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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.

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 Angélica 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.

USA Education Department Headed By DeVos Reverses University Regulations

For profit universities in the United States have long been a point of debate in the USA education sector because many feel that the tactics used to enroll and get students to agree to rising costs is predatory. Recent developments under the new administration has seen an alarming number of regulations protecting students and consumers reversed, and new rules and proposals being adopted. Many claim that the new rules and regulations only serve to benefit the universities and no longer allow any protections or benefits to students that are currently enrolled or who have already bought into their education.

DeVos’ education department is responsible for the current panels and talks, which though include both parties involved in determining these new rules, are almost entirely led and followed through on the side of the university representatives. Education officials and reformers have pointed out that the education of the nation is at stake, but for profit individuals and parties fill the new administration’s education department and they appear to be rewriting all the new proposals.

The rollbacks to already existing relief plans have also been rolled back, reversing orders and reductions in repayments that were already agreed upon. This change in policies is significant because it changes the outcome of rulings made and settlements that were already established. Now, the same former students will be required to repay the debt that they accrued, and they need to do so on a scale determined by the same panel that is loosening the regulations these universities must now follow.

U.S. Leads the World in Most Expensive Tuition

The U.S. Education system is far from perfect, ranking somewhere around 17th out of the top countries in the world. It does not come as a surprise however that as far as the amount of spending to attend school for students, the tuition costs, the U.S. ranks at the top of the list with an average of $8,200 per year for an undergraduate degree program at a public school(private schools are several thousands of dollars higher) according to a report by the OCED released in 2017. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an intergovernmental economic organisation founded in 1961. The main goal of the group is to help grow the world economy. Thirty-five countries currently participate OECD membership.

Chile came in second-highest on the OCED produced list at $7,654 a year in tuition. Japan ranked third with an average of cost of $5,229. Canada was 4th, $4,939. Australia was 5th, $4,763. South Korea was 6th, $4,295. New Zealand, Israel, and the Netherlands were also high on the list, with tuition of over $2,000, while Spain, Italy, and Portugal also made the list with tuition of under $2,000 but well above $1,000.

One saving grace that many students in the U.S. may benefit from compared to students of other nations is that they are elidgable for many forms of financial aid not available other places, nearly $6,000 a year in federal pell grants, to scholarships, to several thousands of dollars a year in multiple forms of student loans.

The Abandonment of the American Public School System

The American public school system, while funded like no other nation in the world, is in an extremely poor state of being. With the Republican appointed new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos cutting funding to the failing system and redirecting focus specifically to the private sector there may be little hope for any real repair in the near future. Since taking office in 2017 the Trump administration has proposed over $9 billion in cuts to the education system in general and while it effects on everyone it impacts the poor of the nation more than anything.

DeVos has criticized the public school system, calling it a dead end, and seems to have little, to no plans at all, to even attempt to fix the issues causing it to be so lacking. She has attack the system and teachers of the public school system, claiming they care more about a system than the actual students they are teaching – which is quite the opposite of what actually is. Public school teachers have proven time and time again that they put priority on individual students than anything.

Despite the negative outlook on the system by the average American, test scores from public schools are higher than they have ever been. Statistics from the past 40+ years prove that student abilities, like reading and writing for example, have risen by almost 5% despite the fact that in the same amount of time the public school system has taken on more challenged students who previously would have been denied access to public schooling due to their physical or mental disabilities.