The Worst that Could Happen with Betsy DeVos

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David Donahue, Director and Professor, Urban Education Reform

A recent article by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post was headlined “What’s the worst that could happen with Betsy DeVos as education secretary?” Only in a Trump administration where knowledge and expertise are not considered assets would DeVos be nominated for secretary of education. DeVos has neither attended public schools nor worked in them. She has not sent her children to public schools and she has no credentials or degrees in education. She does head a political action committee “All Children Matter” that helps politicians supporting privatization.

In the Washington Post article, Strauss lays out two scenarios under DeVos, both developed by Aaron Pallas, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. One of the scenarios has DeVos leading the federal government in replacing Title I support to poor schools with $20 billion in funding for vouchers enabling families to send children to private, less regulated, for-profit schools that track success less by the academic achievement of their students and more by their ability to attract students – and the dollars attached to them – in a marketplace.

Unfortunately, research on vouchers offers no evidence of their effectiveness. The achievement of children attending private schools on vouchers is no better than if they were in public schools, and the public schools with fewer dollars have even more difficulty educating the children left behind.

Market based reforms of education treat schools like businesses, students like clients. Education does indeed provide wonderful individual benefits, and not just preparation for a good paying job, but — one hopes — discovery of lifelong intellectual pursuits and passions. In the United States, public schools also serve the common good, something that seems lost on market based reformers like voucher proponents. Some families with children in private school support vouchers with the argument that they should not be “doubly burdened” paying for their own children’s education and supporting public education with their tax dollars as well. A good society is not just the sum of everyone looking out for himself or herself, however. Even enlightened self-interest should remind those without children in public schools that their health depends on educated nurses, their safety on educated brake mechanics, the future of our democracy on an electorate able to distinguish fake news from journalism.

Defense of the common good will require action on multiple fronts in the next four years. Public schools are key to that common good. They are worth fighting for, they are worth funding, and they are worth keeping out of the hands of privateers, like Betsey DeVos.

Betsy DeVos’ nomination was originally scheduled to be reviewed by the Senate Committee last Wednesday morning. DeVos’ hearing has been rescheduled for Tuesday, January 17 at 5:00pm.

Introducing our Spring 2017 USF in Washington, D.C. Fellows

USF in DC participants are undergraduate students selected for a semester-long program in Washington, D.C. that integrates a full-time internship with relevant coursework taught by USF faculty and University of California Washington Program (UC DC) faculty. Students choose from a range of elective courses and internship opportunities that meet their interests and skill sets and spend their semester engaging with peers from across the country in the heart of the capital, where they will live, learn, and explore all that DC has to offer. Meet our current cohort of USF in DC students and learn about their hopes and expectations for the coming semester.

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Joshua Berman, Politics ’18

Josh is a Newmark Scholar and will be interning with Bose Public Affairs Group as a legislative intern. He plans on using his time at the firm to build his knowledge of advancing legislative strategies related to science and technology, education, and energy policy issues to guide him toward his goal of becoming a lobbyist. During his time in D.C., Josh hopes to gain hands-on advocacy experience that he will bring back to USF and the San Francisco political system.

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Luxinaree Bunmathong, International Studies ’17

“Luxinaree will be interning for the Stimson Center in their Managing Across Boundaries department. She plans to utilize her internship to develop research and writing skills to guide her towards her goal of becoming a senior analyst at a think tank. During her time in D.C., Luxinaree hopes to gain hands-on experience in regards to environmental policies that she will be able to take back with her to USF.

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Sofia Greco-Byrne, Politics ’18

Sofia will be interning for Senator Jeanne Shaheen‘s office on the Hill during her time in DC. She hopes to gain a better understanding for how Congress operates while also aiding a lawmaker who believes in the same progressive values she does.

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Maggie Fields, Environmental Studies ’18

Maggie, is a Newmark Scholar  and will be interning for Congressman Jared Huffman. As an Environmental Studies student, she hopes to bring a fresh perspective to The Hill. She plans to strengthen her administrative experience and obtain first-hand exposure to the legislative process while interning. She hopes this internship will be a catalyst for her future in environmental justice and policy.

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Ayah Fawaz-Farouk Mouhktar, Media Studies ’18

Ayah Mouhktar, a recipient of both a Betty L. Blakley Scholar and a Newmark Scholar award,  will be interning for Common Sense Media in their Kids Action Department. She plans to use her internship to build on her knowledge of policy and advocacy on behalf of America’s kids and education. During her time in D.C., Ayah hopes to gain experience in working in our nation’s capital and seeing real change occur through the hardwork done by non-profits and applying that knowledge in her last year back at USF and in San Francisco.

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Giorgia Scelzo, Organizational Behavior and Leadership ’18

Giorgia is a Finance Major minoring in Politics and hopes to intern in Congress having the goal to combine her passions for business and politics to promote democracy. As an established hard worker, Giorgia hopes to gain Capitol Hill experience in public policy making, national security and international relations. These are experiences she will bring back to her USF community.

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Kaylee Van der Zee, Politics ’18

Kaylee Van der Zee will be interning for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading LGBTQ+ civil rights advocacy organization, in the Fundraising & Direct Marketing department. She is looking forward to spending a semester in the nation’s capital and hopefully gain the skills that will prepare her for a career in politics.

A Day at Prince Hall Learning Center in the Western Addition

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The Prince Hall Computer Learning Center (PHLC), an Engage San Francisco community partner in the heart of the Western Addition, is a year-round learning enrichment program that provides structure and support in the form of emotional and academic enrichment programs. Through after-school and summer programming, Prince Hall develops individualized support for children based on their academic needs and family situation. The small scale of this program (up to 20 children) allows for customized, personal interventions that are sustained and based on a strong groundwork of trust.

 

As one enters Prince Hall you are welcomed by Ms. Miram Desmukes, who has 18 years of experience directing the Prince Hall Learning Center. Along with Ms. Andi Hall, who has been an Associate Director with the program for 10 years, one immediately sees the center as an intuitive, loving environment that is labor intensive and intimate.

An initial question comes to mind:  What kind of methods of teaching do they use in their program? Ms. Andi explains as one of the children leaned on her and she kissed her on the head and said, “We are a nurturing education-based program, lots of hugs around here.” While Ms. Andi and Ms. Miriam are extremely humble in how they describe their work, it is clear that it takes extraordinary expertise and time to understand and relate to the kids on a level much deeper than hugs.

“There is a certain amount of respect that we try to embody so that they don’t feel that they need to act out. We respect them. They respect us. Everything is pretty much communal around here. The older children look out for the younger ones and give them pointers.”

Prince Hall is an active partner with several USF literacy projects including America Reads, the Masters in Teaching Reading/reading specialist program, and the Xochitl Book Project and as such, ties into the values USF holds close to heart:  education, social justice and leading to succeed. Collaboration with families is essential, especially to the Prince Hall Learning Center.

The Center is a program of Bethel AME Church and the Allen Corporation, which is the for-profit arm of Bethel along with the parishioners who support the program by purchasing items of need that are listed in the church newsletter. Many things are paid out-of-pocket by Ms. Miriam and  Ms. Andi such as food snacks, flashcards, vocabulary cards, books and gas for daily pick ups of kids from school to afterschool program in their personal cars. The vision for which needs can be met far outnumbers the current resources that Center has.

When asked what items they needed, they said, “state of the art equipment, like learning tools, some technology, standing desks, writing materials, educational supplies, equipment, toys, materials.” Given additional resources, they would formalize their teen group; facilitate more conversations and mentorship with the Center’s graduates who return home from college and meet up to discuss the transition to higher education, and build out their technology program. It is clear this program is rich with vision, inspiration, deep intergenerational relationships, and succeeding despite many unmet resource needs.

Prince Hall reflects the values and vision of USF and Engage San Francisco, which is why it is great partnership site for USF students to learn. In addition to the teaching the Center does with Western Addition children, they also offer a supportive learning environment for USF undergraduate and graduate students who work with them.

If you woud like to support Prince Hall Computer Learning Center, or USF’s partnerships with them, visit http://www.princehallclc.org/ to see how you can support them or contact Karin Cotterman, Director of Engage San Francisco, kmcotterman@usfca.edu.

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Our 2016 Report Card — Community Partner Survey Summary of Results

In April 2016, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good administered its third biennial survey regarding community partners’ use of USF and McCarthy Center resources and their general perceptions of the University (including the institution as a whole, as well as students and faculty) and its role in the community. Our intent is to survey data to shape our work with community and make recommendations across campus about implementing best practices in community partnerships. More specifically, results of this survey will be used to inform the resources and services we provide, ensure that the community partner voice is reflected in our work, and advocate for more effective community-engaged programming at USF.

 

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Looking at how to make our outreach efforts and community partnerships more impactful we look to the feedback from our community partners to help guide us to improve in the years coming. Community-Engaged Learning Program Manager, Fernando Enciso-Márquez says,  “Our Community Partner survey helps us understand the reciprocal nature of our community partnerships, and allows us to identify additional ways we can shape our collaboration with local nonprofit agencies.” Participants shared feedback and perceptions of a variety of aspects from communication, completing special projects ,strengthening organizational relationships with USF, and student preparation to engage in the community.

Most community partners feel that students exhibit professionalism on-site (80% of respondents), demonstrate cultural humility (89% of respondents), and are motivated to engage with their host organization throughout the semester (80% of respondents). Community partners also expressed that students always or usually complete the tasks expected of them, with high agency satisfaction on student service deliverables.

Feedback of the attitudes our Community Partners have about working with students:

  • 100% find long-term student volunteers to be very or somewhat beneficial
  • 100% find short-term (6 months or less) interns to be very or somewhat beneficial

Community partners were also invited to share their perceptions of the University and the McCarthy Center based on their partnership experiences.

Respondents feel that the University at large supports organizational needs of community partners, acts as a member of the larger San Francisco community, and helps students to explore the social issues addressed by the host organization.  Focusing on the McCarthy Center specifically, respondents expressed that the Center is supportive in building faculty partnerships (74% of respondents), and provides helpful partnership information and resources (83% of respondents). Community partners also feel that the McCarthy Center cares about the outcomes of student engagement on the host community and clients, and consider our office to be an active member of the San Francisco community (88% of respondents).

Other Community Partner feedback:

  • “We greatly appreciate the opportunity to work closely with the McCarthy Center and value the work of our Advocates for Community Engagement; they play a vital role in supporting our work and mission!”
  • “We have been very impressed with the quality of students we have worked with (which is not always the case with students from other schools!)”

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Defending the Sacred in a Militarized Police State at Standing Rock

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Alexis Stanley

Alumna, Former Advocate for Community Engagement ’15

On the evening of Sunday, November 20th I was returning home after a week up in Standing Rock, North Dakota. This was the same night unarmed water protectors, just north of the main Oceti Sakowin camp attempted to remove the cement barricades and burned cars blocking the public 1806 Highway. Water protectors were met with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades. Despite this being outright inhumane and completely unnecessary it does speak to cycle of violence inflicted upon Native lands and communities since settlers first arrived.

This fight to protect water and defend sacred sites has been met with a corporate police state military invasion of a sovereign tribal nation. Dakota Access is protected and supported by North Dakota’s National Guard, Morton County Sheriff’s Department and State police. Behind their razor wire barricades, humvees, tactical security walls, snipers, and riot gear outfits, we see the ongoing willingness to exert violence and force guided by colonialism.

I had been following the social media coverage rather closely in the months leading up to my arrival in Standing Rock. While I thought I went in with little expectations, I was still surprised to see what was actually taking place on the ground. There was a heavy surveillance presence throughout the entire area. Drones consistently flew above day and night, along with several helicopters and small planes. Atop rolling grassy hills are large flood lights that Dakota Access shines directly into the camps at night. All of these intimidation tactics are to instill fear, paranoia, and disrupt the work being done on the frontline. To me, this militarized police state at the hands of corporate interests shows that even with all the armor and disposable resources, they are still terrified to go head to head with unarmed Natives and their allies that are led by prayer and unwavering stance to protect Mother Earth.

There is very heavy emphasis when inside the camp that this is prayer and resistance driven camp where drugs, alcohol and weapons absolutely have no place there. Throughout the entire camp, work is constantly being done, from construction, art, cooking, organizing, and ceremony. This isn’t Coachella. Snow has already arrived, and in the last several weeks people have been in hardcore preparation mode to be ready for the increasingly cold winter to come.

With Standing Rock being an indigenous centered space, I was still slightly surprised to see the majority of the camp to be non-Native. Based on my own observations, it was clear to see how even within the different sub-camps, with majority of the camp being with non-Native allies this presents a lot of questions and challenges. Allies are crucial in this fight to defend the water, but there is a need to continue to have open conversations on intentions and impacts in Native-led spaces where tribal leadership and wisdom may be new concepts for you but must be respected at the same time.

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On Thursday, November 17th, a large group of us, water protectors, rolled out to Bismarck and Mandan, ND to rally outside a Federal courthouse demanding that President Obama take immediate action to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from being constructed. We then proceeded to march and circle the Morton County Correctional Center where the Morton Country Sheriff is headquartered. Water protectors chanted to demand the release of Red Fawn Fallis, a water protector who is facing charges of attempted murder after authorities claimed she fired shots at law enforcement while she was being arrested during the October 27th raid on the Oceti Sakowin 1851 treaty land encampment. Some of local town “counter protestors” had plenty of choice words for us when participating in peaceful direct action, which was mostly comical, but unsettling all the same. It’s almost hard to conceptualize why they consider water protectors “terrorists” for standing their ground. When in turn, it was these same communities north of Bismarck who feverishly opposed the pipeline being constructed closer to their communities and would have threatened their water supplies, but their opposition wasn’t met with this strong of a military presence.

On Friday, November 18th, the International Indigenous Youth Council led a direct action at the barricade north of the Oceti Sakowin camp. Hundreds of water protectors and allies stood, sat, and knelt at the bridge to pray and stand in solidarity. In those moments, I felt connected to land we stood on, the water, and I felt calm and empowered to be alongside the protectors and allies defending our life source and sovereignty as indigenous peoples.

Being able to go up there and experience some of what is taking place on the frontlines is something that will always stick with me. I felt a personal calling to stand in solidarity largely because I grew up respecting, cherishing and understanding that water is sacred. My mother’s family is from the Navajo Nation, and in Navajo (Diné) something that has always resonated with me is “Tó éí ííńá át’é” which means “water is life”. Similarly, the Lakota way of saying this phrase is also “Mni Wiconi” which can be heard randomly exclaimed throughout the camps at Standing Rock as a way to get people pumped up. As a Diné woman, I embrace the notion that we are our ancestors prayers in the flesh, we are the seventh generation, and I support and stand with our relative who are putting it all on the line to protect our waters, our lands, and our people.

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Alumnus Sees the Future of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center

 

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Jerry Trotter

Program Director, Booker T. Washington Community Service Center

Ayah Mouhktar, our Communications Assistant, interviewed Jerry Trotter at the construction site for the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center. Below is a reflection on her experience meeting Jerry, discussing the new facility and what it will mean for the families and children of San Francisco.

Putting on a hard hat and entering a construction site was not how I planned to spend my Thursday afternoon but what came out of it ended up being one of the most eye opening and inspirational experiences I have ever had.

Walking into what would soon become the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center left me with a sense of hope of a brighter future for the children and families of San Francisco.

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Jerry Trotter, Program Director of the facility, is a University of San Francisco alumni (’02) and was recruited by the Multicultural Retention and Recruitment program, which traveled to high schools and recruited students to USF to continue their studies in social justice and the Jesuit mission.

“USF brought me to San Francisco and San Francisco brought me to Booker T. Washington” said Trotter when describing what gave him the drive to want to help the local community.

The new facility is being built at 800 Presidio Avenue and will be made up of 5 floors compiled of 49 housing units, an NBA regulation size gym, a mind/body health center, computer and career lab and a community garden on the roof. It began as an idea as a place for families in the community to convene and organize and is a realistic way to meet the needs for food, education and secure housing. Trotter cares for the children of San Francisco and wants one simple thing to come out of all the great work he does, “we want to have them stay and live in the city they grew up in”

San Francisco and USF in particular played a large role in Trotter’s work and his passion for social justice and the mentality of leading to succeed, and not just to seeing himself succeed alone but taking rising with the community as a whole. The hard work of Jerry Trotter is one that is admirable and inspirational not for just the common citizen but especially USF students who look to actually change the world from here- less than a mile away from the center of campus.