Dan Walters: Jerry Brown may be the issue in California’s tax initiative duel

Gov. Jerry Brown released an Internet ad the other day, asking voters to embrace his multibillion-dollar tax increase.

But the word “tax” is nowhere to be found. The closest Brown or other speakers in the tightly scripted ad come to the T-word is “new revenues.” Mostly, it touts Brown’s efforts to cut state spending and declares – wrongly – that the state’s credit rating has improved.

“We’ve made progress, but we still have very serious budget problems in California,” Brown says in the ad. “We simply have to take a stand against further budget cuts for schools or for our public safety. To do that, we’re going to the people.”

Opponents of Proposition 30, which would raise sales taxes slightly on everyone, and income taxes sharply on high-income Californians, don’t shy away from “tax.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/07/31/4676346/dan-walters-jerry-brown-may-be.html#mi_rss=Dan%20Walters#storylink=cpy

via Dan Walters: Jerry Brown may be the issue in California’s tax initiative duel.

Education Week: On Special Education – Feds Pledge More Focus on Outcomes for Students With Disabilities

Federal special education officials on Monday reaffirmed a pledge to focus more on how special education students are faring, rather than almost exclusively concentrating on whether states are technically upholding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

At the IDEA Leadership Conference, Melody Musgrove, the director of the office of special education programs, shared trends on students’ performance on state assessments and on dropout rates for students with disabilities, which have been largely unchanged for the past few years.

“We’re proposing a new way to be held accountable in special ed,” Musgrove said.

While federal monitoring of some specific issues has improved states’ work in those areas, said Ruth Ryder, deputy director of the office of special education programs, focusing almost exclusively on compliance with the law hasn’t made much of a difference where it counts: those test scores and dropout rates, among other measures.

via Feds Pledge More Focus on Outcomes for Students With Disabilities.

California Watch Report: California school facilities need funding, roadmap

Joanna Lin

More than 6.2 million students attend K-12 public schools in California, but the conditions of the classrooms they sit in, playgrounds they run on and cafeterias they eat in are largely unknown. Unlike 22 other states in the country, California does not have a statewide inventory of its public school facilities.

Creating a statewide inventory of public school facilities was among several recommendations made in a state-commissioned report released last week. The report [PDF], by UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities & Schools, highlighted an issue with which state and school officials have long grappled: How do we know the facility needs of our nearly 10,000 public schools?

“If the governor issued an executive order to improve the 100 worst-condition school buildings, no one could really bring him the list,” said Jeffrey Vincent, lead author of the report and deputy director of the center. “The state’s almost shooting in the dark, frankly.”

By considering projected K-12 enrollment and existing facilities’ modernization and maintenance needs, Vincent found that California schools will need $117 billion and policy changes over the next decade to ensure their facilities are safe, modern, equitable and sustainable learning environments. In order to be strategic with those funds, he said, California must be able to identify what and where the facilities needs are.

via Report: California school facilities need funding, roadmap.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Vallejo school board to discuss kindergarten curriculum

The Vallejo school board will hold a public hearing Wednesday about the adoption of a transitional kindergarten curriculum.

Transitional kindergarten, often abbreviated as “TK,” is a new grade the Vallejo City Unified School District is offering. It precedes traditional kindergarten, and is designed to help children who might not be ready for traditional kindergarten.

Transitional kindergarten is a state mandate, though when the school board voted to adopt the new grade, lawmakers were still wrangling on whether to follow Gov. Jerry Brown’s lead and nix the requirement.

via Vallejo school board to discuss kindergarten curriculum.

Daily Republic: Solano College to consider $348 million bond measure


FAIRFIELD — Hoping to improve the current facilities and plan for the future needs, a $348 million bond measure for Solano Community College will likely be considered midweek by board members.

Superintendent-President Jowel Laguerre will recommend the approval of the bond measure for the November ballot at Wednesday’s meeting of the college district’s Board of Trustees. The proposal is $18.99 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Dubbed the “Solano Community College Classroom Repair, Safety and Job Training Measure” for now, it would address buildings on the campus built in 1971. Classrooms, labs and libraries would be replaced. There would also be modernization of the nursing, firefighter and biotechnology job training centers. The measure would also fund technology upgrades as well as improve energy efficiency.

The measure will go to voters in Solano County except Rio Vista, which is out of the college’s service area. Voters in Winters will also see it on the ballot. It will need a 55 percent voter approval and will come with independent audits as well as a citizen’s oversight committee, according to staff reports.

via Solano College to consider $348 million bond measure.

The Reporter Editorial: New Bond for Solano College?

Solano Community College trustees face a tough call this Wednesday: Should they go to voters in November and ask them to approve another bond measure to upgrade and expand buildings and programs at all three campuses, or would they be better off waiting a while?

There are good reasons to seek a bond. The district has been updating its Education Master Plan and has identified facilities that need to be upgraded or expanded to accommodate its educational programs.

Take the Vacaville campus, for instance. Its proximity to biotech firms here makes it the logical place to develop a biotech center, as SCC Superintendent/Pres-ident Jowell Laguerre explained during a meeting with The Reporter Editorial Board last week.

Not only would students benefit from expanding that program, now based at the Fairfield campus, it also would allow the college to partner more easily with biotech companies to provide employee training. And proceeds from that training could be used to cover SCC expenses the state no longer funds.

via Editorial: New Bond for Solano College?.

The Reporter Opinion: Dueling Ballot Measures: No easy choices when it comes to education funding

By John Niederkorn, Ph.D.

Make no mistake. California public schools — the programs, services and quality of service to students — are being diminished because of the continued reductions of state funding. This reduction began about three decades ago, but since 2008, with the advent of the California fiscal crisis, state funding of our schools has dropped precipitously. California is now among the five lowest states for per-pupil funding, and our student academic performance mirrors this level of support.

In the absence of effective state legislative leadership in support of public education, two tax initiatives have qualified for the November ballot. Proposition 30 is “The Schools and Local Public Safety and Protection Act of 2012,” or the governor’s tax initiative. This initiative provides for a 1/4 percent sales tax increase for four years, and a tiered income tax increase for high-income earners (above $250,000) for seven years.

The total tax revenues generated are projected to be $8.5 billion in 2012-13, and then $6.5 billion thereafter. Of these additional tax revenues, $2.9 billion is obligated to K-14 public education; the remaining funds to support other state General Fund obligations.

This “flat funding” proposal stabilizes public education funding for 2012-13. But it does not begin to rebuild the staffing, program or services that have been reduced or eliminated in recent years.

via Dueling Ballot Measures: No easy choices when it comes to ….

Education Week: Text-to-Speech App Now Features Children’s Voices

For the first time, children who cannot speak or who have speech impairments and use the text-to-speech app Proloquo2Go will sound a little more like how they might, if they could talk.

The app, for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, allows children to tap words and icons and form sentences that the devices read aloud. Although about 60 percent of the app’s user base has been children about 12 and younger, the voices provided by the app were those of adults. Other products have offered high-pitched versions of adult voices, or some that sounded like cartoon characters. This is believed to be the first using real children’s voices.

But using kids’ voices has been impractical: It requires finding children who can spend hours in the studio recording words and phrases, children whose accents aren’t too regional, whose voices sound pleasant, and in the case of the British version, not too posh, said David Niemeijer, founder and chief executive officer of AssistiveWare, which sells his creation. Adults who are trained voice artists are simply easier to find and work with.

He said there was one driving force behind the addition of children’s voices to his popular product, which has been downloaded tens of thousands of times. The children who use it, many of whom have disabilities including autism, Down syndrome, deafness, and cerebral palsy, already stand out.

via Text-to-Speech App Now Features Children’s Voices.

EdSource Today: Educational differences run deep by race, ethnicity, and income in new report

By Kathryn Baron

California’s poor showing in a national study of children’s well-being came despite increases in academic achievement. California students improved on all four indicators in education, according to the 23rd annual Kids Count report released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Between 2005-07 and 2008-10, more children enrolled in preschool, more fourth and eighth grade students were proficient in reading and math respectively, and more high school students graduated on time. The increases ranged from four to six percent. But it wasn’t enough to lift the state above an education ranking of 43 out of the 50 states.

California fared little better in its overall score, coming in at 41 based on its performance in all four categories scored by Kids Count. In addition to education, the report examined economic well-being, health, and family and community.

The four categories are generally intertwined, so new research indicating that family income has trumped race and ethnicity as a potential cause of the education achievement gap may be part of the reason California did so poorly. Nationwide, the gap between socioeconomic level and academic achievement is “nearly twice as large as the Black/white achievement gap,” wrote Stanford education professor Sean Reardon in his study The Widening Academic Achievement Gap Between the Rich and the Poor. “That’s the opposite of what it was 50 years ago.”

via Educational differences run deep by race, ethnicity, and income in new report – by Kathryn Baron.

Daily Republic Opinion: FSUSD school bus decision a welcome relief

It’s a perilous trek to and from school. I mean that as much for children and their parents as I do for the men and women we elect, and who they then hire, to run the schools themselves.

For many children, being able to walk to and from school is a rite of passage, a tacit acknowledgement by parents that a child is growing up and can handle additional responsibility. As parents, we try to teach responsibility. We challenge our children when they fall short. Eventually, in incremental steps, we must accept that our children are more and more capable of taking care of themselves.

The goal is for our children to be self-sufficient, to have the knowledge, tools and experience to succeed in life. Call it the circle of life, if you will.

For me, walking to and from school was one of those rites of passage.

via School bus decision a welcome relief.

Daily Republic: Community helps homeless students start school year well

FAIRFIELD — While many Solano County students shop for new binders, highlighters and tricked-out backpacks, there’s a small percentage of youths who need all those things and more but can’t afford or don’t have access to them.

Becky Cruz, of the Solano County Office of Education, in 2011 said they identified 1,400 homeless youths in the county and, as of this January, there were 1,200 documented homeless students in the county. While the numbers since then aren’t in yet, she believes the number of homeless students this year has grown.

As the school year approaches, Cruz and her staff at the Solano County Office of Education saw the need that homeless students have, not just for basic necessities but for supplies they needed to start school off right.

Her staff helps homeless and foster students find necessary support services, educational services, shelter and more.

via Community helps homeless students start school year well.

California Progress Report: School Reform: Why It’s So Hard

By Peter Schrag

Listening to even the best people in California’s school reform discussions doesn’t leave much clarity about the direction our money-starved education system school go or much confidence that things will get perceptibly better any time soon.

Many of those good people know what’s needed. It’s just that they don’t all know the same thing, or don’t know it at the same time. That much at least was apparent once again at last Wednesday’s Sacramento forum on school finance sponsored by PPIC, the Public Policy Institute of California.

What they agreed on was that the fixes of the last thirty or forty years – what state School Board Michael Kirst called “the historical accretion” of programs – wasn’t working. It’s become, someone said, “the Winchester Mystery House” of school finance, rooms added willy-nilly to solve one or another problem.

Neither the policy makers nor the reformers are entirely – or maybe even mostly – to blame. In a state that now ranks in the bottom ten nationwide in school spending, and among the lowest in the ratio of teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians per pupil there’s a long list of suspects. When a questioner at the PPIC forum asked what we mostly needed, someone stage-whispered, “more, more, more.”

via School Reform: Why It’s So Hard.

CA Dept of Education: Path Toward More Modern Schools

OAKLAND—As the need for new school construction slows over the next decade, California should refocus on updating and replacing aging school buildings with schools designed to be more environmentally friendly and better suited to the needs of the next generation of students, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, report released today by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

The UC Berkeley Center for Cities & Schools prepared the report, titled “California’s K-12 Educational Infrastructure Investments: Leveraging the State’s Role for Quality School Facilities in Sustainable Communities.” The full report is available online at http://citiesandschools.berkeley.edu/reports/CCS2012CAK12facilities.pdf.

In the report, authors analyze California’s K-12 infrastructure policies, regulations, and funding patterns before providing recommendations that re-envision the state’s traditional construction role in K-12 infrastructure as one of modernizing facilities, supporting 21st century education, and contributing to more sustainable communities.

“California has a lot to learn about building the schools of the future—and the time to get started is now,” Torlakson said. “The way we build and maintain schools over the next generation will of course make a huge difference to our 6.3 million public school students and to the teachers and school employees who serve them. But our schools matter in other ways as well: as community centers and leaders in sustainability. That means that every dollar we invest in our school facilities is a dollar that can change the future of our state.”

via Path Toward More Modern Schools.

SCOE’s Facebook Wall: The first week of SCOE’s STEM++ Summer Institute for kindergarten through sixth grade teachers was a great success!

Solano County Office of Education’s Facebook Wall

The first week of SCOE’s STEM++ Summer Institute for kindergarten through sixth grade teachers was a great success! STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The Institute was designed to train teachers on how to engage students in their education through research, real world problem solving, and authentic contemporary scenarios. Participants learned about the common core state standards, the 21st century classroom, connecting via social networks, cell phones in the classroom, project-based learning, and more. The Institure was co-sponsored by the Educational Partnership Foundation of Solano, UC Davis Extension, Travis Air Force Base, School Improvement Network, Pearson, and the Energy Coalition. The STEM++ Summer Institute continues next week for middle and high school teachers!

via The first week of SCOE’s STEM++ Summer Institute for kindergarten through sixth….

Vallejo Times-Herald: Small Vallejo public school to focus on kids with learning disabilities

A planned — and tiny — Vallejo private school that caters to children with learning abilities will hold an information session Monday.

The Learning Inspiration Academy, directed by former Vacaville special education teacher Jackie Jones, will cap out at 20 students.

Jones is also part of the Kids Educational & Mental Health Network, which is launching the school.

“What we’re doing is taking these kids that are falling behind, and our goal is to really get them … caught up with whatever they’re missing,” said Thelma Welch, who heads up the Kids Educational & Mental Health Network.

via Small Vallejo public school to focus on kids with learning ….

Vallejo Times-Herald: Solano College head to seek $350 million bond ballot measure

By Robin Miller The Reporter, Vacaville

Solano Community College President Jowel Laguerre has confirmed that he will ask the college board of trustees next week to place a huge bond measure on the November ballot.

While the final amount of the proposed measure will be up to the board, Laguerre said he will be recommending that it be in the range of $348 million to $350 million.

“This is something we have been contemplating for some time,” Laguerre said. Indeed, a year ago the board first put out requests for a bond counsel and campaign consultant for a possible bond measure.

If voters approve, the new bond would pay for expansion of programs and more building improvements at SCC’s three campuses, Laguerre said.

via Solano College head to seek $350 million bond ballot measure.

Education Week: Special Education Could Suffer Billion-Dollar Automatic Cut

Across-the-board federal budget cuts could take a nearly $1 billion bite out of federal special education spending, with the bulk of that representing state grants for the education of school-age children with disabilities.

The automatic cuts, or sequestration, could come in January if Congress doesn’t come up with a way to put the country on firmer fiscal footing, as my colleague Alyson Klein explains over at the Politics K-12 blog.

At a hearing this week in the Senate, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the education committee, shared a list of possible reductions that would be made to education and other programs if the automatic cuts are triggered in January.

via Special Education Could Suffer Billion-Dollar Automatic Cut.

Daily Republic: FSUSD Board approves limited school transportation program

FAIRFIELD — Students in the Fairfield-Suisun School District will be able to take the bus to school next year after all.

After initially cutting school bus transportation entirely, the governing board voted Thursday to bring back limited home-to-school transportation.

The School District received transportation funding, identified as “flexible funding,” from the state in May, according Assistant Superintendent Kelly Morgan.

via Board approves limited school transportation program.

Daily Republic: Two fires at Vacaville school Thursday leave minor damage

VACAVILLE — Two separate fires broke out at Eugene Padan Elementary School Thursday causing minor structural damage, according to Vacaville Fire Department Acting Battalion Chief Steve Bowman.

The first fire was reported in the afternoon in a play area at the school. Firefighters were able to control it quickly, Bowman said.

Fire dispatch received calls about a second fire burning a roof at the school at about 7:30 p.m.

via Two fires at Vacaville school Thursday leave minor damage.

KQED MindShift: Video Game Portal Enters the Classroom

By Andrew Miller

Video game company Valve is going deep into the education world with a new initiative using Steam, their free online game platform where users can download games and communicate and play with other players. The initiative is called Steam for Schools, and a free educational version is now available to teachers to use in the classroom.

What makes it unique for schools is that all functionality unrelated to education is disabled and only certain games are made available for teachers and students.

The first major games used in Steam for Schools are Portal and Portal 2. In the games, the main character solves puzzles and problems in a three-dimensional world. As it’s explained on the site: “Players primarily interact with the world by using a hand-held portal device to place interconnected portals on walls, floors, or ceilings. Once a pair of portals is positioned any object entering through one portal will exit though the other.” In addition to these two versions of the game, there’s also a Portal Puzzle Maker, whereby teachers can make their own puzzles for students to solve.

via Video Game Portal Enters the Classroom.