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23rd September 2022
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School districts ask FCC for more resources to combat cyberattacks
District leaders across the country are seeking more federal resources to secure their computer networks and guard against cyberattacks. More than 400 school districts have put their names to a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asking it to allow them to use federal E-rate dollars to cover some cybersecurity costs. A recent ransomware attack on Los Angeles USD, the nation's second-largest school district, "exposes the significant risk of disruption to instruction, home to school transportation, or access to nutritious meals that would be catastrophic for students and their learning,” the districts and education organizations wrote in a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and her fellow commissioners. “School districts and libraries nationwide are fighting increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks and their aftermath with funding meant to be used for meeting the instructional...needs of our students.” Using E-rate money to finance cybersecurity is not only “appropriate,” the letter said, but the attack on LAUSD shows that the need for the funding change has reached “a critical point.” The E-rate program has been around since the mid-1990s and is primarily used to help school districts and libraries connect to the internet. Currently, the program has a spending cap of $4.4bn, but it has been allocating far less than that. Last year, E-rate doled out about $2.5bn, and the year before that, it gave out a little less than $2.1bn.
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New Jersey becomes first state to introduce climate change curriculum
New Jersey public school students will be the first in the country required to learn about climate change while in the classroom starting this school year. The new standards were adopted by the state's board of education in 2020, but because of the pandemic, the roll out was halted, giving educators and districts more time to prepare the lesson plans for all students in grades K-12. Lessons will focus on how climate change has accelerated in recent decades and how it's impacted public health, human society, and contributed to natural disasters. The program will also introduce students to careers in climate change, as federal and local officials work to combat natural disasters and create a greener economy by adding new jobs and increased funding. "I want to make sure that the next generation of students and those who come after have the skill set necessary to be able to win and succeed at the incredible jobs that are going to be available as we all shift towards a greener economy," said New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy, who spearheaded the initiative.
Wellness programs 'not out of reach' for school districts
Dan Romano, treasurer and chief financial officer at West Clermont School District in Ohio, asserts that developing employee wellness programs does not have to be a big budget item for school finance leaders. Speaking at the Association of School Business Officials International’s Annual Conference & Expo in Portland, Oregon, he suggested that health insurance carriers working with school district should have financial resources to share, while a dominant healthcare system in a district’s community will also likely have money to help with school wellness initiatives. Wellness programs, Romano underlined, could for example include encouraging healthy behavior incentives, behavior change intervention programs, health coaching, fitness, nutrition and weight loss programs, and wellness challenges.
Seven strategies for strengthening DEI in teacher hiring
A growing body of research demonstrates the impact diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have on student achievement and outcomes. However, while racial and ethnic diversity among public school teachers has increased in recent decades, as a group they are considerably less diverse than their students, according to an analysis conducted in December by the Pew Research Center. K12 Dive speaks to a number of experts on ways to address this - ranging from ensuring that district recruitment teams undergo implicit bias training and that hiring committees are as diverse as possible in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability and more, to adopting 'grow-your-own' strategies to ensure the teacher workforce reflects the local community, and conducting annual “culture” or “engagement” surveys of all employees.
2022 sees fall in school funding ballot initiatives
In a piece for The 74 Mike Antonucci notes that there appears to be a fall this year in the number of education-related initiatives on ballot papers - though he says they are likely to reappear as federal and state COVID relief funding starts to dissipate, and the "education establishment" seeks new sources of revenue to maintain current spending levels and avoid layoffs.
State policy reforms failing Michigan’s rural schools
A new report from Michigan State University indicates that education policy reforms in Michigan over the past two decades have "largely ignored" rural schools. Key problem areas, according to superintendents in 25 rural school districts across the state, include teacher recruitment and retention, student mental health needs, broadband internet access and funding. “For many rural superintendents, receiving a resignation or retirement letter is what keeps them up at night. Under current policies, finding a replacement is extremely challenging and often leads to unfilled positions,” comments Rebecca Jacobsen, co-author of the report and professor of education policy.
Class action suit challenges Virginia over Disabilities Education Act
A class-action suit filed on Wednesday challenges Virginia’s implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law that stipulates what services must be provided to eligible children and youth with disabilities to ensure they receive a proper education. The suit, which was filed by Trevor and Vivian Chaplick, the parents of a Fairfax County Public Schools student and founders of Hear Our Voices Inc., an advocacy organization for people with disabilities, asserts that about two-thirds of officers hearing complaints have never ruled in parents’ favor in the last 20 years. The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the hearing officer system “deprives families of procedural due process," the complaint states. They also want the department to be found out of compliance with the federal law.
Almost all Vermont schools finish mandated lead fixes
Mandatory testing for lead in drinking water and repairs to keep that water safe has now been completed at 98% of the Vermont’s schools and childcare centers, the state Health Department said Wednesday. One in every five taps had elevated lead levels, out of the more than 15,000 taps tested between June 2019 and December 2021. Notably, lead was more frequently found in water fixtures, rather than plumbing, which made fixes both easier and less expensive. The state provided funding to reimburse schools and childcare centers for remediation costs, 90% of which cost less than $500.

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