Archive for March, 2009

Get those kids to school!

Kennesaw passed an ordinance this week to help Cobb County schools cut down on truancy.
Kids can’t hang out in public places during the time they should be in school. They get a warning the first time they’re caught and could face fines and other penalties with repeat offenses.
I often see kids walking around when they should be in school. Yes, some could be home school students, but not all of them.
School officials often say they don’t have the legal authority to stop a child walking around and force them back to school.
When I was a reporter in Florida, I spent a day following around a superintendent. When he saw a kid walking away from a school he stopped the student and made the boy call his mom. She gave the superintendent permission to drag the teen back to school.
Few officials have the time to drive around looking for kids who cut school.
A daytime curfew may help, but what more can be done? Is this something a city should get involved in or do schools need to put …

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Should districts furlough teachers?

Georgia could save more than $190 million if teachers took six days a year off without pay.
The chairman of the House budget committee on education floated the idea yesterday as a way to help districts struggling during the recession. Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) said the savings would go back into systems’ budgets and possibly prevent officials from laying off teachers and other employees.
Other public employees have been forced to take furloughs, including workers at the State Department of Education.
Should teachers face furloughs? What guarantees are there that this would actually save jobs?

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Money for school nurses, teacher health plans

Cross-blog alert: James Salzer over on Gold Dome Live reports that the House will vote on the 2010 budget to include money for school nurses and the 10 percent bonuses for teachers with national board certification. Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed eliminating both to save money.

The House also will vote to maintain current health care costs for teachers and other state employees.

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Economy threatens school choice

A lot of the news about school budget cuts in Atlanta have focused on the layoffs, program eliminations and other slashes done by school districts, like DeKalb and Fayette counties.
But these aren’t the only Georgia programs hurting.
Choice programs – such as charter schools and special education vouchers – are struggling during the recession.
Charters have laid off employees, slashed budgets and put off purchasing new materials and training for teachers. Some organizers postponed opening new charter schools because of the economy.
Parents who receive special education vouchers are getting less because of state cuts in the amount of funding for each public school student. Parents and public school providers say parents are having trouble paying tuition.
Charters and vouchers give parents a choice outside traditional school systems. If these programs are hurting, where can parents and students turn?

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Are Georgia’s schools safe?

Georgia students bring guns and other weapons to school. There have been thousands cases of robbery, physical assaults and drug- and sex-related offenses on public school campuses.
But for the past three years no Georgia public school has declared as unsafe under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The law allows each state to determine what makes a school “persistently dangerous.” Students attending these schools are allowed to transfer to another school. Less than 50 schools nationwide have been listed as persistently dangerous.
For a Georgia school to be persistently dangerous it must meet specific criteria for three consecutive years. This includes at least one or more students committing a violent crime – such as rape, murder or aggravated sexual battery – on campus or at a school-sanctioned event.
Some parents say only using extremely violent incidents hides the unsafe environment that can exist at many schools. They worry about daily fights, drugs on campus and …

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UPDATED: Are things better in Clayton schools?

Updated: Clayton school board members fired Superintendent John Thompson Saturday. Many will see this as a decision board members should have made long ago.

Clayton school board members will send a 180-page report to SACS Monday in an attempt for the troubled district to regain accreditation.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools required the district to meet nine mandates, but the only one met in full is that all board members live in their districts.
The board admits it still has much to accomplish in terms of student achievement, selecting a permanent superintendent and operating with less money because of enrollment declines and cuts in state funding.
Do you think the Clayton board has done enough work to get back accreditation? How do you think the district has changed since it lost accreditation last year?

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UPDATE: Status on education bills

As promised, here is an update on some of the larger education bills. If you need more information on these bills or any others go here.

These passed out of chamber during crossover day:
HB 243: This stops the bonus paid to teachers with national board certification, but grandfathers in teachers who have it or are in the process of getting it. It also takes away the supplement if a teacher moves into administration.
HB 193: Establishes the school year as 180 days or the “equivalent.” The State Board of Education would define “equivalent” but it could let schools set four-day school weeks or stretch the school year so kids attend classes during the summer.
SB 160: Requires schools to close for Veterans Day. (As a side note, a similar bill in the House, HB 3, never made it out of committee.)

These didn’t pass out or never got on the calendar for a vote:
SB 90: Provides taxpayer-funded vouchers for parents to send their child to any public school or private school willing to …

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Four-day school weeks in Georgia?

I’m still making my way though all the education bills the House and Senate voted on yesterday, so I promise to post an update later this morning on some key legislation.
In the meantime, I thought you’d be interested in knowing four-day school weeks could soon become a fixture in Georgia’s public schools.
The House passed HB 193, which would change the 180-day school year requirement so that students must attend school for the number of equivalent hours. (The vote was 155-1 for those of you keeping track.)
Schools could set up four-day school weeks if they want. Or they could stretch the school week to six days and have kids meet for fewer hours each day. They could reconfigure the school year so students don’t the full summer off.
The bill still needs to pass the Senate, but what do you think of the idea? How would you reconfigure the school year?

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Where’s the voucher bill?

I’ve been in State Board of Education meetings this morning and am just catching up with everything happening with crossover day.
SB 90, the universal voucher bill, is not on the Senate calendar for a vote today. Any bill that doesn’t pass out of one chamber to the other by midnight cannot become law this year.
Vouchers could be added as an amendment to another piece of legislation, so don’t bury this issue yet.
Should vouchers should live to see another day?

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The fate of Georgia education bills

Happy crossover day, everyone. If a bill doesn’t pass out of its originating chamber today it’s basically dead until the next session.
Two of the big ones that have yet to pass are the universal voucher bill and a revised HB 243, which would let teachers with national board certification keep their bonuses.
But there are a few others that we haven’t blogged about yet.
HB 208 would require schools to offer a bilingual endorsement for high school graduates starting with July 2011. The state education department would develop the rules (and exams) to determine if students have mastered a second language.
Ideally, the languages students could become fluent in would reflect the needs of Georgia businesses. What do you think of this bill?
Are there any education issues you hoped Georgia Legislators would tackle but they haven’t?

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