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12th February 2024
Schools working to boost access to therapy
As schools across the country respond to a youth mental health crisis accelerated by the pandemic, many are confronting the thorny legal, ethical, and practical challenges of getting parents on board with treatment. The issue has also become increasingly politicized, with some states looking to streamline access as conservative politicians elsewhere propose further restrictions. Differing perspectives on mental health aren’t new for parents and kids, but more conflicts are emerging as young people get more comfortable talking openly about mental health, and treatment becomes more readily available. “It’s this disconnect,” suggests Chelsea Trout, a social worker at a charter school in Brooklyn. “The kids are all on TikTok or the internet and understand therapy speak and that this is something that could be helpful for their mental health and are interested in, but don’t have the explicit buy-in from their parents.” Research also suggests that having to obtain parental permission can be a significant barrier to teens accessing treatment.
Mississippi Supreme Court considers public money for private schools
A state constitutional provision that prevents public funds from going to private schools is “ironclad,” according to attorneys for public school advocates in oral arguments before the Mississippi Supreme Court this week. Attorneys Rob McDuff and Will Bardwell, representing Parents for Public Schools, said at the time of the writing of the 1890 Mississippi Constitution that public funds were being spent on private schools and the framers of the constitution sought to prevent that from occurring. Section 208 of the constitution says, in part, that public funds shall not be provided to any school “not conducted as a free school.” The Parents for Public Schools organization filed a lawsuit in 2022 challenging the constitutionality of a $10m state legislative appropriation made to the Midsouth Association of Independents Schools.
Alternative school board associations rise to fill NSBA gap
As the influence of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) wanes, a national network of reformist school board associations is rising to take its place. NSBA's political biases were exposed when it infamously requested federal law enforcement to silence parents opposing its policies. NSBA's membership plummeted as a result. In response, reformist school board associations are challenging monopolies and passing policies that prioritize student achievement. "A much-needed course correction is on the horizon and these emerging groups are leading the way, bringing excellence back to education," says David Hoyt, executive director of School Boards for Academic Excellence.
Access to algebra varies significantly between states
According to a new nationally representative survey, 65% of U.S. principals said their elementary or middle school offered algebra in eighth grade, but only to certain students. Meanwhile, just 20% of principals said their school offered the class in eighth grade, and that any student could take it. The picture differed hugely by state. In California for example, nearly half of principals said their school offered algebra only to certain eighth graders. In Florida meanwhile, more than 80% of principals said the class was restricted. The findings, based on surveys conducted last spring by the RAND Corporation, shed light on the uneven access students have to advanced math classes in middle school, which can have lasting effects on their higher education and job prospects.
California launches teacher apprenticeship programs
Apprenticeships are being added to the long list of initiatives California has undertaken to address its enduring teacher shortage. State leaders hope that the free or reduced-priced tuition and steady salary that generally accompany apprenticeships will encourage more people to become teachers. Apprentices complete their bachelor’s degree and a teacher preparation program while working as a member of the support staff at a school. They gain clinical experience at work while taking courses to earn their teaching credentials. California has joined 30 other states that have committed to launching registered teacher apprenticeship programs at the encouragement of the federal government. The road map for teacher apprenticeships in California is expected to be released later this year, providing guidance for school districts, teacher preparation programs, and other partners.
Cedar Rapids Schools drafts in architects to guide facility plan
A local architectural and engineering firm has been chosen by the Cedar Rapids Community School District to create a facility plan in collaboration with the community. The plan will be presented to district voters in a general obligation bond referendum, possibly in November 2025. The agreement comes after a previous bond issue failed, and the district aims to engage voters and gain their support. The firm, Shive-Hattery, will review existing research, engage the community, and create conceptual plans for the school projects. The firm will also conduct surveys to gather feedback from registered voters and assess their preferences.
School transportation plan under scrutiny in Cincinnati
Recent attacks involving schoolchildren in Cincinnati's Downtown area have local leaders and community members scrutinizing Cincinnati Public Schools' transportation plan. The current protocol leaves kids across the city to wait around for bus transfers after school each day. Metro says there are about 200 kids who transfer buses at Government Square in the afternoons. That's just 2% of the 9,000 students with Metro passes now, but more than a 50% increase from the number of kids at that stop when the designated school routes operated back in 2020. The district, the city, and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority are working to find long-term solutions. Impending budget cuts may affect the district's ability to implement a new transportation plan for the next school year. The responsibility for student behavior on buses falls on the school district, but incidents are difficult to track when students are waiting for or riding Metro buses. The city has increased safety patrols as a short-term solution, but more organized efforts are needed to bring about real change.
New Hampshire House approves higher income cap for school choice program
The New Hampshire House has given preliminary approval to raising the income cap associated with the state's school choice program, but rejected two other attempts to further expand its reach. The Education Freedom Account program provides families with the same amount the state pays per student to public school districts, starting at $4,100 per year, to be used for private school tuition or other education expenses. The House voted 190-189 to raise the cap to 500% of the poverty level, or $156,000. However, bills to remove the income cap altogether and eliminate the cap for vulnerable populations were rejected. Supporters argue that expanding the program would help more students succeed, while opponents believe it would create a universal voucher program.
Kids on Campus campaign launched
Placing Head Start early learning programs on community college campuses has the potential to support both young children and their college-going parents, according to the National Head Start Association (NHSA) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), which have partnered on technical assistance efforts for expanded programing. Called “Kids on Campus,” the five-year project launched with a user guide to help community colleges and Head Start programs connect, negotiate, and launch successful partnerships. It's hoped that locating Head Start programs on community college campuses could help overcome current barriers to affordable and quality early learning centers for children from low-income families.

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