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Articles: Business & Finance

In 2009, a year after joining Illinois School District U-46 from his previous post as regional superintendent for Chicago Public Schools’ Area 14, Jose M. Torres made unprecedented cuts to his district’s budget and personnel.


Typical public school revenue streams such as state money and property taxes were decimated by the recession nationwide, and districts across Chicago faced deficits worse than U-46’s anticipated $60 million hole in the coming years. It wasn’t a surprise that cuts in U-46 were necessary, but Torres’ tactics were.

From the outset, President Obama placed teacher quality at the center of his Education Plan. In a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., in March of 2009, he stated, “To complete our Race to the Top requires the three pillars of reform—recruiting, preparing and rewarding outstanding teachers. From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents. It’s the person standing at the front of the classroom.”

Districts in the area covered by the LEARN Regional Educational Service Center in southeastern Connecticut for the past four years have boosted their ability to save money on bulk technology purchases through online reverse auctions. Such auctions are designed so that vendors try to out-lowball one another to get the job in school districts.

County, regional and statewide education service centers that provide shared purchasing power and technical support have been around for as long as a half-century, and some have helped districts gain lower prices on technology through economies of scale since the heyday of the Apple II. But the combination of tighter-than-ever budgets and greater-than-ever needs for computing and other leading-edge technology has made the opportunities that education service centers provide all the more valuable in the past three years.

Kansas City (Mo.) Public Schools is at a crossroads. The district has struggled for decades with poor academic achievement, dwindling enrollment and budget, and short-term superintendents—27 in the past 40 years. Most recently, after a two-year stint during which he helped the district get its financial house in order, closing nearly half of its schools and slashing staffing levels, Superintendent John Covington abruptly quit last August.

Time and money can be

Teachers are more likely to stay in a school run by a principal of the same race as they, according to a new study released by the University of Missouri (UM). The study also reports that when teachers share the same race as their principal, they experience higher job satisfaction in terms of compensation and intangible benefits such as administrative support and encouragement. The study, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management in September, used data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Even before the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ended its 19-month compliance review of potential civil rights violations in the Los Angeles Unified School District, district leaders knew they had to change their program for ELLs and other students.

The transition from middle school to high school can often be daunting; however, students in Memphis City (Tenn.) Schools have found that Gaggle, which provides online learning tools, can help ease this changeover with its social media features.

A three-year program launched this past September by Microsoft will ensure that 1 million students from low-income families in the United States receive software, hardware and discounted broadband Internet service at home. It’s the “digital inclusion” arm of Shape the Future. Shape the Future makes it possible for anyone to have access to 21st-century tools, regardless of their ability to afford it, according to Dan McFetridge, business development director of the Shape the Future program at Microsoft.

With the U.S. Department of Education receiving a minimal increase in allotted spending for 2012—$68.43 billion compared to 2011’s $68.35 billion—the House and Senate have begun debates as to how the money will be spent. The democrat-dominated Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill Sep. 21 that would provide stagnant funding for formula-based grants, including Title I, for the upcoming year.inside the law photo

The federal Department of Education has been a source of criticism on the GOP presidential campaign trail. In addition to overall shrinking of federal policies, many Republican candidates have expressed their desire to abolish the federal department and funnel more money—and control—back to the states and local schools. Sen. Michele Bachman, Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have all listed the Department of Education as one federal agency they would like to take an ax to.

Rebuilding relationships with parents is the central concern, says author Soo Hong, who cautions that achieving understanding between schools and parents “does not happen overnight.” Hong, who wrote A Cord of Three Strands about the Chicago immigrant parent program, suggests opening up school buildings to parents beyond traditional open house and back-to-school nights to allow them opportunities to help in classrooms.

Proliferating across the country at what seems lightning speed is a law that grants parents an unprecedented degree of power to intervene in the fate of underperforming schools. First adopted in California in January 2010 and spurred by the Parent Revolution group out of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), what’s become known as the “parent trigger” law says that when a majority of parents with children in schools designated “failing” under No Child Left Behind demand administrators be replaced or that the school reopen as a charter, the district must comply.

For many, an instinctual reflex is to marry the term “college town” with images from the movie Animal House. While stories of youthful exuberance make for interesting water cooler conversation, they serve to conceal real opportunities for public schools to collaborate with postsecondary institutions.

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