, the misdemeanors basically, are better handled within the school. By counselors, social workers and restorative justice practices like peer juries and peace circles.

Kristina Menzel is an attorney who represents kids in juvenile court. She says that when principals request arrest, unfortunately it’s sometimes a way for the school to pass a problem kid on to another system.

“Now part of the problem is schools don’t have money for these services, ” Menzel says. “There’s not money out there for education like there should be. So the schools use the courts to get services for these kids that are problematic.”

There has to be a better way to deal with this, she says, “Since once they’re brought in here, they’re more likely to re-offend. And if they go to the Department of Juvenile Justice, their probability of re-offending goes up even higher.”

As serious as getting arrested in school can be, what happens later can be even more serious. Follow our story of how a juvenile arrest record can mess up a young person’s prospects for finding a job.

How Illinois’ Flawed Funding System Shortchanges Chicago’s Students

By Pat Garofalo, posted on Sep 12, 2012

Chicago’s public school teachers remained on strike for a third day today. But as ThinkProgress reported yesterday, even when Chicago schools are in session, students have to deal with a host of should-be-embarrassing problems, including crumbling buildings, lack of art and physical education classes, and an abysmally short school day. (Chicago’s elementary school day is so short that some students are given just 10 minutes for lunch in order to cram in all the necessary instruction.)

These problems stem in large part from Illinois’ education funding system, which is one of, if not the most, inequitable in the nation. Illinois schools rely even more heavily on property taxes than the standard U.S. school district, which, as the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability noted, “ties the quality of the public education a school can give a child to the wealth of the community in which that child lives.”

Huge proportions of Chicago students come from low-income households, so the property tax base from which the schools are funded is not high. The Chicago Reporter outlined some of the practical consequences of this system:

– Due to the primary reliance on local property tax revenue for school funding, there are massive cumulative gaps in per-pupil spending, particularly in poor or minority communities. The 6,413 students who started elementary school in Evanston [a suburb north of Chicago] in 1994 and graduated from high school in 2007 had about $290 million more spent on their education than the same number of Chicago Public Schools students.

– Many of the school districts that spent the most per-student received at least 90 percent of their money from local property taxes. Yet, these districts tended to tax themselves at far lower rates than their poorer counterparts.

– The percentage of state contribution to school funding has decreased four of the last five years and is one of the lowest in the nation.

Illinois is also generally terrible at funding education, ranking 40th in per-capital education spending, despite being 15th in per-capita income. And the disproportionate lack of funding for low-income areas, particularly within cities, manifests itself in several ways. Besides the obvious lack of resources for students, wealthier districts can attract better teachers and pay for better safety measures.

As one Chicago school teacher wrote, “How can the discrepancy be so wide in school funding? The answer is simple; Gage Park [where she taught] is a violent, gang-­‐ridden neighborhood where the houses are very cheap. The worth of the properties will never rise due to the extreme violence in the neighborhood. Also, most of the living spaces are rented – there just aren’t that many people that own homes. Therefore, property taxes are low, virtually non-­‐existent.” By some estimates, it would take about $1.9 billion to bring Chicago’s students up to level at which they were meeting state standards.

CFE Demands Action to Restore NY School Funding to Constitutional Level

December 4, 2012

On November 27, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a project of Education Law Center, sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature detailing the history of school finance since passage of the Foundation Aid Formula in 2007. Noting that in recent years the formula has been underfunded by $5.5 billion, the letter states that NY schoolchildren, especially those with the greatest need, are being denied critical educational resources. Below are excerpts from the letter, read the full letter here.

On behalf of New York’s schoolchildren, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (“CFE”) writes to bring to your attention a matter of paramount concern. We understand the State faces many challenges, but none is more important than safeguarding the future of our children. The reality is that today in New York State that future is in peril because our children’s basic educational needs are not being met. As we explain, the State’s underfunding of our public schools is so severe that it amounts to a violation of its constitutional obligation to provide New York’s children with adequate educational resources.

In the landmark CFE decision, New York’s highest court defined a constitutionally “sound basic education” as “a meaningful high school education, one which prepares [students] to function productively as civic participants.”

The Court of Appeals found that State underfunding of New York City Schools resulted in a severe deprivation of critical resources, including certified teachers, reasonable class size, and textbooks, technology and other instrumentalities of learning.

In 2007 the Governor and the Legislature…enacted a statewide school funding remedy to fulfill that constitutional obligation. The new finance system, the Foundation Aid Formula (“2007 Formula”), established a relationship between state aid, the needs of students, and district ability to raise revenue. The Formula was designed to shift the allocation of school aid from political maneuvering to a system responsive to student need and district wealth.

Despite this historic action, the State has defaulted on its constitutional commitment to implement the CFE remedy through the 2007 Formula. In the first two years, the Legislature provided installments of Foundation Aid, totaling $2.3 billion. However, in 2009, aid was frozen at 37.5% of the four-year target, and then cut by 2.7 billion in 2010 and 2011 through the Gap Elimination Adjustment. The GEA was regressive by imposing larger cuts in higher need school districts, resulting in a widening of the resource gap with students in wealthy districts. These cuts were further exacerbated by the highly restrictive Tax Cap Levy enacted in 2011.

Moreover, the Governor and the Legislature adopted a budget maneuver designed to prevent full funding of the 2007 Formula: the Personal Income Growth Index (PIGI) Cap commonly referred to as the cap on state school aid. This cap has the effect of relegating moderate and high need districts to long term underfunding, thereby ensuring that compliance with the constitutional obligations of CFE for students in those districts will never be fulfilled.

At the same time, student need is growing. The Children’s Defense Fund reports that 21% of New York State’s children live in poverty, with 10.1 % living in extreme poverty, a notable increase from 2008. In New York City, a startling 25.8% of children live in poverty, up from 22.9% in 2008. Heightened poverty means more children come to school needing additional educational and social services, thus intensifying the economic burden on school districts. New state and federal mandates only add to the fiscal stress.

The failure to fund the 2007 Formula is depriving students of resources vital to achievement. A new White House report noted that in New York City, the number of elementary students in classes of 30 or more has tripled in the last three years. Thirty-one percent [of districts] reduced summer school and reduced or deferred instructional technology. Districts cut their workforce by an average of 3.9% this year, on top of 4.9% in 2011-12.

It is now plainly evident that our school districts are in a financial and educational crisis. Their outlook for the near future is dire. Forty-one percent of districts forecast financial insolvency within four years and a vast majority, 77%, foresee educational insolvency within the same timeframe. Thus, in just a few years, districts will be unable to fulfill federal and state mandates for instruction and student services.

Even more alarming, the current legislative framework prevents full funding of the 2007 Formula until at least 16 years from now, in 2028. Thus, two more generations of New York children will pass through our schools before the State even begins to approach meeting its constitutional obligation to adequately fund its public schools through implementation of the CFE remedy.

It is incumbent, therefore, that the Foundation Aid under the 2007 Formula be restored, and that the Formula be put back on a four-year cycle to phase-in full funding. We urge you to bring New York State into compliance with the state constitution by making fulfillment of the CFE remedy a top priority for the upcoming budget and legislative session. This priority is not only necessary to reverse the educationally destructive trends of the past three years, but to ensure State fulfillment of its constitutional obligations to New York school children.

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24