President Biden calls for full school reopenings in fall
President Joe Biden has called for all schools to open this fall for in-person learning. He pointed to funding through the $1.9tn American Rescue Plan from March that allowed schools to implement improved ventilation systems, and he noted teachers were prioritized through the Department of Education when COVID-19 shots first became widely available in the spring, with almost 90% of educators and school staff now vaccinated. "We can and we must open schools this fall, full-time," he said. "It's better for our children’s mental and emotional well being, and we can’t afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open, and we’re giving them the tools to be able to do so safely."
Lawmakers aim to boost student voting power on UC, community college boards
California students could gain more representation on two of the state’s three higher education governing boards this year. In 2019, the state Legislature expanded the number of students with voting power on the California State University Board of Trustees from one to two. This year, legislators have done the same for California Community Colleges Board of Governors and are considering a constitutional amendment that would make the same change for the University of California’s Board of Regents. “It’s important to note that students are the ones who know most about the challenges that they are facing and their voices will be essential in tackling these challenges and potential solutions,” said Democratic state Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, the author of SCA-5, which would expand voting power for UC student regents in their first year.
State finds LAUSD withheld federal funds from Catholic schools
The state of California has found that Los Angeles USD violated federal law in the manner it slashed funding for low-income and disadvantaged students who attend Catholic schools. The decision will force the district to recalculate and likely reinstate millions of dollars to parochial schools run by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The archdiocese filed a complaint against the district in September 2019, after only 17 schools were declared eligible for Title I funds. The California Department of Education gave the district 60 days to “engage in timely and meaningful consultation” with the archdiocese and to “recalculate the numbers of students from low-income families.” The state report found that the district made sudden changes in how it determines which schools qualify for the funding, and excluded schools whose paperwork it found to be insufficient.
Ojai boarding school strips former head’s name from campus
The Thacher School, among California’s most elite private schools, announced Thursday that it would remove the name of its former head of school from the campus dining hall and athletic field. The move is part of a series of steps following a report last month that detailed decades of allegations against faculty members of student sexual misconduct, harassment and “boundary crossing.” The misconduct was detailed in a 91-page report from lawyers with the Los Angeles law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson. “By taking this action, we stay true to the values Thacher aspires to as a school and as a community. We teach our students to face the mistakes they make and deal with the consequences,” board Chair Dan Yih said in the letter. “If we do not hold ourselves, as leaders, to the same standards, we cannot expect our students to do the same.”
Los Angeles Times
Virginia judge dismisses case targeting transgender student policies
A Virginia judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by faith-based conservative groups challenging guidelines on the treatment of transgender students in public schools, ruling that the group lacked standing. The Founding Freedoms Law Center and Christian Action Network filed separate lawsuits against the Virginia Department of Education in March after the state came up with its guidelines. The two cases were consolidated into a single lawsuit in Lynchburg Circuit Court. The department's guideline focus on protecting and affirming trans children, calling on schools to do things like respect their name, gender, and pronouns and to let children use restrooms that match their gender. Children whose gender doesn’t match the one they were assigned at birth often face discrimination and harassment, impacting their ability to succeed in school. In his opinion, Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson wrote that “because the model policies are directed only to school boards, they cannot affect or aggrieve anyone other than the school boards.” While the dismissal limits future statewide challenges, the fight will continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the school year starts.
US News and World Report
LAUSD to require testing of students, staff regardless of vaccination status
All Los Angeles USD students and employees will be required to take weekly coronavirus tests regardless of their vaccinations status, under a new district policy announced Thursday. The announcement was made by interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly in a letter sent to parents. “We are closely monitoring evolving health conditions and adapting our response in preparation for our full return to in-person learning on August 16th,” Ms. Reilly said in the letter. Baseline testing for students returning to campus begins August 2nd, she added. Families have the option of choosing to remain off campus — and to avoid coronavirus testing — by choosing distance learning. Officials, however, are encouraging students to return, saying that, for the vast majority of students, the best learning takes place in a classroom.
Los Angeles Times
Congress gears up for debate over charter school law
In early July, House Democrats released their legislation for funding the U.S. Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year. Lawmakers who wrote this fiscal 2022 bill proposed cutting the $440m Charter School Program, which aims to help successful charter schools replicate and expand, by $40m next year. The bill also includes a section stating that no federal funding can go to a charter school “that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school." Supporters of charter schools argue that this would essentially bar all charter schools from contracting with any private entity for a wide variety of services, from meals to backroom office work. In a July 26th letter addressed to House and Senate leaders, more than 60 national, state, and local groups said that “Separating out and dividing public school students - treating their funding differently based on the type of public school they choose and then punishing students who choose to attend one type over another - sends a message that the federal government doesn’t believe all public school students are equal." In response, Democrats say they are targeting charters run by for-profit management organizations; Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D-CN), the chairwoman of the House appropriations committee, called the letter's rhetoric part of a “well-funded misinformation campaign” that distorts the actual, narrower purposes of the bill. A Democratic staffer said lawmakers are open to improving the bill's language to clarify its intentions.
Amended lawsuit over bullied Huntsville student drops 3 defendants
Three defendants have been removed from a federal discrimination lawsuit against Alabama's Huntsville City Schools by the family of a student who say he killed himself in 2019 as a result of being bullied in school because he was gay. The family of Nigel Shelby, who was 15 when he took his own life, amended its lawsuit against the school district in a filing last week. The amended lawsuit also removes all references to a school administrator’s suggestion that a suicide note might be found in Shelby’s backpack. School district Superintendent Christie Finley as well as school administrators Aaron King and David Whitener are not listed as defendants in the amended lawsuit. The only remaining defendants are the board of education and Jo Stafford, who at the time was the administrator of the Freshman Academy at Huntsville High School when Shelby was a student. Despite the changes, the lawsuit still maintains its original premise - school officials, specifically Stafford - did nothing to help Shelby despite being made aware on multiple occasions of the problems he was facing.
New LED lighting system can help sanitize school buses
Aerospace engineering company Waypoint Interiors has launched a dual light system designed to combat deadly viruses and germs on a variety of commercial vehicles, including school buses. Hubbell Lighting has licensed Waypoint to use its Spectra Clean 405 nanometer (nm) light, which is used by airlines to help sanitize passenger seating areas during flu season and viral outbreaks. Waypoint has added a stronger 280 UV-C light to the system; it says that the initial cost to districts is less than one year of chemical sanitizing considering materials, handling, and labor.
School Bus Fleet
U.S. emphasizes commitment to international students
The U.S. Government has announced a “renewed commitment” to promote the United States as a study destination for international students as well as the benefits of global academic engagement. The joint statement by the Departments of State and Education comes after a decrease in international student interest to study in the US due mostly to policies considered unwelcoming under the previous administration. “The United States cannot afford to be absent from the world stage,” the statement reads. “U.S. leadership and engagement makes an essential difference abroad, as well as at home. Indeed, in today’s interconnected world, our foreign and domestic policies are inextricably intertwined in pursuit of a preeminent goal – improving the lives of the American people.” In the 2019-2020 academic year, US higher education institutions registered a slight decline in the number of international students, with sentiment dampened by high tuition fees and concern that Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows international students to work in the US for an initial period of 12 months, would be discontinued.