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20th November 2023
FCC proposes new cybersecurity pilot
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a three-year pilot program to study how the agency’s Universal Service Fund might better help schools and libraries fight cybersecurity threats. The pilot program, which would cost up to $200m and is separate from the agency’s E-Rate program, was approved by the full commission and builds upon Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s Learn Without Limits initiative to ensure access to high-speed broadband connectivity in schools and libraries. The FCC will seek public comment on the proposal upon its publication in the Federal Register, which is expected soon. Once that 30-day period ends, the agency will review the comments, develop program requirements, and vote on whether to proceed with creating the Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program. Rosenworcel initially made the proposal during a July speech at the Legislative Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., which was co-hosted by the Association of School Business Officials International and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
Ed. Dept. releases list of institutions under investigation for ancestry violations
The U.S. Department of Education has released a list of K-12 and higher education institutions that are under investigation for alleged shared ancestry violations. This move is part of the Biden administration's efforts to address rising discrimination in schools. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stated, "We are committed to ensuring that all students have equal opportunities and are treated fairly in our education system." The schools were informed about the investigations within the last 24 hours. They include one K-12 school, the Maize Unified School District in Kansas, and six colleges. The investigation is being presented as a significant step towards addressing the issue of discrimination and promoting inclusivity in schools.
Chronic absenteeism 'symptom of larger problem'
Roman Stearns, executive director of California-based Scaling Student Success, underlines the rise in chronic absenteeism in schools as "a symptom of a larger problem." Many students, especially those from marginalized populations, he claims, find school uninteresting and irrelevant. The education system needs to shift its focus to develop skills and competencies that are essential for success in the modern world. By asking students, families, employers, and community leaders about their needs, a new set of skills and mindsets can be identified, Stearns asserts. "Students should be at the center of their own learning, with a voice in what they learn and how they learn. It's time to transform education and make it more engaging and relevant for all students."
Iowa sees huge increase in school board campaigns
Iowa has seen a tenfold increase in the number of school board campaigns since 2015, according to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. With the rise in interest in local politics, there has been an increase in "creative" campaign activity, as well as threats towards campaign disclosure board staff. The executive director and legal counsel of the board, Zach Goodrich, stated that this represents the increased politicization of school board and city races. There has also been a blurring of lines regarding campaign spending, with candidates running as a slate and sharing expenses for campaign materials. The increase in school board campaigns has also led to an uptick in "hostile communications" towards Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board staff.
Legislation introduced to increase educator deductions
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten and Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett have introduced the bipartisan Educators Expense Deduction Modernization Act of 2023. The legislation aims to increase the amount educators can deduct from $250 to $1,000 on qualified out-of-pocket classroom expenses. Currently, 94% of public school teachers pay for classroom supplies without reimbursement. The bill recognizes the personal sacrifices teachers make and aims to provide a strong education for children.
Portland teachers continue negotiations to end strike
Portland Public Schools negotiators and the union representing its 3,500 teachers have not yet reached a deal to end the strike that started November 1. Both sides have however expressed optimism about the progress made during negotiations. Major sticking points include compensation for teachers when class sizes exceed certain thresholds, planning time across grades, and salary adjustments for inflation. The district's 43,000 students have lost 11 days of school and teachers have lost 13 days of pay so far.
Jewish parents call for greater supports in L.A. schools
Jewish parents in Los Angeles are calling on the Board of Education to take action against antisemitism in local schools. They are demanding staff training on antisemitism, classroom instruction on recognizing antisemitism and the Holocaust, and the adoption of the definition of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Jewish and Muslim leaders have reported a significant increase in hate speech, discrimination, threats, and acts of violence since the Israel-Hamas war began. Muslim parents had previously expressed concerns about bullying and insensitivity against Muslim students. The district has already provided additional resources for teachers, including materials on antisemitism and racism, and LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has affirmed the district's commitment to providing a safe learning environment for all students.
International study underlines need for school toilet maintenance
Launched for the upcoming World Toilet Day, new research by Economist Impact highlights the urgent need for school toilet maintenance across the world. The cost of neglecting toilets has reached $1.9bn in lost infrastructure, with an additional hidden economic cost estimated at over $10bn across four countries. Nearly 540m children globally attend schools with no usable toilets, affecting them physically and emotionally during crucial education years. The report emphasizes the need for smart investment in maintenance and new construction to achieve universal sanitation in schools by 2030.

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