Friday Reading List: Remember to Support Puerto Rico

Mark Keierleber of The Atlantic looks at how Florida schools are responding to an influx of children from Puerto Rico:

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all Florida counties on October 2 in response to Hurricane Maria’s catastrophic impact, opening disaster relief centers at the Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport, and the Port of Miami to help Puerto Ricans displaced by the storm. The school district was joined by officials from other state agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities of Central Florida. Orlando is among East Coast cities from Florida to Massachusetts where officials expect thousands of new students after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on September 20. Fleeing the island has been difficult, but displaced students have already begun to arrive—and as more families score plane tickets, school leaders expect the influx to multiply.

The devastation in Puerto Rico exacerbated an already dire financial situation on the island. This piece does a nice job of laying out some of the educational and public policy ramifications of people moving from Puerto Rico to other places in the United States.

To that point, Jessica Trisko Darden, writing in The Washington Post, wonders why the president is acting as if sending resources to the island is foreign aid:

Disaster assistance, like humanitarian assistance and other forms of foreign aid, is political. In the modern era, media coverage often drives the government’s response to natural disasters. And many Americans don’t support providing this type of emergency assistance to non-Americans. Surveys show again and again that many Americans believe the U.S. government spends too many taxpayer dollars helping foreigners, when it should be doing more at home. Even the most altruistic forms of foreign aid come under pressure: 45 percent of Americans support cutting humanitarian assistance. Trump’s recent tweets on Puerto Rico echo much of the criticism often leveled against foreign disaster and humanitarian assistance. Despite the fact that Puerto Rico is not a foreign country (though many Americans think it is), the president seems insistent on treating it like one.
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Do your homework, America. Too many of us do not know even the most basic facts of our national geography. This weekend, remember to do what you can to support disaster relief in Puerto Rico.

In other news, Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat examines the ways in which parents pick schools. The results suggest that parents place more value on the perceived academic performance of peers, than on the quality of instruction in a building:

There are a number of ways to interpret these results. One, is that families value characteristics — like safety or after-school programs — besides the metrics of school quality used in this study. That said, the study includes measures like high-school graduation and college attendance, that parents and students are likely to care about Another hypothesis is that families and students simply don’t have good data on which schools are good. “Without direct information about school effectiveness … parents may use peer characteristics as a proxy for school quality,” the study suggests. Indeed, there is evidence that families respond to information about school performance, but it’s unclear to what extent they would prioritize sophisticated measures of school quality, even if given that additional data.

It's possible for both of these things to be true simultaneously. That said, this research raises questions for school choice advocates. There always has been a tension between the ideas of "choice" and "accountability" in school reform policy. Policymakers on the political right tend to think that the opportunity for parents to choose is sufficient accountability in itself. Many of us on the left, including me, disagree with that position. Results like these help to make our case.

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Finally today, Michael Harriot of The Root squints at recent comments from the chief of diversity at Apple:

Apple is really white ... To fix its diversity problem, the tech company hired Denise Young Smith as its first-ever vice president of diversity, because it’s much easier to hire one person and claim you’re “working on your diversity problem” than it is to simply just hire brown people. Earlier this week, Young Smith ... was asked about inclusion and whether she would focus on any particular group, she said: “I focus on everyone. ... Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term ‘diversity’ is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT ... There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse ..."

Yikes. Read the whole piece, because Harriot points out all of the problems with this argument, with the ultimate point being - in his mother's words - that "words mean things," and you can't just redefine diversity to divest it of any meaning whatsoever.

Have a great weekend, and shout out to all of the wise mothers out there ...