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The Lion King/Disney

California ranks 41st in the total value of its economy invested in K-12 education, and California's per pupil spending is below the national average. Fundraisers are usually a way to help struggling schools make ends meet – except for when they're not. Elementary School in Berkley, California held a "parent's night out" fundraiser to benefit the school. The parents played the live-action remake of The Lion King to keep the kids busy while the parents were raising money for the school, thinking it would be a more affordable alternative to babysitting. It wasn't.

Over two months after the fundraiser, they received a notice from Email Licensing USA, a firm representing Disney, claiming they held an illegal screening of the film and had to pay a fine of $250. The school has no idea how the screening got flagged – or why. "One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy," PTA president David Rose told CNN. "He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules."


RELATED: A Florida high school just became the first classroom to dissect synthetic frogs

"Any time a movie is shown outside of the home, legal permission is needed to show it, as it is considered a Public Performance," the email said. "Any time movies are shown without the proper license, copyright law is violated and the entity showing the movie can be fined by the studios. If a movie is shown for any entertainment reason -- even in the classroom, it is required by law that the school obtains a Public Performance license."

The event raised $800, and the PTA plans to use some of the funds that were supposed to go to school supplies to pay the fine."[I]f we have to fork over a third of it to Disney, so be it. You know, lesson learned," PTA president David Rose told KPIX.

Parents are understandably livid about the fine, especially because the Walt Disney Company isn't exactly hurting for money. According to Forbes, it's valued at $238.1 billion. Even though the PTA plans to pay the fine, they're not doing it without putting up a fight.




Lori Dorste is a parent of an Emerson student, but she's also a Berkley City Council member. Dorste says that Disney is part of the reason why schools are so underfunded in the first place. "There was an initiative passed in 1979 called Proposition 13 which casts the property tax on all land, and so Disney's property tax rates are at 1978 values, which translates into millions upon millions of dollars a year that Disney is not paying," Droste told CNN. "Because of that, our schools are now extremely underfunded. We went from the '70s being among the top education systems in the US to one of the lowest."

RELATED: The Internet can't decide if Beyoncé was photoshopped into this Lion King cast photo. John Oliver is here to help crack the case.

Droste said that some parents have donated money to help the PTA pay the fine, but it's still not fair. "It's just so appalling that an incredibly wealthy corporation … is having its licensing agents chase after a PTA having to raise insane amounts of money just to pay teachers, cover financial scholarships and manage school programs," Droste told CNN. "We would be enthusiastic about paying the license fee if Disney was willing to have their properties reassessed and pay some additional property taxes."

It just goes to show, not every lesson is learned in the classroom.

On Feb. 7, 2017, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as America's next education secretary.

Resistance to her nomination was of historic proportions. Last week, two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — broke ranks and announced they would oppose DeVos, leaving the GOP-controlled Senate at a 50-50 stalemate (all 48 Democrats opposed her nomination). Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.


If you attended or have kids in public schools, DeVos' nomination may be a tough pill to swallow. DeVos, a Michigan billionaire born into wealth, has never attended or worked in a public school — although her family has given the Republican Party about $200 million over the years. She's also been a big proponent of school choice — a controversial free-market education method that allows public funds to be siphoned off to private, parochial, and even for-profit schools. It's a strategy many education advocates have criticized, claiming it uses already scarce public school funds to benefit mostly upper-middle class and wealthy families, leaving the most vulnerable students and schools in even worse shape.

Admittedly, it was not a good day for many public school advocates. But now more than ever, American kids and schools need our help.

Here are 20 ways you can turn your anxiety over the future of public education into real action:

1. First and foremost, don't feel hopeless.

Let your frustrations fuel your advocacy. Among President Trump's controversial cabinet appointments, DeVos' agenda may be the least popular among Americans. The resistance to her plans is alive and well.

2. Help fund a project that will make a difference on Donors Choose.

The platform gives teachers a place to crowd-fund classroom projects, allowing individuals (that's you!) to help students, whether it be giving art supplies to students in California or providing iPads to kids in Brooklyn to boost their linguistic and social skills.

Photo via iStock.

3. If you can, get involved in the National Education Association.

The focus of NEA — the largest professional employee organization in the country — is to make public education high-quality and accessible to every student. There are many ways for prospective, current, and former public education professionals to join the cause.

4. Come midterm elections, don't forget which senators voted for DeVos — many of whom received campaign donations from her family:

Steve Daines (Montana), John Thune (South Dakota), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), Richard Burr (North Carolina), Jeff Sessions (Alabama), Roger Wicker (Mississippi), Roy Blunt (Missouri), Bob Corker (Tennessee), Michael Enzi (Wyoming), John Barrasso (Wyoming), Dean Heller (Nevada), Rob Portman (Ohio), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), John McCain (Arizona), Richard Shelby (Alabama), Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Deb Fischer (Nebraska), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), James Inhofe (Oklahoma), Jim Risch (Idaho), James Lankford (Oklahoma), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Michael Rounds (South Dakota), Thad Cochran (Mississippi), Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Michael Crapo (Idaho), John Hoeven (North Dakota), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Kennedy (Louisiana), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Todd Young (Indiana), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Tim Scott (South Carolina), Ben Sasse (Nebraska), Marco Rubio (Florida), David Perdue (Georgia), Johnny Isakson (Georgia), Charles Grassley (Iowa), John Cornyn (Texas), John Boozman (Arkansas), and Lamar Alexander (Tennessee).

5. Think local.

You know your own community best. What local or regional organizations do the crucial work unique to the problems facing the public schools in your city? Reach out and ask them how you can get involved.

6. Donate to No Kid Hungry.

The nonprofit helps feed American schoolchildren so they can stay full and focused in the classroom. One $10 gift can provide up to 100 meals to a kid who could use it.

7. Support after-school arts programs.

There's probably at least one group in your area helping teach art to kids outside the classroom — an opportunity that could help them in many ways for years to come. In Pittsburgh, for instance, free after-school art classes at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts teach any kids in the Pittsburgh public school system skills in ceramics, design, photography, and more.

8. Share this video of Sen. Al Franken questioning DeVos' support of anti-LGBTQ causes — and hold her accountable to do better.

Let the record show: Dollars from the DeVos family have gone toward horribly anti-LGBTQ initiatives, including gay (to straight) conversion therapy — a practice that's  been deemed harmful by experts and is essentially a form of child abuse.

Despite her record, DeVos said during her Senate hearing that she never believed in gay conversion therapy and that she "fully embraces equality" for all students. Let's hold her accountable to that.

Earlier this evening, I questioned Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, and was deeply troubled by the fact that she seemed unfamiliar with some of the most basic issues in education today. Ms. DeVos repeatedly refused to answer questions, let alone offer specifics. That was not what the American people needed to hear. They deserved to see her demonstrate that she understands and can successfully address the profoundly difficult challenges ordinary families face every day when it comes to education: things like making sure their kids are prepared for the 21st century economy, addressing student loan debt, and ensuring kids feel safe in school.

Posted by U.S. Senator Al Franken on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

9. Support your local libraries.

Libraries are great resources for our kids to learn outside the classroom (and they have so much more to offer than books). Get your library card, visit frequently, volunteer, and spread the word.

Speaking of libraries...

10. Create a Little Free Library in your own neighborhood.

Build a little library in your yard, stock it with some books, and let your neighbors enjoy. Ideally, it'll turn into a take-a-book, give-a-book situation.

Learn more about how to pull it off.

11. Fight for more affordable and free higher education at the ballot box.

Despite what you may think of DeVos' appointment, Americans increasingly support using public funds to ensure college is free or affordable to more students. Stanford University, for example, was cheered for guaranteeing students whose parents have a combined income of less than $125,000 would have free tuition. And San Francisco has also made waves for making City College free for residents.

Many state and local governments are also trying to make higher ed more accessible to more students. New York state may make its public colleges and universities free to attend for the vast majority of students. Stay plugged in to similar state and local initiatives in your own area.

12. Support the "nonpublic" schools in your area.

Nonpublic schools are, in fact, public schools for kids with moderate to severe disabilities that prevent them from attending a more traditional public school. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act ensures schools like them exist for any family that needs it.

Considering DeVos' nomination has disability advocates worried, the nonpublic schools in your community could probably use your support. Many host regular fundraisers and even need classroom volunteers.

13. Support the Kids in Need Foundation.

The nonprofit provides thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies to students in need every year, giving them the tools they need to succeed in class. (There are lots of groups doing similar work, by the way — if you do some digging, you may find a more local option.)

Photo via iStock.

14. Don't forget that Open eBooks is a thing, and it's spectacular.

Former President Obama's ConnectED initiative helped get more than $250 million worth of fantastic children's e-books online, available to any young person who wants to dive into a good read.

Because not every kid gets that chance.

15. Donate to First Book.

This nonprofit provides new books and other learning materials to kids and families in need. Since it was founded in 1992, the group has given away 160 million books and education resources.

16. Help tackle crime, nutrition, and education ... with veggies.

The nonprofit Gardopia Gardens operates community gardens at schools in Texas, helping make nutritional foods more accessible to kids. It not only teaches them about nutrition and gardening, it lowers crime rates in the neighborhoods where it operates. Similar programs are offered at schools around the country — if your local school doesn't already have one, why not look into what it would take to start one yourself?

17. Help make lunchtime a little more stress-free.

18. Support Publicolor.

Kids in New York City who work in the after-school program Publicolor paint beautiful works of art in schools in order to bring a splash of color to the spaces they share, build relationships, and learn valuable skills like commercial painting and positive work habits.

19. Stand up for immigrant students by supporting United We Dream.

The group had already been rallying educators to stand up to Trump's agenda. Now, with DeVos' nomination, its Educators Toolkit may be even more necessary.

20. Take matters into your own hands and run for a position on your local school board.

All politics are local, right? Run for school board in your community and make a difference.

Let's not sugarcoat it: DeVos' nomination is a major setback for our public schools. But we can't get complacent.

In ways big and small, our resistance to her agenda can make a better tomorrow for kids everywhere.

Photo via iStock.

In preparation for his student teaching job, Dwayne Reed decided to do something a little different from the usual lesson plan prep — he made a rap video.

"I wanted to get my students excited about the upcoming school year," Reed said. "I also wanted to connect myself to them before they even stepped foot in the classroom."

Reed in his music video, "Welcome to the Fourth Grade." Photo via Mr. Reed/YouTube.


Aside from welcoming his fourth grade class to the new year at Stenson Elementary School in Skokie, Illinois, the video highlights some "ideas he'd really like to try." He's interested in using music to teach on occasion because it has a way of making things stick in your head. (Seriously, you'll never stop singing the catchy welcome song Reed wrote.)

According to Reed, his students loved the video, as did their parents, and their friends, and their friends' parents. The video went viral and no doubt earned him the Coolest Teacher of the Year award.

While the student and parent approval is definitely a plus, it's what he's doing with the notoriety from his viral video that matters more.

Photo via Dwayne Reed/Facebook. Used with permission.

He's made it his mission to get books and supplies to underserved kids all over the Chicago area.

Public school funding in Chicago has been notoriously low since the 2008 recession, and this year is no exception. According to district data, over 30 public schools are set to lose between $50,000 and $200,000 in funding in the 2016-17 school year.

This is a reflection of a much larger problem with the way education is funded in America. According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 31 states provided less funding per student in 2014 than they did in 2008 before the recession hit. While 2016's complete data isn't in yet, so far, more than 25 states are still providing less funding overall.

Teachers all over the country are spending their own money to make up for the lack of funds to keep their classrooms outfitted with the proper supplies.

This is not something that should fall to them, but more often than not, it does. A Vox survey shows the majority of teachers spend anywhere from $200 to over $600 of their own salaries on school supplies for their students. Many have even turned to education-specific crowdfunding sites like Donors Choose, which certainly helps, but shouldn't be necessary for public education.

Thankfully, people, especially parents, are starting to take notice. They're helping out in any way they can — like the story of this great dad who gave what he could to a teacher buying supplies. Or this mom who wrote about how much buying that extra tissue box means to a teacher.

Reed continues to raise money via a GoFundMe account set up for him and by privately reaching out to those in his community.

But despite Reed's newfound fame, he – and many, many other teachers – could use a helping hand.

So consider donating to him or a school near you or a teacher you might randomly encounter buying school supplies. You'll be making a huge difference — not only to that teacher, but to all the kids they teach.

Here's Reed's awesome music video "Welcome to the Fourth Grade" for further incentive.

Meet your new favorite teacher, who's breakin' out his rhyme book to welcome his new class.Special thanks to Mr. Dwayne Reed.

Posted by Upworthy on Friday, August 26, 2016

Dear South Dakota,

I heard you recently passed a bill to help ensure students have their privacy respected, and I wanted to say "thanks!"


I do, however, have a few concerns I hope you can help me with. I was reading through the bill, appropriately titled, "An Act to restrict access to certain restrooms and locker rooms in public schools," and while it’s not the sexiest title (you can’t even make an acronym out of it — I mean … AATRATCRALRIPS?), that’s not really the focus. The important thing is that it ensures student privacy and, as Republican state Sen. David Omdahl said, "to preserve the innocence of our young people."

Photos via iStock.

I, too, think it’s important that we preserve the innocence of our young people, which is why I wanted to ask a few things about the bill before the governor decides whether he'll sign or veto. Let’s start with the obvious questions.

If you define "biological sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth," I have to ask what category you place people who either haven’t had their chromosomes tested (which, I don’t know about you, but I certainly haven’t; that’s not something they do to newborns) or people with "anatomy" (very vague) that falls somewhere outside the male/female binary (as much as 1% of the population)?

Here's that section from your bill:

"BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. That chapter 13–24 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The term, biological sex, as used in this Act, means the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth."



This next part came to my attention because, well, I’m just curious what this has to do with "preserving innocence" or privacy? Do kids still take showers in schools? That don’t have private stalls? It’s been a while since I was in school, but I can’t remember a single time anybody in my grade school or high school used the showers after gym class. Most people just showered at home, I think.

I decided to run a very informal poll, and yep, it seems as though open showers are a thing of the past.


And when it comes to restrooms, I’ve never seen anybody’s genitals (nor had the opportunity to test their DNA) while using the bathroom. I’m a firm believer that if you’re seeing others’ genitals while you use the bathroom, then you’re, well, bathrooming wrong.

And I’m curious how you plan to test students’ anatomy and/or chromosomes. That is, how will you enforce this new law? Will there be genital checks upon entering locker rooms? Do students need to give a blood sample? Surely you have some system in place. I’m sure you wouldn’t pass a law without  —  well, who knows?

But again, from your bill:

"Section 2. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex. In addition, any public school student participating in a school sponsored activity off school premises which includes being in a state of undress in the presence of other students shall use those rooms designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex."

Actually, the more I think about it, the more it seems like this bill actively wipes away innocence. I mean, I wouldn’t want a teacher looking at my junk. I wouldn’t feel as though my privacy is protected any better if a public school (which is essentially the government) had access to my DNA. That’d actually make me feel a whole lot less protected. I’d feel violated, even.

It seems to me that this bill wasn’t properly thought through. It sounds expensive (if you’re going to ensure people are in the "right" restroom and locker room, this’ll be pricey!), and it sounds like — well, I’m no lawyer, but — it sounds to me like this invites lawsuits. I could be wrong.

But can you tell me how knowing what students’ genitals look like helps ensure their privacy? It seems to me like this bill is a solution in search of a problem; sadly, that "solution" will only cause more problems.

Best,

Parker