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Articles: Business & Finance

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.

In the 1990s, school districts invested all they could in desktop computers that had plenty of horsepower, since applications and data were all stored locally on individual machines. By the 2000s, the individual machines had become less critical as districts moved to server-based networks.

Enrolling in college was not part of the path for graduates of the San Antonio (Texas) Independent School District, where 93 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. Shortly after Superintendent Robert Duron, known for raising achievement in the Socorro ISD in El Paso, arrived in 2006, he began to raise the bar in this 55,000-student, predominantly Hispanic, urban district.

Celina (Texas) Independent School District, roughly 100 miles north of Dallas, has 2,000 students across its four school campuses—and they're all Bobcats, says Lizzy Kloiber, secondary curriculum director, referring to the district's unifying mascot. The community is tight knit, she adds, with most teachers having grown up in the district, and families regularly mingle at church or at high school football games each weekend.

States have until Oct. 19 to submit applications for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, a competitive grant program to prepare more children, including those from low-income families, for kindergarten. The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services are investing $500 million in early learning. "Investing in the health and educational development of our youngest children is critical to ensuring America's long-term strength and competitiveness," says Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Nationally, health-care costs are rising roughly 10 percent each year. Costs at the School District of Manatee County (Fla.), however, are rising at a mere 1 percent since the district implemented an employee wellness program, dubbed HealthVantage, three years ago. Since the wellness program took root, the district has saved nearly 14 percent on health-care costs compared to other districts and $1.3 million for medical and prescription services during the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.

Before and during the tenure of Florida's former education commissioner, Eric J. Smith, the state made bold moves toward incorporating charter schools, began corporate "scholarship" programs that provide funding for students to attend private schools, implemented class-size caps that voters approved via referendum, and earned $700 million in federal money through round two of Race to the Top.

Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport heard arguments in August in Lobato v. state of Colorado, the first-ever "adequacy case" in Colorado's history. The basis of the case is the state's setting of high standards of achievement for students and schools without having provided adequate funding to meet those demands. According to some witnesses for the plaintiff, computers, broadband for Internet access, and professional development are among the resources that have been lacking in Colorado schools for years, violating two clauses in the state's constitution.

An estimated 8,000 people made the trip to Capitol Hill on July 29-31 for the Save Our Schools March. The rally, which was reportedly supposed to draw about 1 million supporters, was held to elevate issues such as putting an end to high stakes testing, provide equitable funding for all public schools, increase family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and increase local control of curriculum.

Mobile learning is on the rise, and consequently, so is the need for mobile connectivity. According to a 2010 survey of E-rate consumers, including public schools and libraries, conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 50 percent of respondents said they plan to implement or expand the use of digital textbooks and other wireless devices.

The tornado struck the small southern town three weeks before schools were to end for the year. Eighteen people were killed, and the damage to property was extensive. All three schools were affected, and the high school was nearly destroyed. Numerous staff members at the high school lost their homes and needed time to put their lives back in order. School leaders initially considered ending the year early for the high school. Would that have been the best decision for students?

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