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24th January 2023
States working to resolve special educator shortages
Several positive developments are emerging from the crisis in special education teacher shortages. States are looking to wean themselves off noncompliant special education emergency licenses, expand pathways that are compliant and create innovative practices that improve teaching practices, meet federal requirements and overcome teacher shortages. Meanwhile, state and local special education offices are teaming up with advocacy groups and higher education institutions for solutions. Alternative licensure programs have also proven successful. One approach in Indiana for example is the Aspiring Statewide Special Education Teacher, or ASSET, program, which supports licensed educators in adding a special education teaching credential. The state is using $238,234 in federal COVID-19 funds for this program and, in total, from July 1 2022 to December 31 2022, the state has issued 1,102 alternative special education licenses in mild interventions, intense interventions, blind/low vision, and deaf/hard of hearing specialty areas. Special education is one of the highest need teacher positions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 45% of schools with at least one teacher vacancy said they were missing special educators last winter. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data predicted an annual need for 37,600 special educators between 2021 and 2031. Many of those openings, the bureau estimates, will result from teachers switching to other occupations or leaving the labor force.
Indianapolis Schools attempting to appease charter advocates' funding concerns
A revised revenue-sharing plan from Indianapolis Public Schools to increase the amount of funding affiliated charter schools would receive from a potential tax hike has fallen short of charter-friendly groups' expectations. Officials unveiled the plan during Thursday's IPS board meeting, when they announced the district would share $9.7m annually with 18 charters in the district’s Innovation Network, instead of the $6.4m annual figure that officials initially proposed. IPS has yet to finalize the ballot measure but influential groups that support charters say the bigger number from IPS still treats charters unfairly. “We have constantly continued to work with our Innovation partners to try and talk about what we feel will work best for them as we go through the process,” said board president Venita Moore, referring to charter schools in the Innovation Network. The new figures would provide a little over $1,000 from the ballot measure for each charter school student, compared to roughly $1,900 for each traditional public school student.
Michigan investing in school resource officers
Schools in Michigan can expect security improvements with a $25m state investment over the next three years. Some 195 school resource officers, one each for the state's 195 school districts, intermediate school districts, and public-school academies, will be rolled out. The grants will be administered by the Michigan State Police Grants and Community Services Division, and were determined by a panel consisting of education and law-enforcement professional. Considerations for the grants included prioritizing districts with lower enrollment and less per pupils funding. A 50% match is required to be provided by applicant jurisdiction.
IRS raises teacher tax deduction ceiling
For the first time since the Internal Revenue Service enacted the educator expense deduction in 2002, the agency has raised it from $250 to $300 for the current tax filing season. K-12 educators who work a minimum of 900 hours during the school year will benefit and among the items deductible are classroom materials, including technology equipment and any COVID-19 protective items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Classroom teachers use around $550 of their own money each year to provide their students with basic supplies, according to data from, prompting financial experts to complain that the deduction broadly falls short. Pauline Stavrou, a tax attorney for Frost Tax Law in Baltimore, comments: “The amount is just so small, it’s a joke.”
Philly schools suing city over new facilities safety regulations
The Philadelphia School District on Friday filed a lawsuit against the city over legislation officials fear could jeopardize the opening of some school buildings. The City Council has passed a law designed to strengthen environmental conditions in the district by forming a public oversight board to determine standards and judge whether school buildings can safely house staff and students. The law requires one-third of city public and charter schools inspected for safety issues by August 1. The next third would have to be inspected in 2024, and the final group would be checked in 2025. Buildings could not open unless the district accepted the oversight panel’s demands, a proposition that could translate to millions of dollars in repairs. School board president Reginald Streater, who said he believed the litigation is the “culmination of decades of chronic underfunding,” noted that the district alone is authorized by state law to determine whether schools open or close, and that children struggle academically and socially when unable to access face-to-face learning.
Quiet renewal of Newark superintendent's contract prompts governance concerns
Local and national organizations are urging Newark families to attend upcoming board of education meetings, after Superintendent Roger León's contract was renewed automatically last Spring without being advertised ahead of time or announced afterward. State education law requires boards to provide 30 days' notice to the public and hold a public hearing before renewing superintendent contracts. “We are urgently looking to organize parents, families, and students to go so that we can learn more about how a renewal happened without the community getting any notice,” says Shennell McCloud, who runs a Newark school election get-out-the-vote organization known as Project Ready NJ.
Two students killed in Des Moines shooting
Two students were killed and a member of staff was seriously injured on Monday in a shooting at Starts Right Here, an educational mentorship program in downtown Des Moines. Police found the two students in a critical condition officers performed CPR until medical personnel could transport them to the hospital, where they later died. The injured employee also was taken to hospital, to undergo surgery. Three people were taken into custody, though no motive for the shooting is known at present. The Starts Right Here program was started as a partnership with Des Moines Public Schools in 2021, to help students no longer in a school building due to behavioral issues, by local rapper and activist Will Holmes. Separately, as the community in Monterey Park, California, grapples with the trauma caused by this week's mass shooting, local schools are upping their security and readying mental health support services. The Alhambra Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Montebello Unified School District, which all serve Monterey Park, shared messages of condolences on Sunday and detailed their plans to support students. Both LAUSD and MUSD announced that there would be extra police presence and mental health support services at schools this week.

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