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Party With Purpose: Why I Swap Birthday Gifts for Cash (and Give it to Schools)

The gifts are replaced by donations and the theme is centered more on kids than the adults in the room.


This Saturday, for the third year in a row I will celebrate my birthday in a special way. My friends, family, and colleagues have been invited to a birthday soiree in Downtown Los Angeles full of drinks, live entertainment, music and even a red carpet with "paparazzi." However the gifts have been replaced by donations and the theme is centered more on kids than the adults in the room. I've decided that going forward my birthdays will be parties for a purpose.

This started because turning 30 troubled me. It wasn't so much the age as the thought that as a young professional I wasn't doing enough to help lift up the city I live in. Working in schools in East and South L.A., I had the privilege of seeing amazing students who were overcoming extraordinary obstacles to succeed. I also witnessed that budget cuts and poverty were stopping many Los Angeles Unified students from participating in even basic opportunities, like field trips and school projects.

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The Digital Divide? It's at Your Local School, Too

The biggest divide in our education system is not the achievement gap, but the ever widening digital divide.


The biggest divide in our education system is not the achievement gap, but the ever widening digital divide. I teach at an old, urban, inner-city high school in Jacksonville, Florida. Over 73 percent of our school population is on free or reduced lunch. Many of my students do not have desktops, laptops, or tablets in their homes. Local libraries close early, and students are left with little to no options to get internet access for studying, research, and developing skills for postsecondary education and/or the workforce.

My students don't have adequate access to technology at school, either. I only have four computers and an outdated projector in my classroom. This isn’t unusual in classrooms across America. District and state funding sources are limited to upgrading to the necessary tools and purchasing instructional materials.

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Why the Fiscal Cliff Deal Doesn't Solve Our Education Funding Crisis

Schools are left teetering on an uncertain precipice.


Even though the Constitution leaves the responsibility for education up to states, what's going on at the federal level has a significant impact on your local school. That's why educators across the nation are joining everyone else in breathing a sigh of relief that the fiscal cliff crisis has been averted. Without the deal, nearly 7.5 mil­lion students would have lost educational services and 90,000 educators would be heading to the unemployment line. But does this deal mean education's out of the woods? Not even close.

As the Washington Post points out, the deal "fails to defuse the prospect of a catastrophic national default two months from now" and it "does not raise the debt ceiling, leaving the Treasury to use what it calls 'extraordinary measures' as long as it can to pay the government's bills."

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At 76, Jonathan Kozol Is More Outraged Over Inequality in Education Than Ever

Education activist Jonathan Kozol is letting loose on child poverty, racism, and educational inequity these days.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to get so angry," author and education activist Jonathan Kozol told a crowd of mostly educators in Los Angeles on Monday night. The teachers, many toting dog-eared copies of Savage Inequalities, Kozol's groundbreaking 1991 text which exposed in heartbreaking detail the education disparities between wealthier, whiter students and poor, minority kids, didn't need the apology. Instead they applauded Kozol, who is on a nationwide lecture tour promoting his 13th tome, Fire in the Ashes, for sustaining his moral outrage over child poverty, racism, and educational inequity for the past 40 years.

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