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Majority of Southerners Support Increased Education Spending

A recent large-scale poll illustrates just how much people in the South support public education. After results of The Education Poll of the South were analyzed, it was found that 84% of the respondents believe that the state should adjust school funding to achieve more parity between communities. Additionally, 57% of respondents were willing to trade off tax increases for increasing spending in education.

There were 2,200 total respondents from across 12 states. The poll was given by a group of seven nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations associated with education.

Across the country, isolated urban areas (think Manhattan and the wealthiest parts of California’s Bay Area and Los Angeles) and affluent suburban regions are relatively well-funded, have students who come from well-education families, and have strong parental participation. Just miles away, there are districts where single parents are struggling to get food on the table, kids come to kindergarten without strong foundations, and drop-out rates are high.

This is just as true, if not more so, in the South. States have high-performing districts like those in the Atlanta suburbs and low-performing schools in rural communities and downtrodden urban areas.

It seems that citizens are recognizing the fact that specific communities may need varying levels of support, especially in terms of financing a system that can attend to the needs of the students.

It remains to be seen whether the study’s findings will be reflected in the polls and whether a change in governing can lead to improvements in student achievement. What is known, though, is that the problem of inequity is an established one, and that many would be supportive of increased efforts to raise education spending.

Inspiring Teachers Making a Difference

Stop for a moment and think about the teachers that inspired you to keep giving your best. Day after day, they were there encouraging you to keep trying. Perhaps, it was the high-school-science teacher who helped you construct your first rocket that inspired your astronomy career. it may have been your junior-high-social-studies teacher who made you believe in yourself because of his constant praise at a time when you felt less than confident. Across the United States, LRNG Innovators starts out each year to look for the most innovative teachers.

John Legend, director of LRNG Innovators, announced the ten 2017 winners for the third year of the program. Each educator is then charged with sharing the word about their program. Winners include:

Let ‘Em Shine- Students attending the Albemarle County Public Schools are encouraged to make their own digital monuments showcasing the people of Charlottesville, Virginia. Students can choose from a variety of digital formats ranging from slides to songwriting.

Making A Future for All: Connecting Passion To Profession- Students attending middle school in Bath County Middle School in Owingsville, Kentucky, are encouraged to create a multimedia project about a career they want to pursue. Students will work with high school students to create a presentation to show to elementary students.

Philly School Media Network: With the support of paid journalists and writing teachers, students attending Edison High School, George Washington Carver High School and Henry C. Lea Elementary School will be encouraged to let their voices be heard about issues affecting Philadelphia.

Green is the New Pink: Girls in grades 8 through 11 will choose a citizen-science project that they will work on throughout the year. The projects created by students in Oxford, Mississippi, will then be presented on the University of Mississippi campus.

OneCity Stories: Students in Saint Louis’ Gateway Writing Project will connect with other students crossing neighborhood boundaries to prove that students are more alike than they are different. Students will present their work at various venues across the city.

Choice and Voice: Students in the rural Bastrop, Texas, school district will participate in the Heart of Texas writing project to write Wiki-type articles showcasing Bastrop.

Law Schools See Rise in Applications

The Law School Admission Council recently released statistics showing that the number of applicants for law schools rose significantly. The number of applications for the upcoming year was almost 11% higher, as of January of 2018, than it was at the same time in 2017.

Also supporting that data is the fact that 27.9% more LSAT tests were taken in December of 2017 than in December of 2016.

Some professionals in the industry see this positive trend as reflective of the current climate. The U.S. job market is relatively healthy, and young people now feel fairly confident about what their career prospects could be with a law degree in hand. These upticks in applications have also happened in the past, generally a few years after an economic slowdown. Once things begin to bounce back after a recession, people start considering graduate school as a practical step in advancing their careers.

The headlines involving the important role that lawyers and judges have been playing in politics and business affairs may also affect the number of law school applications. Both Democrats and Republicans may be able to see themselves going to work for the government, nonprofit organizations, corporate firms, and as general counsel where they can fight for the type of people they identify with. Young people who are passionate about making a difference and creating real change can do so in the legal field.

To help potential students afford advanced education, many law schools are using scholarships and tuition discounts to attract their top applicants. Public and private schools are trying to boost their numbers and the quality of their student body through these incentives, and many future lawyers are gladly accepting the extra assistance.

Educating Engineers Across All Fields

The United States is in the midst of an infrastructure crisis. The nation is also in the midst of an innovative boom in the digital sphere. Educators, investors and urban planners see a need for engineers in fields beyond technology, some going so far as to redefine exactly what a software engineer might be – and they don’t think “engineer” is the best term.

In a recent Forbes piece Marilyn Wait, a civil and environmental engineer, and Connie Bowen, who works with venture capitalists, argue that “When ‘engineers’ are mentioned in the startup world, people tend to mean ‘software engineers’… confusing coding with software engineering and software engineering with physical engineering. We need to stop confusing the term engineer with a computer programmer or coder.”

This miscategorization can confuse students who are interested in pursuing physical engineering degrees, causing them to think that the only kinds of engineers are those who build apps, wear casual clothes and make millions of dollars. In reality, the market is open for those with physical engineering degrees simply because of a failing infrastructure and the need to innovate in the physical world. Waite and Bowen point to several physical world startups in agriculture, bioplastics and cold-plasma technology. These innovations can help secure a safe and stable food supply and can improve recycling strategies.

Sebastian Turbot, former curator of the World Innovation Summit for Education, also sees a need for creative entrepreneurs within real-world scenarios. For urban centers to thrive and make use of new technologies, city planners and civil engineers must receive an education that rewards collaboration, emphasizes critical thinking and questioning, deductive reasoning and real-world applications of mathematical knowledge. Fostering a U.S. education system that achieves these goals can solve future infrastructure challenges and channel young talent into all areas of engineering.

Virginia Public School Sports Bill Fails

On Monday, the Virginia House Education Committee tied a vote on House Bill 496, effectively killing the bill. Nicknamed the “Tebow Bill”, the legislation would have allowed home-schooled students to compete on public school teams.

The bill was introduced by Delegate Robert Bell on January 8. It was adapted from a virtually identical bill, HB 1578, that Bell introduced in January 2017. The previous version passed the state Senate and the House, but was vetoed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in February 2017. In is latest incarnation, the bill was referred to the House Education Committee where the committee voted 11 to 11 over reporting the bill. Since the twelfth member of the committee, Delegate Glenn Davis, was not present to break the tie, the bill effectively died in committee.

The bill received its nickname from Tim Tebow, a former NFL quarterback who began his career as a homeschooler playing for a local public high school in Florida. Tebow’s ability to play was based on Florida’s Craig Dickinson Act, a piece of legislation that allowed homeschooled children to play on the teams of public schools in their district.

Robert Bell decided to introduce similar legislation in Virginia in 2005. However, the different iterations of the bill have never been able to both pass through the Virginia General Assembly and be signed into law by the governor. Bell stated that since home-schooled students are allowed to take some classes in public schools, they should also be admitted onto sports teams. However, Governor Ralph Northam’s office announced that they opposed the bill, indicating that it would likely be vetoed if it passed the House and Senate.

In Virginia, individual localities are able to decide if they will allow homeschooled students to play on their public school teams. The Virginia High School League, Virginia’s main sanctioning organization for interscholastic athletic competition, has banned homeschooled students from competition.

Education Department May Cut Student Relief Payments by 60%

According to new information obtained by the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Education plans to cut relief payments made to students defrauded by for-profit schools. The AP reported Wednesday that they had seen an internal estimate stating that the payments would likely be reduced by as much as 60%.

The new plan involves the Borrower Defense rule, a statute that was overhauled by the Department of Education during President Obama’s administration. The rule provides financial payments to students whose schools closed due to institutional misconduct. It also gives students who attended fraudulent schools the option to discharge their student loan debts. Many of the students eligible for the program were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges.

Corinthian Colleges, a network of over 20 for-profit schools, was shuttered in 2015 for predatory recruiting practices and misleading student loan programs. The Department of Education fined the organization $30 million, effectively shutting it down. Other government agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the state governments of California, Massachusetts and Wisconsin also filed suit. The fallout from the suits and the closure of the schools resulted in thousands of students being left with large loans that they could not pay, and the Department of Education elected to expand the Borrower Defense rule to provide these students with relief.

The Department of Education announced in December that they plan to scale back their loan relief program due to its high cost. Rather than providing full relief from outstanding student loans, the new plan would only grant partial relief to students. The new estimates have emerged at a time when the department has not yet officially finalized their plans. A government spokesperson said that the numbers reported by the AP are not definitive and that the agency does not currently have an idea of how much they will cut student relief.

Massachusetts Names New Education Commissioner

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education announced on Monday that they have selected a new state education commissioner, Jeff Riley, the superintendent and receiver of the Lawrence Public School District. Riley won the board’s vote by an 8 to 3 margin.

Riley first drew attention in November 2017 when he announced he would be resigning from his post in the Lawrence school system in 2018. The previous commissioner Mitchell Chester had suddenly died in June after a battle with cancer, leaving the position of education commissioner open. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson has been serving as acting commissioner since the death of Chester. He will step down in 2018 to make way for Riley.

Unlike his rivals, Riley is a Massachusetts resident and already has a strong relationship with the BESE. A graduate of Harvard University, Riley began his career as a teacher in Maryland. He then moved to Boston where he served as principal at Edwards Middle School. Riley also served as academic superintendent and chief innovation officer at Boston Public Schools. In 2012, Mitchell Chester appointed him as the receiver of the Lawrence school system after the state took it over. During his time at Lawrence, Riley was able to increase test scores and decrease dropout rates in the district.

Riley emerged as the strongest contender for Mitchell’s vacated position in a field that included AngĂ©lica Infante-Green, a Deputy Commissioner for the New York State Education Department, and Penny Schwin, a Deputy Commissioner at the Texas Education Agency. Infante-Green received three votes from board members Amanda Fernandez, Margaret McKenna and Mary Ann Stewart, while the remaining eight members of the board voted for Riley. Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser also cast his vote in favor of Riley. The appointment will be official once Peyser approves the vote.

Tebow Bill Shot Down, Southeasterners Want To See Public School Spending Go Up

The Education Poll of the South recently surveyed educators, parents, and community members from the twelve states it serves regarding their attitudes towards public education. Collectively, the Southeastern think tank found that the average voter was in favor of beefing up spending on public education.

Public Education Is Highly Valued In 2018’s Southeast

Of 2,200-odd respondents, a whopping 84 percent indicated their respective states should account for financial differences between low-income and wealthy communities’ public schools, in terms of beefing up financing for disadvantaged schools.

The survey found that respondents were in favor of increasing funding even if government agencies were forced to tone down their respective budgets in areas outside of education.

57 percent of all individuals polled were OK with paying higher taxes if it meant more schools in low-income areas would receive higher funding.

Tebow Bill Shot Down In Virginia

Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Florida Gators over a decade ago, was able to play football in high school, despite being homeschooled. Named after the two-time Heisman Trophy winner himself, the “Tebow bill” was recently voted on in Virginia.

Students would have been able to compete in public school sports, although they’re unable to do so, as Virginian bill was recently shot down.

The only Republican in Virginia’s state congress to vote against the Tebow bill was Gordon Helsel.

Formally named House Bill 496, the education committee, the committee responsible for voting on the so-called Tebow bill, originally supported the bill. However, after a tied vote, the Tebow bill was directed to the House of Delegates, which was promptly shot down.

Rob Bell, a Republican out of Charlettesville, originally sponsored House Bill 496. The Richmond Times-Dispatch was the first to report on the outcome of House Bill 496.

Special Education Students Need More Consideration Than Some Schools Are Providing

Every student deserves the chance to excel in life after graduation. However, some high schools in the U.S. are failing to offer adequate post-schooling plans for students with disabilities.

Federal law dictates that all high schools must have in place Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to provide students with disabilities the resources they need to create a post-graduation career plan. While schools in some states offer these programs for students starting at age 14 and up, they are legally only required to help students to start formulating a plan by age 16. A well-rounded post-school transition plan includes mapping out specific goals towards independent living, work, and higher education.

Many school districts look only to written, canned assessments in the form of questionnaires as a way of determining what a student with disabilities may need. These questionnaires are often vague and don’t supply a full or accurate picture of a specific student’s needs.

Organizations like the William & Mary Training and Technical Assistance Center offer guidelines that address how educators can create a transitional plan that works best for their students. The WMTTA Center offers a considerations packet entitled “Transition Planning for a Brighter Future: Designing IEPs for Secondary Students With Disabilities” which is available for free online.

The WMTTA Center suggests assessment methods beginning with verbally interviewing the student to determine his or her areas of interest. They also suggest enlisting the help of the student’s parents in determining the student’s specific mental or physical challenges with the aim of tailoring a plan that best serves that student on his or her path to success.

Together with the help of parents, teachers, and organizations, the stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities can hopefully fade away into the past. These students deserve to be allowed to enjoy the feeling of proud self-sufficiency.

Facebook is Looking to Go More Local

Facebook has pledged to start offering more local content to allow for better community engagement. For those in school or involved with education at any level, this is exciting news indeed.

Part of this effort will involve more local news stories showing up in users’ feeds. Because this action is part of a broader effort to make reputable news sources more visible, one of the effects is likely to be more students finding accurate information when they need to access it.

One of the goals that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, has is to create a greater emphasis on local events and happenings. One very possible outcome of such a move is providing a more relatable context for students of all ages to take a more active interest in local news and community involvement.

A major outcome of greater community involvement is getting involved in community issues that affect all, regardless of politics. With such opportunities available for people to get involved being brought to greater attention, there will be more opportunities for local community service being involved in education.

Many school systems already offer students opportunities to volunteer, such as the program available in New York City. From helping deliver meals to those in need to taking part in fundraising walks, there are a lot of personally fulfilling and engaging opportunities for youth.

With Facebook taking the lead in localizing much of the content shown, people eager for greater involvement in community service options will have greater chances to learn about these options. There are so many students using social media regularly that this is a good way to reach them.