After a few weeks’ delay, the 2017 online state standardized test scores are in, and most Vacaville-area school districts posted results that met or exceeded Solano County and state averages but largely remained the same as last year’s, reflecting the latest state averages, several administrators said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Wednesday the results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests in English and mathematics, noting, in a prepared statement, that they
“remained steady and retained the strong gains students made in 2016.”
Federal lawmakers have agreed to relatively small spending increases for Title I programs to districts and for special education, as part of a budget deal covering the rest of fiscal 2017 through the end of September.
Title I spending on disadvantaged students would rise by $100 million up to $15.5 billion from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2017, along with $450 million in new money that was already slated to be shifted over from the now-defunct School Improvement Grants program.
And state grants for special education would increase by $90 million up to $12 billion. However, Title II grants for teacher development would be cut by $294 million, down to about $2.1 billion for the rest of fiscal 2017.
The bill would also provide $400 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, also known as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Title IV is a block grant that districts can use for a wide range of programs, including health, safety, arts education, college readiness, and more.
Six Solano schools have been designated as California Gold Ribbon Schools, the county Office of Education reported Wednesday.
Armijo, Benicia and Elise P. Buckingham Charter Magnet high schools were selected by the state Department of Education for the honor, as were the Public Safety Academy, and the Benicia and Green Valley middle schools.
Additionally, Benicia Middle School received an award for being a Title I Academic Achieving School.
Increased breakfast and lunch prices at middle schools and high schools, contracts for parking lot, field and portable classroom expansion at two schools, and reviews of Title 1 (federal funding) programs at two schools are on the agenda when Fairfield-Suisun Unified leaders meet tonight.
Trustees are expected to approve the meal price increases, effective July 1, that call for breakfast prices to rise from $1.50 to $1.75 and lunch prices to rise from $3 to $3.25 at the district’s secondary schools. Breakfasts and lunches served at elementary schools will remain the same for the time being, however.
According to agenda documents, Margan Holloway, director of child nutrition services, noted U.S. Code 1760 requires schools to charge students not eligible for the free and reduced-price meal program a price that is, on average, equal to the difference between free meal reimbursement and paid meal reimbursement.
National K-12 and higher ed news came fast and furious this week. Here are our highlights to help you keep on top.
The president’s “skinny budget” has cuts for education
The biggest story of our week happened early Thursday morning when President Trump released his budget outline, historically known as a “skinny budget” because it has few details.
The U.S. Department of Education came in for a $9 billion, or 13.5 percent, cut.
During Trump’s campaign, he promised $20 billion for school choice. His 2018 budget is the first small step in that direction, increasing charter school funding by two-thirds, funding an unspecified new “private school choice program,” and adding another $1 billion for Title I, which helps fund high-poverty schools. That Title I money would be earmarked to “encourage” school choice.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced additional honors for 508 of the 779 elementary schools that were recognized as Gold Ribbon Schools.
Thirty-five of those Gold Ribbon Schools have been selected as having an Exemplary Program in Arts Education or Physical Activity and Nutrition. Schools applied separately for those honors.
Additionally, Gold Ribbon Schools that are also Title I schools were recognized as Academic Achieving Schools. This distinction is given only to schools receiving federal Title I funds that aid in meeting the educational needs of students living at or below the poverty level. The list of recognized schools follows at the end of this press release.
“I’m delighted to honor these schools and programs, which are doing a tremendous job preparing our students for 21st century opportunities and graduating lifelong learners in the process,” Torlakson said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today that the federal government has granted California flexibility on rules regarding Supplemental Educational Services (SES) for the 2016–17 school year, the last year those rules would have been in effect.
SES funds are used to provide tutoring or other academic instruction outside the regular school day for academically deficient students at certain Title I schools, which have high numbers and high percentages of low-income students. Programs are often away from school grounds and require travel.
The decision, contained in a letter from the U.S. Department of Education last week, allows California school districts to have the flexibility to make their own decisions about how to spend an estimated $233 million in SES and transportation funds for public school choice. The estimate is based on the amount of funding allocated by California districts this year: $222 million for SES and $11 million for transportation.
Students receiving accommodations under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act—a law that predates the Individuals with Disabilities Act and creates a more expansive definition of disability than the IDEA—are more likely to be white, male, and enrolled in a school that is not eligible for Title I funds, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data published in the Aug. 7 edition of the Journal of Disability Policy Studies.
(Note: The abstract of the study, linked above, gives an incorrect summary of the racial breakdown of “504 plan” students. The lead author of the study said in an interview that the abstract will be corrected.)
Students covered under Section 504 could have a variety of disabling conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, diabetes or mobility impairments. The overall percentage of students who are given accommodations under Section 504 is small, however; about 1 percent of all students, according to the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection. This compares to about 12 percent of all students who are covered under the IDEA.
The 2014 California Title I Conference, “Transforming Times,” is scheduled for March 25–26, 2014, in Burlingame, California. The purpose of the conference is to provide a forum for sharing strategies that enhance equitable teaching and learning experiences for students, as well as to provide updates and ideas for effective planning and implementation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
But it’s not the only penalty that U.S. Department of Education has at its disposal.
In the press call last week announcing that Kansas, Oregon, and Washington are on “high-risk status” for teacher-evaluation woes linked to their waivers, federal officials said there could be some financial penalties, which could lead up to the ultimate loss of the waiver. (That’s if the states fail to get back on track.)
So now that school districts are coping with a 5 percent across-the-board cut to all federal programs, thanks to sequestration, many advocates are asking the department for what they see as the next best thing to more money: Greater flexibility with the funds they actually have.
For instance, advocates are wondering how the cuts will affect maintenance of effort, which requires states and districts to keep their own spending up at a certain level in order to tap federal funds. Do they get a break because they’re getting less Title I and special education money?
If the series of federal budget cuts called sequestration begins Friday, as expected, Benicia Unified School District could face a loss of $70,000 in federal funds, said Timothy Rahill, the district’s chief business official.
The district could lose as much as $15,000 in Title I funds alone, Rahill said. Title I funding is given to schools to improve the education of disadvantaged, low-income students.
“The Title I programs would cut back on supplementary items like books and instructional supplies, and possibly some instructional assistant time,” Rahill said.
Less than a week after presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney tapped Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to warn the nation of the potentially dire impact of Ryan’s budget on K-12 funding.
The Ryan plan, which has been approved twice by the U.S. House of Representatives, would result in a $2.7 billion cut to Title I grants for disadvantaged students. That cut alone could result in 38,000 job losses, the White House reported.
“That’s backwards. That’s wrong. That plan doesn’t invest in our future; it undercuts our future,” said President Obama. “If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible—from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career.”
Gov. Mitt Romney this morning announced that he’s tapping Rep. Paul Ryan , R-Wis., for vice president, a move that puts the debate over how best to put the nation’s fiscal house in order front-and-center in the presidential campaign.
Ryan’s controversial budget blueprint, which has been passed by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, would seek big cuts to discretionary spending (which includes most education programs). In fact, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the budget could have “disastrous consequences for America’s children.”
Districts and state officials who have lost sleep worrying that key federal education progams might be cut smack in the middle of the coming school year can calm down, at least according to a letter the U.S. Department of Education sent out to chief state school officers late Friday.
Title I grants to districts, special education state grants, career and technical education, and Title II grants for teacher quality wouldn’t be cut in the middle of the school year even if the automatic federal spending cuts triggered by last year’s deficit-reduction deal take place, Anthony Miller, the deputy secretary of education at the department, wrote.
“There is no reason to believe that a sequestration would affect funding for the 2012-13 school year,” he wrote.
Some background: If Congress doesn’t get its act together, an across-the-board cut to almost all domestic programs (“sequestration” in Inside-the-Beltway speak) is set to take place on Jan. 2. Lots of state and district officials were very concerned that this could spell cuts to big federal programs—including Title I grants for districts and special education—halfway through the next school year. More on advocates’ angst over the cuts here.