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12th October 2021
Childcare 'requires increased federal funding'
Jason DeParle explores the nation's soaring childcare costs and underlines the determining role of the federal government in funding seismic changes to the sector. The Treasury Department reported last month that the average cost of care is roughly $10,000 a year per child and consumes about 13% of family income, nearly twice what the government considers affordable. At the same time, the Department noted the average teacher earns about $24,000 a year, many live in poverty, and nearly half receive some public assistance. “It’s among the lowest-paid of all occupations,” laments Lea J.E. Austin of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. “People have a hard time seeing that this is complex, specialized work.” The weighty social policy bill being pushed by President Biden at present would cap families’ childcare expenses at 7% of their income, DeParle notes, offer large subsidies to child care centers, and require the centers to raise wages in hopes of improving teacher quality, and a version before the House would cost $250 billion over a decade and raise annual spending fivefold or more within a few years. An additional $200 billion would provide universal prekindergarten. “This would be the biggest investment in the history of childcare,” says Stephanie Schmit, a child care expert at the Center for Law and Social Policy, who asserts: "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do right for everyone.”
'Principal Pipelines' support recommendations
A new report by the Wallace Foundation underlines how state policy can support school districts in building and strengthening principal pipelines. Paul Manna, the Hyman professor of government and director of the Public Policy Program at the College of William & Mary, suggests six "levers" state lawmakers can pull, asserting that approaches that embrace flexibility and provide local school districts with incentives to consider launching principal pipeline initiatives would be a better approach than mandating typically more rigid standards. Examples of actions policymakers can take, he adds, include developing leader standards with differentiation between leadership roles, using those standards to inform oversight and licensing for principal preparation programs, and ensuring flexibility for local standards and evaluation policy processes.
New CPS leader sets out priorities
New Chicago Public Schools leader Pedro Martinez, the former Superintendent of San Antonio ISD in Texas, outlines his vision for addressing the academic and mental health fallout from the pandemic. A month into the school year he faces a slew of pressing tasks; ramping up the district’s COVID testing and contact-tracing programs, filling high-profile vacancies on his leadership team, striking an agreement and a more congenial relationship with the teachers union and responding to urgent calls for changes in the district’s special education program. "The goal for me right now is to have a strong second semester. With vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds now on the horizon, I am optimistic that in the second semester, my full attention is going to be on academics, as well as mental health and social emotional wellbeing because they are all intertwined," Martinez asserts.
Florida spending plan submitted
Florida has finally submitted a plan to the federal government outlining how officials intend to spend some $2.3 billion in education aid through the American Rescue Plan Act stimulus law. Under federal guidelines, the state Department of Education is given control over 10% of the money, with the remaining 90% going directly to school districts. The state education department said it identified uses for the federal aid by analyzing standardized tests given to students in the spring. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the state plans to spend the money to advance four goals; closing achievement gaps, improving reading and math outcomes, bolstering outcomes in other content areas and enhancing student services and supports. The submission will free up a third of the state’s allocation, which was being withheld after officials missed a June 7 deadline to provide the spending plan. Florida was the last state or U.S. territory to submit such a plan.
Florida state legislature blamed by Hillsborough Schools for funding issues
Officials at Hillsborough County Public Schools want to go the way of other Florida school districts and use a tax on real estate to plug persistent gaps in their budget. At a workshop Tuesday, the Board, which oversees the third largest school district in Florida and the 8th largest in the United States, discussed the possibility of asking voters to approve a local-option property tax and beginning a campaign before the calendar year is over. Superintendent Addison Davis, who has favored such a referendum since he arrived in early 2020, said the district could commit to spending the money on specific student programs, as Pinellas County Schools did when it first won approval for its local-option tax in 2004. Budget projections showed that, without such a levy, the district could see its financial reserves shrink to a level near or below the state-ordered minimum of 3% of revenue. Some members complained that the problem is not "lavish spending" but a state government that pays a base amount of $7,706 per student when the national median is nearly twice that.
ARP spending plans mostly approved by Ed Dept
The U.S. Department of Education has approved the plans of a number of states to make use of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds. Michigan will now receive the remaining $1.2 billion it was awarded by the federal government; Arizona the remaining $862 million; Missouri the outstanding $654 million; and Wyoming the final $101 million due. A total of 41 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June. Other school initiatives from the President Joe Biden-Vice President Kamala Harris administration include the Return to School Roadmap that provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outline how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning; a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have been financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as universal indoor masking; and a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse elevating hundreds of best practices to support schools’ efforts to reopen safely and address the impacts of COVID-19 on students, educators and communities.
Teacher shortage grows in Florida
Florida's teacher shortage has worsened since the start of the school year, according to the Florida Education Association, with vacancies for teachers surging to more than 5,000. There are also more than 4,000 openings for other school staff positions, according to FEA President Adam Spar, who says the stress and uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic have fueled the shortages. He also claims that such high turnover is linked to low teacher pay. Spar took to TikTok on Sunday to publicize the staffing situation: "These numbers and trends are an alarm bell going off for our public schools, and state officials need to start listening. Educators have made clear why they're leaving our schools and young people will readily share why they don't want to pursue an education career," he wrote.

How to choose the best social-emotional learning tools
Selecting the right social-emotional learning curriculum takes time and research, and with dozens of options, school leaders should carefully consider which evidence-based models best fit their unique needs, Heather Schwartz, a practice specialist at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, and Alexandra Skoog-Hoffman, director of Research-Practice Partnerships at CASEL, write for Edutopia. Resources like CASEL, RAND Corp. research and the What Works Clearinghouse can help district leaders sort through which approaches may work best for them. School leaders should also keep in mind it may take more than one program to achieve all of those priorities, so it's key to maintain a growth mindset with understanding that changes, additions and tweaks will be needed to better suit any new concerns or needs that arise.
Special Ed licensure to be required by Indiana authorities
Special education teachers in Indiana are to be required to be fully licensed or meet new requirements for provisional licensing. Federal law bars states from issuing emergency permits for special education teachers, however of the nearly 4,500 emergency permits issued in Indiana in 2019-20 more than a quarter were for special education.
Student disabilities assessment analyzed
Limited time or resources shouldn’t prevent schools from conducting informal and formal assessments of students with disabilities, including those with significant cognitive disabilities, the National Center on Education Outcomes (NCEO) said in a recent paper. Not only can testing provide critical information on how to design instruction to combat pandemic-related learning loss, formally assessing students with disabilities is also a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, said NCEO director and report co-author Sheryl Lazarus. The NCEO has set out three approaches to measuring student performance during the pandemic and recovery, including: reviews of all students' individual education plans, to ensure they accurately reflect a student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance; using formative assessments through the year to guide effective day-to-day instruction and learning; and to be more transparent in planning for testing, and the subsequent reporting of results. 
'Disorderly conduct' rules see judge take side of South Carolina students
A federal judge has sided with a group of South Carolina students who argued that broadly written state laws against “disorderly conduct” and “disturbing schools” allowed police to arrest and cite students for routine misbehaviors. District Judge Margaret B. Seymour's ruling touched on themes underpinning ongoing national debates about disproportionately high discipline rates for students of color and students with disabilities, school policing, and writing state laws and school policies that ensure equity. To be fair, policies must be clearly and transparently interpreted by school employees, law enforcement, and students, racial justice advocates have said. Judge Seymour ordered South Carolina not to enforce the disorderly conduct law against students in K-12 schools and made her ruling after a law enforcement officer testified that two school resource officers could come to differing conclusions about what student behavior constituted an arrestable disorderly conduct offense.
Louisiana schools' quarantine rules differ
Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley's loose adoption of the COVID-19 quarantine guidance of public health officials is creating divides in Louisiana's school districts, which already were a hotbed of disputes over how to handle coronavirus infections for the state's 700,000 public school students. While districts in New Orleans, Monroe, East Baton Rouge Parish, Caddo Parish, Lafayette Parish and Jefferson Parish have refused to loosen their quarantine rules, officials in Livingston, Ascension, St. Tammany, Calcasieu and Tangipahoa parishes quickly embraced the policy shift, deciding to let parents choose whether to keep their children away from school if they've been close to someone who's tested positive for COVID-19. For its part, the Bossier Parish school system says it needs “more clarity” before making changes.
Tech purchasing advice tool launches
District and school leaders are facing some of the most difficult and expensive technology purchasing decisions of their careers. Now, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is working with partner organizations to build a national database of edtech products. Next month, ISTE will roll out a searchable, database with a filtering tool. Initially, users will be able to see information such as the name of the product, a description, the grade or grades that the product is intended for, the topic it covers, and the pricing structure, and soon the database will be expanded to include other factors such as whether the products meet interoperability standards and feature privacy policies.


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