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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Education have updated a policy document to assert that young children with disabilities should be included in high-quality early childhood education programs alongside peers without disabilities so they can receive individualized supports and achieve their full potential. Underlining a “renewed commitment and urgency,” the 68-page document reiterates the expectations for inclusive early childhood settings for children from birth through age five. The document also updates recommendations for state and local agencies charged with implementing or overseeing any early childhood education program, including Head Start, child care, home visiting, preschool, and public schools, as well as programs that provide early childhood special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The updated statement builds upon one issued by HHS and the Education Department in 2015.Full Issue
As California's fund to fix crumbling schools dwindles, lawmakers are negotiating a ballot measure for the state's largest school construction bond in decades. However, some school superintendents argue that the money will not be enough to address all the maintenance issues and the inequities in the system. Two bills are being considered, one raising $14bn for K-12 schools and community colleges, and the other raising $15.5bn for universities. The bill without the university systems has an advantage, as it has garnered less opposition. The California Taxpayers Association opposes the bill that would increase borrowing limits for school districts, leading to higher property taxes. Experts recommend that any statewide bond should provide significant aid for rural, small, and low-income districts. The condition of school buildings affects student achievement, and students in well-maintained schools perform better on standardized tests. The lack of a permanent funding stream for school facilities in California has resulted in inequities between districts. Superintendents in smaller districts struggle to manage large projects and need more assistance from the state.Full Issue
School districts across the country will soon be able to order free rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government. The initiative aims to provide millions of tests to schools as COVID cases are expected to peak in the winter months. This is the first time that 19,000 school districts will have direct access to tests from a federal stockpile. Dawn O'Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response within the Department of Health and Human Services, states that the tests can be used by schools as they see fit, including sharing them with students, staff, and family members. The federal government's effort to expand testing in community settings comes as some polling suggests that the public is becoming less likely to test and take precautions against COVID. The school testing initiative is expected to last through the winter months, and schools can request as many tests as they need each week. Rapid antigen tests are still effective in detecting key variants, including the omicron variant. Nate Hafer, a professor of molecular medicine, advises testing multiple times to ensure accurate results.Full Issue
Nationwide, there has been a surge in parents deciding to homeschool their children. Data from the Washington Post reveals a 72% increase in homeschooled students in Florida since the 2017-2018 school year. Local school districts have also seen significant increases, with Lee County experiencing a 103% rise and Collier County seeing a 62% increase. The pandemic is believed to be the main reason for this shift, as parents have concerns about school violence, bullying, teacher shortages, and curriculum changes. Experts suggest that homeschooling may peak once children reach middle or high school age, as parents may struggle to maintain the curriculum. However, homeschooling parents like Sarah Horwath and Jessica Downs emphasize that homeschooled children can still participate in social activities and extracurriculars. They believe that by the time their children reach middle or high school, they will be able to voice their preferences for learning.Full Issue