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22nd September 2022
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Ed. Dept. awards new 'competitive integrated employment' grants
The U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration has announced new five-year grant awards for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment demonstration project to 14 state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies. The purpose of the grants is to increase access to competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities and to decrease the use of subminimum wages. “Individuals with disabilities who are served by the SWTCIE grantees will be able to enjoy the four principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act: equality of opportunity; full participation; independent living; and economic self-sufficiency,” said Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Deputy Assistant Secretary Katy Neas. These VR agencies will receive funding from the Disability Innovation Fund to support increasing access for people with disabilities to jobs that pay good wages.
New U.S. bill demands more transparency on college transfer rules
Colleges and universities would have to be more forthcoming about their student transfer requirements under a new measure put before Congress on Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). The Transparency for Transfer Students Act would require two- and four-year schools to post financial aid information and transfer deadlines on their websites, as well as a list of all the schools from which a student’s credits are guaranteed to be accepted. “Community college is an affordable, accessible way for many students to start their education — but at too many schools, complicated transfer policies make it harder for transfer students to earn a four-year degree,” Castro said in a statement. “The Transparency for Transfer Students Act will provide students with better information on college articulation agreements, preventing credit loss and helping students save valuable time and money as they pursue their degrees.”
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Pasadena school principal returns to campus after controversial remarks
San Rafael Elementary Elementary School Principal Rudy Ramirez returned to campus yesterday, weeks after remarks about the handcuffing of a local janitor caused controversy in the local community. Pasadena USD Superintendent Brian McDonald announced the decision to bring back the popular principal Tuesday evening, September 21st, during a community conversation with more than 200 parents and staff of the San Rafael community. The meeting and preceding protest outside of Blair High School — where the meeting was held — follows weeks of conversations in the community and among district leaders about Mr. Ramirez’s reaction after Pasadena police responded August 14th to a non-emergency call that resulted in a local janitor being briefly handcuffed. The detainment sent Mr. Ramirez on what authorities called a “rant,” in which he couched the incident in racial terms, saying that the janitor would not have been treated as he was, and cuffed, if he were White. In a recording of the interaction, Mr. Ramirez is also heard discussing interactions with a neighbor and parent at his school, using a derogatory term about Mexican people. The remarks come less than 12 hours after Ramirez united with hundreds of parents and staff the evening prior at Blair High School, where chants of “Fire Ramirez” and “Character Matters” were prevalent while attendees flowed into the auditorium before the confidential meeting. Andrea Toronian, who donned a “Team Ramirez” shirt to the community conversation, described the protest as “unfortunate, because we are here to to support in any way we can and move forward from all of this,” she said in an interview prior to the event.
Sonoma Valley teachers authorize strike due to budget impasse
More than 95% of the members of Valley of the Moon Teachers Association (VMTA) voted to strike, if needed, after impasse mediation over salary negotiations with Sonoma Valley USD was unsuccessful. The union and the district have been some $2.9m apart as they negotiate increasing teacher salaries and benefits for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years. “With a catastrophic teacher shortage facing our profession and after two horrific years of pandemic that were met with sacrifice and flexibility, the district’s actions toward teachers are unnecessary and disrespectful,” said Bernadette Weissman, VMTA bargaining chair and a history teacher at Sonoma Valley High School. The district says that the union's negotiating team has requested an increase of 18.7%, consisting of a 9.5% salary increase and 2.2% for salary restructuring, amounting to totals of 11.7% in 2022-23 and 7.0% in 2023-24. “This is an increase of approximately $2.9 million of ongoing expense over the district offer, which would drive immediate, significant reductions,” SUVD’s message states. “Current projections indicate that if the district were to approve this increase without reductions, it would be financially insolvent in three years.”
San Francisco school board stalls on recognizing Muslim holidays
After passing a resolution last month to include two Muslim holidays on San Francisco USD's calendar, the district's board voted on Tuesday to reverse the decision. The new resolution suspends the board’s initial resolution to recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as holidays in the 2022-23 calendar, and also calls for “further analysis” on how to adequately recognize culturally significant holidays for students. 
Ways for school business officials to build relationships with board members
Michael Juech, assistant superintendent of operations at the Howard-Suamico School District in Wisconsin, outlines three ways in which school business officials can develop meaningful relationships with their board members. Speaking during a session at the Association of School Business Officials International’s Annual Conference & Expo in Portland, Oregon, he championed helping board members to better understand school finance, showing how their decisions impact students, and even visiting other districts with board members. “If they’re informed and they’re educated, they can make true change, which ultimately impacts all of us — and more importantly, it impacts our students,” Juech asserted.
U.S. public school infrastructure under mounting pressure
As schools across the nation get older and more desperate for repairs, the funding gap is also getting wider. The American Society of Civil Engineers last year gave the condition of America's 100,000 public school buildings an overall grade of D+. About half of U.S. school buildings are half a century old, the report noted. The money spent on fixing or building US public schools falls woefully short of what's needed to get buildings up to standard, according to the latest "State of Our Schools" report by the 21st Century School Fund, the International WELL Building Institute and the National Council on School Facilities. In 2016, public schools were underfunded by $46bn a year, the report said. By 2021, that annual deficit had grown by $25bn. "We're getting to a critical stage now," laments Mike Pickens, executive director of the National Council on School Facilities. "Some schools date back to World War II."
Federal cybersecurity grant to be distributed to states
The Department of Homeland Security has announced a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity grant program specifically for state, local and territorial governments across the country. Through two distinct Notice of Funding Opportunities, the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program and the Tribal Cybersecurity Grant Program, combined, will distribute $1bn over four years to qualifying projects. Ultimately, states will decide how and where to distribute funds. At a minimum though, 80% grant allocations must be distributed to local government agencies, which include school districts.
Oroville district suffers lack of bus drivers
A shortage of school bus drivers in Oroville has led school districts to consolidate bus routes, limiting the number of students able to get a ride on the bus and leaving the burden of transportation to their families. Oroville Union High School District Superintendent Corey Willenburg said his district has been having a hard time finding qualified drivers to hire since COVID lockdowns began. To address the shortage, he said the district has shifted its resources to accommodate fewer bus drivers and is now frequently using nine-passenger vans to supplement buses. Since the vans only require a class C license, Willenburg said the transportation staff can still help with home to school transport as they complete training for a class B license — which is required to drive the large, 60-passenger buses. “We’re using the vans in the morning more for home to school transportation, and then in the evening for after school activities,” Willenburg added.
Education Cannot Wait calls for urgent funding to help crisis-impacted children
Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations' global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, is calling on world leaders to provide $1.5bn in urgent funding to help it reach 20m crisis-impacted children in the next four years. Its new Case for Investment and 2023-2026 Strategic Plan outlines a value-proposition "to create a world where all children and adolescents affected by crises can learn free of cost, in safety and without fear," including important details on the Fund's efforts to address the climate crisis, engage the private sector, ensure gender equality, catalyze political support, and enhance flexible and high-impact interventions to reach those left furthest behind. "Our case for investment is our case for humanity. It is our collective plea to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and universal human rights," said ECW Director Yasmine Sherif.

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