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17th November 2023
Rural students face educational challenges
More students in the United States attend rural schools than the 100 largest school districts combined. However, rural students lack access to school psychologists and counselors, broadband internet, and school transportation. The just released 2023 Why Rural Matters report by the National Rural Education Association highlights the challenges faced by rural schools and emphasizes the need for prioritizing rural students in education policy discussions. The report reveals that rural students have limited access to mental health care, with a higher student-to-counselor ratio compared to non-rural districts. It also shows that rural schools have smaller achievement gaps between students living in poverty and those who aren't. However, racial disparities exist, with Black and Hispanic students being underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. The report calls for policymakers to invest in mental health resources, provide equitable funding, and support teacher pay equity. Reductions in funding, such as proposed cuts to the federal Title I program, could further exacerbate existing inequities in rural education, the report warns.
Broward County Schools reopen
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Peter Licata has announced that schools and district offices will be fully open today, just two days after heavy rains flooded and damaged several schools.
Alachua County School Board delays rezoning process
The Alachua County School Board has once again delayed its comprehensive rezoning process, pushing back its second reading and final vote by a month due to continuing concerns over a lack of data. In October, board members passed the first reading of the rezoning plan, setting a 90-day window to officially adopt the plan for the 2024-2025 school year. They were scheduled to vote again in November, and then on December 5, to decide whether to move forward with the first districtwide rezoning effort in 40 years. The board has now agreed to move the second vote to a day in January 2024 not yet decided. “In order for our staff to be able to do the budgetary impact and financial impact we need to have stagnant data,” said Anntwanique Edwards, the district's chief of equity, inclusion and community engagement.
Legislation introduced to increase educator deductions
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten and Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett have introduced the bipartisan Educators Expense Deduction Modernization Act of 2023. The legislation aims to increase the amount educators can deduct from $250 to $1,000 on qualified out-of-pocket classroom expenses. Currently, 94% of public school teachers pay for classroom supplies without reimbursement. The bill recognizes the personal sacrifices teachers make and aims to provide a strong education for children.
Leon County School Board elects new chair
Veteran Leon County School Board member Rosanne Wood has been elected as the new chair, with Laurie Lawson Cox as the vice chair. Wood, who has served on the board for seven years, expressed appreciation for former chair Alva Swafford Smith. Cox, a first-term board member, was nominated by Wood for the position of vice chair. The board also elected Marcus Nicolas as the city commission liaison for the upcoming school year. Additionally, the board unanimously voted to continue holding school board business meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. The leadership change comes as the board aims to maintain stability and efficiency in its operations.
Newly redesigned FAFSA to expand federal aid eligibility
College students and their families will soon see a newly redesigned Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that will streamline the process and expand eligibility for federal aid, including Pell Grants. The updated FAFSA will make it easier for families to apply for aid and will result in 610,000 more students becoming eligible for Pell Grants. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2024-25 aid year has not been set yet. The changes to the FAFSA include fewer mandatory questions, encouraging more students to complete the form. The redesigned FAFSA also introduces a new aid eligibility calculation called the Student Aid Index (SAI), replacing the Expected Family Contribution.
Volusia County Schools concerned about local fuel facility
Volusia County Schools Superintendent Carmen Balgobin has expressed concern about the proposed Ormond Beach fuel facility project in a letter to the county. The facility would store over 20m gallons of fuel and is located near homes, an airport, and several schools. Belvedere, the company behind the project, has expressed a willingness to review other potential sites. However, 20% of schools in Volusia County are located within 10 miles of the proposed site, including five schools with nearly 5,500 students less than five miles away. An additional 10 schools with over 13,000 students are located within 10 miles of the site. The superintendent's letter highlights the potential risks and impact on the education community.
International study underlines need for school toilet maintenance
Launched for the upcoming World Toilet Day, new research by Economist Impact highlights the urgent need for school toilet maintenance across the world. The cost of neglecting toilets has reached $1.9bn in lost infrastructure, with an additional hidden economic cost estimated at over $10bn across four countries. Nearly 540m children globally attend schools with no usable toilets, affecting them physically and emotionally during crucial education years. The report emphasizes the need for smart investment in maintenance and new construction to achieve universal sanitation in schools by 2030.
Fred Heid receives award for advocacy
Polk County School Board Superintendent Fred Heid has been presented with an award for his proactive leadership and advocacy for school library programs. He was also recognized for his efforts to fund school libraries and promote a love of reading in the district. The award was given during FAME's annual conference in Orlando.
Children comprise 'bulk' of Medicaid disenrollments
Almost 40% of the 10.6m Medicaid disenrollments reported by states as of November 14 have been children, according to Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks state Medicaid data. Data is limited, because only 21 states reported the ages of those who disenrolled; however that still amounts to over 2m children disenrolled out of 5.3m total disenrollments in those 21 states. Overall, 70% of those disenrollments occurred because of procedural reasons, like states having outdated contact information for individuals or because people failed to complete renewal packets on time.

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