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News Update

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford reluctantly applied for $700 million in stimulus funds after the state Supreme Court forced him to do so in June. The court reasoned that since the legislature had appropriated these funds already, and appropriating funds is the legislature’s and not the governor’s responsibility under the state constitution, Sanford was obligated to apply.

Is a longer school day and school year a ticket to higher achievement? Recent reports on 26 schools throughout Massachusetts and 39 schools in Miami-Dade (Fla.) County Public Schools provide widely different answers.

Crossing the Bay

Anthony Smith has been named the new superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. He already resides in Oakland, having most recently served as deputy superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Staying Put

Based on percentage of funding increase, the big winner in President Obama’s proposed 2010 education budget is Striving Readers, which is slated to go from $35 million to $370 million.

This program was designed to reach students in grades 4-12 whose literacy skills were significantly below grade level. Such students were not eligible for Reading First, a Department of Education program for students in grades K-3.

Even with stimulus dollars flowing nationwide, districts are still facing large budget deficits and are looking for ways to save money. Some are investigating free and open source software (FOSS ) as a result.

FOSS applications are the work of communities of developers, usually volunteers, who keep the source code open and allow the software to be distributed for free. Any user can customize it, add to it, and fix its bugs. Although FOSS has been around for decades and used in many industries, school districts have generally been slow to embrace it.

The broadband technology opportunities program, administered by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, has $4.7 billion in grants through the federal stimulus package to give for expanding broadband coverage in underserved areas. A similar program from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service will distribute $2.5 billion in grants and loans. Schools and districts are among the organizations that can apply for these funds.

The release of The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics 2008 was greeted by education advocates with joy for its demonstration of higher achievement among most groups tested, but also with disappointment for its clear evidence that achievement gaps persist and that scores for 17-year-olds have remained stagnant since the 1970s.


Going to K.C. Achievement Gap

Broad Superintendents Academy graduate John Covington will be the next superintendent of the Kansas City (Mo.) School District, its 26th leader since 1969. Since 2006 he has been superintendent of Pueblo (Colo.) City Schools.


In April 2009, Paul Vallas, superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District, spoke with associate editor Don Parker-Burgard about Detroit Public Schools, what it takes to transform a district in decline, and the best use of federal stimulus money. Here are excerpts of what he had to say.