An ‘Angel’ for Homeless Students and the Revolt of the College-Educated Working Class: The Week in Narrated Articles

This weekend, listen to a collection of narrated articles from around The New York Times, read aloud by the reporters who wrote them.

For hundreds of poor families in Basrup, Texas, a rural district outside Austin, Norma Mercado is a one-woman rescue squad — a source of food, clothes, transportation and counsel — with a gift for keeping homeless students in school. She is also a reminder of the scale and complexity of student homelessness and an exemplar of a little-known federal program that is suddenly awash in funds to help disadvantaged students succeed.

Under a 1987 law now known as the McKinney-Vento Act, every school district must appoint a “liaison” like Ms. Mercado to protect homeless students’ rights. But until now only about one district in four received money for the work. With school closures from the pandemic harming poor students, Congress last year approved $800 million in new grants, more than tripling the funding for three years and auguring an era of innovation in services for homeless children.

“It’s like winning the lottery,” Ms. Mercado said.

Written and narrated by Corina Knoll

Their plans were bold, with no room for devastation.

They would leave their hometown and journey 6,500 miles to New York City together and take jobs, any kind, that allowed them to send money back to the family. Eventually, they would return to enjoy grandchildren whose college funds they had helped provide, whose futures would burn bright.

GuiYing Ma and her husband, Zhanxin Gao, had ventured out of their city of Fushun, in northeastern China, only a handful of times. But in 2017, the couple, at 56 years old, decided to apply for visas in hopes of making the kind of money that was out of their reach in China.

They went on to build a modest life of service in New York — until a shocking attack tore them apart.

Written by Dana Goldstein and Stephanie Saul | Narrated by Dana Goldstein

After the Florida Department of Education recently rejected dozens of math textbooks, the big question was: Why?

The department said some of the books “contained prohibited topics” from social-emotional learning or critical race theory — but it has released only four specific textbook pages showing content to which it objects.

Using online sample materials provided by publishers to Florida school districts, The New York Times was able to review 21 of the rejected books and see what may have led the state to reject them.

In most of the books, there was little that touched on race, never mind an academic framework like critical race theory. But many of the textbooks included social-emotional learning content, a practice with roots in psychological research that tries to help students develop mind-sets that can support academic success.

Written by Julie Bosman, Sophie Kasakove, Jill Cowan and Richard Fausset | Narrated by Julie Bosman

Just as a number of major cities are trying to lure people back to formerly bustling downtowns, leaders are confronting transit crime rates that have risen over prepandemic levels in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Earlier this month, a shooting on a subway train in Brooklyn injured 23 people. In other cities, stories of violent assaults, muggings and stabbings on buses and trains dominate the evening news and worried conversations in neighborhood apps.

Low ridership has left many passengers saying they feel more vulnerable than before.

The crisis on public transit systems threatens the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Written and narrated by Noam Scheiber

Over the past decade and a half, many young, college-educated workers have faced a disturbing reality: It was harder for them to reach the middle class than for previous generations.

Members of this college-educated working class typically earn less money than they envisioned when they went off to school. In many cases, they have endured boots of unemployment. And they complain of being trapped in jobs that don’t make good use of their skills.

The change has had profound effects, driving shifts in the country’s politics and mobilizing employees to demand fairer treatment at work. It may also be prompting a once-in-a-century revival of the labor movement.



The Times’s narrated articles are made by Tally Abecassis, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Aaron Esposito, Dan Farrell, Elena Hecht, Adrienne Hurst, Elisheba Ittoop, Emma Kehlbeck, Marion Lozano, Tanya Pérez, Krish Seenivasan , Margaret H. Willison, Kate Winslett, John Woo and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.

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