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23rd June 2022
California wins national award for education innovation
The Education Commission of the States has named California this year’s recipient of the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation. “California is demonstrating an intentional, comprehensive investment of funding and other resources that recognize and honor whole-child approaches to education, not only instruction,” the commission wrote, in announcing the award, one of three it presents annually, on Wednesday. The commission, which provides services and convenes state education policymakers, pointed to the state’s recognition of, and support for, “the unique needs of students today.” It recognized the  Local Control Funding Formula as  “one of the nation’s most equitable formulas,” as well as additional funding for more teachers, counselors and paraprofessionals; a large investment to scale summer, before- and after-school programming; and money to convert thousands of schools into full-service community schools. Praising the continuum of support from preschool to higher ed, the commission pointed to the commitment to universal pre-K available for all 4-year-olds by 2025, and the expansion of the Cal Grant scholarship program and funding for zero-cost textbooks and open-educational resources for college students. 
Congress poised to pass gun control bill
A bipartisan Senate bill unveiled Tuesday includes $300m for school security grants, including $100m for a program that can be used to “harden” schools meant to make them more difficult to target. The bill is Congress’ attempt to avert additional school shootings, and if enacted it will result in some schools getting a bit of extra money to support student mental health and bolster security. Aside from the $300m for school security, it offers $1bn for a broad array of efforts to “support safe and healthy students," $1bn for school-based mental health support, $240m to train school staff to notice and address student mental health challenges, and $50m for summer and after-school programs for middle and high school students. It would also ban the use of federal education funds to arm teachers or school staff. The Senate is expected to have a procedural vote on the bill later today.
LAUSD summer school attracts over 100k students
More than 100,000 Los Angeles USD students have signed up for summer school this year, a more than 25% increase over last year when 80,000 students took advantage of free summer courses to play catch-up or to find joy in learning again after thousands struggled with remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who joined the district in mid-February, had announced in March plans to open up summer school to 100,000 students. Last week, he tweeted that the district had exceeded expectations. As of June 22nd, the first day of summer school, 102,220 students had enrolled, according to the district.
S.F. school board rescinds vote to cover Washington High mural
The San Francisco USD school board voted yesterday to nullify a previous board decision to cover up a controversial mural at Washington High School. In a 4-3 vote, the board followed a judge’s order to vacate their previous decision to cover the historic fresco, which features the life of George Washington and includes images of slavery and white settlers stepping over a dead Native American. The 1936 fresco, painted on wet plaster, is the work of Russian artist Victor Arnautoff, and part of the Works Progress Administration public art program under President Roosevelt’s New Deal employment projects. The 1,600-sq-ft “Life of Washington” mural features multiple panels with scenes from the life of the first president. The board majority initially voted to paint over the mural in 2019 before reversing course and deciding to cover it up with curtains or panels. That decision was challenged in court and the district lost. The district then appealed, but later decided to settle the case and abide by the judge’s ruling. A judge determined the district violated laws requiring an environmental impact report prior to voting on a course of action, requiring the district to “void” the decisions. The district planned to do an environmental review, but not until after the board’s decision. The decision means the mural must remain on view, although the board could decide in the future to conduct an environmental review and then decide on the fate of the artwork. Mural opponents, including current and former Washington students, said they didn’t want a daily, painful reminder of the enslavement and massacre of Black people and Native Americans. The board’s vote Wednesday complies with the judge’s orders as well as a settlement with the George Washington High School Alumni Association, which filed the mural lawsuit.
William S. Hart attorneys say Saugus High shooting was not foreseeable
Attorneys for the William S. Hart Union High School District say in new court papers that all or part of a lawsuit filed by the parents of two teenagers who were shot and killed by a fellow student at Saugus High School in 2019 should be dismissed because the gunman's actions were not foreseeable and school officials reacted quickly to the emergency. The plaintiffs are Bryan and Cindy Muehlberger, the father and mother of Gracie Anne Muehlberger, who was 15, and Frank and Nancy Blackwell, the father and mother of Dominic Blackwell, who was 14. The teens were fatally wounded when 16-year-old Nathan Berhow opened fire at the Santa Clarita school on November 14th 2019. In court papers filed Tuesday, June 21, in Chatsworth Superior Court, district lawyers say Berhow was a junior in the 2019-2020 school year and enrolled in physics, American literature, history, aerospace, engineering, psychology and math and also on the cross country team. “None of his teachers knew anything about Nathan that gave them notice that he posed a danger to himself or others,” the lawyers for the district say, adding that he had no school discipline record. The district's dismissal motion is scheduled to be heard September 29th by Judge Stephen F. Pfahler.
Child nutrition waivers set to be extended
Congress reached a bipartisan, bicameral deal Tuesday to extend through the summer and upcoming 2022-23 school year child nutrition waivers that have proven crucial in allowing schools to provide meals to students and navigate pandemic-related disruptions. The waivers, which were set to expire at the end of June, have provided schools with generous reimbursement rates and allowed them flexibility from complying with meal patterns and nutrition standard requirements. School nutrition directors say that the waivers have been crucial in allowing school meal programs to operate at all given the unpredictable landscape. The Keep Kids Fed Act aims to give the USDA temporary authority to provide summer meals to all students for free, eliminate the reduced-price meal category and increase reimbursement rates to help offset rising food costs. “With 90% of our schools still facing challenges as they return to normal operations, this will give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said in a statement. “Congress needs to act swiftly to pass this critical help.” The legislation is expected to be moved forward this week, in time to avert the expiration of the waivers.
School shootings fuel debate over cellphones in class
More than a decade after a 17-year-old shot his ex-girlfriend and himself right outside the Michigan high school where Sarah Pancost teaches, she is still grateful that the students she hunkered down with that day had access to their cellphones. She allowed students to pull out their phones and reassure their families, who in turn, filled kids in on what was being reported about the incident. For Ms. Pancost, mobile devices are an important safety tool; however, other educators, who feel that cellphones are inappropriate in schools, also cite safety concerns as a primary reason. When students are on their phones during a potential emergency, they may not be paying attention to safety protocols, they say. The technology can jam up communication, get in the way of response plans, pass along misinformation, or blow minor incidents way out of proportion. “The use of cellphones on the part of students has more potential to be disruptive to the crisis-response team than it does to benefit” them, said Shawna White, the senior lead for school safety at the WestEd nonprofit. “It’s hard for me to say ‘oh, [cellphones] are good or they’re bad because different situations are going to call for different responses,” White said. But, she added, “looking at it holistically, I see potential for [phones] to create confusion and chaos and distraction.”
When France sent low-income students to wealthy schools
In January 2017, local authorities closed low-achieving schools in Toulouse, France’s fourth biggest city, and instead bussed the 1,140 affected pupils to campuses in the prosperous downtown. The theory, according to Georges Méric, president of the Haute-Garonne region that includes Toulouse, was that a “rising tide lifts all boats," and that by inserting the students from Bellefontaine and two other suburbs, La Reynerie and Mirail, into schools of proven success, social determinism would be countered and all children would benefit. Principals and teachers at the schools are supported by six “social mix masters” who help facilitate logistics such as transport and tackle any problems that arise, such as dealing with parent concerns. Five years on, the drop-out rate for students living on the three estates after taking the Brevet - France’s national diploma for 15-year-olds - has dropped from almost 50% to less than 6%, with grades up by an average of nearly 15%. “The welcoming colleges had a very good academic level already, that was important,” says Mr. Méric. “It’s worked very well. There has not been segregation in them and it’s promoting the wider acceptance of diversity across the city.” Encouraged by the results, several other cities and towns across France are now studying ways to launch their own bussing initiatives, with the Ministry of National Education helping to coordinate.

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