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Articles: Business & Finance

Tight budgets are no excuse for failing to be proactive with school safety. In fact, school leaders must be especially committed to prevention and security programs during times when economic woes are increasing stress on kids, their families and school staff. Parents will forgive educators if their school's test scores drop. But they are much less forgiving if their children are hurt in an incident that could have been prevented or better managed. Attorneys and the media will be equally relentless.

A new informal federal survey has found that for many districts, budget cuts have had a profound effect on school safety and security measures. Administrators have been forced to cut safety and security staffing and programs, reorganize security departments and find alternative sources of funding in order to maintain levels of safety and security within their schools.

In the six years since her appointment as superintendent of Volusia County (Fla.) School District—a district that has 63,000 students in 16 cities, including Daytona Beach, in the heart of Florida's east coast—Margaret Smith has had her share of success. But what makes her so different from other superintendents is her ability to reach out.

With a national teacher shortage projected to start peaking this year as baby boomers retire and budget shortfalls restrict state and local funding for teachers, rural school districts are working to keep the teachers they have while seeking new ones at little if any additional cost.

With budgets cut to the bone, music education programs in many districts have been trimmed and even eliminated. Student interest in them, however, has never been higher. A new study released by the National String Project Consortium (NSPC) indicates that, just prior to the economic meltdown, the number of students playing string instruments had increased from 18 percent in 1997 to 29 percent in 2009. While the study confirms promising news for interest in music education, it also predicts a national shortage of string teachers for 2010 through 2013—a loss of 1,000 teachers each year.

IF the Walnut Creek School District needs extra funding, it turns to the Walnut Creek Education Foundation (www.wcefk12.org).

It has been another tough spring for school districts across the nation. The economic crisis of the past two years is hitting school systems hard as districts plan for the 2010-2011 school year. State support to schools continues to decline, and the "soft landing" afforded by federal stimulus monies is a thing of the past. School districts must cut costs but find their options constrained by restrictive labor agreements in addition to the collective bargaining process itself. If ever there was a time for a new approach to bargaining, it is now.

A summer job for a 16-year-old typically involves serving coffee, scooping ice cream, or babysitting the neighborhood children. Some students at Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools, however, spent their summer vacation designing a children's Web site for the city of Miami Beach. An increasing number of students are finding themselves mingling among professionals with internships in local businesses—the culmination of a work-based learning curriculum.

Status of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Funding as of March 31, 2010

Source: U.S. Department of Education

When Adam Fletcher was hired as the student engagement specialist for Washington state's education department 10 years ago, it didn't take him long to realize how difficult his newly created job would prove. "No one was talking about the roles of students other than as learners," says Fletcher, referring to a state teachers' conference early in his career. "They laughed out loud at the proposal of students being partners in school improvement. It really was preposterous to them."

Pittsburgh Public Schools is focused on reforming its teacher recruitment, evaluation and training systems, along with better coordinating its student services. In both goals, the district is being helped by elements of the business community, including a billionaire philanthropist and some MBA students.

San Antonio's (Texas) North East Independent School District (NEISD) grows by about 2,000 students per year, says Superintendent Richard A. Middleton, because when new families move to town, many prefer his district out of the 19 others in the city.

For those districts seeking to construct, renovate, rehabilitate or acquire land, the National Education Technology Funding Corporation, or "Eddie Tech," has made an innovative program to simplify the process of accessing low-cost financing. Eddie Tech's School Investment Pooled-Securities (SIPS) Program is bringing together tax-credit Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) and creating larger and more marketable collections that are more desirable for investors.

When registration opened at 7 a.m. on Feb. 23 for kindergarten at the Evanston/Skokie School District 65, about 120 parents in the suburban Chicago K8 district were already lined up, as if waiting for tickets to a hot rock concert.

A greater awareness of the impact of sports-related concussions has swept the country, as over 40 states are currently developing legislation that will set standards for when a student athlete can return to the playing field. Although these laws vary by state, the core principles include educating students, coaches, and parents about the dangers of concussions, removing athletes from the field if a concussion is suspected, and requiring medical clearance before they may return.

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