The year 2020 has brought its share of difficulties. People all over the world have had to adapt to the changes caused by COVID-19. One of the major institutions facing significant changes during this unprecedented time is education. Social distancing has immensely limited the ability of our educators to instruct our students, young and old alike, resulting in even greater disparities when it comes to equal access to quality education.
Rai King, founder of Hands In, an educational co-op, has taken to the task of addressing these disparities and created an avenue for families to have access to quality education. Rai has an extensive background in education. She has been teaching for over 16 years with experience in home school, public school, and private school. She has even had the added benefit of widening her experience by teaching in several different areas ranging from California to South Africa. When asked why she chose now to start the educational co-op she explained:
“My true love and my true passion is education and working with children and families, particularly in communities that are traditionally known to be experiencing an access gap. I say access gap and not achievement gap because achievement is relative, who are we comparing our achievement to. I do not like achievement gap but access gap really talks more about communities that have been left out of opportunities that more affluent communities get to have. That is where my heart is, that where my experience is when it relates to education.“
Like most of us, Rai genuinely believed the coronavirus situation would be rectified well before September. In lieu of COVID-19 wearing on, she noticed parents started to form learning pods where they were inviting private teachers to come into their homes and tutor their child or a small group of children. It was then she realized that those who were not so privileged would suffer educationally. Being that her experience is in helping communities that suffer from an access gap, she knew they were going to be affected negatively during this time.
“I knew that black and brown and brown children who were going to suffer the most as a result of this and I just wanted to be able to provide something that I thought could fill a little bit of a gap. So, I got this idea to start this co-op to be a place of support for parents to provide them extra-curricular enrichment for students at a price I hope everyone can afford,” said King.
To answer the question who can access the resources provided by the co-op, Rai says it is open to families everywhere. For those who cannot afford the program, Rai has started a platform to accept donations to create scholarships for those families. The program’s Patreon account is tiered structurally for contributions. The lower tier is only $50 a month for families of any size. The next tier is $100 a month or more, again covering the entire family. This structure is in place in part due to Rai’s politics; the belief that those who can do more, should do more. With that in consideration it allows those who can’t afford to do more, access to the same level of services as those who can. All in all it’s a community effort.
Despite her heart being with black and brown families or communities, Rai feels it still important to address segregation in attacking the problem of inequities in education. “I believe education is the civil rights issue of our time,” said King. She went on to say that there are some studies that show that our schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1950s and 1960s. Most notably New York’s Public-school system being the most segregated in the country. A recent story in 2019 published by the New York Times addressed the issue of segregation in New York public schools.
The Hands In education co-op is breaking down these barriers. Hands In is creating an environment of diversification with regards to race and socioeconomic status helping to give families of all backgrounds access to the best resources. Hands In has partnered with Junior Achievement of New York, Outschool.com and even shoe companies who’d like to teach a class on shoe design have reached out. Long term, King hopes Hands In will become a permanent staple for families to take advantage of in a post COVID world.
For more information on Hands In or to join & donate, please visit patreon.com/handsincooop.
Inclusion of Minimum Wage Increase in COVID Relief Bill Denied
Parliamentarian says the $15 hourly minimum wage increase is not allowed in the Covid Relief Bill.
What We Know:
- On Thursday, February 25, the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, denied the proposed Covid Relief Bill’s inclusion of a minimum wage increase. This bill was not compliant with the governing rules budget, and the process enabled Democrats to pass the rescue package without the GOP votes. Democrats considered raising the federal minimum wage a priority.
- The minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage, but that is not the case. Nearly half of all private-sector workers do not have earned sick time, according to oxfamamerica.org. The hourly rate hasn’t kept up with the cost of living since the late 1960s. The earnings of a minimum-wage worker with a family of four fall well below the poverty line, according to investopedia.com.
- Many struggling Americans claimed Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) relief, which helps low-to-moderate-income workers get a tax break. The amount of credit may change if children, dependents, or the disabled meet the criteria. If this bill passes, then the EITC can expand. The number of jobs lost more than doubles the numbers seen in the 2007-2009 Great Recession, when 8.7 million Americans lost their jobs, according to cidrap.umn.edu.
- The advantages of increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 would be taking tax deductions away from large profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. It will lift almost 1 million people out of poverty, and raise the pay floor.
Raising the federal minimum wage would hopefully provide more financial security for many of those still in a financial bondage position.
New Variant of Coronavirus Emerges in the U.K.
The British Government confirmed Wednesday that a new and potentially more infectious variant of the coronavirus was identified in South Africa, and has emerged in the United Kingdom earlier this month.
What We Know:
- British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced to reporters on Wednesday that a new variant of coronavirus was identified in two cases “thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans”.
“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant has been discovered in the UK,” he said.
- Differing from other mutations of the virus, this new variant is likely more contagious than previous versions of the virus. The variant, which now accounts for more than 60% of the cases in London, has 17 different mutations in its genetic code. Eight of those mutations occur in a critical part of the virus, called the spike protein, which reaches out and binds to human cells during the initial stages of infection.
- As scientists learned more about the genetic mutation of the disease, countries around the world began closing their borders to those coming in from South Africa. Earlier this month, scientists in the United Kingdom detected the new strain of the virus, which is believed to have mutated as early as September. Health officials have now closed international travel to the U.K. and the British government has locked down much of the country, as well.
- According to the World Health Organization, the new variant has yet been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, and Australia. Many European countries, including those mentioned, have begun to close their borders as a result.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the new coronavirus strain could be circulating in the U.S. unnoticed. Thus far, the new variants have not yet been detected within the United States. Meanwhile, countries are also re-implementing stay-at-home orders and mask mandates.
- President Trump’s vaccine czar, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, said Monday that the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 shots should be effective against the new strain.
Individuals around the world are beginning to receive the first dose of the vaccine for the coronavirus, which is nearing a global death toll of 2 million in just one year.
Florida Sheriff Uses Grades and Abuse Histories to Label Schoolchildren Potential Criminals
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office (Pasco County, FL) reportedly keeps a list of students they think could “fall into a life of crime” based on their history of abuse and violence or whether the student has gotten bad grades in school, according to the office’s internal intelligence manual, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
What We Know:
- The list is assembled using sensitive data from several middle and high schools. Using the school district data, they are able to see which children are struggling academically, racking up absences, or are sent to the office for disciplinary purposes. Furthermore, records from the State Department of Children and Families flag kids who have witnessed household violence or experienced it themselves.
- There are currently four hundred and twenty students on the list. According to the Sheriff’s office manual, these students are more likely to become criminals due to the factors included in the criteria.
- According to several statements released by the Sheriff’s Office, the list is used only to help the deputies assigned to middle and high schools offer “mentorship” and “resources” to students. Specifically, the statements explained a program where school resource officers take children fishing and another where they give clothes to kids in need.
- The process of identifying “at-risk students” is mainly executed in secret. The Sheriff’s Office does not advise the kids or their parents about the designation on the list. In an interview, school superintendent Kurt Browning said he had no knowledge of such a list, along with the principals of two Pasco high schools.
- Law enforcement experts, including some that focus on student privacy issues, questioned the justification for the Sheriff’s Office digging through children’s education and welfare records. They consider the program highly unusual and claim it was a “clear misuse of children’s confidential information that stretched the limits of the law.”
The Department of Children and Families has yet to answer whether or not it knew its data was being used for such purpose. Additionally, Sheriff Chris Nocco declined requests to be interviewed, and the agency refused to make anyone from the intelligence-led policing or school resourcing divisions available for questions.
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