Hundreds of public school teachers and their supporters took to the streets yesterday to protest Chicago's school consolidation plan, which will close 54 of the city's public schools.
The demonstration was non-violent, but more than 100 protesters were escorted away by police. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears to be holding his ground, saying that the time for negotiations is over. The Board of Education votes on the plan in late May, and it's expected to pass.
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis joins Starting Point today to discuss the measures the city is taking to address their budget shortfall and to explain why she opposes closing the schools.
"Changing children from one building to the next is not going to ensure that their education is going to be that much better," Lewis says. "Where we have a problem is that you cannot just pick a number out of the sky and this is the number of schools we’re going to close. Mayor Rahm Emanuel went around town talking to anybody who would listen to him that he wanted 50 schools closed... I’m telling parents to take control of their school. We have local school councils. The whole purpose is so we can have local control of school and that has been usurped for mayoral control."
More than a week ago, children at Park Elementary School in Maryland went home with a letter explaining there was a disruption in school caused by 7-year-old Josh Welch. He was accused of biting a breakfast pastry to shape it into an object that resembled a gun, while allegedly saying "bang bang" with it. Welch was suspended for two days, but insists he did not do anything inappropriate.
Now, a lawmaker in that district has introduced a bill to make sure something like this does not happen again to other kids. This morning, Maryland State Senator J.B. Jennings joins “Starting Point” to discuss his proposed legislation.
“The boards of educations have handcuffed the teachers and principals in these schools with this zero tolerance,” Jennings says. He adds that his proposed bill will give “discretionary back to the principals, back to the teachers.”
Senate Bill 1058, otherwise known as "The Responsible School Discipline Act of 2013" was introduced in Maryland State Senate on Friday. Jennings says his legislation has started a necessary discussion that he hopes the boards of education will take and “move forward with it.” He adds that his constituents want the zero-tolerance policy addressed so, “that these school boards will lay off some of these children [and] give the teachers and principals more flexibility to handle this in the classroom.”
Officials at an elementary school in Maryland are suspending seven-year-old for taking a breakfast pastry and shaping it into what looked like a gun, and allegedly saying "bang bang" with it.
Second grader Josh Welch and his father share what happened on “Starting Point” today.
“I was trying to shape it into a mountain, and it turned out to be a gun,” Josh says. “And I did not say bang bang.”
"I believe there needs to be some common sense," dad BJ Welch says. "I believe when you compare the caliber of the offense to the caliber of the punishment, they don't match up. It's a lack of common sense, in conjunction with the use of rules. Honestly. I believe there's some personal bias in the decision as well."
Park Elementary School's principal was unable to talk with CNN, but the school sent a letter home with the students saying "one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class."
Josh will be suspended for two days, but says he doesn't do anything inappropriate.
"When I'm trying to create stuff like drawing...I don't try to draw inappropriate stuff," he saysl.
Schools across the country are cutting funding for the arts, and many private groups are stepping in to help save them. Music Unites is one of them, a non-profit group that helps empower students through arts and music education.
It works with musicians like Grammy-award winning producer and hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz, who offer in-studio sessions and workshops. Today, Swizz and "Music Unites" will hold a workshop with the Bronx Charter School in New York to stress the importants of arts education.
Swizz Beatz and Music Unites founder Michelle Edgar talk with Soledad O'Brien about their mission.
One of the stars of the award-winning TV drama "Breaking Bad" may soon have a new role: As a school board member.
Steven Michael Quezada, who plays D.E.A. agent Steven Gomez in the hit AMC show, is running unopposed for a seat on the school board in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Quezada joins “Starting Point” to discuss why he wants to make a difference in the state that he and his show call home.
The saying, “too strange to be true” certainly applies to a video created by three students in their fifth semester at Centre NAD in Canada. Normand Archambault, Loïc Mireault and Félix Marquis-Poulin created a video depicting an eagle snatching a toddler in a Montreal park that went viral on YouTube with over 10 million views. The video which took the students 400 hours to create fooled a lot of people but several were able to figure out the video was a hoax created by using computer-generated images. This morning Archambault and Marquis-Poulin join “Starting Point” to discuss the hoax and all the attention it has received.
Marquis-Poulin says he and his classmates researched favorite subjects on YouTube and “came out with animals and babies,” which gave them the idea of an eagle catching a baby. Archambault says the point of the project was that they had to “integrate computer generated images into real footage.” He adds the first part of the project was building the “geometry of the model” which meant building the baby and the eagle in 3D. Archambault says the next step was rigging it, “making a bone system for both of them… shaping them and add texture” and then integrated it” within the computer to make the final product.
On Tuesday, Newtown students returned to schools marking the beginning of a new reality after last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Students at neighboring schools are receiving counseling along with teachers and administrators who are expected to discuss the tragedy with students in an age appropriate manner, according to the teachers' union. Classes for the young children of Sandy Hook are not resuming just yet, as a new school in neighboring Monroe, Connecticut is prepped for their arrival. A tragedy of this magnitude for many brings to mind other senseless acts that claimed innocent lives like the Oklahoma City bombing at the federal building downtown in 1995 that killed 168 people – 19 of them children. Frank Keating was the governor of Oklahoma when that bombing occurred. He joins “Starting Point” this morning to discuss the Newtown tragedy and weigh in on the renewed gun control debate.
Keating who won national acclaim for his compassionate and professional handling of the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing says for Newtown the climb out will be long, searing and very difficult. He adds that 17 years after the bombing, “with private funds we are still putting children through college, providing counseling – particularly the first responders, firefighters and police officers and even proving medical care for the number of the badly injured.” Keating goes on to stress the importance of the community putting together a plan to address certain problems like long term counseling, particularly for the first responders who were some of the first to see the victims.
On the topic of gun control, Keating who received his first shotgun at the age of 11 says the question of whether people should, “be able to access, to purchase semiautomatic weapons with these clips, these magazines that provide for... unlimited firepower” needs to be debated and discussed. He adds, “We did once. I think we should do it again to ban those assault weapons.”
Keating says mental health, divorce, video violence and movie violence should also be topics of discussion moving forward. Reflecting on his own childhood he says, “We had guns. We went hunting after school, but none of us slaughtered out classmates.”
Scholars Academy is one of 56 schools in New York still closed because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. Poppy Harlow surveys the school and comes to “Starting Point” to describe how people can help the school and its students like eighth-grader Ryan Panetta rebuild after the storm.
“You can still smell the destruction Sandy wrought at Scholar's Academy,” Harlow says. When Sandy hit, the water gushed into the school that is wedged between the Atlantic ocean, Jamaica Bay and a sewage treatment plant. “Surveillance cameras captured the ocean pouring into the basement and climbing the stairs of Principal Brian O’Connell's beloved school.” But he and the students are dedicted to rebuild.
“We keep saying scholar strong and Rockaway resilient,” O’Connell says. “They sound cliché, we are using them so much, but it’s just reality.”
If you want to make a donation, you can go directly to the Scholars website here, or go to CNN.com/IMPACT for ways to help those affected by Superstorm Sandy.
CNN's Poppy Harlow speaks with 13-year-old Ryan Panetta who leapt into the rising waters of Hurricane Sandy to save his family, but he couldn’t save his home or school. Now he is one of hundreds of NY kids attending a temporary school and living in a temporary apartment.
Panetta, an honor student is one of 76,000 New York students whose displacement has wreaked havoc on their school and home life, separating them from communities and familiar faces.
For more information about how you can help those affected by Sandy, check out CNN.com/IMPACT.
In order to become a lawyer you have to pass the bar and in order to become a doctor you have to take a medical licensing exam – but what about teachers? A new report, released by the American Federation of Teachers, is recommending that new teachers should have to pass their own equivalent of a bar exam before stepping into a classroom. This morning, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten joins “Starting Point” to discuss the reasons behind the suggestion that teachers be required to take a standardized test.
Weingarten says, “When you look at the countries that out-compete us they spend a lot of time preparing teachers.” The AFT president adds that, “Finland prepares teachers like we prepare doctors.” When it comes to teaching Weingarten says, “experience matters a lot...you need to have a body of knowledge and some clinical experience to do what we consider the most important job in America.”
Weingarten explains the report recommends that standards be governed by educators because there is currently “too much control in education by testing companies and by testing as opposed to what the profession thinks is important.” She adds educators should be able to control their own profession just like people in the fields of medicine, law and engineering are, “controlled by the profession.”