Inside the Law
2009 Ed Budget Stirs School Reform Pot
President Bush's proposed FY 2009 education budget-described by Department of Education officials as providing "historic support" for the federal No Child Left Behind law-boasts increased monies for Title I, Pell and IDEA Grants as well as Reading First, but it also proposes cuts or eliminations of programs in vocational and technical education and the arts.
"It provides the necessary resources for critical programs that equip American students with the skills to compete and succeed in a knowledge-based economy," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings proclaimed in a press conference.
The proposed eliminations include the $1-billion-plus career and technical education state grants initiative, whose funds would be "redirected to support programs that aim to improve the quality of high school education, particularly for students who are struggling and are likely to drop out," according to the DOE Web site.
Also cut would be the $33-million Teacher Quality Enhancement program, which provides competitive grants to states and partnerships to improve recruitment, preparation, and support for teachers. The DOE says such activities can be carried out under other federal programs.
The House and Senate Budget Committees recently passed two versions of a budget resolution and, although they differ slightly in DOE funding allotments, both reject Bush's proposed education cuts. Congress could compromise with the president in the coming months, or wait until the next president takes office.
Illinois Could Break Silence
Conducting a "moment of silence" in Illinois public schools - which became mandatory in October - may revert back to becoming optional, as lawmakers move to advance legislation on the practice.
Having passed the House last month and now in the Senate, new legislation would let schools decide whether to hold periods of silence or not, which may be used for - but not limited to - prayer or reflection.
The previous law required that schools instruct students "to pray or reflect on the day's activities," says Rep. John Fritchey, the new bill's sponsor. A Chicago court suspended the bill on grounds that it was a government-sponsored religious mandate. Courts in 14 states, such as Texas and Virginia, have upheld mandatory moment of silence laws, says Fritchey.
As lawmakers and school leaders devise ways to protect students and teachers from "cyber"-ridiculing while still respecting their rights to free speech, a growing issue that is just as complicated is students who violate copyright law through YouTube postings or who plagiarize Web-published material.
Sharing Creative Works, a new illustrated guide from Massachusetts-based Creative Commons (www.creative commons.org), offers not only a basic primer on copyright law but a look at how the group's work can both creatively legalize the trends and engage students.
The nonprofit corporation's free licenses help authors, scientists, artists and educators keep their copyright while inviting certain uses of their work-a "some rights reserved" copyright.