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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.
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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.
First GEER audits show misdocumentation of some funds
Michigan, Oklahoma and Missouri misdocumented portions of their federal pandemic aid spending, according to the first three state audits of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief, or GEER, programs released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The audits come as the OIG begins releasing its findings on how states have spent and tracked federal pandemic relief money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief and GEER programs. The three named states said in their responses to the audits that they worked quickly to distribute emergency funds. The oversights could be a result of understaffing and a big workload on states, rather than intentional misuse or misdocumentation of the funds, said Jess Gartner, an education finance consultant who follows federal aid issues.    
High levels of 'forever chemicals' found in kids' school uniforms
Researchers have found high levels of dangerous chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in school uniforms sold across North America. Known as "forever chemicals," they have been linked to an increased risk of health problems, including a weakened immune system, asthma, obesity and problems with brain development and behavior. Examining a variety of children's textiles, the researchers found fluorine in 65% of samples tested. Concentrations were highest in school uniforms, especially those labeled 100% cotton. Such chemicals are widely used in consumer products and can be harmful to health.
Should high school football de-emphasize hard contact?
Education Next carries a transcription of a recent conversation between Pedro Noguera, the dean of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, and Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, regarding the safety of high school football. One suggestion they look at is switching to a 7-on-7 game that doesn't include blocking, instead emphasizing passing skills. 
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.
North Chicago transitioning to elected school board
The Illinois State Board of Education has agreed to transition North Chicago School District 187 back to having an elected school board, after a decade under state control. Elections will begin in 2025 with three out of seven seats up for election; by 2027, the board will be fully elected. State Superintendent Carmen Ayala recommended a slow transition because the coronavirus pandemic set the district’s academic growth back a few years and the district is in the middle of spending over $17m in federal emergency funds. “A transition of this magnitude is not to be taken lightly,” she said. The district serves 3,000 students across eight schools.
Colorado school-choice law attracts complaints over student disabilities
A complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleges that state law allows school administrators in Colorado to potentially discriminate against students with disabilities and ignore federal civil rights requirements. “The school choice law is not discriminatory on its face, but if you look at it in the context of special education and what families are being told and which families can’t enroll in a choice school, that’s when it becomes problematic,” explains Emily Harvey, youth advocacy team leader for Disability Law Colorado and the lead author of the complaint. Colorado’s school choice law allows most students to attend any school that has room for them, regardless of boundaries, and also allows school districts to reject students with disabilities if administrators say the school can’t meet a particular student’s educational needs.
School nutrition program pressures playing out in Iowa City
Schools in Eastern Iowa are seeing a decrease in the number of students ordering school breakfasts and lunches this year, after the federal waivers expired June 30. With fewer students buying school lunches, less money is coming into school nutrition programs, which now face increased food expenses, supply chain shortages and higher staff wages. In the Iowa City Community School District for example, school lunches this year cost $3 for elementary students and $3.20 for junior high and high school students. Breakfast costs $2.15 for elementary students, $2.35 for older students. Alison Demory, the district's nutrition services director, says staff served about 3,400 breakfasts a day last year. "We’re up to 2,300 to 2,400 breakfast meals this year," she notes.
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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