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Teachers Continue Their Walkout in Oklahoma

Teachers in the state of Oklahoma are among the lowest paid in the nation. They rank 48th in pay among the 50 states. In order to help redress that situation, the governor signed legislation to increase teacher pay. However, teachers in the state are not pleased with this raise, and they are not pleased with the fact that lawmakers in the state did not significantly increase the overall education budget.

Teachers and the teacher’s union decided to stage a walkout from the classroom in order to protest the actions of the governor and Oklahoma lawmakers. The walkout began on Monday. An estimated 36,000 people joined with the teachers and rallied at the state capitol building.

The walkout has continued, and today, several teachers from the city of Tulsa are planning to embark on a 100 mile journey from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. They are hoping to draw even more attention to the teacher’s demands for more pay and for more spending on the state’s education budget.

The teachers have a few demands that they wish to have met before returning to the classroom. They are requesting a $5,000 per year additional pay increase. They are also calling for pay increases for other educational workers. In addition to this, they are requesting that the state increase the amount of money that is being spent on education.

Governor Mary Fallon has been critical of the teacher’s demands. She has been quoted as saying that the teachers are like, “a teenager wanting a new car”.

There is no word as to when the teacher’s walkout will end. Schools in most Oklahoma districts are scheduled to be closed for the remainder of the week. The teachers are hoping that the lawmakers will acquiesce as did the lawmakers in West Virginia who raised teacher pay.

Oklahoma Governor Under Fire After Remark Against Striking Teachers

As Oklahoma teachers continued striking for the third day, the state’s Governor was the subject of much ire after remarks she made regarding the teachers. Republican Governor Mary Fallin is under heat for comparing the striking teachers to “a teenage kid that wants a better car.” The remarks were made to a CBS News correspondent after he asked her opinion of the teachers who were converging on the state Capitol steps to advocate for increased education funding and higher salaries.

The governor also remarked to the reporter her opinion that the anti-fascist group Antifa was behind the teachers deciding to strike, as opposed to it being a grassroots movement. Although the Oklahoma legislature was in session on Wednesday, there were no signs that the lawmakers were considering new legislation to move forward on educational funding.

Last month teachers announced the strike and set the date of April 2 as the first day of the walkout. The date was not arbitrary, as it coincides with mandatory federal student testing. Faced with the impending walkout, state lawmakers passed legislation last week which approved raising teacher salaries $6,100 and support staff income by $1,250 annually. The bill also provided an additional $50 million for general education funding. However, the teachers stated that this still fell well short of the $10,000 raise and $500 million in additional funding that they wanted to avert the walkout. Although many teachers are satisfied with the annual raise, they state the paltry increase to the educational fund is not nearly enough to make significant improvements to the quality of teaching that they can provide.

The USA’s Educational Crisis

Over 30 years ago I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. I worked in that field for only a year before deciding it wasn’t for me. Why? The way the things have evolved in the world of education in the United States has become increasingly difficult for teachers. And in many ways things are not much better for students.

Protests are heating up these days, with teachers increasingly becoming disillusioned and angry. The recent protests in Oklahoma are the perfect example of this. Teachers are staging a “100-mile walk” to bring attention to the poor educational budget status of that state. They complain of broken chairs and textbooks that are duct-taped together.

This, in addition to low salaries has made many who love the profession turn to second jobs, or, like me, finding completely different careers.

Maybe its time for some uniquely different educational methods to come to the forefront. The system we primarily support in the United Stated is one that has evolved over the last 200 years without many changes. In today’s cyber-world, there are many other options that might be well to consider.

Whatever may come of recent events, its time for our nation to sit up and pay attention. One thing is certain – the future well-being of our society depends very much on the way our children are taught.

I applaud the teachers for taking a stand in Oklahoma, and hope it will garner some attention in other states as well. Aren’t our nation’s children are worth enough for us to pay attention to the great need for good teachers and better budgets?

DeVos Holds Meetings Relating to Obama-Era Guidance

On Wednesday morning, Betsy DeVos — who is the U.S. Secretary of Education — met with teachers, parents and civil rights leaders relating to an Obama-era guidance. The guidance asks schools reduce student suspensions and to determine if racial basis exists within their disciplinary actions. Reportedly, DeVos is considering repealing the guidance.

The meeting happened on the 50th anniversary of the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. Participating in the meetings were some of the nation’s top civil rights organizations. Among these were the the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Without exception, these groups favor keeping the guidance in place. Also meeting with DeVos were education researchers and representatives of the National Education Association — which is the country’s largest teachers union — along with teachers from Educators for Excellence.

Later on Wednesday, DeVos will meet with those who want to rescind the guidance. This includes teachers, activists and parents.

Liz King, who is the director of education policy for the Leadership Conference and a senior policy analyst, said that the meeting was both underwhelming and frustrating. She further said that she told Education Department officials that the policies of the Trump administration were negatively affecting both immigrant and gay students, and she asked DeVos to keep the guidance in place.

Evan Stone, who is one of the CEOs of Educators for Excellence, said that he was happy that DeVos acknowledged that racial bias was prevalent in school disciplinary actions. He also said that DeVos was clearly moved by the stories of educators there, and that he asked her to visit some of the communities that have benefited from the guidance. Still, he said that he was facing an uphill battle.

Illinois School Loses Referendum Vote, Piles On More Debt

Bartonville, a town in Peoria County, Illinois, is home to Limestone Community High School. Limestone recently developed a referendum on how its community handled taxes.

Currently, people living in the district that is home to Limestone Community High School pay about $2.55 for every $100 in assessed valuation (taxes required to be paid on homes and property).

That overall tax rate – $2.55 on every $100 – would not have changed, if the referendum had been voted into effect. Currently, and prior to the vote, 96 cents of that $2.55 went to the education fund. The referendum would have beefed that up to $1.69 of every $2.55.

Bartonville’s district in question levies 73 cents of each $2.55 in the name of its debt service fund. That was going to be eliminated and tacked on to the current 96-cent apportionment to the education fund.

Allan Gresham, the Superintendent of Limestone Community High School, claimed that the district would have saved a whopping $395,000 in annual interest and debt payments. Over the coming two years, they would have wiped out about $1.4 million of the education fund’s deficit.

The local government is consistently forced to borrow money, losing the locality money, to cover such funding. Limestone’s referendum would have saved the county money, and eliminated a need to borrow in coming years.

Unfortunately for the sake of public education at Limestone Community High School, it didn’t change.

Voters shot down the tax rate referendum, which would have affected the community’s education fund, by exactly 177 votes. 1,279 people – 47.7 percent – of voters were in favor of the change, whereas an even 53 percent – 1,456 votes – were against the referendum to the education fund.

Gresham said, “This is just a better way of doing business.” Oh well, debt is always fun.

Business Leaders Recommend Changes in Michigan Schools

Nonprofit organization Business Leaders for Michigan released a new report on Tuesday, recommending changes in the state’s education system. The report is a collaboration between Business Leaders for Michigan and the data analysis arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Business Leaders for Michigan is a nonprofit organization made up of business executives and officials working for Michigan’s largest companies and universities. Their self-described goal is to emphasize the development and expansion of jobs and economic growth across the state of Michigan. Amway president Doug DeVos is a member of the organization. His sister-in-law Betsy Devos currently serves as the United States Secretary of Education.

The report urges the state to stop changing goals for the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), designed to measure student progress and achievement. The report argues that these alterations make it difficult to compare student scores from year to year. The report also states that Michigan teachers and principals need more training and should be given access to more modern technology. Business Leaders for Michigan also advocates for more censuring and correction of schools that do not meet state standards.

The new report comes on the heels of an especially bad year for Michigan schools. The U.S. News & World Report ranked the state at a dismal 36th in the nation on their list of best states for public education. Earlier this month, a new report was released that showed that Michigan had the sharpest drop last year in third-grade reading levels. Educators became alarmed as most states either maintain or increase third-grade reading proficiency. Last year, the number of students enrolled in the Michigan public school system dropped by 0.4%, the lowest number since the 1950s.

USDE Not Cooperative In Refunding Screwed-Over Students Of Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

Project on Predatory Student Lending, an organization operated by students and full-time faculty at Harvard University, recently asked a federal judge to move against a topic of concern, hinging directly on student debt.

The United States Department of Education filed briefs with the federal court system that would allow them to sort through and identify Social Security data to turn away discharges of costly student loans to students that were defrauded – more or less, unreal or misrepresented “schools” that collected money without providing credible degrees or credits in return.

Student loan debt consistently keeps rising, and rising, and … ad nauseam … in the United States of America, thanks to its wide availability regardless of financial position or history, college students of all sizes, shapes, backgrounds, flavors, and academic capacities can effectively receive federal funding for loans to attend college.

With so much outstanding student loan debt and interest that accumulates every month on such balances, some believe that forgiving student loan debts of students that were verifiably defrauded by trade schools, four-year colleges, universities, and any other educational institution following high school.

Let’s take a specific example into consideration. Assume a trade school offering vocational programs is named Corinthian Colleges, Inc. That “Inc.” part makes it sound great already, for a school, right?

Anyways, Corinthian Colleges, Inc.’s graduates earned significantly less than those who graduated from similar hands-on vocational programs. This metric is a verifiable, quantifiable means of suggesting that the aforementioned trade “school” had very poor educational quality across its lessons, as virtually all of its students and graduates agree.

The above story isn’t a story – it’s 100% true, and it’s what’s going on right now, with thousands of former students being affected.

The United States Department of Education wants to access Social Security data because it contains former students’ income levels. Through the unjust potential use of that, it can effectively justify discounting slivers of loan balances of students done wrong by Corinthian, effectively not forgiving balances at all.

Sex Education Curriculum Causes Stir In Fremont, California

In society, hot-button topics – most of which center around politics, at least in today’s world – have always existed throughout human history. One such controversial topic is sex education in schools.

Fremont, California, a small town near the San Francisco Bay Area, is home to such discussion. Parents of children enrolled in the Fremont, California, school system are becoming vocal about their views on full-fledged sexual education to children ranging from grades 4 through 8.

The Fremont school board held a parent meeting on March 14, 2018. Slightly more than 60 speakers were present, with a majority of participants supporting school lessons regarding puberty, health, and sexuality. Such curriculum also focuses on sexual orientation and gender, during parts of the nearly-all-inclusive course.

Parents that don’t want their children to be directly exposed to such information can simply write notes, emails, or call in and opt out of such material.

Lesson plans are directly based on Advocates for Youth’s “3 R’s”: Rights, Respect, and Responsibility. Boys and girls will be taught together, helping them develop bases of knowledge that are well-rounded, not just tailored to their own genders and leaving them clueless of the other gender.

Trustees at the parent-teacher conference didn’t respond to any questions, claims, or suggestions made by audience members, as such curriculum was not on their agenda. They could, however, spawn an interim meeting with parents and teachers alike, for all-around discussion.

Sexual education courses will begin instruction during April, unless trustees collectively decide to get rid of such lessons.

Connecticut Cut Education Funding, Localities Cut Budgets, Now They’re Getting Penalized

All across the nation, states and localities are finding funding for education dry up, leaving children fewer resources to work with, learn from, and better their future prospects of success.

 

Such has recently played out in the state of Connecticut.

 

Last November, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy cut a whopping $58 million from the state’s budget, which would have gone solely to Connecticut education aid, distributed throughout 130 localities and their education systems.

 

Shortly thereafter, Connecticut state government officials passed on to superintendents around the state that school districts weren’t allowed to cut their own budgets excessively, as defined by the state administration. Those that did would face penalties.

 

Six localities throughout Connecticut have been deemed as cutting their own budgets in response to November’s news that the state would lose $58 million in education funding. What else can they do, borrow money and rack up excessive debt? Pay high interest rates?

 

The only viable option is for such places to cut budgets, or to tax their community members excessively to make up for the state’s deficits.

 

Those six local governments are identified below, as are their corresponding threatened penalties:

 

 

  • Montville wanted to cut budgets by a measly 3 percent, and was handed down notification of a $355,000 penalty.

 

  • Canterbury cut 5 percent, was subsequently awarded a penalty of $502,000.

 

  • Southington planned to slice budgets by 3 percent, is now facing a penalty of $3.2 million.

 

  • Groton is faced with penalties of $3.1 million from a planned expenditure cut of just 2 percent.

 

  • Watertown vied to cut funds by 4 percent, is now confronted with fines of $2 million.

 

  • Killingly, last but certainly not least, is potentially afcing penalties of $7.9 million on cuts just short of 10 percent.

 

 

Denver Leads the Way in School Choice

U.S. News & World Report published an article on Denver’s public school systems, which have long been recognized for their forward-thinking approach to school choice. The school district is home to more than 92,000 students, who largely have the choice to attend any public school in the district where they live. This allows families in Denver to choose from about 200 schools for their children.

The downside to this arrangement is that some students spend more than four hours a day commuting to school. This is a major drain on transportation resources and cuts into students’ time to play sports or participate in extracurricular activities. Although most students only have a 20-minute commute to their schools, students in high school are far more likely to embrace a longer daily commute to attend the school of their choice. A recent study also showed that minority students are more likely to travel longer distances to be able to attend better quality schools.

Denver has not been able to provide public transportation choices for all students, which some argue is contributing to a lasting divide between students based on socioeconomic grounds. Students from wealthier families can afford their own transportation to be able to attend better schools. Denver estimates that it will spend about $26 million this year on transporting students of all grade levels to school. Other districts across the country have looked to Denver to be able to replicate its public school transportation program, but this district still has troubles of its own in finding enough school drivers and buses to keep up with student demand. Many drivers are able to make better wages with more flexible hours in the private sector.

When asked to opine on this issue, many educators and school psychologists have said that the effect of longer commutes to school on students truly depends on their unique situations. Some students may be in a better position to handle the stressors of a long commute and can adapt to completing their homework or reading during their commute.