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18th September 2023
Principals urge Congress to preserve Title I funding
School leaders across the country calling on Congress to preserve federal funding for the education of low-income students. The letter, sent by The National Association of Secondary School Principals on behalf of 45 state school leader associations, warns of “drastic reductions” to Every Student Succeeds Act programs if the proposal from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies becomes law. The opposition comes after a July House subcommittee proposal to eliminate 80% of Title I funding in the FY 2024 budget. Regardless of the final appropriations agreement, Congress has already agreed to level funding for the Education Department in FY 2024 as a result of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Although FY 2024 begins October 1, it is unlikely Congress will meet a September 31 deadline to approve the budget and would need to approve a stopgap measure to avoid a federal government shutdown.
Private-school voucher use soaring in Florida
Almost 123,000 new students have received private-school vouchers in Florida after a major expansion of voucher programs. As of September 8, over 242,000 students had enrolled in private schools using vouchers through the state's main programs. Of these, 122,895 are new to the programs, with 69% already enrolled in private schools. Critics argued that the expansion would lead to an exodus from public schools, but the data shows otherwise. The Florida Policy Institute raised concerns about the cost of the expansion, estimating it to be $676m. However, Step Up for Students, the organization administering the vouchers, disputed this estimate. The voucher programs also saw an increase in students with special needs. The data did not include information about the race and ethnicity of voucher recipients. The Florida Policy Institute questioned why the report was not provided by the state education department.
More schools bringing back police
School districts nationwide are reversing plans to remove school resource officers or increase their numbers as students return to classrooms this fall. In June, for example, the Denver school board voted 4-3 to permit the "persistent presence of school resource officers" in the city's schools, which was a stark reversal from 2020 when the board voted to eliminate all SROs. Law enforcement officials say their presence in schools has been complicated by staffing shortages and new restrictions, while experts say research shows there's little evidence it will increase school safety and may in fact harm students of color. Although officers reduce some forms of violence, such as physical attacks and fights, they do not prevent gun-related incidents, according to a 2021 study from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, and the University at Albany. "The best evidence that we have to date shows no deterrent effect of where gun violence happens in schools or where weapons are brought to schools. ... Similarly, when a shooting does happen in a school, those shootings, actually, on average have been more deadly in schools with police," laments Ben Fisher, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who recently reviewed dozens of studies on the effects of police in schools.
Fresno Unified paying eye-watering substitute teacher rates amid strike preparations
The Fresno Unified Teachers Association (FTA) and Fresno Unified School District are locked in negotiations over a new contract. The union's proposal includes pay raises, lifetime benefits, and investments in students, such as free laundry service and school supplies for those in need. The district insists that student support should not be part of the contract language. With less than a month before the union's strike deadline, the district plans to pay substitute teachers $500 per day during the strike. The district currently has around 1,600 substitute teachers ready to work, but concerns remain about having enough subs and completing necessary background checks. Both sides are frustrated with the negotiation process, and fact-finding sessions have taken place.
Former Birmingham City Schools superintendent takes executive role in Washington
Former Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring has been hired as a strategic advisor to the United States Secretary of Education. Herring, who served as superintendent in the Alabama district from 2017 to 2020, will help shape the department's strategy to better engage state and local officials. As a strategic advisor, Herring will draw upon her professional career in both rural and urban communities to deepen relationships and collaboration with education leaders.
New York asserts zero-emission school bus roadmap
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has introduced a roadmap and guidebook to help school districts and bus operators transition to zero-emission school bus fleets. The resources aim to address the impact of fossil-fuel powered transportation on families and communities, with a focus on reducing emissions from school buses. The roadmap outlines costs, challenges, and recommendations for the transition, while the guidebook provides information on the benefits of zero-emission buses, the procurement process, and charging stations. The report highlights the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 and the requirement for all new school buses sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2027. The estimated cost for transitioning 3,000 vehicles to electric is approximately $780m.
'Reading wars' continue to divide professionals
The reading wars, a long-standing debate among educators and researchers, continue to divide professionals into either the science of reading (SOR) and the whole-language or balanced-literacy approach camps. However, experts agree that both phonics instruction and meaning-making are essential for literacy success. Teachers should choose explicit phonics instruction and content-rich curriculum, let go of unsupported practices, and embrace culturally and linguistically responsive instruction. The focus should be on finding common ground and deepening knowledge of effective reading instruction. The debate should not dictate extremes, as reading is a complex process that requires a balanced approach. For multilingual learners, decoding skills and English oral-language instruction are crucial. Ultimately, all students need a combination of skill-building activities and language-rich learning opportunities to become confident, skilled readers and writers.

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