Tuesday Reading List: Party Divisions, Unity in Schools

The Republican National Convention is this week, and in honor of the proceedings, the Lillian Mongeau at the Hechinger Report looks at the party's education platform:

Last week, the Republican Platform Committee began to discuss what it thinks should be included in the “Great Families, Education, Health Care, and Criminal Justice” section of its 2016 Platform. Current points of agreement include the ideas that students are more likely to achieve academically if their parents are married heterosexuals, student data should be more private, and merit pay should be granted to high-performing teachers. The party also agreed to leave in wording that would encourage states to offer the Bible as an elective literature course ... The platform is supposed to be finalized and released this week, and so far seems to be focused on maintaining the party’s traditional emphasis on teaching moral values in public schools. That would be a marked change of tone from the recent past for conservatives generally and Republican Party lawmakers specifically, whose ideas about restoring parental control and increasing market-driven free choice have contributed much to the current education reform movement.

There has been a lot of hemming and hawing among reform-minded Democrats, given their party's abandonment of some core reform principles this round, but they're not alone, apparently. The National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union, notices the shift and is appreciative. Here's Alyson Klein at EdWeek:

Earlier this month, NEA even gave its coveted "friend of education" award to the bipartisan duo that shepherded [ESSA, the new federal education law] through Congress, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.And on Monday, the first day of the Republican National Convention here, the NEA took time to celebrate some of the GOP lawmakers who helped push the law through, at a small, afternoon reception at a swanky wine bar a short walk from the site of the convention. Lawmakers in attendance included Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois,  John Shimkus of Illinois, Jeff Denham of California, and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania—all GOP House members who supported ESSA's passage.

Klein and Mongeau are both looking at the future trajectory of the GOP on issues of education. The politics of education reform were always muddy, but it's even less possible to draw a partisan line on education anymore, given the rifts within both parties.

Moving from Cleveland to Baltimore, another officer involved in the killing of Freddie Gray was acquitted yesterday:

Prosecutors alleged that Rice, the highest-ranking officer of the six charged, had caused Gray's death by failing to secure him in a seat belt in the back of the van, where Gray suffered severe spinal cord injuries last year. Gray, 25, died a week after his arrest. His death sparked widespread protests against police brutality. Williams, reading from prepared remarks, said prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proving the charges against Rice beyond a reasonable doubt, instead asking the court to rely on "presumptions or assumptions" — something it cannot do. He said the court "cannot be swayed by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion."

Here are some reactions to that decision, including one from Kaya Henderson, the outgoing chancellor of the DC Public Schools:

Denisa Superville looks at what continuous police violence means for educators and schools:

As the nation responds to the aftermath of another spate of high-profile police-related shootings, educators are wading, once again, into thorny issues of police violence, bias, and America's still unfinished struggle with race. Educators from superintendents to classroom teachers—despite most schools still being in summer recess—are preparing to discuss the tragic deaths and bigger issues of race and policing as students start to return to school over the next few weeks. For many, it's a repeat of the summer of 2014 when the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparked a series of national protests and helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement.

It is important to remember that, while all violence is deplorable, it's a completely different level of tragedy for children to watch A) agents of the state murder innocent Black people, and B) the justice system subsequently not hold those agents of the state accountable. Imagine what that does to a developing psyche? To help with that, Marianne Lombardo wants schools to teach tolerance and unity, and she shares some resources.

Finally, Jelani Cobb at the New Yorker looks at how violence begets violence:

There is no telling what thoughts inhabited the minds of the men who shot police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. On Sunday, those thoughts led to the death—the taking of three men, Brad Garafola, Matthew Gerald, and Montrell Jackson. But there is no denying the context in which those events occurred—the ambient frustration, the disbelief among those who dared to believe in the first place—is the same as the one that gripped Los Angeles twenty-four years ago. Their actions were not justifiable. Nor were those of Officer Dante Servin, who fired over his shoulder into a crowd of young people in Chicago after arguing with them over the volume of their music, killing twenty-two year-old Rekia Boyd. Nor those of Gescard Isnora, Marc Cooper, and Michael Oliver, the three New York Police Department officers who shot Sean Bell, who was unarmed, on the eve of his wedding and were acquitted of all charges by a New York State Supreme Court judge. We cannot reconcile the fact that Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide but a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who administered a chokehold before Garner expired.

The cycle will continue until we break it.