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13th May 2022
NCES: States entered pandemic with smaller annual funding increases
National per pupil spending crept up ever so slightly between fiscal years 2019 and 2020, just by 0.7%, to $13,489 per student, less than the 2.2% increase seen between fiscal 2018 and 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, according to a new analysis from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. However, the most recent data only accounts for about three months of COVID-19 school closures, and many states had not yet disbursed federal pandemic relief funds. Per pupil spending overall was highest in the Northeast, but increases in student spending were the greatest in New Mexico, Illinois, Kansas, Texas and Indiana. States with the largest decreases in per pupil spending included Delaware, Connecticut, Arizona, Alaska and Arkansas.  In Delaware, declines were mostly a result of decreases in reported state spending on district employee benefits, data the state is currently reviewing and may update. New Mexico’s increase followed growth in spending on instructional salaries and student support services.
Teachers say live instruction better for mitigating learning loss
Live instruction and the use of technology apps and platforms were most helpful in supporting students’ academic progress during the pandemic, according to a Government Accountability Office report based on a teacher survey and virtual meetings with K-12 stakeholders. The findings, detailed in a report released Tuesday, also found while 69% of teachers surveyed used asynchronous learning, fewer than 40% of those surveyed said it helped at least half their students. This report is the first in a series from GAO that will examine the impact of COVID-19 on K-12 public schools, including teaching and learning during the pandemic and the effect on vulnerable populations. The findings could help districts as they navigate potential extended school closures in the future due to the pandemic or other emergencies. 
D.C.’s at-risk students could be set for more financial support
D.C. public school campuses with the highest concentrations of poverty would receive additional local funding, on top of the $2.2 billion local education budget that the mayor has proposed, according to a plan approved by the D.C. Council this week. The proposal would invest an additional $41.6 million over four years across nearly 170 traditional public and charter schools, and, notably, unlike most targeted education funds, the money would bypass the school system’s central office and go directly to principals, who would have direct control over how to spend it. “That could be multiple contracts with Reading Partners and City Year (tutoring services) or it could be hiring a couple of social-emotional counselors. The intent is that they’ll have complete flexibility,” comments Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who spearheaded the proposal and claimed it was the “single most important” new idea in the fiscal year 2023 budget.
Education Secretary announces 58th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has announced the 58th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership. Of the 3.7m students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,000 candidates qualified for the 2022 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations and YoungArts, the National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists. As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education.
Orange Beach's separation agreement approved in Alabama
Orange Beach is poised to become the eleventh Alabama city in the past 22 years to form its own city school system, after a separation agreement with the Baldwin County School System was adopted on Thursday. The city-county split, on a purely financial basis, is a boon for Baldwin County Schools. Aside from the $35m in upfront cash the county is expected to receive, officials anticipate receiving an additional $15m a year in state Foundation Program money that was not available with Orange Beach – one of the wealthiest cities in the state – part of their annual budgeting. The approximately 130 employees currently working at Orange Beach will be allowed to keep their jobs and their tenure automatically transfers. All students currently enrolled or pre-registered to attend Orange Beach Schools as of July 1, will be given the option to attend a school in the Orange Beach Schools pursuant to attendance or out-of-district policies.
Massachusetts school districts encouraging mask wearing
School district leaders in Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge, in Massachusetts, are encouraging students to wear masks amid high rates of reported COVID-19 transmission. Arlington superintendent Elizabeth Homan comments: “It is important to note that this is a temporary recommendation, not a requirement, and that in addition to this recommendation we will be continuing our monitoring of ventilation, doing additional testing and providing access to home testing where necessary, and emphasizing the importance and use of air purifiers and open windows.”
N.Y.C. school bus companies violated idling laws outside schools
Three companies that operate more than 600 school buses in New York City are being sued by the state attorney general's office over allegations of pollution, and that they "repeatedly" violated bus idling laws. The companies being sued are Jofaz Transportation, 3rd Avenue Transit and Y&M Transit Corp., which are all owned and operated by Joseph Fazzia and his family. The lawsuit alleges the companies' buses idled longer than state and local laws allow at locations around the city that are predominantly low-income and have high concentrations of Black and Hispanic residents. State law prohibits idling for more than five minutes and city law bans idling for more than three minutes. Attorney General Letitia James said the state is seeking monetary relief and a court order for the companies to fully comply with city and state idling laws.
School bus Wi-Fi qualifies for E-Rate, FCC chair says
During a May 11th meeting of the National Coalition for Technology in Education & Training, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed allowing the use of federal E-Rate funding for Wi-Fi in school buses. If adopted, the Declaratory Ruling would allow E-Rate program funding to be used to equip school buses with Wi-Fi providing substantial benefits to students. “While we’ve made progress getting many more families connected through our various broadband funding programs, the homework gap is still a hard fact of life for millions of schoolchildren in urban and rural America,” Ms. Rosenworcel commented. “Wiring our school buses is a practical step we can take that is consistent with the history of the E-rate program. This commonsense change could help kids who have no broadband at home."
Detroit School Board approves huge facilities plan
The Detroit school board has unanimously approved the district’s ambitious $700m facilities plan, setting up major renovations and rebuilds for school buildings across the city. Officials will spend $281m to rebuild five schools, $296m to renovate buildings, and $128m to reopen previously closed school buildings, expand pre-K, build additions onto existing schools, and demolish or sell some vacant buildings. Notably, superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the district has also used the COVID money to increase funding for mental health support, the hiring of school nurses, and hazard pay for employees. Seven community meetings were held online and in person for community members to offer feedback to the district, along with meetings with faculty and parents and individual schools subject to phase-outs or major rebuilds.

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