EduClips: Two-Thirds of Philadelphia Elementary Schools Lack Playgrounds, and Other News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

EduClips is a roundup of the week’s top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

Miami-Dade — Miami Charter School Teachers Want In on Districtwide Salary Hike: Miami-Dade County’s 1,830 charter school teachers weren’t included in a November property tax deal that has already led to disbursement of about $211 million in significant pay supplements for the rest of the district’s 19,200-member teacher corps. And they’re not happy about it. Now, letter-writing and social media campaigns have surfaced to encourage school board members to reconsider. Charter school angst for being left out of referendum measures is growing across Florida. In Palm Beach, two charter schools are suing after the county’s referendum language explicitly excluded them from the funds. And state Sen. Manny Díaz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, voiced his own displeasure about his home county not sharing referendum dollars with “all of their public school teachers” when he held a recent town hall. (Read at the Miami Herald)

Philadelphia — Two out of Three Philly Elementary Schools Lack Playgrounds: Two-thirds of Philadelphia School District elementary schools don’t have playgrounds, according to an investigation by WHYY. At these public schools, students run around on cracked pavement, among parked cars, and between Dumpsters. Playgrounds are more common in Center City and neighborhoods closer to downtown, and gentrifying neighborhoods and those with a strong history of community-based activism and development are more likely to have them. The monkey bars and jungle gyms commonplace at suburban schools tend to be missing in neighborhoods with high rates of concentrated poverty, and areas with the fewest playgrounds tend to be areas predominantly home to communities of color. (Read at WHYY)

Los Angeles — California Releases Federally Mandated List of Low-Performing Schools, Including Those in L.A., for First Time in Six Years: Under federal law, California is required to release the names of its lowest-performing schools. It did so this week for the first time in six years. The state identified 1,640 schools that need comprehensive or targeted assistance because they are struggling to adequately serve students, including 110 in Los Angeles. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires that states identify the bottom 5 percent of schools and additionally identify schools with one or more groups of students whose performance meets the criteria for “lowest-performing.” (Read at LA School Report)

Houston — Texas Ed Agency to Investigate Racially Charged Houston School Board Dispute: The Texas Education Agency is examining whether some Houston school board members violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and other statutes during a raucous October meeting that dissolved into shouting and racially charged accusations. The meeting turned controversial when school board member Diana Dávila made a surprise motion to fire the district’s interim leader, Grenita Lathan, and hire a new one, Abe Saavedra, who served as the superintendent in the early 2000s. The board voted 5-4 along racial lines to fire Lathan and hire Saavedra. They reversed course a few days later at a press conference where they apologized for their dysfunctional behavior during the year. The new state investigation comes just weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that the Houston school board is a disaster and should be taken over. (Read at Houston Public Media)

New York City — Nearing District Cap, Charters Race to Fill Remaining Slots: With seven slots remaining until the New York City schools hits its charter school cap, a race to fill them is on among 19 applicants. The competition for the slots kicked off at a time when the future of the sector looks especially bleak in New York City. The New York state Senate, once more friendly to charter schools, is now led by progressive Democrats who oppose charter expansion. That makes the chances slim that the state’s cap, which limits the number of new charter schools that can open in New York City, will be increased. As Chalkbeat reports, the seven slots up for grabs may very well go to those applicants who get the first OK from one of the bodies that can authorize New York charter schools — the New York State Board of Regents, which oversees the state Department of Education, and the State University of New York. (Read at Chalkbeat)

Chicago: Charter School Teachers Strike — Again: Unionized charter school teachers in Chicago went on strike this week, marking the district’s second work stoppage at independently operated campuses. The 175 teachers and paraprofessionals at four Chicago International Charter School campuses, represented by the Chicago Teachers Union, rejected a recent proposal that union leaders described as inadequate. The strike hit its third day Thursday, halting regular classes for about 2,200 students who attend the four affected campuses. The walkout came after four months of contract negotiations between teachers and Civitas Education Partners, which manages the schools. (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

Broward County — Board Feuds on Safety, Secrecy in Fort Lauderdale Schools: A Broward School Board discussion on safety, including the need for metal detectors at area schools, unraveled into a bitter feud between factions who support and oppose Superintendent Robert Runcie. New school board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered during the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, blasted Runcie’s decision to cancel a public meeting on safety and replace it with private meetings with parents. “I think Mr. Runcie is trying to control the conversation, keeping media out and keeping other school board members out,” Alhadeff said. The South Florida Sun Sentinel sued the district, charging that the meetings violated the state’s Sunshine Law. (Read at the South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

SCHOOL CLOSURES — Five things we’ve learned from a decade of research on school closures (Read at Chalkbeat)

RACISM — A Mom’s View: Blackface or No, Virginia Gov. Northam Has a History of Racist Views on Education. Unions and Democrats Supported Him Anyway (Read at The74Million.org)

CLASS SIZE — What a difference a small class size made one day in one elementary school (Read at USA Today)

TECHNOLOGY — How Technology Can Become More Productively Integrated in Education (Read at Forbes)

RACISM — Fewer AP classes, suspended more often: black students still face racism in suburbs (Read at USA Today)

Quotes of the Week

“I often feel like there’s 1,000 eyes on me while I’m taking a test. It creates a lot of stress and anxiety. Honestly, sometimes I feel I’m invisible, but at the same time, everyone’s watching me to see if I fail.” —Will Barrett, an 11th-grader in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport. Barrett, who is black, said racism is pervasive in school (Read at USA Today)

“To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.” —President Donald Trump, offering the one line devoted to K-12 education in his State of the Union address (Read at EdSource)

“The state was really quiet in releasing this list of schools, and there are no clear guidelines of how parents are supposed to be engaged in the process of improving those schools. For parents who have children in one of those schools, I’d like to know when they will be notified, will they be invited to share ideas about how to improve the school, how to get the school to a better place? Those things are unclear at this point.” —Carrie Hahnel, co-executive director of the state advocacy organization EdTrust-West, on California’s decision to release the names of its lowest-performing schools for the first time in six years (Read at LA School Report)

“There are no quick fixes in institutions of this size. The Catholic Church isn’t fixed overnight, the military isn’t fixed overnight, CPS will not be fixed overnight.” —Sean Black, assistant director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, on the sexual misconduct crisis at Chicago Public Schools (Read at The74Million.org)

“I think Mr. Runcie is trying to control the conversation, keeping media out and keeping other school board members out.” —Broward County school board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered during the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, on Superintendent Robert Runcie’s decision to cancel a public meeting on safety (Read at the South Florida Sun Sentinel)

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