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5 States in Crisis: Budget Battles, Court Challenges, Political Bickering Leave Schools Millions Short

The 74 Million – Carolyn Phenicie

“Chicago Schools are laying off 1,000 staff members. In Kansas, schools closed their doors early. And the situation in Oklahoma schools is truly grim. In Oklahoma City Schools, leaders first cut 208 teaching positions, then 92 members of the administrative staff. Fine arts budgets will be cut in half for the upcoming school year, and there will be no money for new library materials. Oklahoma’s Newcastle Public Schools will start charging $100 per student for extracurricular activities — and that’s after district officials have already eliminated most field trips, increased class sizes, delayed a major textbook purchase and moved to a four-day school week. Celebrity talk show host Ellen DeGeneres helped one elementary school librarian in the state’s Union Public School District pay for a summer reading program. Leaders in Tulsa are filling budget holes with a community fundraiser, forebodingly called “SOS” — Save our Schools.”(more)

Feature: Chinese language learning open doors for American students

Xinhua Net – Li Ming and Xu Jing

“When Fuschi was at her first grade in elementary school, her mother got her enrolled in a Chinese language class. “My family was very supportive. Since then, I’ve always loved learning Chinese,” said Fuschi, adding that she hoped to use the language in her future job. “The number of students learning Chinese have boomed since the institute first opened in 2006,” Lu said. “Some kids are learning out of pure interest; others, especially their parents, think the language can be an important skill for future career.” Lu’s words were echoed by many other educators attending the Chinese Language Conference. Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of Asia Society, believed that U.S.-China trade has become a major factor that boosts the heat of Chinese language learning in the United States.”(more)

Looking for an innovation model for your school? Try asking students

E-School News – Stephen Noonoo

“How do you combat student engagement problems and encourage students to take an interest in their own learning? For many schools the answer seems to be some variation of personalized learning, as interpreted by school administrators or outside curriculum savants. For two Chicago-area schools, however, the solution came down to asking students: How do you want to learn? LeViis Haney and Karen Breo, the Chicago-area principals in question, recently spoke about their experiences in reshaping school culture at a panel during the ASU GSV Summit in San Diego, a conference that brings education investors and philanthropists together with educators and ed-tech entrepreneurs. The panel, centered on how schools can go about choosing an innovation model for themselves, brought together a handful of school leaders who had taken part in pilot programs from LEAP Innovations, an organization which helps facilitate that process.”(more)

Illinois launches financial probe into Chicago Public Schools

Reuters – Staff Writer

“The Illinois State Board of Education initiated an investigation Thursday into the “financial stability” of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), a move that builds off Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s call for a state takeover of the cash-strapped district. In a letter to CPS officials, Rauner’s appointed chairman of the state education panel, former state Senator James Meeks, and Illinois state Superintendent of Education Tony Smith set a March 4 deadline for the district to provide a litany of financial records, including three years worth of audits and financial projections, payroll data and “major contracts” that have received annual increases, among other things. “Our sincere hope is that the forthcoming investigation will identify opportunities for actions to be taken that will improve the financial condition of Chicago Public Schools…and, most importantly, result in fiscal stability,” Meeks and Sanders wrote in their letter to CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool and Chicago Board of Education Chairman Frank Clark.”(more)

Report: Lowest-scoring teachers concentrated in poorest schools

Catalyst Chicago – Kalyn Belsha

“Teachers who score the lowest under the district’s relatively new evaluation system are overrepresented in schools with the highest concentration of poor students, according to a new report that looks for the first time at how teachers’ scores correlate with characteristics such as student poverty, teacher race and school climate. Issued Tuesday by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, the report shows that 30 percent of teachers with the lowest observation scores teach in the district’s highest-poverty schools, while just 9 percent teach in lower-poverty schools. Conversely, more than a third of the best-scoring teachers work in lower-poverty schools, and just 6 percent are in the district’s poorest schools.”(more)

Chicago Schools Issue Call for New Charters to Serve Traumatized Students

The 74 Million – Naomi Nix

“These days there are a lot of things that could top Chicago Public Schools’ 2016 wish list. Money, for starters, to help with that teensy weensy $1 billion deficit that may lead to scrapping thousands of teachers jobs. Or maybe political leverage to carry into the negotiating room with the Chicago Teachers Union, which is threatening to again strike over its new contract. But last month, the 400,000-student school system put out a press release asking for something altogether different: more charter schools. The school district, which under state law can collect charter school applications each year, is looking for education leaders to open charter schools as early as the 2017-18 school year. What stands out in this year’s request are the specific types of schools the district is courting, including ones specializing in educating traumatized students and English Language Learners. A crop of new charters won’t help ease longstanding criticism in the city that the schools drain resources from the traditional public school system, but CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said they will give kids well-deserved options.”(more)