Vallejo Times-Herald: Report critical of campus debit cards, including at Solano College

By Sarah Rohrs

Many college students are being nickel-and-dimed and incurring more debt due to bank-affiliated debit cards common at many schools, according to a new federal report.

Nearly 900 campuses nationwide, including Solano Community College, have partnerships with financial institutions to disperse financial aid through debit cards.

The report, “The Campus Debit Card Trap,” by U.S. PIRG, says banks and other financial institutions are taking advantage of partnerships with colleges.

One common problem that report authors identify is that students often pay fees to use foreign ATMs and other services, Cal PIRG consumer advocate Jon Fox said.

via Report finds fault with financial aid debit cards at many college ….

Vallejo Times-Herald: Benicia High alumni share secrets of leadership with current students

By Lanz Christian Bañes

BENICIA — Since her freshman year in high school, Annabelle Prasad has been in leadership positions.

Perhaps that’s why it would only seem so natural that when Benicia High School stopped funding student trips to leadership conferences in 2008, Prasad simply decided to bring leadership conferences back to campus.

“I thought it was a shame,” said Prasad, 21, who developed what’s now known as Panther Camp.

About 40 students are participating in this year’s two-day camp, which started Wednesday and concludes today. Counselors, who lead workshops that include public speaking practice and team building activities, are Benicia alumni, many of whom have also gone through the Panther Camp.

via Benicia High alumni share secrets of leadership with current students.

Education Week: Lawmakers Explore Impact of Automatic Cuts on Education

A set of sweeping, across-the-board trigger cuts set to go into effect in January would be “devastating” to education programs, particularly if Congress decides to spare only defense programs while allowing K-12 cuts to go through, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Democratic lawmakers said at a hearing today.

Right now, domestic spending programs—like education‐and defense programs are supposed to share the pain of the trigger cuts equally, with all programs facing a cut of up about 7.8 percent on January 2, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

But, if Congress reaches some sort of deal that exempts only defense, the cuts to domestic programs would be much steeper, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees education spending, said at hearing today on the impact of the cuts. They could be as high as 17.6 percent, across-the-board, he estimated.

Secretary Duncan said that he “worries gravely” about what such a big cut would mean for the future of the economy.

via Lawmakers Explore Impact of Automatic Cuts on Education.

EdSource Today: What next for Brown’s school finance reform?

By John Fensterwald

A termed-out state senator who’s been a leader on education issues offered advice Wednesday to Gov. Jerry Brown on how to get the Legislature to pass significant school finance reform: Don’t try to jam lawmakers; ally yourself with a respected legislator who’s got more than a couple years left to serve; and implement the reforms gradually, for more buy-in from 1,000 districts that will be asking, “What’s in it for me?”

“Come back through policy process and seek someone (from the Legislature) with a runway in front of them, who can make a commitment over a period of time. That’s a better path to success,” Sen. Joe Simitian, a Democrat from Palo Alto, said at during a panel discussion in Sacramento sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California. Joining him were the architect of Brown’s weighted student formula, State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, and Catherine Lhamon, an advocate for disadvantaged children as director of impact litigation for the Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles. Like Simitian, Lhamon praised Brown’s “courage” in proposing an “excellent concept” but also sharply criticized the governor’s proposal for failing to demand that districts show how they’d spend extra dollars on disadvantaged children. She and Kirst also disagreed Wednesday on this point.

via What next for Brown’s school finance reform? – by John Fensterwald.

Daily Republic Letter: FSUSD free lunch isn’t really free

Dave Renaud


A July 24 article was titled “Free summer meals available to children in Fairfield, Suisun.”

But there is no free lunch. Government programs are paid for by taxes collected from private citizens. Government has no money of its own — whatever it gives away, it must first take from private-sector individuals.

This particular program has a big title: California’s Department of Education’s Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO). It costs money to administer it and to buy the food and bottled water. Someone is paying.

Today, government at all levels is in deep financial trouble due to excessive spending. Yet, programs like this still exist. Do we really need the state to give our kids a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It might be better to teach our kids to be self-reliant. That will come in handy when they become adults. Even a 5-year-old can make a sandwich and pour a glass of tap water. But SSFO will even make a sandwich for a 17- or 18-year-old!

via Free lunch isn’t really free.

California Watch: State board will fight to keep oversight of six Aspire charter schools

Corey G. Johnson

The California Board of Education will contest a recent court order that terminated its oversight of six schools owned by one of the largest charter school companies in the state.

Sue Burr, executive director for the state education board, said she couldn’t comment on the specific reasons for the challenge, but she said that members are “preserving the board’s legal rights while at the same time giving the parties sufficient opportunity to determine if a fair settlement can be reached.”

The board made the decision last week during the closed session portion of its monthly meeting.

In June, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jo-Lynne Lee found that the board improperly awarded Aspire Public Schools rights to bypass local district oversight.

via State board will fight to keep oversight of six Aspire charter schools.

SCOE’s Facebook Wall: Classroom teachers and English language support staff: Register today for SCOE’s English Language Professional Development Strategic Workshops.

Solano County Office of Education’s Facebook Wall

Classroom teachers and English language support staff: Register today for SCOE’s English Language Professional Development Strategic Workshops. For details, see the link below.

via Classroom teachers and English language support staff: Register today for SCOE’s….

The Reporter Editorial: VUSD – Limits to school authority?

When Vacaville Unified School District students return to class in three weeks, they and their parents will learn of a new anti-bullying policy that allows the school district to take action when students harass each other via social media.

Previous state laws regarding cyberbullying didn’t specifically address the matter of posting threats or harassing remarks, pictures or videos on sites such as MySpace, Facebook or YouTube. The Legislature corrected that last year, adding those technologies to its definition of “bullying committed by an electronic act” and stating that schools would be allowed to suspend or expel students who engage in it.

As a result, Vacaville school trustees recently updated the district’s policy to reflect the change.

While schools certainly have the right and responsibility to ensure that students aren’t bullying or being bullied when they are in school, the new law and policy raise questions of how far into the home a school district should be allowed to intrude. Specifically, should schools be able to expel students who post negative material online from their home computers?

via Editorial: Limits to school authority?.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Sutter employees donate supplies to homeless kids

Sutter Health employees, including those at Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, have challenged each other to outdo one another in school supply donations for the county’s homeless youngsters, a spokesman said late last week.

Having heard of the Solano County Office of Education’s Regional Stuff the Bus Campaign, Sutter’s local employees have rallied behind the effort, Sutter Health’s Solano County spokesman Russell “Sy” Neilson said.

The county office of education estimates that more than 1,400 homeless students live in Solano County, finding shelter where they can, Neilson said.

Sutter’s Solano County employees “created a bit of healthy competition among departments,” Neilson said. “Employees have even been emailing pictures to each other of their department’s donation boxes as they fill up and this has encouraged others to step up their donation efforts,” he said.

via Sutter employees donate supplies to homeless kids.

Education Week: New Film Explores Students With Emotional, Behavioral Disabilities

When Kelsey Carroll gets mad, she says, “I don’t think. I just do.” She’s a self-proclaimed “bitch” who says she’s into safety pins, piercings, and tattoos (she has at least five). Life isn’t “Barbies and glitter.”

The reaction of one of the teachers at her high school: “I don’t want that kid in my class.”

Kelsey’s struggles with her ADHD, her anger, and graduating high school—after five years—are the subject of a new documentary, “Who Cares About Kelsey?” which was screened this week at a federal Education Department special education conference.

The movie, by Dan Habib, the filmmaker in residence at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, is intended to show one approach to working with students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Of students with disabilities, students with emotional and behavioral disorders are among the least likely to graduate high school.

via New Film Explores Students With Emotional, Behavioral Disabilities.

Education Week: House Subcommittee Examines Alternative Certification

There’s been a lot of chatter in Washington lately on whether Congress will decide to extend language allowing teachers in alternative-certification programs to be considered “highly qualified” for an additional two years.

The question of how—and whether—the federal government should encourage alternative-certification programs is likely to be an area of debate whenever Congress actually gets around to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. They’re not there yet, not even close, and won’t be for awhile.

So, for now, issues like how to interpret the No Child Left Behind law’s “highly qualified” provision(which includes having a bachelor’s degree in the subject they teach and state certification) are being dealt with in spending bills and regulation. Way more background on the issue here.

In fact, last week, two different coalitions sent letters up to Capitol Hill expressing totally different sentiments on whether Congress should continue to allow teachers in alternative certification to be considered “highly qualified.”

via House Subcommittee Examines Alternative Certification.

EdSource Today: California nearly last in children’s well-being

By Kathryn Baron

California is doing slightly better by its kids but still has a long way to go, ranking 41st out of 50 states in the overall well-being of children. The 2012 Kids Count report, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, measures how well children are faring on 16 different indicators in education, economic well-being, health, and family and community.

California showed improvements in 10 of the 16 categories, including education. The brightest spot is health, where it ranked 23rd, primarily due to good prenatal care and increasing numbers of children with health insurance. But despite some improvements in other categories, the state was near the bottom everywhere else, ranking 42nd in family and community, 43rd in education, and 45th in economic well-being.

“This report shows California is continuing to sell children short,” said Ted Lempert, President of the Oakland-based Children Now, in a written statement.

via California nearly last in children’s well-being – by Kathryn Baron.

EdSource Today: Mum’s the word on California’s request for NCLB waiver

By John Fensterwald

No word yet on California’s application for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. Literally, no word.

At a press conference last week, in which he announced that six more states would get waivers from NCLB sanctions, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan declined to answer a reporter’s question regarding California’s status, according to Education Week. Read into that what you want, but no comment is probably not good news for California’s non-conforming application.

So far, the federal Department of Education has approved waivers for 33 states, with three more in the hopper. Vermont has dropped out and Iowa, for now, has had its application denied. The states with the waivers won’t have to meet the looming demand that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014, and they won’t have to label additional schools as failing to meet targets. In return, they have to create their own plans for turning around the worst-performing schools, describe how they will  meet career and college readiness goals, describe how they would meet the needs of underperforming subgroups of students, and commit to a teacher evaluation system that includes measuring student progress.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board rejected the teacher evaluation requirement as a state mandate for local districts. Instead, they submitted a different, more limited request for a waiver. It calls for changing the state’s Academic Performance Index to improve instruction in schools with the lowest scores and largest achievement gaps.

via Mum’s the word on California’s request for NCLB waiver – by John Fensterwald.

California Watch: Schools offer free summer meals, but few kids eat them

Joanna Lin

At lunchtime at Cambridge Elementary School, you’d never know that the last day of school was more than a month ago. For one month this summer, Monday through Friday, more than 300 kids packed the Concord school’s cafeteria for free lunches.

Most of the kids gobbling up cheese pizza, chicken nuggets and carrots are participating in summer learning programs at the campus. But, as indicated by a big red banner hanging on the school’s fence, anyone 18 years old and younger was invited to the free meals.

“If I see somebody out there, I’ll go drag them in – ‘Go eat! Go in!’ ” said Colleen Ivie, the school’s cafeteria manager.

Still, Ivie said, the school would not have fed nearly as many kids without summer school.

via Schools offer free summer meals, but few kids eat them.

SCOE’s Facebook Wall: Help Solano’s Homeless Youth Get a Good Start to the School Year!

Over the last school year, Solano County schools have identified more than 1,400 homeless students. These young people may be unaccompanied and couch surfing from home-to-home, living on the streets, in shelters, or staying temporarily with family or friends due to a loss of housing or financial problems.

To assist the homeless youth of Solano County, the Solano County Office of Education, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, Educational Partnership Foundation of Solano, and Travis Credit Union are supporting the Regional Stuff the Bus campaign.

Our youth can use: backpacks for all ages (please no solid blue or red colors), alarm clocks, lunch bags, binders, binder dividers, pencils, colored pencils, erasers, paper, highlighters, crayons, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners, flash cards, note pads, pencil pouches, rulers, and calculators.

via Help Solano’s Homeless Youth Get a Good Start to the School Year!

Education Week: Ed. Dept.: Most Automatic Cuts Wouldn’t Affect Coming School Year

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.

via Ed. Dept.: Most Automatic Cuts Wouldn’t Affect Coming School Year.

EdSource Today: Big win in court for ‘parent trigger’ organizers

By John Fensterwald

A Superior Court judge has given the parents in a Mojave Desert town who pulled the state’s second “parent trigger” a milestone victory.

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone ruled that the Adelanto School District trustees illegally rejected the petition submitted by a majority of parents to turn Desert Trails Elementary into a charter school. Malone has given the school board a month to approve the petition, and the parents a green light to immediately begin the charter conversion.

The shakeup at the low-performing school won’t happen until the fall of 2013. And the president of the Adelanto school board, Carlos Mendoza, told the Los Angeles Times that he would recommend that the district appeal the decision.

But Malone’s 13-page ruling, made available on Monday, has revived the campaign of the Desert Trails Parents Union to transform their school. And it has come down squarely on the side of parent organizers in interpreting a key provision of regulations, involving signature withdrawals, that the State Board of Education adopted two years ago governing the Parent Trigger law.

via Big win in court for ‘parent trigger’ organizers – by John Fensterwald.

Daily Republic: Selling Gomer School to a nonprofit is a priority

FAIRFIELD — A Solano County Office of Education advisory committee has concluded that the best fate for the historic Gomer School would be to see it sold or leased to a local nonprofit group.

With the Solano Land Trust showing interest in the half-acre site on Abernathy Road in Suisun Valley, that’s a possibility.

The Office of Education owns the Gomer School site, which includes the 112-year-old, now-vacant one-room schoolhouse, plus some additional, newer buildings. It plans to move the offices it keeps in the newer buildings to the Golden Hills Educational Center and could declare the Gomer School site as surplus property.

An advisory committee for the Gomer School disposition met in the Office of Education headquarters on Business Center Drive Monday. It decided that selling or leasing the property at market value in as-is condition to a nonprofit group should be the top priority. That recommendation will go to the Board of Education at a future date.

via Selling Gomer to a nonprofit is a priority.

EdSource Today: It’s still true: The future tends to happen first in California

by Merrill Vargo

It often seems as if the rest of the nation – and certainly education policymakers in Washington – wants to avert its eyes from California. Many of the large national foundations have stopped or curtailed their investments here, and the federal government seems to have followed suit: California has yet to receive Race to the Top money, there is no word on California’s request for a waiver on NCLB, and when researchers cite “cutting-edge” work, it is usually happening somewhere else. The message we get is that state policy in general and education policy in particular in California is pretty much a mess and until we get our house in order, we shouldn’t expect either any help or any respect. The fact that six million kids go to school here is apparently their tough luck.

via It’s still true: The future tends to happen first in California – by Merrill Vargo.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Solano Community College expands fire academy with more hours

Solano Community College has doubled the length of its fire training program as part of its efforts to better serve employers.

The previous academy consisted of 360 hours but has been expanded to 720 hours. It also has been revamped to include a more advanced curriculum, school officials said.

Vacaville Fire Department Chief Frank Drayton said employers can directly hire cadets after they complete the courses, according to a college announcement.

via Solano Community College expands fire academy with more hours.

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