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20th November 2023
School vouchers removed from Texas education bill
A school choice proposal by the Texas House's education chairman was dealt a possibly fatal blow Friday, after a bipartisan coalition in the lower chamber voted 84-63 to strip the education savings account program out of the $7.6bn education funding bill. Twenty-one Republicans joined Democrats in cutting out the school choice portion of the bill, which proposed to make public funding available to students for private schooling. The House then referred the legislation (House Bill 1) back to the House Education Committee, effectively removing it from the full chamber's hands. Asked whether he planned to take up the bill before or after Thanksgiving, Rep. Brad Buckley, the bill's author and education committee chairman, said "No. I think the vote today was very, very clear." Gov. Greg Abbott, who has invested significant political capital in school choice, didn't appear to be backing down. "I will continue advancing school choice in the Texas Legislature and at the ballot box, and will maintain the fight for parent empowerment until all parents can choose the best education path for their child. I am in it to win it."
FCC proposes new cybersecurity pilot
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a three-year pilot program to study how the agency’s Universal Service Fund might better help schools and libraries fight cybersecurity threats. The pilot program, which would cost up to $200m and is separate from the agency’s E-Rate program, was approved by the full commission and builds upon Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s Learn Without Limits initiative to ensure access to high-speed broadband connectivity in schools and libraries. The FCC will seek public comment on the proposal upon its publication in the Federal Register, which is expected soon. Once that 30-day period ends, the agency will review the comments, develop program requirements, and vote on whether to proceed with creating the Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program. Rosenworcel initially made the proposal during a July speech at the Legislative Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., which was co-hosted by the Association of School Business Officials International and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
Houston teachers protest state takeover
Houston teachers, parents, and community members have protested against the state takeover of the Houston Independent School District. However, they were snubbed by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who left the meeting before they could speak. The meeting began with Morath presenting a special education resource program and guidance for teachers and parents. After his presentation, speakers attempted to testify about recent changes under HISD Superintendent Mike Miles but were stopped by the Board of Education Chair. The chair directed speakers to address their issues with the HISD board of managers or file a formal grievance. Despite this, community members pressed for the education board's help. One teacher, Sarah Rivlin, broke down in tears while expressing her concerns about the HISD curriculum and newly issued teacher guidelines. Rivlin also highlighted an unofficial teacher survey that found only 14% of HISD teachers planned to stay in the district next year.
Austin ISD teachers move into affordable homes
Austin ISD teachers have moved into affordable homes in East Austin after the school district sold land to a developer under the condition that 25% of the homes built would be affordably priced and offered to teachers. The initiative aims to provide affordable housing options for educators in the area. "We are grateful for this opportunity to have a stable and affordable home for our family," said Lauren Vienne, an AISD teacher who moved into one of the homes with her husband and two daughters. The affordable housing initiative is part of the district's efforts to support teachers and address the housing affordability crisis in the city.
Using apprenticeships and career experiences to re-engage students
EmployIndy CEO Marie Mackintosh discusses how schools can use apprenticeships and career experiences to re-engage young people for the years ahead. By providing hands-on learning opportunities and real-world experiences, apprenticeships can help students develop valuable skills and discover their passions. Mackintosh emphasizes the importance of partnerships between schools, businesses, and community organizations to create these opportunities. Through apprenticeships, she adds, students can gain practical knowledge, build networks, and explore potential career paths.
Uvalde school board president nominated for TASB seat
Uvalde school trustees have nominated board president Luis Fernandez to serve in an interim seat on the governing board for the Texas Association of School Boards. The board also discussed plans to formalize the hiring of superintendent lone finalist Ashley Chohlis and approved votes for the Uvalde and Real county appraisal district boards.
Ed. Dept. releases list of institutions under investigation for ancestry violations
The U.S. Department of Education has released a list of K-12 and higher education institutions that are under investigation for alleged shared ancestry violations. This move is part of the Biden administration's efforts to address rising discrimination in schools. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stated, "We are committed to ensuring that all students have equal opportunities and are treated fairly in our education system." The schools were informed about the investigations within the last 24 hours. They include one K-12 school, the Maize Unified School District in Kansas, and six colleges. The investigation is being presented as a significant step towards addressing the issue of discrimination and promoting inclusivity in schools.
Lufkin ISD approves consulting agreement
Lufkin ISD school board members have approved a memorandum of understanding with Culwell Consulting LLC to examine the district's structure, job assignments, and finances. The move comes after superintendent Lynn Torres requested administrative leave for the 2023-24 school year. The board challenged deputy superintendent Kurt Stephens to seek outside expertise. "We wanted another set of eyes to look things over," said board president Kristi Gay. The consultants will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the district.
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.
International study underlines need for school toilet maintenance
Launched for yesterday's 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.
Kemp ISD student killed in car accident
At least one student from Kemp ISD has been killed in a car accident which injured several others. The accident occurred on November 15 and involved the Kemp Fire Department, Kemp Police Department, the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office, and the Texas Department of Public.

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