Education News Roundup: July 13, 2017

Today’s Top Picks:

Utah gets high marks for fiscal responsibility, though the state still comes in 23rd for funding of pensions.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ar7 (SLT)
or copies of the studies
http://gousoe.uen.org/ar8 (Pew)
and http://gousoe.uen.org/ar9 (Mercatus)

USA Today offers back-and-forth editorials on pensions for public employees (like teachers).
http://gousoe.uen.org/arq (USAT)
and http://gousoe.uen.org/arr (USAT)

And Michigan will henceforth try to steer new teachers into 401(k)-only plans.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ars (AP)
and http://gousoe.uen.org/arz (Detroit News)

Nebo Districts looks at a potential 2018 bond election.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arh (PDH)

The U.S. House of Representatives takes up the education budget.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ara (Ed Week)
and http://gousoe.uen.org/arb (WaPo)
and http://gousoe.uen.org/arc (USN&WR)
and http://gousoe.uen.org/arv (The 74)

Are states happier with the new ESSA (which, of course, replaced NCLB)?
http://gousoe.uen.org/arn (NPR)

Students who see science as a communal activity are more likely to be interested in STEM, new study finds.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ard (Ed Week)
or a copy of the study
http://gousoe.uen.org/are (Social Psychological and Personality Science) $

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TODAY’S HEADLINES
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UTAH

Two studies give Utah state government Top 5 financial ratings
Solvency > Pew Charitable Trusts, Mercatus Center studies say Utah easily lives within its means.

Nebo School District takes another step toward 2018 bond election

Community members are urged to come forward about bullying issues in schools

Sutherland Institute: No taxation without innovation

School Funding Tax Initiative Moves Ahead After Public Meetings

Lawsuit filed against state school board over website detailing discipline of Utah teachers

Preston schools delay first day for eclipse

Arby’s Weather Kids: Hurricane Elementary

OPINION & COMMENTARY

Illinois pension problem: Coming to a state near you

States should stick to pension promise

Creationism support is at a new low. The reason should give us hope.
People aren’t dumping faith. They’re reconciling creationism and evolution in a way that suggests how we can bridge other polarizing divides, including the current health care impasse.

NATION

Like Trump Budget, House Funding Bill Strips Out $2 Billion for Teacher Training

On Education, The States Ask: Now What?

Science Is a Team Sport; Showing Students That May Boost Interest in STEM

As Schools Tackle Poverty, Attendance Goes Up, But Academic Gains Are Tepid

The only A-rated, majority-black district in Mississippi
Racially integrated Clinton receives top scores

Michigan to steer new school workers into 401(k)-only plan

Boy sues over arrest for Instagram comment amid clown scare

 

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UTAH NEWS
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Two studies give Utah state government Top 5 financial ratings
Solvency > Pew Charitable Trusts, Mercatus Center studies say Utah easily lives within its means.

Two new studies agree: Utah is among the nation’s top five state governments for its financial condition.
The Pew Charitable Trusts ranked it No. 5 in a study about how well long-term revenues covered expenses, and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked it No. 4 for the condition of its overall fiscal condition in a study of fiscal 2015.
“Utah’s strong fiscal position is due to solid numbers across the board. It has adequate cash on hand and sound budgeting relative to other states. Long-term liabilities are also low by national standards,” the Mercatus Center study said.
“On a short-run basis, Utah has between 4.05 and 10.07 times the cash needed to cover short-term obligations,” the study said.
It noted that Utah ranked in the top 15 of every category it measured, except for trust-fund solvency – which compares state pension and other debts with residents’ income. Utah ranked 23rd in that category.
Utah’s ranking in that study rose from No. 7 last year. The only states to rank higher were Florida, North Dakota and South Dakota.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ar7 (SLT)

Copies of the studies
http://gousoe.uen.org/ar8 (Pew)

http://gousoe.uen.org/ar9 (Mercatus)

 

Nebo School District takes another step toward 2018 bond election

The Nebo School District Board of Education voted Wednesday evening on a resolution expressing an intent for a bond election in 2018.
“This is exciting news,” Board President Kristen Betts said moments before the vote.
Projects that will be included on the bond have yet to be decided, but $90 million of the $150 million bond likely will be used to build and convert middle schools, ushering in the return of middle schools to Nebo School District and re-establishing direct-feeder patterns for schools.
The other $60 million of the bond will be used for other projects the public chooses, which could include improvements and add-ons for the high schools and the installation of artificial turf to high school football fields.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arh (PDH)

 

Community members are urged to come forward about bullying issues in schools

Motivated by the tragedy of her daughter’s death and the “flood” of experiences others have since shared with her, Molly McClish is urging the Grand County School District to get serious about what she calls a “persistent bullying problem” that leaves some students unsafe at school. In the coming weeks, the Grand County Board of Education will seek to understand these issues, evaluating policies and programs that could help curb bullying and create a culture of empathy in local schools. But district officials say they desperately need the support of the community to make this effort happen, especially with regard to public input.
“If [the community’s] seeing bullying happen, we need to know about it,” said Grand County School District Superintendent J.T. Stroder. “When you shed light on those things, that’s how you get something solved. But people have to be willing to come forward and say something.”
http://gousoe.uen.org/arx (Moab Times-Independent)

 

Sutherland Institute: No taxation without innovation

Sutherland Institute called for a renewed focus on education with real innovation by launching the website OurStudentsNow.org
This new website features:

  • Scholarship information for students with special needs (take the quiz to check your eligibility)
  • State and private online-schooling options
  • Resources to match up with the right tutor
  • Private schools in your area
  • Forms to get you started with homeschooling
  • Forms to opt out of state testing
  • Ways other states are innovating by allowing education funds to stay with the child
  • A social media series that recognizes innovations from local leaders
  • Community-driven solutions that don’t require legislation (check out this Harvard Business School study)
  • Child nutrition programs
  • Opportunities to make your voice heard about Utah’s potential tax increase
  •  Sharable images for social media to recruit others in this cause

http://gousoe.uen.org/ary (UP)

 

School Funding Tax Initiative Moves Ahead After Public Meetings

Organizers for the ballot initiative Our Schools Now held seven public information meetings across the state last night. Those who attended shared enthusiastic support along with some skepticism.
Each meeting was held at an elementary school, from St. George up to Logan. At Wasatch Elementary in Salt Lake City a group nearly filled the school gym. Those who wished to speak were given 3 minutes each.
http://gousoe.uen.org/aro (KUER)

http://gousoe.uen.org/arw (Price Sun-Advocate)

 

Lawsuit filed against state school board over website detailing discipline of Utah teachers

SALT LAKE CITY – A new website could harm a teacher’s reputation. That’s according to a lawsuit filed by the Utah Education Association against the State Board of Education.
The website launched in February of 2017. It’s the first time the state has provided information online about an educator who has been disciplined by the board.
The site lists if the educator’s license was suspended or revoked.
State school leaders say the purpose of the website is to increase transparency.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ark (KSTU)

http://gousoe.uen.org/arl (KUTV)

http://gousoe.uen.org/ari (AP via PDH)

 

Preston schools delay first day for eclipse

The Preston School District has delayed the first day of the upcoming school year by one day to allow students and employees to observe the historic total solar eclipse visible in many parts of Idaho on Aug. 21.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arj (LHJ)

 

Arby’s Weather Kids: Hurricane Elementary

The Hurricane Elementary Weather Kids joined Chief Meteorologist Dan Pope at the Hurricane Arby’s to help deliver the weather.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arm (KSTU)

 

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OPINION & COMMENTARY
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Illinois pension problem: Coming to a state near you
USA Today editorial

Lawmakers in Illinois recently managed to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto, end a government shutdown and pass their first actual budget in two years. So, things are looking up there, and for other states with financial problems, right?
Actually, not so much. The $5 billion in additional annual revenue brought about by the budget’s tax hikes will allow Illinois to pay off the $15 billion bill it has racked up from its recent budgetary games. But it won’t fix the much larger problem of uncontrolled spending on public employee pensions.
The state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability estimated last year that the state’s pension plans were just 37.6% funded. Put another way, they were underfunded to the tune of $130 billion. That’s more than $10,000 for every person in the state. And some private estimates put the shortfall at closer to $250 billion.
This sorry situation gives Illinois virtually no chance of avoiding some form of insolvency. As a state, it cannot declare bankruptcy as some cities have done. A default would take the state (and the nation) into uncharted territory, with little certainty about how judges would rule. Another option would be for Congress to do for Illinois – or for all states – what it recently did for Puerto Rico: allow it to offload entities such as pension plans and let them go through bankruptcy.
In one sense, Illinois is in a unique situation. Its Supreme Court has rejected a good-faith, bipartisan effort at pension reform and made any future fixes all but impossible. Other states’ supreme courts have allowed more flexibility in reducing the rate at which workers accrue benefits for future work, changing retirement dates and adjusting cost-of-living increases.
But in many ways Illinois is simply the poster child for what is wrong with states. They are supposedly the providers of education, roads, parks, mass transit and public safety, among other services to their residents. But their real purpose in many instances has been to appease militant public sector labor unions.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arq

 

States should stick to pension promise
USA Today op-ed by Crosby Smith, a mental health technician and president of AFSCME Local 2645

Inequality is rising. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is growing. And big corporations, their CEOs and other millionaires control the levers of power. These wealthy elites are using their vast fortunes to rig the rules of our economy – even our very democracy – for their own benefit.
Here in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner is a millionaire private equity mogul. For three years he has failed to propose a balanced budget, holding our state hostage. He refused to do his job unless legislators gave in to his demands on unrelated issues, like limiting the freedom of working people to form strong unions and making it harder for injured workers to get medical care.
Rauner also demanded cuts to the modest pensions earned by teachers, police, nurses and other public service workers like me. For 15 years, I’ve provided care for people with severe developmental disabilities, and I’ve paid from every paycheck toward the pension I’m counting on when I retire.
Illinois pensions are modest, just $32,000 a year on average. Since most public service workers aren’t eligible for Social Security, our pension is all many of us will have in what should be our golden years.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arr

 

Creationism support is at a new low. The reason should give us hope.
People aren’t dumping faith. They’re reconciling creationism and evolution in a way that suggests how we can bridge other polarizing divides, including the current health care impasse.
USA Today op-ed by Tom Krattenmaker, communications director at Yale Divinity School

Fundamentalists are vowing to make a last stand for God in Dayton, Tenn., on July 14 when a new statue will be installed on the courthouse lawn. Going up alongside a likeness of William Jennings Bryan is a depiction of Clarence Darrow, Bryan’s pro-evolution adversary in Dayton’s historic Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.
The creationist organizing the protests is threatening to bring in a militia to thwart installation of the Darrow statue, which she calls an insult to God and Christians. It will take a lot more than that, though, to stop Americans’ growing acceptance of evolution and apparent shift away from the strict creationist view of the origin of the species.
New polling data show that for the first time in a long time there’s a notable decline in the percentage of Americans – including Christians – who hold to the “Young Earth” creationist view that humankind was created in its present form in the past 10,000 years, evolution playing no part.
According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, the portion of the American public taking this position now stands at 38%, a new low in Gallup’s periodic surveys. Fifty-seven percent accept the validity of the scientific consensus that human beings evolved from less advanced forms of life over millions of years.
Has atheism taken over so thoroughly? No, and that’s why this apparent break in the creationism-vs.-evolution stalemate is significant and even instructive to those in search of creative solutions to our other intractable public arguments.
As the poll reveals, the biggest factor in the shift is a jump in the number of Christians who are reconciling faith and evolution. They are coming to see evolution as their God’s way of creating life on Earth and continuing to shape it today.

Tenacious anti-evolution resistance continues to influence debates over issues including public school curricula, government support for creationist installations like the Noah’s Ark replica in Kentucky, and research access to national parks.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arp

 

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NATIONAL NEWS
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Like Trump Budget, House Funding Bill Strips Out $2 Billion for Teacher Training
Education Week

The House spending bill that would fund the U.S. Department of Education for the coming budget year seems to mostly ignore the school choice proposals put forward by President Donald Trump and would cut overall spending at the U.S. Department of Education by less that the president proposes.
However, the budget appears to cut Title II funding for teacher training, which currently stands at about $2 billion. That is in harmony with the Trump budget, which also seeks to scrap the program.
The bill, released on Wednesday, would provide $66 billion for the department, down $2.4 billion from the current budget. By contrast, the Trump adminstration wanted a $9.2 billion cut, down to $59 billion. However, at least a few big-ticket K-12 programs are saved from the budget ax. The legislation would not fund the $1 billion public school choice program the president proposed in his fiscal 2018 spending blueprint. Nor does it appear to provide any money to the $250 million in state grants to support private school choice that Trump also sought.
In fact, the Education Innovation and Research program, which the Trump team sought to use to fund the private school choice initiative, would be entirely eliminated in the House bill-right now, EIR gets $100 million.
State grants for special education, meanwhile, would get a $200 million increase from this year (fiscal 2017) up to $12.2 billion, while traditional Title I funding for districts would essentially remain flat at $15.9 billion. Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are seeking a small cut for special education grants, while they sought to keep traditional Title I aid at $14.9 billion, separate from the $1 billion choice program they want under Title I.
Funding for the 21st Century Community Schools Program, which funds after-school and other enrichment activities, would be cut by $200 million in the bill, bringing total aid down to $1 billion.
House appropriators went along with the Trump team’s push to increase charter school grants. But whereas Trump and DeVos want a 50 percent increase for those grants, up to $500 million, the House bill would only provide a $28 million bump up to $370 million.
Also getting an increase from current spending levels: the $400 million Title IV block grant, which would fund a variety of school programs covering everything from ed-tech to student well-being. Trump wants to cut it entirely, but the House bill would increase its funding to $500 million.
Funding for the department’s office for civil rights, which like special education has been the focus of much scrutiny during DeVos’ tenure, would remain essentially flat at $109 million.
The House appropriations subcommittee for education will hold a hearing on the bill Thursday.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ara

http://gousoe.uen.org/arb (WaPo)

http://gousoe.uen.org/arc (USN&WR)

http://gousoe.uen.org/arv (The 74)

 

On Education, The States Ask: Now What?
NPR

The new federal education law is supposed to return to the states greater control over their public schools.
But judging from the mood recently at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States, the states are anything but optimistic about the future, or about the new law.
The apprehension reminded me of the 1989 education summit convened by President George H.W. Bush. Back then the goal was to persuade governors to adopt a set of national education goals. All but a couple of states bought into the idea of “systemic change” with support from the federal government.
The prevailing view was that state and local control of schools wasn’t working. What was needed was a national vision for educating every child, regardless of geography, race, ethnicity, sex, ability or disability across social and economic classes. That vision would drive U.S. education policy for a quarter century, and it was a big part of the No Child Left Behind Act signed by George W. Bush in 2002.
Now, with the new education law, the pendulum has swung back to the states. The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, ostensibly puts them in the driver’s seat.
So why aren’t they happy?
http://gousoe.uen.org/arn

 

Science Is a Team Sport; Showing Students That May Boost Interest in STEM
Education Week

Hollywood’s version of science-the lone genius toiling in the basement, the socially awkward computer engineer-stands in stark contrast to the real life, increasingly team-oriented work in science and engineering fields. A new study suggests correcting that misconception could encourage more American students to engage in science.
Across four different experiments, students in China and India reported more opportunities than U.S. students to work with and connect to others as part of science activities, according to a new article in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Male and female students across all countries who perceived science as a communal activity were more likely to say they wanted to pursue a career in science than those who saw science as a “lone wolf” field. That was true even after taking into account students’ general interest in science.
In a related experiment, U. S. students were shown one of two descriptions of a scientist’s day. One version focused on teamwork while the other highlighted a scientist working on her own. A follow-up study showed students who saw the description focused on collaboration expressed more interest in STEM careers afterward.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ard

A copy of the study
http://gousoe.uen.org/are (Social Psychological and Personality Science) $

 

As Schools Tackle Poverty, Attendance Goes Up, But Academic Gains Are Tepid
Education Week

New York — P.S. 123, a K-8 school in Harlem, had been a chaotic place when Melitina Hernandez arrived as principal in 2013. Students would often run out of class to get attention. Staff members sometimes dodged confrontational parents. The school had old computers and tattered textbooks.
So Hernandez and her staff set out to make big changes with a $4 million grant from the state. They started with upgrading technology and other classroom amenities. They also turned their attention to the needs of the school’s large population of homeless children. Then their efforts kicked into higher gear in 2014 when P.S. 123 became part of New York City’s broad efforts to turn around dozens of low-performing schools by injecting them with a range of health, social-emotional, and academic support services for students and their families.
Nearly three years later, the results at P.S. 123, with its 530 students, offer a small window into what the city’s larger initiative is seeing: an increase in student attendance and family participation in school activities, a drop in chronic absenteeism, but uneven academic progress. Just 17 percent of P.S. 123’s students in grades 3-8 were proficient on the state’s English Language Arts exam in 2016, but in 2015, it had been even lower at 7 percent.
“That’s not a big thing to anyone else, but, in actuality, that’s huge when you work with the demographics that we work with,” Hernandez said.
Flooding impoverished schools with a range of services and resources is not new, and there’s still lively debate in education circles about whether it’s something schools should take on.
http://gousoe.uen.org/aru

 

The only A-rated, majority-black district in Mississippi
Racially integrated Clinton receives top scores
Hechinger Report

CLINTON, Miss. – In 2016, half of all black students in Mississippi attended school in a district rated D or F; 86 percent of the students in those districts were black. In districts rated F, more than 95 percent of the student population was black.
Only one majority-black district in Mississippi earned an A on the state’s annual A-F rating scale. An apparent anomaly on a list of top school districts that is mostly white and largely affluent, including neighboring Madison County and Rankin County Public School districts, Clinton Public Schools managed to excel against the odds. It’s a sign that the Clinton district, located in a small but bustling suburb of Jackson, is on the right track to closing the black-white achievement gap and raising achievement levels for black students.
That gap is wide: Data from the state Department of Education shows the achievement gap between white and black students in Mississippi is 28 percent, larger than the gaps for other traditionally disadvantaged subgroups in the state, including those between English speakers and English-language learners and between students in special education and general education, according to Mississippi Department of Education data. The achievement gap between students who do and do not live in poverty is second highest, at 27 points.
Clinton’s ability to narrow these gaps is due, in part, to the district’s intentional integration. And though Clinton is far from being a post-racial mecca, students and administrators say that effort pays off. There are no black schools or white schools in Clinton. In a district that is about 53 percent black and 39 percent white, children share the same resources, teachers, and the same well-stocked classrooms and school buildings, regardless of their race or economic status.
http://gousoe.uen.org/arf

http://gousoe.uen.org/arg (Jackson [MS] Free Press)

 

Michigan to steer new school workers into 401(k)-only plan
Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law a plan to steer more newly hired school employees into a 401(k)-only retirement benefit instead of one with a pension.
Republicans say Thursday’s move will prevent future underfunding, while teachers unions worry the measure could ultimately lead to closing the pension system entirely to new hires.
Starting Feb. 1, new school workers will be automatically enrolled in a 401(k)-only plan like what state employees receive. They could opt out and instead pay more of their salary toward a pension than current school workers do, assuming more of the risk of underfunding.
New school employees have qualified for both a pension and a small 401(k)-type plan since 2010.
It’s unknown how many new hires will take just the 401(k). Currently, 20 percent do.
http://gousoe.uen.org/ars

http://gousoe.uen.org/arz (Detroit News)

 

Boy sues over arrest for Instagram comment amid clown scare
Associated Press

CINCINNATI – A lawsuit alleges a 12-year-old suburban Cincinnati boy was improperly arrested at school and prosecuted for social media comments goading purported frightening clowns to visit his area as reports of such encounters swirled around the country last fall.
His parents seek unspecified damages in the federal suit against his school district, an officer and prosecutors. They say his Instagram comments made no direct threats, yet authorities handcuffed, suspended and prosecuted him for causing public alarm and harassing the Instagram account’s operator.
The suit challenges the constitutionality of the Ohio harassment law under which the boy’s charged as a juvenile. The now-13-year-old denies the charges.
http://gousoe.uen.org/art

 

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CALENDAR
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UEN News
http://www.uen.org

July 13:

Utah State Board of Education committee meetings
8 a.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City
http://www.boarddocs.com/ut/usbe/Board.nsf/Public

Native American Legislative Liaison Committee meeting
10 a.m., 707 N Main Street, Brigham City
https://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?year=2017&com=SPENAL

July 14:

Utah State Board of Education meeting
8 a.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City
http://www.boarddocs.com/ut/usbe/Board.nsf/Public

July 17:

Administrative Rules Review Committee meeting
9 a.m. 445 State Capitol
https://le.utah.gov/Interim/2017/html/00003112.htm

July 19:

Utah State Charter School Board hearing and meeting
9 a.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City
http://utahpubliceducation.org/2017/07/10/state-charter-school-board-hearing-meeting/#.WWPF3YgrLcs

July 25:

Executive Appropriations Committee meeting
2 p.m., 445 State Capitol
https://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?year=2017&com=APPEXE

July 26:

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting
8:30 a.m., 445 State Capitol
https://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?year=2017&com=APPPED

August 11:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City
http://www.schools.utah.gov/charterschools/State-Board.aspx

August 23:

Education Interim Committee meeting
8:30 a.m., 445 State Capitol
https://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?year=2017&com=INTEDU

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