Support the DMN Education Lab and support a better future for our kids

Here on the editorial board, we work separately from our colleagues in news.

But like every reader of this newspaper, we rely deeply on the reporting work they do to keep us informed and able to draw the best conclusions about our cities, our region and so much more.

That’s why we are thrilled to see an important new development for our newsroom come into full bloom.

We are talking about The Dallas Morning News Education Lab, a community-funded journalism initiative that has quickly expanded coverage of what might be the most important question any community faces — how we educate our children.

We are so grateful to the community-minded people and groups that have stepped forward to support this critical work: The Communities Foundation of Texas, The Meadows Foundation, The Dallas Foundation, Southern Methodist University, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation, the Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, and the Solutions Journalism Network.

These philanthropists understand that an informed community is a progressing community, and they have supported this mission with the understanding that this newspaper will maintain full editorial control over the Education Lab’s work, as it must as part of our sacred trust with our readers.

The exterior of the Dallas Morning News building on Commerce Street in downtown Dallas.

If you follow our education coverage, we hope you have already noticed an increase in stories and seen some new bylines. We are excited that education editor Eva-Marie Ayala has built a strong team to join veteran reporter Corbett Smith in covering local schools.

The work they are doing is opening up important areas of coverage — from the $2 million Lancaster ISD’s board tried to spend to buy out its outgoing superintendent to the effort of a failed political candidate to overturn a bond election for Dallas College.

The public needs to know about these things, just as we need greater insight into all of the important progress that many of our schools are making. There are plenty of good news stories out there to be told.

Here’s the other good news. If you would like to support this team of reporters beyond your subscription, you can do so. This link will take you to the Local Media Foundation’s fundraising portal on Facebook for the Education Lab. Or you can send a check to Communities Foundation of Texas, 5500 Caruth Haven Lane, Dallas, TX 75225, Attn: Carolyn Newham. Note in the memo line that this donation is for the Dallas Morning News Education Lab Fund.

We are grateful for your readership first and foremost and for any support you may give.

We know you agree with us that the work of building up Dallas and our region is never done. It’s simply handed off to the next generation.

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As COVID-19 cases soar, U.S. families weigh risks of welcoming college kids home

By Gabriella Borter



a sidewalk sign with a building in the background: FILE PHOTO: Women with protective face masks walk on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor


© Reuters/SHANNON STAPLETON
FILE PHOTO: Women with protective face masks walk on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor

(Reuters) – Nina Jain was regularly checking the nation’s COVID-19 data and holding out hope that her son Antonio, a sophomore who attends college in Iowa, could come home to Sacramento, California, for Thanksgiving this week.

Jain, who works in a government office, had her hopes dashed when she saw U.S. COVID-19 cases rise by an average of more than 168,000 per day last week. Antonio canceled his flight on Friday, hours before it was scheduled to depart, heeding public health warnings that a nationwide dispersal of college students heading home for the holidays could fuel a deadly wave of infections.



a young girl in a parking lot: FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a sorority house on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor


© Reuters/SHANNON STAPLETON
FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a sorority house on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor

“It’s like a piece of your heart is 1,500 miles away and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Jain, 44, whose Thanksgiving plan without Antonio involves wearing pajamas, cooking for herself and spending time with her pets by the fire. “You find solace in knowing you’re doing the right thing.”

As COVID-19 infections skyrocket, families with college students have been forced to evaluate the risk of reuniting for Thanksgiving, when extended American families traditionally gather around the table to eat turkey dinners and show gratitude. Some have opted to roll the dice and celebrate together on Thursday, while some have canceled travel or tried to follow disease prevention protocols at home.



a person and a dog on a leash: Families with college students weigh the COVID-19 risk of a Thanksgiving together


© Reuters/BARBARA GOLDBERG
Families with college students weigh the COVID-19 risk of a Thanksgiving together

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warn that if college students go home for Thanksgiving, they should be considered guests and families should wear masks, stay six feet apart and open windows to mitigate the infection risk.

Cynthia Wimer, 54, who lives with her husband and elderly parents in Washington, D.C., did not want to take chances when her daughter Francesca, a sophomore at Northwestern University, came home for the holidays.

So Francesca flew home wearing an N95 mask and a face shield and checked into a hotel for 14 days, where her parents delivered her meals. She tested negative on the 7th day but finished her quarantine period to be sure she would not infect her family.

“She was returning to a vulnerable set of people,” Wimer said. “We didn’t trust that a test was enough.”

For some students, last-minute COVID-19 testing before leaving campus derailed their travel.

Luke Burke, a junior at Syracuse University, was planning to spend Thanksgiving with his family in New Jersey until his roommate tested positive last week. Although Burke’s test came back negative, he is isolating in a hotel for two weeks to be safe.

“I’m sorry I can’t be there with my parents, but it’s the right thing to do,” Burke said, speaking to Reuters by phone from his hotel room.

‘WEIRD AWAKENING’

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A wave of evictions is on the horizon. What impact could they have on kids’ education?

There were new additions to classrooms when schools opened this fall. There were plastic shields and cloth facemasks, hand sanitizer and login instructions when learning went online. But something was missing — tens of thousands of students. 

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed kids out of school for various reasons: health concerns, a parent losing a job causing the family to move, a lack of internet or devices for virtual learning. Because there is no national database, 60 Minutes compiled enrollment data from 78 of the largest school districts in the country and found nearly a quarter of a million students did not showed up when school began. 

Now, social workers who have spent the last three months searching for those kids expect their job is about to get much harder. A national pause on most evictions is set to expire at the end of the year, and without those protections, children without a home could translate to more students missing from the classroom. 

“While we’ve had an increase in homelessness, it’s going to get much, much worse,” said Laura Tucker, a social worker for Florida’s Hillsborough County School District. “Because people are going to become homeless that never intended to become homeless, never thought it would happen in their lifetime.”

THE NATIONAL EVICTION MORATORIUM 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in September issued a national eviction moratorium that temporarily stops landlords from evicting tenants who have lost income because of the pandemic and have fallen behind on rent. It is set to expire next month, on December 31. 

Congress had previously included a limited ban on evictions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. That measure, which expired in July, only paused evictions in federally subsidized housing. The CDC’s order protects everyone living in one of the nation’s approximate 44 million rental households.

The CDC’s moratorium draws on the Public Health Service Act of 1944, which grants the Department of Health and Human Services authority to respond to public health emergencies. The order is meant, in part, to prevent homelessness, which can increase the spread of COVID-19. 

The extent to which evictions can increase infections is evident in a new study set to be published next week, which 60 Minutes previewed. The study, led by Dr. Kathryn Leifheit from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, found that evictions led to a total of 433,700 excess COVID-19 cases and 10,700 additional deaths in the U.S. from the beginning of the pandemic until the CDC’s national order in September.

The national ban, however, does not stop landlords from evicting all residents. Among other requirements, tenants must sign a form that states they have lost income due to the pandemic and have made their best effort to apply for federal housing aid. 

The order also does not prohibit late fees or absolve tenants of any back rent they owe, and it does not establish any kind of financial assistance fund to help renters get caught up. Because of this,

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Dolly Parton says not having kids allowed her to prioritize her career

“I think a big part of my whole success is the fact that I was free to work.”

Dolly Parton is taking a trip down memory lane.

During a recent episode of “The Oprah Conversation,” the legendary country singer opened up about her successful career and said that her decision to not have children with her husband, Carl Dean, played a huge role.

Parton, who turns 75 in January, told Oprah, “Since I had no kids, and my husband was pretty independent, I had freedom. So I think a big part of my whole success is the fact that I was free to work.”

The “Jolene” singer’s decision to not have children doesn’t reflect how she feels about them, though.

In fact, she shared it’s allowed her the opportunity to launch programs like her Imagination Library, which provides free books to children until they start school.

“I didn’t have children because I believed that God didn’t mean for me to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine, so I could do things like Imagination Library because if I hadn’t had the freedom to work, I wouldn’t have done all the things I’ve done,” she explained. “I wouldn’t be in a position to do all of the things I’m doing now.”

When it comes to whether or not there have been more sacrifices than rewards, Parton said she feels like she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be.

“I’ve made sacrifices, but I think, like I said, I believe what I know I’m supposed to do,” she said.

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How to Explain the Electoral College to Kids

It’s hard to escape headlines about the election. And with many kids, and parents, spending more time at home, conversations and questions are coming up more frequently. One thing that makes America’s election unique is the Electoral College. The Electoral College is complicated, even for adults. It’s also highly contested, as there have been about 700 attempts to reform or abolish it. Furthermore, four presidencies have been secured by winning the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. While it may be complicated, it’s an essential part of understanding how our democracy functions, and why election outcomes happen the way they do. Here’s how you can answer questions about the electoral college from kids that want to know.

What Is the Electoral College?

The Electoral College is a group of people chosen to represent their state in the election. These people, known as electors, have the important job of representing the way that their state voted. For example, your class might have a class leader who speaks for the class when important decisions need to be made. Instead of hearing 20-30 voices, the teacher just has to listen to one person, who represents the best interests of the class.

How Are Electors Chosen?

Each state gets a certain number of electors, which equal the number of representatives it has in the House and Senate. For example, big states like California, Texas and Florida have the most electors, because they have the most people. This makes sure that representation is fair.

The way that electors are chosen varies by state. Most states choose their electors at political party conventions. Political parties are groups of people with similar interests, and they host conventions, which are basically big meetings, to make important decisions. For example, your school might have a “Recess After Lunch” group and a “Recess Before Lunch” group. Because each group has a different opinion, they have a big meeting where they choose different people to represent them.

How Does the Electoral College Work?

During the election, the state counts all of the votes, then decides who received the most votes. The candidate that receives the most votes wins all of the electors. Even if an election is very close, one candidate still gets all of the electoral votes (except in Maine and Nebraska). Once all of the electoral votes are counted, the candidate with the most electoral votes wins.

Why Do We Have It?

It might seem strange that we have electors, or class leaders, instead of just having everyone in the class vote. Remember, the Constitution was written a long time ago, when states were very concerned with having their individual rights and interests protected. And states mostly wanted to protect their best interests, that is, the interests of the majority. State leaders wanted to make sure their states were represented by the majority, which is why the leading candidate gets all of the electoral votes.

So, if 14 of the kids in your class vote to have recess

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Investing in These 5 ETFs Could Send Your Kids to College | Personal-finance

5. Fidelity MSCI Information Technology Index ETF

If you’re bullish on tech, you can express that view through the Fidelity MSCI Information Technology Index ETF (NYSEMKT: FTEC). The benefit of investment here is that, for an extremely low annual fee, the fund provides a basket of tech companies weighted toward top-tier names like Apple and Microsoft. While this fund probably shouldn’t be a core holding, it would be a safe bet to allocate 5% to 10% of your college savings portfolio to it for a decade or two. The fund is also a prudent choice for those who are interested in tech but don’t want their funds to become ensnared in the hype of day trading or the lure of headline-grabbing stocks.

Common threads

When you are making investments to pay for your kids’ higher education, some of your smartest choices will be low-fee, well-diversified, and tax-efficient funds. If you stick to funds with these characteristics, you won’t need to pick individual stocks.

The real beauty of this strategy is its simplicity: Once you set up an account that keeps adding to these funds in the proper proportion, your work is done. And that’s for the best. You’ll be adding money to these investments on a regular basis for years, but once you have a carefully considered plan for that college payment portfolio, you can (and should) largely leave it alone.

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Hundreds of parents who were separated from their kids at the U.S.-Mexico border remain “unreachable”

Advocates have been unable to reach the parents of 545 children who were separated by U.S. immigration authorities at the southern border and who could be eligible for court-mandated reunifications, according to a joint legal filing by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department. 

These parents, designated as “unreachable” in Tuesday’s court filing, are part of more than 1,000 migrant families who were separated by U.S. border officials before the Trump administration fully implemented its “zero tolerance” crackdown in the spring of 2018.

The “zero tolerance” policy led to the separation of more than 2,800 migrant families before Judge Dana Sabraw of the U.S. District Court in San Diego brought an end to the practice in June 2018.

Most of the families who remained in the U.S. when the ruling was issued were eventually reunited, but Sabraw authorized a steering committee of advocacy groups to track down the hundreds of parents who were deported without their children. After being located, most opted to have their children brought to their home countries or allowed them to stay in the U.S. with other family members, waiving their right to reunification. 

But in October 2019, the U.S. government revealed it had separated an additional 1,556 children from their parents between the summer of 2017 and June 2018, including during a pilot program for the “zero tolerance” policy in El Paso, Texas. The steering committee then set out to locate these families, since Sabraw said they could be eligible for reunification if they remained separated. 

So far, the committee has located the parents of 485 of these children, but continues to look for the parents of 545 minors, two-thirds of whom are believed to have been deported to their home countries. Efforts to reach these parents using phone numbers provided by the government were unsuccessful.

Advocates led by the group Justice in Motion have been on the ground in Mexico and Central America for months looking for these “unreachable” parents, but their efforts were temporarily paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is unclear how many of the “unreachable” parents have not yet reunited with their children after their forced separations in the U.S. For the children who remain in the U.S., most were likely released from government custody to live with sponsors, who are typically family members.

“Sadly we are still looking for hundreds of families who were separated years ago and will not stop until we find all of them,” Lee Gelernt, the top ACLU attorney in the case, told CBS News. “Some of these children were only babies when ripped away from their parents.”

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