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16th March 2023
Science-based reading approaches taking hold in California
There is now widespread momentum in California driving the adoption of strategies for teaching foundational reading skills, including the emphasis on skills needed to sound out letters to make words, learn sight words and read fluently. Tucked into California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed education budget is $1m to develop a Literacy Roadmap that would include “explicit instruction in phonics, phonemic awareness, and other decoding skills, as well as development of vocabulary, comprehension, writing, speaking, and listening skills.” In an effort to boost academic outcomes and make up for pandemic learning losses, local and state school systems are evaluating current literacy instructional methods, reviewing achievement data, and advocating for curriculum and instruction that are aligned with science-based reading approaches. Notably, several state agencies, plus 35 of the nation’s 100 largest school districts, planned to use money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds for literacy training, researchers from FutureEd at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy told said last fall.
Federal schools budget 'a long way from finish line'
Linda Jacobson explores a broad range of reactions to President Biden’s budget request for education programs last week and underlines how the debt ceiling is going to affect actual federal spending down the road. If House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agrees to demands from his party's more conservative base to roll spending back to 2019 levels and cancel the president’s student loan forgiveness plan, she notes, it would wipe out most of the administration’s budget request for education - including a $2.2bn increase for schools serving poor students and almost $500m to address student mental health needs. McCarthy himself has already indicated that cuts to Medicare and Social Security are “off the table,” so everything else, including funding for schools and children, is vulnerable. The administration meanwhile wants to raise the $31.4tn debt limit to avoid what most economists say would be a global economic crisis. “We are clearly a long way away from the finish line and middle ground,” says Lindsay Fryer, president of lobbying and consulting firm Lodestone D.C. “Talks of addressing the debt limit and overall budget levels are sure to add interesting dynamics to appropriations conversations that could prolong this process for quite a while.”
Los Angeles education workers confirm strike
More than 60,000 bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria employees, campus security, teaching assistants and educators from the Los Angeles Unified School District will strike from March 21 to 23. The labor unions representing the support staff announced move, which will likely shut hundreds of schools, during a rally Wednesday at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. Represented by labor union SEIU Local 99, about 30,000 school support staff are demanding LAUSD pay for a 30% raise and $2 per hour equity wage increase. About 35,000 teachers represented by the United Teachers of Los Angeles plan to join them. The school district has offered, in part, more than a 15% raise, retention bonuses and to bring its minimum wage up to $20. L.A. schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on Wednesday urged union leadership to negotiate “around the clock” to avert the strike, which he said would further harm more than 420,000 students trying to recover academically and emotionally from the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced them into remote learning for more than year.
Education Savings Accounts 'a long time in the making'
Adam Peshek, senior director & senior fellow at Stand Together Trust, urges Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) advocates not to slow down in their work to progress school choice. "We’ve been here talking about ESA accountability versus optionality for the past couple of decades. We have been investing time and treasure in a wide range of activities - creating communities of practice among program administrators, investing in parent navigation services and organizations, identifying and sharing lessons learned, improving rules and parent handbooks, creating parent review committees, and much more," he asserts, adding: "Today, at least five companies compete over state RFPs to help with the administration of ESA programs - creating a healthy, competitive market to make parent-friendly and accountable services that stand out from the pack. Parent support organizations are developing locally to help parents navigate options by connecting them to real humans to talk through options."
Laguna Beach USD now keeping Narcan on campus
The Laguna Beach Unified School District is now stocking Narcan on its campuses. Nurses are trained in administering it, while training is optional for teachers and other staff. A total of fourteen school districts in Orange County now keep Narcan at elementary, middle and high schools. "We're really focusing on these other new classes of drugs that students might be experiencing or are involved with," says Dr. Michael Keller, director of emotional and social support with the district. "Those old models of just say no, the DARE program, those really one-off situations, aren't the effective intervention strategies that we want to put in place." A new bill working its way through the California legislature would actually require schools to carry the reversal drug.
'Secret Shoppers' to monitor predatory colleges
The Education Department is to deploy “secret shoppers” to monitor the enrollment and recruitment practices and financial aid counseling provided by colleges and universities to detect any bad actors luring students with deceptive or predatory tactics. Specifically, the secret shoppers are tasked to look for misrepresentations regarding the transferability of credits, job placement rates, completion and withdrawal rates, graduates’ future earning potential, career services, cost of attendance, the amount of federal aid needed and accreditation status. Cordray said that the findings could serve as evidence to support an ongoing investigation or provide evidence needed to open a new investigation and that the department will share findings with the Office of Inspector General and other state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Bill would force schools to tell parents if their child is transgender
A new bill would require California schools to tell parents that their child is transgender in the name of bolstering parents' rights and helping children. While critics argue that such legislation would threaten LGBTQ students' safety, AB 1314, which is sponsored by Republican Assemblymember Bill Essayli, would give school districts three days to notify parents in writing once a school employee learns a student is identifying as a gender that doesn't align with their birth certificate or other official records. This could include asking to be identified by a different gender or participating in sports of the opposite gender.
CISA launches ransomware warning pilot for critical infrastructure providers
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has launched a pilot program to warn critical infrastructure providers of potential ransomware attacks. The Joint Ransomware Task Force is coordinating the program, called the Ransomware Vulnerability Warning Pilot, which is actively warning organizations about internet-accessible vulnerabilities linked to known threat actors. "Ransomware attacks continue to cause untenable levels of harm to organizations across the country, including target rich, resource poor entities, like many school districts and hospitals,” Eric Goldstein, executive assistant director for cybersecurity at CISA, said in the announcement. “The RVWP will allow CISA to provide timely and actionable information that will directly reduce the prevalence of damaging ransomware incidents affecting American organizations.” CISA has already notified 93 organizations identified as running instances of "ProxyNotShell," which describes a pair of vulnerabilities first disclosed last year that were chained together by threat actors in a series of targeted attacks.

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