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23rd November 2022
Holiday ransomware attacks hit education hardest
The education sector is especially vulnerable to ransomware attacks over holidays and weekends, according to a global survey by cybersecurity firm Cybereason. Over half (54%) education information technology professionals surveyed said “it took us longer to assess the scope of the attack” over a holiday or weekend, while 42% said they take longer to respond to and stop holiday and weekend incidents compared to those on weekdays. The same percentage (42%) reported greater financial losses from holiday and weekend cyberattacks. Schools are also more likely than other sectors to spend more time recovering from a ransomware attack, Cybereason found. On average, 16% of cybersecurity professionals across industries, compared to 25% of those in education, reported taking one to two days to recover. While 13% of all industry cybersecurity professionals recovered in three to six days on average, 28% of school professionals said they needed that amount of time. To better protect schools from cyberattacks, experts have recommended districts vet new technologies, collaborate with instructional leaders, phase in multi-factor authentication and create a security team.
New York City Schools' contentious budget cuts to stand
After a lengthy court tussle over the New York City Public Schools budget, a state appellate court on Tuesday allowed more than $200m in cuts to remain in place this year. The justices agreed with parents and teachers who claimed that the Department of Education had violated the law when it presented the budget to the City Council before allowing the Panel for Education Policy, a governing body largely appointed by the mayor, to vote on it, but said that allowing the City Council to change the budget this far into the school year would be too disruptive and “have a broad unsettling effect.” In addition, the justices pointed out that the Panel for Education Policy did eventually vote in favor of the budget.
Calls for increased mental health spending supports in Washington schools
A team at Washington State University found that just half (51.8%) of school districts in Washington state reported providing assessments for mental health disorders during the 2017-18 school year, the most recently published data. The number of school districts offering treatment for mental health issues drops to only 38.3% of schools. Rural school districts were disproportionately unlikely to offer either assessment or treatment. The study, with WSU College of Nursing Associate Professor Janessa Graves as its first author, was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The college used this finding to support calls for the Washington Legislature to fund increased mental health services. Researchers intend to re-run their analysis with a forthcoming report based on 2020 data to look for any new trends in student mental health.
Privacy concerns shadow virtual reality tech adoption
The most popular virtual reality (VR) devices on the market all have serious privacy problems, according to a new analysis by Common Sense Media, leaving school districts that want to invest in VR with no viable options. The tech advocacy group examined seven of the most popular VR devices, made by some of the biggest players in the world, including Meta, Microsoft and Sony, which make up close to 100% of the marketplace. “We can’t recommend any device right now for schools and districts that wouldn’t potentially be violating state or federal privacy laws,” asserts Girard Kelly, Common Sense’s director of privacy, who conducted the analysis. “School districts probably should hold off a little bit if they are interested in VR purchasing for an Esports program or computer lab.”
Union's school board candidates ace California races
The California Teachers Association bet big on this year's state school board races, distributing $1.8m to 125 local affiliates. That investment seems to have mostly paid off, with union-backed candidates leading in 35 of the 52 races in which the state union spent the most money. The biggest winner was Rocio Rivas, running for a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District board, to whom the union contributed more than $330,000. The union supported Shana Hazan and Cody Petterson with $145,000, and they won seats on the San Diego Unified board. In Sacramento, $123,000 in state teachers union spending helped Tara Jeane, Jasit Singh and Taylor Kayatta complete a clean sweep of school board races. In much smaller school districts, even a little spending had its effects. The union has only 39 members in the Placer Hills Union School District, but a $1,500 infusion helped two candidates to victory. The Big Pine district has only 155 students, but it now has two union-backed school board members.
Puerto Rico teachers’ bankruptcy plan fight falls
The U.S. Supreme Court will not take up Puerto Rico teachers unions’ appeal to challenge the island’s historic debt and pension restructuring plan. The commonwealth’s financial reorganization plan, approved by a federal judge earlier this year, remains free from any further challenge by disaffected teachers who tried to fight cuts to their accrual of pension benefits. The justices’ decision to bypass keeps in place the restructuring plan’s provisions that upend local laws and reduce teacher benefits.
Social Security caveats stinging Texas' retired teachers
The Windfall Elimination Provision, along with a related program called the Government Pension Offset, are both eating into the Social Security payments that annuitants receive if they also receive a public pension from a job in which they did not pay into Social Security, as is the case for many retired teachers in Texas. The deductions to monthly income are among several ways in which the state's retired teachers lose out, as no teachers who have retired since 2004 have received a cost-of-living adjustment to their monthly check, despite historic levels of inflation in recent years. Myra Pilant comments: "I had not even heard about the windfall elimination rule until I was getting ready to retire. My bottom-line is, I feel that is my money that I invested for over 20 years and should be getting back just like people that didn’t get a pension from the state. Teachers don’t typically get paid as much as other professionals, so why should we be penalized?”

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