The approximately 15-minute interview with Melissa begins at 1:23:30 and ends at 1:37:00.March 14, 2017
David Yankovich, writers and political commentator joins Rick to talk about the growing threat to our national security by the Trump administration as they cut the budget of Coast Guard and make the world less safety and stable by having a climate denier as head of the EPA.
Luz Christina Ramirez Mooney, New York Teacher and Badass Teachers Association member joins Rick to talk about the March for Education Justice in New York state, what Governor Cuomo is peddling in the state as education reform, and teachers and advocates are doing to stand up for public education.
Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith, Cleveland Teacher and Badass Teachers Association member joins Rick in light of US Department of Education Secretary Billionaire Betsy’s recent wise crack at CPAC to talk poverty and the high costs of “Free Lunches” on students in poverty that the Secretary doesn’t seem to understand.By working people. For working people. Welcome to The Rick Smith Show. Working Americans are tired of listening to think tank approved corporate news and commentary. They want a direct, honest approach to the issues that matter, so this is what The Rick Smith Show provides. No puppets. No focus groups. No talking points.
Source: The Rick Smith Show
The photo was taken from a balcony in UCSC Family Student Housing. It was submitted to the chancellor’s photo contest in November and a winner was never announced.
This data was compiled from the family student housing websites of each of the UCs in February of 2020. A basic summary chart is included at the end of the post.
The wide range of rents charged by the University of California (UC) Regents (that is the name that goes on the check if you pay that way) across the UC system ($906-$2947 for a 2-bedroom/1-bathroom unit) for university family student housing (FSH) is just one glaring reason why graduate students across the UC system are demanding fairer pay for their labor. The UC system is fully participating in, benefiting from, and contributing to the cost of living inequity and unaffordability across the state and it is time they are held accountable. If you want more details about the range of rents and amenities among UC’s family student housing, the findings are described below. If you want more information about the graduate student wildcat strike that began at UC Santa Cruz go to the link https://payusmoreucsc.com/ .
UC San Francisco students are paying the highest rents among the UCs, but UCSF does not seem to have a designated student-family housing community. UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley are paying the highest university family student housing rates across the UCs, but at least Berkeley’s rates include electricity. The lowest rates for two-bedroom/one-bathroom units are at UC Davis, Riverside, Irvine, and Merced. Although UCLA’s rental costs are comparable to UCSC, the amenities included at UCLA are well-beyond what is offered at UCSC FSH (i.e. microwave, dishwasher, air-conditioning, adult lap pool, children’s swimming pool). The family student housing options at UC San Diego are incredibly diverse and affordable compared to UCSC, including the option of a 2-bedroom, one-bathroom unit within walking distance to the beach for $1500/month which also includes utilities. Even some of the most luxurious family-allowed accommodations like those at UC San Diego’s La Jolla and Mesa Nueva are cheaper than UC Santa Cruz’s family student housing 2019-2020 rates and some include 2 bathrooms instead of one. Each of the UCs is bulleted in the list that follows. Rents listed are due monthly. #COLA4all
- UC Santa Cruz – rates include parking, cable and horribly unreliable and slow internet (verified by the author, her children, and personal acquaintances)
No dishwashers, no AC, electricity NOT included, no pool, no spa, not within walking distance to the beach
2019-2020 rates for a 2-bedroom unit – $1767 (2-bedroom units are the only units available) 2-bedroom units last year $1707 & 2 years ago $1647
Families who joined last year are still paying $1707
Families who joined two years ago are still paying $1647
- UC Santa Barbara – 2019-2020 rates * high-speed internet and parking included
West – 2 bedroom/1 bath units $1173. Storke – 2 bedroom/1 bath $1443
Leases are month-to-month
- UCLA – 2019-2020
*All units are rented unfurnished and contain a full kitchen (including stove, refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher), wall-to-wall carpeting, blinds, and central heat and air-conditioning. Buildings have a key-controlled building access system and laundry facilities.
Amenities include: State-of-the-art childcare center, Community centers, Central courtyards, Basic cable & high-speed internet connections, Adult lap pool, Children’s playground, Children’s swimming pool
2 bedrooms 1 bath $1684. 2 bedrooms 2 bath $1770 3 bedrooms 2 bath $1999
- UC Davis 2019-2020. *UC Davis boasts five on-campus childcare centers.
Solano Park *Does not include a parking permit
Two-Bedroom Apartment $906 per month
- UC Merced 2019-2020
*A furnished or unfurnished apartment (your choosing), water, sewer, electricity, trash, high-speed internet, free laundry, refrigerator, stove/oven, 1 assigned parking space included
Family Contracts (One student sharing a unit with non-UC-affiliated family members).
2 Bedroom/1 Bathroom $1,121 Per family of 3-4 for furnished or unfurnished apartments
2 Bedroom/2 Bathroom $1,121 Per family of 4 for a furnished or unfurnished apartment
- UC Irvine 2020-2021 *Utilities included
Verano Place 2 bedroom $1136-1668
Vista del Campo 2 bedroom $2320
Palo Verde 2 bedroom $1412-1780
- UC Riverside 2019-2020
*Interiors are smartly outfitted with stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers and central heating/cooling. Includes a swimming pool and spa!
2 bedroom/2 bath 904 sq. ft. $970 per month
Utilities & Parking Included!
- UC San Francisco *Includes utilities and internet, dishwashers, garbage disposals
2 bedroom, one bath $2662-2947/month
- UC Berkeley 2019-2020 *Rents include gas, electricity, water, garbage, recycling, one parking space, internet, and basic cable.
WEST Square Feet
|1 bed, 1 bath *||$1,505||635|
|2 bed, 1 bath||$1,795||785-806|
|3 bed, 1.5 bath||$2,045||1002|
|2 bed, 1 bath||$1,945-2,045||987|
|2 bed, 2 bath||$2,045-2,215||987-1,197|
|3 bed, 1 bath||$2,215||1,085|
|3 bed, 2 bath||$2,315||1,085-1,103|
- UC San Diego 2019-2020 *Rates include water, trash, gas, electricity, cable tv, internet, and parking.
COAST – It is located within walking distance to campus and the beach.
2 BR: $1,500
MIRAMAR – 2 BR: $1,305
MESA. Central: 2BR: $1,215, 3BR: $1,413 South: 2BR: $1,407
La Jolla del Sol
La Jolla del Sol is a condominium-style community in a prime location just minutes from the UC San Diego campus. All apartments are un-furnished one-bedroom, two-bedroom/one-bath, and two-bedroom/two-bath walk-up apartments. All units feature full-size washer and dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, range and dining room ceiling fan. Amenities include two pools and spas, tennis courts, and a fitness facility. Renters Insurance is required for residents.
2BR/1BA – 2nd Floor: $1815; 3rd Floor: $1851
2BR/2BA – 1st Floor: $2049; 2nd Floor: $2058; 3rd Floor: $2106
This HDH Housing community features the very best in graduate and professional living including a social pool with spas and splash zones, a brewpub, outdoor lounge, and so much more!
Our studios are furnished with a bed, side table, dresser, dining table with 2 stools, a desk & chair, a stove, and a refrigerator. Our 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments come equipped with in-unit dishwasher, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, full-size washer & dryer, free parking, high-speed Internet, and premium cable package.
2BR/1 BA (non-master): $1665 — Room rate $819
2BR/2BA (master): $1665 — Room rate $846
3BR/2BA (non-master): $2469 — Room rate: $813
3BR/2BA (master): $2469 — Room rate: $843
Nuevo East and West
The certified LEED Gold community was intentionally designed to facilitate pedestrian flow and connect to other Mesa neighborhoods, encouraging residential interaction.
Rates include electricity, water, trash, gas, high-speed Internet, premium cable package and parking.
Amenities include: Furnished Apartments, An on-site professional programming team, Community garden, Grass play areas, Interior and exterior bike storage options, All LED Lighting, Numerous BBQ grilling stations, Community kitchen, Laundry lounges featuring WiFi and comfortable seating, Study lounges and numerous furnished gathering spaces, Social pool and two spas, Game room, Music room, Fitness center, Onsite shuttle stop, EV charging stations, Zip Car facility
- 2BD/1BA Furnished: $1929
- 4BD/2BA Furnished: $3756
- 6BD/3BA Furnished: $5490
BASIC CHART BELOW
|UC Family Student Housing||2019-2020 Monthly Rent for 2BDRM/1BATH (unless otherwise noted)||What’s Included?
(Not a comprehensive list of amenities)
|Santa Cruz||$1767||Parking Permit, Unreliable internet, Cable|
|Davis||$906||Does not include a parking permit|
|Riverside||$970 2bdrm/2bath||Parking, Utilities, Dishwasher, AC, Swimming pool, Spa|
|Merced||$1121 2bdrm/1 or 2bath||Utilities, Free laundry, Parking permit|
|Santa Barbara||$1173-1443||Internet, Parking, Month-to-month leases|
2bdr/2bath – $1665
|Parking, Utilities, Pools, Spas, Beach proximity, Fitness centers, Game room|
|Los Angeles||$1684||Adult & children’s pool, Microwave, Dishwasher, Internet|
|Berkeley||$1795-2215||Includes parking & utilities|
|San Francisco||$2662-2947||Utilities, Dishwashers|
Well friends/co-conspirators, unfortunately, it is that time of the school year again when we must show our solidarity for visions of educational justice and the schools all of our children deserve. Refuse to allow your children to participate in the spirit-killing test industry machine – opt your child out. Many more resources can be found online, but here is the template for the letter I used in California this year (2019). Previous letters used in Ohio can be found in my blog archives.
Peace to you, if you’re willing to fight for it. ~Fred Hampton
April 25, 2019
School Name District Name School address (four lines)
Dear (school) Staff and (district) Administrators,
Please accept this letter as my submission, under California Education Code section 60615, which allows a parent or guardian to submit a written request to school officials to exclude his or her child from any or all parts of state-mandated assessments, to opt out my child, (child name), from all Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests administered this year.
Reimagining schools through an abolitionist framework, I am unequivocally opposed to standardized testing and the role it plays in perpetuating destructive and punitive practices in schools. Prepackaged state tests with stakes attached (whether high or low) undermine teachers’ autonomy, de-professionalize educators and are a mechanism for reproducing structural inequality. A FairTest fact sheet, “Racial Justice and Standardized Educational Testing,” states that young people of color, particularly those from low-income families, have suffered the most as the explosion of high-stakes standardized testing in U.S. public education has undermined equity and school quality. These tests provide no social or educational benefit, inflict harm on our most vulnerable young people, and contribute to corporate superpredators making billions through the testing industry, charter industry, and textbook industry.
In refusing standardized tests, I stand in solidarity with others pursuing a dream of educational justice in which schools are based on collective dignity, community, creativity, intersectional justice, healing, joy, radical love, and are spaces where every child feels safe and celebrated, and knows they matter.
Test scores from SBAC will not reveal anything to (child)’s teachers or other school staff members that they do not already know about (him/her), nor will standardized tests illuminate the many acts of kindness, compassion, and patience bestowed upon (child) by the staff at (school name) School.
In solidarity with abolitionists for educational freedom,
(your phone number and/or email)
Is UC Santa Cruz selling infants and toddlers to a cesspool of injustice while claiming to fight injustice?
One of the reasons I applied to graduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) was because of the commitment to social justice that the university boldly proclaimed and embraced with slogans like the one on the side of the campus bike-bus: “UCSC, the original authority on questioning authority.” Knowing there was a shared vision of fighting for what is right and standing for the most vulnerable inspired and comforted me. How did this revolutionary spirit descend into voluntarily expanding the profits of the barbarians at Bain Capital? It’s perplexing.
Bright Horizons, the daycare mega-company that UC Santa Cruz is contracting to take over childcare services once the new facility is built, is owned by Bain Capital. In an attempt to justify the move, one UCSC spokesperson seemed to be utilizing an age-old whining child’s tactic – everyone else is doing it. “We continue to believe Bright Horizons will provide our campus — the faculty, staff, and students — with quality child care, based on its performance at several other University of California campuses,” was written in a statement by a UCSC representative. In 2013, The New York Times offered a brief history of the way Bright Horizons took care of Bain Capital over the decades and how “Bain’s profits on the deal have been anything but child’s play.”
In a 2017 news story in New York City, the local CBS station reported on a protest by parents when they discovered what those caring for their children at the Bright Horizons childcare center were making. They revealed, “Bright Horizons has a market value of more than $4 billion.” A parent in the story reported paying $30,000/year for childcare services there but learned those caring for infants and toddlers were only making $11/hour. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, 2012 presidential candidate and partial founder of Bain Capital (who also employed Bain Capital and Pioneer Institute members as part of his Massachusett’s executive branch staff), bragged about the low paying jobs created through Bright Horizons in response to criticism that Bain Capital was the private equity group of corporate vultures who destroy jobs. Meanwhile, as Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer at BRIGHT HORIZONS FAMILY SOLTN, David H. Lissy made $1,822,308 in total compensation in just 2017. Of this total $396,608 was received as a salary, $444,697 was received as a bonus, $967,960 was awarded as stock and $13,043 came from other types of compensation. This information is according to proxy statements filed for the 2017 fiscal year.
Professors at Cornell raised alarms in 2012 as their university contracted with Bright Horizons. Here is a quote from their local city paper:
Bright Horizons provides daycare services to Cornell’s Ithaca campus and Weill Cornell Medical College. In 2010, faculty urged President David Skorton to cut ties with Bright Horizons for violating 56 state child care regulations, overworking its teachers and overcompensating its top management. Skorton, however, decided to renew the University’s contract with Bright Horizons — a decision that some professors say they remain unhappy with.
Citing past problems with Bright Horizons, Prof. Sydney van Morgan, sociology, said she finds Bright Horizons’ relationship with Bain Capital — which took the company private for $1.3 billion in 2008 — problematic. The University should not use the services of a corporate company when there are several other childcare institutions in the Ithaca community, he said.
“Is that really the kind of company that Cornell wants to be working with, as opposed to IC3, the local childcare center, which is public, not-for-profit and run by a board of parents?” van Morgan said. “Why not have that model?”
Yes. Why not have that model? Hopefully, Bright Horizons remedied their 56 state childcare violations in New York, but they certainly did not cut their ties with Bain Capital. In fact, two members of Bright Horizons Board of Directors, Joshua Bekenstein and Jordan Hitch, are the Managing Director and Senior Advisor at Bain Capital Partners, respectively.
Why should anyone care about Bain Capital?
In recent times, the most powerful education policy-making players in the arena have been from businesses and their foundations. Dell, Gates, Waltons, Broad, and private equity firms like Bain Capital have pushed for model legislation that requires high stakes standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, teacher accountability systems that link pay to test scores, retaining students for not meeting benchmarks, vouchers, charters, and approaches that maintain a system of segrenomics. Essentially, legislation that applies the principles of capitalism to education (which is notably not part of the business college because teaching is a social science that involves humans – not products) is the type of legislation Bain Capital supports in complete opposition to what education researchers at all of the universities worth anything have found to be best practices.
Some of you may be recalling your social studies lessons right now. Don’t legislators in legislative branches make laws? Sure, and Bain Capital has supported right-wing pressure groups such as the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research who are major drivers of the model legislation that has come from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and have been passed into law across the United States. Bain Capital helps fund ALEC initiatives. According to ALEC Exposed, “ALEC’s education legislation diverts taxpayers’ money from American public school children to for-profit education corporations, strips away the rights of teachers and their ability to negotiate strongly for small class sizes and other practices that help children learn better, and gives more tax breaks to rich corporations and individuals to pay private school tuition.”
ALEC has also introduced legislation such as the “Stand Your Ground” law that allowed for the murder of Trayvon Martin to go unpunished, anti-immigration legislation, tough-on-crime legislation that nourishes and expands the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) (the PIC that UCSC Distinguished Professor Emerita Angela Davis has been fighting to abolish for decades), and environmentally destructive legislation.
Bright Horizons is part of and funds Bain Capital. Bain Capital supports and funds groups (like the Pioneer Institute) that support ALEC and ALEC legislation. UC Santa Cruz wants parents to give their money for childcare to Bright Horizons, which will enrich Bain Capital. Bain Capital will continue to monetarily contribute to all of the unjust initiatives many of us at UCSC will spend the majority our lives fighting.
What. The. Actual. F***?!?!?!
In case you missed it last year…
Perhaps you’ll be recovering this weekend, along with many others, from the celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day which are full of parades, green clothing, Irish whiskey, green beer, and corned beef. Setting all of the green fun aside, the history of Irish immigrants is dark and rich, and should prompt all of us to question why we continue to allow those in power to starve the poor.
During the first winter of famine in Ireland in the mid-1800s, hundreds of thousands of Irish peasants starved, while landlords and the British exported 17 million pounds sterling worth of food that could have prevented the starvation. As those Irish who were able to migrated to other countries for survival, the British government and Anglican church did nothing on behalf of the poor in Ireland to stop the starvation.
In America, Trump’s recent budget proposal could cut programs that feed poor children and the elderly, and his Secretary of Education mocks our national free lunch program. Are we any better today than the capitalist and colonial forces that sacrificed Ireland’s peasants over 150 years ago? Looking at the deprivation, violence, trauma, and toxins that are allowed to surround the students I serve in Cleveland, Ohio, I’m uncertain that we’ve learned anything from history.
According to Feeding America, in 2015, 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children. What does it mean to live in a country where over one-third of the adults are obese, and a country that exports $131 billion in foods, feeds, and beverages, yet fails to provide its most vulnerable citizens with access to adequate nutrition? Maybe it is time to examine what it means when food remains a commodity, instead of a human right.
What happens when the same destructive global system of profit that pervasively commodified food is applied to education? We’re left with segments of the population starved of adequate learning materials, resources, qualified instructors, enrichment activities, and the arts, and a citizenry devoid of the ability to think critically. We’re left with colonizers telling certain demographics that they aren’t worthy of democratically controlled school boards or neighborhood schools, but that they are still good enough to pay taxes. We allow for fallacious ideas like competition, charters, vouchers, and the generation of standardized products formerly known as children to invade our common schools and devour public funds. We become victims of profiteers and eduperialists who legally plunder millions (billions?) of public dollars to inflate their personal wealth at the expense of educating all children. We manifest a destiny that empathetic future historians will surely reflect upon with shock, dismay and horror.
As we recover and rejuvenate from St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans, we don’t have to let the dismal tragic details of Irish immigration get us down, but perhaps we can reflect upon our country’s obsession with capitalism and the commodification of things that everyone should have access to as human beings. Consider the words of Fintan O’Toole, a columnist for The Irish Times:
“We either wink at a racism that affords most of us the privilege of a white skin,” he wrote. “Or we honour the struggles of so many millions of Irish immigrants to be accepted as equal human beings.” … Will we stand “up for all of those who share the Irish experience of having to overcome poverty and prejudice in order to make decent lives for our children?”
Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine. (Gaelic)
Under the shelter of each other, people survive.
When he stood up to sharpen his pencil at the sharpener on the cart directly in front of my desk, he spoke unprompted softly and reflectively while he gazed blankly at the classroom wall. “I have never been to school in an actual high school. That’s a dang shame, isn’t it?” I looked down quickly to fight back any tears that might involuntarily form in my eyes. “Yes. It really is,” I replied.
I knew this student’s case had just been adjudicated to the adult system, and it clearly weighed heavily on his sixteen-year-old shoulders. All of his high school credits prior to arriving at our classroom were from another detention facility in the state, and he seemed to accept he wouldn’t be exiting the system any time soon.
As an educator at our county’s juvenile detention center, it is difficult to witness the effects of multiple moments of disappointment and neglect on our city’s most vulnerable children. My heart splinters for their lost childhoods and obstacle-laden futures, but also for those in the community whom they may have hurt because the interventions these kids desperately needed as they were growing up were never provided.
Teaching is social. It is difficult to find more glaring examples of the need for connections once you have had the misfortune of being immersed in experiences at a juvenile jail. This necessity for a human nexus continues once kids leave my classroom for their next destination. Ideally, that next destination is in the community because the juvenile justice system in conjunction with other agencies has efficiently and effectively performed its established purpose. Tragically, however, I often maintain communication with my students through correspondence with them at another incarceration facility.
I optimistically expect most citizens to agree with the assertion that the United States’ justice and mass incarceration systems require abolition. Yet, unless someone is directly entangled in the system, most of us are oblivious to the many costs people incarcerated and their loved ones must pay.
In addition to having to purchase cheaply made and easily broken “j-players” in order for incarcerated people to electronically communicate with those outside of the prison system, each electronic message sent requires payment equivalent to or more than the cost of a U.S. postage stamp. Each picture attached to an electronic message sent through JPay also requires an additional “stamp” purchase in order to digitally send it.
For example, a former student I maintain contact with asked me to send him a picture of his high school diploma because he was taken from our facility before his graduation could be certified. In order to send the picture, I paid .50 cents for the electronic message and an additional .50 for the digital picture attached, for a total of $1.00 for the one communication.
Securus, the company which owns JPay, yields over one hundred million dollars per year in profits, with a gross profit margin of 51 percent, by exploiting already disadvantaged citizens. Although the profits generated as a result of people’s suffering are sufficiently abhorrent, the pit in my stomach the first time I became a JPay consumer was not initially spurred by the money I was spending. Rather, it is the way in which JPay and multiple other prison industries, in collaboration with various established institutions in our society, have successfully dehumanized people who are incarcerated.
Going to JPay’s website, users can see how to do an “inmate search.” I am never looking for an “inmate.” I am searching for a young person who was a student in my class. They are sons. They may be brothers, uncles, nephews, or fathers. Whatever their worst deeds are, “inmate” should not be the summary of their existence.
The over two million people incarcerated in the United States are human beings. Redacting their humanness and reducing them to their prodigious mistakes is a practice utilized by the inhumane to erase their humanity. Just as the revolting practice of referring to enslaved human beings as “slaves” was once embedded into our culture, attributing the term “inmate” to incarcerated human beings is similarly repulsive to my sensibilities.
I often quote Desmond Tutu when I am concluding public presentations about my students and our classroom at the county’s juvenile detention center. He said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” We must all remind each other of our innate worth as living beings on this planet, and seek the humanity that connects us. Discarding language that transforms people into negatively implicated nouns may enlighten our perceptions of the people many would rather not know or name.
I may refer to the young people in my classroom as my students, but they are not my inmates.
I made the following remarks at the Women’s March in Cleveland, Ohio, on January 20th, 2018. I was honored to be part of an amazing series of speakers.
A video link to the speech is available on youtube thanks to Toni Jones.
Before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to honor the Erie Indians who lived on this land long before any of us arrived. They were an Iroquoian tribe of the northeastern woodlands, who spoke an Iroquoian language similar to Huron and Seneca. As we continue to confront those who oppress, may we never forget those who have been embroiled in a struggle to exist for centuries.
I am honored to have this time here with you today, and honored to be representing Ohio’s Badass Teachers Association (BATs), and thousands of educators who are fighting for the public schools ALL our children deserve.
When government officials and the business community attack teachers and the public schools that over 90% of school-age children attend, you can believe that it is an attack on women, who make up over 75% of the teaching profession. It is an attack on our children. It is an attack on our democracy.
As a mother, as an educator and as a woman, I recognize that it is this alliance among women and our friends that is the worst fear of those holding power in (what I like to refer to as) our system of “electile” dysfunction.
And how can those in power who oppress and disenfranchise maintain their power?
Part of their plan includes an attack on and the starvation of the foundation of our democracy: our public schools.
They defund education and steal tax dollars to promote a for-profit education system, particularly in the urban neighborhoods of our most vulnerable citizens.
Those governing Ohio are still out of compliance with a twenty-year-old state supreme court decision mandating that they fix the way we fund our public schools.
We must hold public officials accountable. Budget bills must equitably and fully fund education – not mass incarceration or deportation.
As we gather here today, there are young people whose civil rights are being violated right now at our county jail, not too far from here. These young people have been identified as individuals with learning disabilities. And even though federal law demands that these young people be offered services for their specific educational needs, the county and city that detains them continues to violate federal law by not offering these already disadvantaged young people access to education.
Perhaps those in power restrict access to education because education is essential to human liberation. An uneducated or poorly educated populace is much easier to manipulate and control.
In the spirit of liberation, we must all continue to fight to dismantle oppressive practices like high stakes standardized testing in schools; practices placed upon us by legislators and corporate interests without any regard for what is best for our children.
Ohio is one of only 14 states in the country that still requires students to pass tests not created by their classroom teachers in order to graduate or be promoted.
We must continue to fight for curriculums and classroom practices that are culturally relevant to every child.
We must support local democratically elected school boards. Because if you can vote to have your taxes raised to support a school district, then you should be able to vote for the board controlling the money used in those schools.
We call for an end to harsh zero tolerance policies and the policing of our children, and instead call for the implementation of restorative practices that do not disproportionately put children of color on a school-to-prison pipeline.
You can’t say you’re a pro-lifer and then refuse to fight for every living human being to have an equitable opportunity to enjoy safe quality schools, safe communities, safe water, safe housing, safe neighborhoods, and to have police forces who protect and serve.
When I became pregnant with my eldest son at the age of 17, it was education that helped remove me from a life otherwise destined for dependence on public assistance. There probably isn’t anyone who understands and relates to my passion for justice and equity in education more than my sons. Thus, it is with tremendous pride that I am able to share with all of you that my oldest son here today, Cassimir Svigelj, is running for the 16th district house seat in the Ohio legislature, which includes Bay Village, Rocky River, Fairview Park, North Olmsted & Westlake, with my full support.
Not only do education activists take their power to the polls, but sometimes their kids are inspired to actually get their names on the ballot.
Before I go, I plead with all of you to remain vigilant and diligent in the fight for our public schools. Liberty and justice for all depend upon it. Thank you.
‘Twas the first night of break, when all through the school
Not a creature was stirring, except a privatizing ghoul
A public school teacher was sleeping all snug in her bed
While visions of happy students appeared in her head
As the papers she graded slid off of her lap
She had just settled down for a long winter’s nap
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
The teacher dragged herself from bed to see what was the matter
And what to her tired eyes did appear?
But a bunch of self-righteous folks who were
“O’ Waltons, O’ Broad, O’ DeVos , O’ Gates
What are you doing here on my lawn so late?
Do I even want to know your latest plans to deceive?
Seriously, winter break is supposed to be a reprieve!”
Unfortunately, to her front porch the billionaires did dash
Wearing their contempt for public schools like an itchy red rash
Down the stairs she went to meet them, as if in a trance
She thought maybe she could reason with them, if given the chance
A backpack full of cash was flung on their backs
And they looked smug and condescending in their tailored slacks
The teacher presented research about what kids need to learn
But their only care was the money they could earn
“Students are children; not products,” she tried to explain
“Your lack of knowledge and meddling are causing great pain”
She added that teaching is a mix of science and art
“It’s a humanity,” she said “Not a business with no heart!”
The vacant look in their eyes and tilt of their heads
Soon gave her to know she had much to dread
They spoke not a word, disregarding her work
She feared inequity would continue to lurk
Then away they all flew in their extravagant jets
Forgetting to thank her for cleaning up their mess
But they heard her exclaim, as they drove out of sight
“This isn’t over! We’ll continue to fight!”
Happy winter break to all and peace to those willing to fight for it.
The following are my remarks made at a rally and vigil for the 8th Anniversary of the women who were murdered on Imperial Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.
My name is Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith. I am honored to have this time here with you today, and sickened by a society that allows for the repetitive horrific acts, like those of Anthony Sowell, to occur at all.
I am here today because as an educator and as a woman, I recognize that our need and desire to nurture each other is not a hindrance but a redemptive strength.
When we join together, our real power is rediscovered and bolstered. It is this alliance among women and our friends that is the worst fear of those in power in our system of electoral dysfunction.
Let us be clear. Violence against women and children, the oppression of women and children, is NOT a woman’s problem. It is the problem of a patriarchal capitalist system, which benefits from the oppression and exploitation of women, children, and people of color.
It is a patriarchal, colonial, racist, and imperialist system that profits off of treating others like they are less than human. It is not a “woman’s problem.”
I am here today because interdependency between women, and collaboration with our male allies, is the path to dismantling a system that promotes or allows subjugation, violence, poverty, and oppression to exist.
Within our alliances and our interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, we can demolish houses like the one that used to stand here on Imperial Avenue. And we can disassemble a system that still allows for unaccountable police chiefs, mayors, prosecutors, and other elected officials… a system that allows for men like Anthony Sowell to exist and perform unspeakable acts.
Audre Lorde said “Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged. As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change…”
Well, women here today and the enlightened men who join us, know the strength and power among us. Education and the creation of community are the tools of liberation.
Systematic oppression is not an accident or illusion. It is a tangible design evident right here, right now. And now is always a time to do what is right.
So I stand here today calling out all of those not here. It is time for those enjoying the privileges of safe communities and safe water and safe housing and safe schools, and with police forces who protect and serve, to stand up and speak out.
We already know the instruments of justice. We’ve even named them: unity, empathy, equity, compassion, love, peace, and a dialectical ability to seek and discover the humanity in every person’s story. There is no excuse for apathy. Liberation and justice are too long overdue.
No justice. No peace. Know justice. Know peace.
*Lorde, Audre. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” 1984. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Ed. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press. 110- 114. 2007. Print.
This poem was a result of the collaborative effort of three of my students.
This is from The Urban Youth Collaborative’s Facebook post:
**POWERFUL** Yesterday, our young people in UYC participated in a National Day of Action with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice calling for racial justice in our classrooms! Watch youth leader Estefany Valera, recite a poem written by 3 young men currently in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center, in Cleveland. The poem was written to be read on Columbus Day, soon to be known as #IndigenousPeopleDay #NYC#Education4Liberation
The Video: The Urban Youth Collaborative Event
Figure Out My Color
The police thought I had a gun one time and they asked me
“where’s the gun, where’s the gun?”
I didn’t have a shirt on
so it was obvious that I didn’t have a gun
in my waistband
and they checked my pockets
and they thought I had a gun
but I didn’t.
Now think for a minute…
What if it was you
Stopped for being brown
For being in a certain part of town
For being too poor
To be free?
Do we even know what we celebrate today for?
Is it just celebrating more
Of the punishing of the poor?
Enslavement, rape, disease, genocide
Are these sources of pride?
For those who’ve died.
Living in a country
Where the flag waves
For the home of the brave
“Get on your knees!”
Police scream at me.
Does anyone hear my plea
To end painful legacies?
For people who will stand
For their fellow man?
I was honored to have my son represent us at this event while I was at #NPEOAK17.
Hello. My name is Angelo Svigelj-Smith, and I am here today representing my mother, Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith, who is in her 20th year as a high school teacher in Cleveland Public high schools. Currently, she is teaching at our county’s juvenile detention center. She is also a community activist and advocate. It is her students’ voices that will be heard today from recordings made at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. Before those statements are read, my mom had a few things to share about poverty and education in Cleveland.
From my mother, Melissa:
As a long time advocate for social justice, I became dismayed and disillusioned a few years ago as I was told by those in higher administrative positions to do things that I did not feel were beneficial for my students and were sometimes even harmful; all so that students could pass high stakes standardized tests.
And so that later those tests could be used to call students, schools, or teachers “failing.” Then, those with a profit motive could come in and get a slice of the $800-900 billion dollar education spending pie.
Instead of quitting the teaching profession entirely four years ago, I decided to take a position at our county juvenile detention center, and to fight the system from within. In my new position I have been privy to and witness to an egregious exploitation of our city’s children all in the name of education privatization and profits.
Each week I document the educational atrocities committed against our children because of a culture of profit and competition. Treatment and conditions my students must experience, policy makers and others with privilege would never accept for their own children but because the great majority of my students are from low-income households and black and brown they are subject to these episodes of educational malpractice.
My students have had art, music, physical education, library time, foreign languages, and vocational classes taken from them. They are often in buildings with extreme heat or extreme cold. They walk to school, or stand at RTA bus stops in neighborhoods filled with violence, crime and abandoned houses because of decades of racist policies and practices.
They have the latest education fads or trends tried out in their classrooms, even though there is no research to support these latest trends but someone is always making a profit off of them. They are more likely to have temporary teachers instead of career professionals. Their neighborhood’s public schools are too often demolished or sold to private real estate holders so that they can be used for profit-making charter schools.
I have students who were enrolled in ECOT, Regent, Bridgescape, and Lake Erie International (just to name a few) who arrive to me without making any progress towards graduation after months and years at these charter schools. Yet, those charter schools have been paid with state tax dollars just because my students’ names were on their rosters and no one is holding the charter schools accountable.
I have students who have never been in trouble before, but after one fight or encounter which was triggered by a traumatic event in their life due to the poverty and violence this city allows to surround them, they are expelled from school and given no other treatment or consideration for their true issues or the sources of their pain.
In the most extreme and sorrowful cases, I have attended wakes and vigils for my students and I’ve visited students in prisons across the state who are sometimes the cause of those wakes and vigils. It is a sick and vicious cycle that we would do everything in our power to stop if these kids had different zip codes, or if they were visitors at a republican convention, or associated with a local sports franchise.
For these reasons, I am part of the #WeChoose campaign. “It is a declaration from hundreds of thousands of parents and students in cities across the United States with a clear, yet profound message – we refute and resist corporate education policies that are inflicted upon our children without our voice.
The failure of previous administrations to respect the lives of all has set the tone for this perilous moment that we are in now.
We reject appointed school boards. We reject zero tolerance policies that criminalize our children. We reject mediocre corporate education interventions that are only accepted because of the race and socio-economic status of the children served.
We choose equity.”
I hope that you will consider joining us. You can find more information at https://www.j4jalliance.com/wechoose/ – the Journey for Justice website.
If you would like to read more about my work as an educator and advocate please read some of my blogs on msvigeljsmith.blog.
Thank you for this opportunity to have a voice for educators and students confronting the impact of poverty every day in their classrooms across America.
I meant to publish this in August, but didn’t get to it, and I had one for September also, which has turned into two for October and quite possibly even three or four for October. I’ll catch up!
From Facebook: Thank you to Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith of OH BATs for this Badass speech at a Cleveland Mayoral Forum: https://www.facebook.com/meryl.johnson.3/videos/10207704256283174/?fref=gc&hc_location=ufi
The words: Thank you to all of you for taking the time to be here today and for listening to our questions and concerns, and thank you to Kathy and the other organizers for planning and preparing for the event today.
My name is Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith. I just began my 20th year of teaching in Cleveland Public High Schools, and my fourth year of teaching young men at our county’s juvenile detention center. Like most folks in this room, I stand here today as an activist; fighting for the education equity all our children deserve.
There are so many issues surrounding education in our city, state and country that it is difficult to narrow the scope of the topic. For our purposes this evening, I have narrowed it down to three issues.
The first issue is poverty in our city. Over half of our city’s children are living in poverty. In February I published a blog titled “My Students Pay Every Day for Their Free Lunch.” In it, I shared the effects of poverty on students according to the American Psychological Association. I listed things like inadequate nutrition and food insecurity, lack of access to health care, being at greater risk for poor academic achievement, dropping out of school, behavioral and socio-emotional problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays. Additionally, chronic stress associated with living in poverty has been shown to adversely affect children’s concentration and memory which may impact their ability to learn. Poverty also perpetrates a violence upon our young people that leaves educators like me spending weekends or breaks visiting students in state prisons and attending wakes. This pattern of violence should not be replicated in our schools with zero tolerance policies and the policing of our children, excessive testing, a dulling down of the curriculum, and the elimination of classes and activities that make schools a place kids want to be.
Furthermore, our schools should not be blamed for the poverty that our society allows to continue to exist, nor should they be expected to treat society’s ills without the necessary resources and services needed.
The second issue is charter schools, whether they’re labeled “for profit” or “nonprofit.” The unregulated charter industry in this state is costing our most impoverished districts the most financially and academically. I deal with charter schools across our county as I search for student records and piece together student transcripts. As the charter schools siphon millions of dollars from taxpayers throughout the state, the great majority of the time they are NOT outperforming our public schools. In fact, they offer less academically, place profit over what is best for children, and are chronically negligent, unreliable and inconsistent with regard to my record requests. During our first week of school, Invictus School sent me a transcript for a bright and curious student who has been enrolled with them for over a year. He has only earned half a high school credit. This is just one example of the educational malfeasance that I document every week. Children deserve equity in education, not the illusion of choice.
Finally, I question takeovers and mayoral control of schools in largely urban and economically disadvantaged areas where there are concentrated areas of people of color. When democracy is stripped away from any citizen, all of us are more susceptible to tyranny and despotism. Soliciting citizens to vote for tax levies to support the schools they aren’t able to democratically participate in governing is just a supplementary insult.
With this information in mind, I humbly submit the following questions for your pondering and response:
- How can we use our funds and resources to protect and nurture the most vulnerable children and families in our city just as well as we protect and provide for visitors to our downtown? Or our sports teams?
- How can we protect our tax dollars and citizens from predatory charter schools and vulture education profiteers?
- How can we halt corporate control that deletes democracy and treats our kids like products and numbers instead of the resilient and brilliant human beings that come to my class every day?
Thank you again for your time and attention.
(2 minute limit) (video clip)
Thank you so much to all of you for being here today.
My name is Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith, and I am here today representing hundreds of thousands of education activists and advocates across this nation who are fighting for the schools ALL our children deserve.
We are here today to march for impeachment, and it is a patriotic cause. However, this isn’t just about impeaching Donald Trump. An impeachment would just land Mike Pence in the Oval Office and no one here wants that either.
No. This is also about the impeachment of a system that manifested the successful election of Donald Trump.
There is no doubt that our country is in a state of what I like to refer to as “electile dysfunction.” And how can those in power who oppress and disenfranchise maintain their power?
Part of their plan includes an attack on and starvation of the foundation of our democracy: our public schools.
They de-fund education and steal tax dollars to promote a for-profit education system, particularly in the urban neighborhoods of our most vulnerable citizens.
They demonize teachers and allow for conditions in our public schools that they would never accept for their own children.
We know that education is essential to human liberation. An uneducated or poorly educated populace is much easier to manipulate and control.
In the spirit of liberation, we fight for the impeachment of anyone who promotes oppressive practices in schools; practices forced upon us by Trump and his cabinet, and by legislators and corporations, without any regard for what is best for our children or for our country.
We demand that curriculum and classroom practices be culturally relevant, comprehensive, engaging, challenging, and promote critical thinking,
We call for an end to harsh zero tolerance policies and the policing of our children, and instead call for the implementation of restorative practices that do NOT disproportionately put children of color on the school-to-prison pipeline.
We call for the impeachment of any public official who does not support bills or amendments that equitably and fully fund education – NOT mass incarceration or deportation.
Yes, we are gathered here today to demand impeachment, but I plead with all of you to remain vigilant and diligent in the fight for our public schools. They are the keys to liberty and justice for all, and we cannot salvage our democracy without them.
Are our children being taught what democracy looks like?
THIS is what democracy looks like!
Are our children being taught what democracy looks like?
THIS is what democracy looks like!
Do your CTU dues benefit you, or is your money going to a lucky few?
And Social Justice for All – CTU could be a union of social movement seeking social justice for all, but the current corporate model it espouses under AFT seems to be only benefiting a few.
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ~ Lord Acton
Let me begin by stating that I am a strong supporter of unions as a movement to create greater equity and opportunity in our society. I believe in the collective power of the masses to initiate changes that will benefit the greatest number of members in our society. The way unions were organized amid dire threats and violence to improve the lives of workers as they fought for living wages, limits to the workday and workweek, and safer conditions in the workplace was heroic. I appreciate the sacrifices that teachers before me made to improve working conditions and student learning conditions. I also believe that hard work outside of contracted hours deserves fair payment. However, as I review the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 budget for the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU), it isn’t pride or admiration that swells within me.
While my net pay is less than it was before our recent two-percent increase, the latest budget proposal approved at the CTU May 2017 delegate assembly shows a 7.89% increase in the CTU President’s Salary from $38,000 to $41,000 (line item 70190). This is in addition to the President’s Second Salary and benefits reimbursement (line item 70195) that increased from $100,000 to $108,000. Those line items do not include the annual expense account for the president of $2500 (line item 70200), and the president’s automotive stipend of $3600 annually (line item 70201). Combined, being president of the Cleveland Teachers Union provides a benefits and salary package of $155,100. Plus, the president no longer has to teach in a classroom under the stressful and oppressive mandates that everyone else is subjected to (TDES, TBTs, SLOs, SGMs, etc.) because CTU work is a president’s full time job. I am not advocating for less for anyone, but I am questioning why all of us are not seeing a similar increase in benefits. I am questioning why the CTU president has an additional union salary that is higher than what our paraprofessionals make for an entire year of work. I am questioning why the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Chief Executive Officer, Eric Gordon, has declined an automotive stipend in his past two contracts, and has agreed to increases in his salary that are comparable to what teachers receive, yet the union president has a car stipend and a union salary increase that is almost four times what teachers received.
Here are several other line items that members may ask about in the latest budget, since our dues have increased to almost $1000 per year:
- Why is there a 43.75% increase for the 5 trustees (line item 70235) from $3840 each to $6000 each?
- Why is the telephone bill $26,000/year (line item 70125)? Is that what it costs to provide all of the union executives union-provided iphones?
- Where are the receipts for the committee expenses? How do the two or three parties that the Social Committee (line item 70250) has each school year cost the same amount as workshops provided a few times per year by the Salary and Benefits Committee (line item 70255) or the Civil, Democratic and Human Rights Committee (70260)?
- How much money and how many resources could we save by providing online digital versions of publications instead of paying the full $9600/year (line item 70280)? Why are we paying a retired CTU member to run the Critique instead of hiring an active member?
- Why did the amount for AFT/TEACH conventions double from $15,000 to $30,000 (line item 70320)? Are we questioning why AFT is spending more on these conventions when membership is lower?
- Why did OFT go from 0 to $20,000 (line item 70325)? How does that one convention within our state cost 66% as much as the AFT/TEACH national convention? In a state in which teachers, public schools and unions have been under a barrage of attacks, will spending this much money on the convention produce results? Will attendees leave with more than OFT party favors? Will they leave with skills and strategies to fight the decimation of public education that they can share with members?
- How does sending union executives or other union members to professional development conferences for $29,500 benefit students or rank-and-file members? What do those who attend bring back from these professional development conventions that we do not already have or cannot already obtain from members in CTU? (line items 70335, 70336)
- Why are we paying so much for parking (from $16,000 to $18,000 line item 70217)? The residential rate is $150/month at the Halle Building. It costs $1800/person for 10 people to have monthly passes year round, so who gets monthly passes? Do our offices have to be downtown, or could they be in a less expensive neighborhood that needs some revitalization?
- Why are we paying so much for rent and electricity ($200,000/year line item 70120)? We could purchase a $750,000 dollar building for that amount in Cleveland over the course of five years, employ local union laborers for repairs and upkeep, and not have to spend money on rent or parking ever again. Would a financial adviser recommend an upfront investment that could save money for members in the long term?
- Why is there a 3% increase in Staff Salaries (line 70215)? How are there still union salary steps and levels when this sort of system has been destroyed for everyone still in the classroom full time?
- Does the financial incentive (line item 70215) of being a union executive (with allowable hours away from classroom assignments) contribute to a climate of corruption within our union? Remember when there was a suggestion by union executives to stop mailings to members’ homes, even though those mailings cost our union absolutely nothing? Luckily, the idea was defeated because the alleged complaints about receiving home mailings were not more fierce than the complaints by members concerning other AFT mailings (I’m really sick of AFT trying to sell me insurance and credit cards, but welcome alternative perspectives from rank-and-file-members in my mailbox).
- Why are CTU members paying more in dues than ever before, and paying higher salaries for union positions than ever before, yet our membership has dropped over the past 15 years by approximately 40%? Shouldn’t less membership mean less work to be done, less salaries to be paid, and less positions that need filled?
Over a century of political and economic attacks on teachers, teacher unions and public education are also an attack on women, children, and the working class. Huge pay inequities between men and women and women’s suffrage were driving forces among early social movement unionists and activists like educator Margaret Haley, and social justice activist Susan B. Anthony in 1853. Those early activists recognized the connection between protecting teachers’ rights and students’ rights when it was time to negotiate contracts and working conditions. Currently, an evolution in large urban teachers unions, like Chicago and Milwaukee, has reclaimed the social justice roots of unions, aligning themselves with community groups and other unions to improve the communities in which they work, and the lives of their students as part of a comprehensive strategy to improve education for students. AFT President, Randi Weingarten’s, continued support of charter schools, which were formed to decimate unions and undermine public schools, is a strong indication that we cannot rely on top leadership to guide us in a shift back to social justice unionism. It must begin from within our local unions by rank-and-file members who recognize the union as a medium for democracy and social justice activism, not as an entity that suppresses dissent in order to maintain the power and benefits of a few.
The following is the speech I gave as a (very honored to be included) speaker at the International Women’s Day Rally & March in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 8th, 2017, on a very windy day at Willard Park.
International Women’s Day March & Rally Cleveland, Ohio, 2017
Thank you so much to all of you for being here today.
My name is Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith, and I am here today representing 100s of local education activists, 1000s of education advocates statewide, and hundreds of 1000s of education activists & advocates across this nation who are fighting for the schools ALL our children deserve.
When government officials and the business community attack teachers and public schools, you better believe that it is an attack on women, who make up over 75% of the teaching profession. It is an attack on our children. It is an attack on our democracy.
We know that education is essential to human liberation.
In this spirit of liberation, we fight to dismantle oppressive practices in schools; practices placed upon us by legislators and corporate interests without any regard for what is best for our children.
We demand that curriculum and classroom practice be culturally relevant, comprehensive, engaging, challenging, and promote critical thinking, and that these practices be based on research and the input of educators, not based on the whims of politicians or the profit margins of corporations.
We call for an end to harsh zero tolerance policies and the policing of our children, and instead call for the implementation of restorative practices that do not disproportionately put children of color on the school-to-prison pipeline.
We support local democratically elected school boards. Because if you can vote to have your taxes raised to support a school district, then you should be able to vote for who is on the district’s school board.
We demand an end to high stakes standardized testing, a system rooted in eugenics and racism that has done nothing to improve teaching and learning for our students, but has created a false narrative about “failing public schools” and “bad teachers.”
We want community schools that are provided with funding and resources to offer the wrap around services that families surrounding those schools need.
School reforms should meet the needs of children in classrooms, not corporations.
All children deserve prepared, experienced and fully licensed teachers.
And all children and all schools must have equitable access to resources and adequate funding.
I plead with all of you today to remain vigilant and diligent in the fight for our public schools.
Until the government ends the test and punish system, tell your child’s school that your student will not be participating in the state’s punitive system of high stakes standardized testing. Refuse the tests!
No more of our tax dollars to millionaires and billion dollar corporations, so that they can sell our kids developmentally inappropriate tests and then call our kids failures.
Hold public officials accountable. Budget bills must equitably and fully fund education – not mass incarceration.
We must fight this battle not because education is called a civil rights issue, but because education is an inalienable human right.
Our children need us too much to get tired of being in this battle.
They may have demolished and neglected the buildings we use for education, but they cannot decimate our desire to educate & be educated.
They will continue to wage this political and corporate war on educators: the Liberators.
But they cannot liquidate our aspirations for liberation.
Education is liberation. Education. Liberation. Education. Liberation.
When billionaire Betsy Devos, the woman who bought the Secretary of Education position in Donald Trump’s administration, addressed attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, she received a lot of criticism from people who actually care about children for a remark she made in which she claimed to be the first person to tell Bernie Sanders “to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Although her comment was meant to be humorous, those of us who possess an ounce of humanity know that there is nothing funny about children living in poverty. However, this may be the one and only time that I can actually agree with the literal words of Betsy Devos. There is no such thing as a free lunch. In fact, my kids pay every day.
According to a 2016 report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1 in 4 kids in Ohio, about 600,000 children, are living in poverty. In the city that I teach in, Cleveland, 53.2% of children are living in poverty. Our children absolutely pay every single day of their lives for the meager opportunity to have a “free lunch.” They may not be paying with the currency that Betsy DeVos and her wealthy cronies value, but they are paying in many other ways that matter so much more. Below are just a few examples from the American Psychological Association:
Effects of child poverty
- Poverty is linked with negative conditions such as substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition and food insecurity, inadequate child care, lack of access to health care, unsafe neighborhoods, and under-resourced schools which adversely impact our nation’s children.
- Poorer children and teens are also at greater risk for several negative outcomes such as poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioral and socioemotional problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays.
- Economists estimate that child poverty costs an estimated $500 billion a year to the U.S. economy; reduces productivity and economic output by 1.3 percent of GDP; raises crime and increases health expenditure (Holzer et al., 2008).
Poverty and academic achievement
- Chronic stress associated with living in poverty has been shown to adversely affect children’s concentration and memory which may impact their ability to learn.
- The academic achievement gap for poorer youth is particularly pronounced for low-income African American and Hispanic children compared with their more affluent White peers.
Poverty and psychosocial outcomes
- Children living in poverty are at greater risk of behavioral and emotional problems.
- Unsafe neighborhoods may expose low-income children to violence which can cause a number of psychosocial difficulties. Violence exposure can also predict future violent behavior in youth which places them at greater risk of injury and mortality and entry into the juvenile justice system.
Poverty and physical health
Children and teens living in poorer communities are at increased risk for a wide range of physical health problems:
- Low birth weight
- Poor nutrition which is manifested in the following ways:
- Inadequate food which can lead to food insecurity/hunger
- Lack of access to healthy foods and areas for play or sports which can lead to childhood overweight or obesity
- Chronic conditions such as asthma, anemia and pneumonia
- Risky behaviors such as smoking or engaging in early sexual activity
- Exposure to environmental contaminants, e.g., lead paint and toxic waste dumps
- Exposure to violence in their communities which can lead to trauma, injury, disability and mortality
As I was leaving a wake this morning for a teen I knew who was killed while at a playground in Cleveland, the price that my students pay because of poverty weighs heavily on me. There are no free lunches. My kids might get some free food at the schools they attend, but no one can tell me that they aren’t paying.
‘Gatsby’ filling void for family, now will serve as therapy dog; send us your pet-rescue stories
Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith, of Berea, found the perfect furry companion when she rescued Gatsby, a Lab-pit-bull mix.
on December 15, 2016 at 9:12 AM
BEREA, Ohio — We got our dog, Gatsby, from the shelter on West 7th in Cleveland. He was nothing but a big head and bones with a really dull coat of fur whose color was indistinct when we got him. He’s now a healthy, shiny, chocolate-colored happy guy. He overcame a lot, including separation anxiety. I can’t imagine life without him.
We initially sought a lab-pit mixed dog because my son stayed with us in between college and his move to Nashville for about a year with his lab-pit mixed dog, Ace, and I thought bringing in Gatsby would help ease the pain of the separation we would feel once my son and Ace moved. I tried to get my son to leave Ace with us, but he told me that getting Ace was a life-long commitment, not just an idea he had in college. I thought to myself, “darn it, why did I raise a responsible, caring kid?”
Even more… I work with young people as an educator at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center and Gatsby is about to pass the first part of his certification process towards being a therapy dog with the help of a trainer who specializes in working with dogs from shelters.
This amazing trainer also runs the program at Grafton, which offers dog training through the prison facility for dogs waiting to be adopted.
A colleague who works with autistic students gave me the idea to train Gatsby as a therapy dog. The majority of my students come to me at varying levels of crisis and trauma. I believe Gatsby and my students will benefit from his intelligent, gentle, and loyal disposition once they begin to interact. Before my grandmother passed in September this year, we took him with us to visit her at a nursing home and the residents loved him there.
In the end, Gatsby may have been rescued, but he also saved us from feeling completely devastated when my son and Ace moved, brought cheer to residents at Saybrook Landing, and he’ll ease the spirits of kids in detention in our county facility once we finish the therapy training process.
It makes me so sad to hear about breed bans because my pit-lab is the sweetest, most loyal, and fabulous dog anyone could ever ask for. Every time he wants to meet a new dog, he bows down and waits for the dog to approach. The only time I’ve ever witnessed aggression, is from little dogs yipping and lunging towards him. He just walks away.
Those are the chapters of my dog-rescue life. I hope that others open their lives to the amazing potential of rescue love.
Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith
Have you rescued a companion animal that is now part of your family? We’d like to hear from you. Tell us something about your pet – all species are welcome – and send along a photo of the two of you. Be sure to tell us which community you live in. Send everything to Linda Kinsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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dgwlkr5 days ago
What a great story. Sounds like Gatsby is touching many lives.
VP of Discontent6 days ago
Thank you for the beautiful story, Melissa, and thank you for saving Gatsby…although it sounds like he saved you as well 😉
Post for Special Education Consultants Group
In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, students can be adjudicated prior to age 18, or sent from the juvenile detention center once they reach age 18, to the adult county jail pending the outcome of their case. A couple years ago, I learned that access to education services are scarce to nonexistent at the adult county facility in Cuyahoga County. Appalled for all students, I began reaching out to local government officials at the county level. Outside of a meeting with a community liaison at the county executive’s office during the summer of 2015, I was largely ignored or dismissed. I then began reaching out to the Ohio Department of Education, Disability Rights Ohio, and to representatives and senators on a national level, lobbying my senators and representative in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2015. At the end of the summer, I realized that most folks in government don’t really give a rat’s tail about this practically invisible population of students. It was also then that it occurred to me that a significant number of the students sent to languish at the county facility for extended lengths of time without access to education, often still had active Individual Education Plans under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and that not offering services was a violation of their civil rights. I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice against the state of Ohio because students are assigned to the Buckeye United School District once they leave the county juvenile facility for the county adult facility. The Buckeye United School District includes schools under the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
Meanwhile, the State Deputy Director from Senator Sherrod Brown’s office responded to my outreach and agreed to visit my students at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center, and to listen to my stories and theirs. When I did not get a timely response from the DOJ, Senator Sherrod Brown’s office followed up for me, and I received an update within a week. I also traveled to Boston in December of 2015 to meet and ask a question of Bryan Stevenson about the students I serve, and the situation of youth in adult detention facilities.
The case initiated by my complaint was eventually transferred to the United States Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office in Cleveland, Ohio. An investigation is currently open and pending as of the summer of 2016. I do not believe that I need to explain to this educated group of people how damaging and negatively life-changing a lack of education, or the deprivation of education, can be on our young people caught in the juvenile or adult justice system. When students fight back (with the help of advocates), they receive compensatory school time, thus I have a former student in Mansfield now on an active IEP until he is 22 because he spent a year without access to education waiting at the adult county facility. For students already struggling academically, a year away from education cannot ever really be compensated. Due to the large number of people incarcerated who have disabilities and are between the ages of 18-21, I am creating awareness about this issue so that other people who care about the rights of students with disabilities can also advocate for those entangled in the very complicated maze of juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. There are many entrances into this maze, but the exits are few and infrequently include a high school diploma for those who experience it. Our communities would all be better places if that changed.
With hope for a means to justice and education for all,
It seems that the high stakes testing season begins as soon as the school year starts. For high school students adhering to the new Ohio graduation pathways and requirements, state high school exams will be administered beginning in December (next week). I don’t need to review all of the reasons that high stakes standardized tests are bogus, invalid, and do nothing to improve teaching or learning. However, if you need some inspiration for your student’s Opt Out or Refusal letter this year, feel free to read on and borrow any parts you find useful from mine.
Greetings BMHS Staff,
The following are links to the Google slides prepared for a 5-7 minute Ed Talk at SEL in Action, a conference in Phoenix, Arizona, made possible through the generosity of the NoVo Foundation, and planned and hosted by Education First. I am very grateful that I was given this opportunity, and more importantly, that my students were given a chance to shine.
Thanks to Jillian A. for the photo. 🙂