N.Y. student suspended after controversial Twitter hashtag
A New York high school student was suspended after creating a school budget-related hashtag.
May 26th, 2013
09:50 PM ET

N.Y. student suspended after controversial Twitter hashtag

By Chris Boyette, CNN

(CNN) - An upstate New York student said he got a three-day suspension for creating a controversial Twitter hashtag encouraging discussion of the school district's failed budget.

Pat Brown, a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, says he created #s**tCNSshouldcut to brainstorm ways his school could save money in response to voters on Tuesday rejecting a $144.7 million budget plan. The budget did not receive the 60% voter approval it needed.

Many students were concerned, Brown said, because the school board had warned that if a new budget was not eventually passed, they might have to eliminate athletic programs, other extra-curricular activities and introduce additional administrative cuts, including the elimination of some teacher positions.

The budget is up for a revote on June 18.

"Everyone on Twitter was talking about 'I can't believe the budget didn't pass' and so I created (the hashtag) as a joke, really," Brown told CNN on Friday.

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Filed under: High school • School budgets • Students • Technology
Chicago board votes to close 50 schools
The Chicago Teachers Union, headed by Karen Lewis, opposes the closures.
May 23rd, 2013
03:07 PM ET

Chicago board votes to close 50 schools

By CNN Staff

(CNN) - The Chicago Board of Education voted Wednesday to close 50 schools, a controversial move that drew sharp criticism from the city's teachers union.The vote comes two months after officials announced plans to shutter the schools.

The closures "will consolidate underutilized schools and programs to provide students with the quality, 21st century education they need to succeed in the classroom," Chicago Public Schools said in a statement Wednesday.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposed the closures, which it said would disproportionately affect African-American students.

"Today is a day of mourning for the children of Chicago. Their education has been hijacked by an unrepresentative, unelected corporate school board, acting at the behest of a mayor who has no vision for improving the education of our children," said Karen Lewis, the union's president. "Closing schools is not an education plan. It is a scorched earth policy."

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Filed under: Illinois • School budgets • School closings • teacher unions
New Jersey stepping in to run Camden's troubled schools
"For too long, the public school system in Camden has failed its children," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.
March 25th, 2013
05:06 PM ET

New Jersey stepping in to run Camden's troubled schools

By Laura Ly, CNN

(CNN) - The state of New Jersey is taking over administration of the troubled public schools in the city of Camden, Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday.

A recent Department of Education investigation found Camden city schools are among the lowest-performing in the state, Christie said at a news conference at Woodrow Wilson High School in the city.

"We're taking the lead because for too long, the public school system in Camden has failed its children," he said. "Each day that it gets worse, we're failing the children of Camden, we're denying them a future, we're not allowing them to reach their full potential."

The poor student performance, a lack of a districtwide curricula, inconsistent and haphazard school staffing, lack of central leadership, and a failure to provide student support services has resulted in "full state intervention," the governor's office said in a news release.

Christie said the decision to partner with Camden school officials was not one made easily or quickly.

"I waited three years because I really felt like I wanted to give the folks in the city of Camden the chance without having to enter into a partnership with the state," Christie said.

The issues with student achievement and institutional administration do not stem from a lack of financial support. Camden is receiving more than $279.5 million in state funding, an increase of $3.6 million from last year. During the 2011-12 school year, Camden spent $23,709 per student, compared with the statewide average of $18,045, the governor's office said.

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Filed under: Politics • School administration • School budgets
March 21st, 2013
10:05 PM ET

Chicago to shutter dozens of schools

By Dana Ford and Katherine Wojtecki, CNN

Chicago (CNN) - Chicago school officials said Thursday that they plan to close dozens of schools in a bid to improve education and tackle a $1 billion deficit.

The move would shutter 61 school buildings, including 53 underused schools and one program. The cut represents roughly 10% of all elementary school facilities in Chicago Public Schools, the country's third-largest school district.

"Every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools," said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive officer of CPS.

"As a former teacher and a principal, I've lived through school closings, and I know that this will not be easy, but I also know that in the end this will benefit our children. Like school systems across the country where enrollment has dropped, Chicago must make tough choices, and by consolidating these schools, we can focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school close to their home," she said.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposes the closures, which it says would disproportionately affect African-American students. The union also warns the move would expose students to gang violence and turf wars, an apparent reference to neighborhood loyalties.

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Forced spending cuts slash hope for teachers
Kindergarten teacher Christine Milders worries that forced spending cuts could increase her class size and affect her students.
March 19th, 2013
11:40 AM ET

Forced spending cuts slash hope for teachers

By Jareen Imam, CNN

(CNN) - Inside her Oxford, Ohio, kindergarten classroom, Christine Milders has 24 cubbies, 24 tables and 24 seats. It's a perfect fit for her 24 little students, no more.

But come next fall, she expects that number will grow to 30. That's when forced federal spending cuts, also known as the sequester, will kick in and start chipping away at education funding.

"Where will I put six more students?" Milders asked. "My young learners come to my classroom with little or no school experience. I not only need to meet their academic needs, but their social and emotional needs as well."

The government is set to cut $85 billion through the end of the fiscal year, September 30. Of that money, $2.5 billion will be coming out of the Department of Education's $70 billion budget.

Uncertainties surround how these large cuts will affect schools, because the decisions will be made on the state and local levels. But with budget cuts looming, many teachers like Milders are wondering what's left to cut.

Milders, who has taught kindergarten for 17 years, worries that more cuts to education will not only affect her students' ability to learn and grow, but also fears she will eventually be replaced by a younger and cheaper teacher, as she put it. "It happens often," she said.

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Filed under: Elementary school • Politics • School budgets • Students • Teachers
March 1st, 2013
03:20 PM ET

How forced spending cuts could impact students

(CNN) - Forced spending cuts that take effect today will slice $2.5 billion from the Department of Education's nearly $70 billion budget, CNN's René Marsh reports. At the college level, about 70,000 students could lose work study and grant money. The biggest cuts wouldn't take effect until the 2013-14 school year, and Pell grants will be spared.

At the preschool, elementary and secondary levels, the Department of Education expects a $725 million cut to Title I grants, which Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimates will impact 1.2 million disadvantaged students, and put 10,000 teacher and support staff jobs at risk. States and districts might have to cover the cost of 7,200 teachers, aides and staffers as $600 million is cut from the special education, too. Some 70,000 Head Start students might no longer be able to attend classes.

How might the forced spending cuts affect your school? Share your story on iReport!

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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Politics • School budgets
Forced budget cuts lead to teacher layoffs in W. Virginia? Not quite
Arne Duncan's explanation about a school district's layoffs doesn't get an "A" for accuracy.
March 1st, 2013
11:21 AM ET

Forced budget cuts lead to teacher layoffs in W. Virginia? Not quite

By Jim Acosta, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Education Secretary Arne Duncan says a West Virginia school district is laying off teachers due to deep spending cuts across the federal government set to take effect on Friday. But officials from that region say it's not true.

Duncan told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that the Kanawha County school system was already handing out pink slips in anticipation of the automatic cuts that, among other things, will impact the amount of federal money states get through September.

"Yes, there's a district where it's happened. But, again, it's just because they have an earlier union notification than most – Kanawha County, West Virginia," Duncan said at the latest White House briefing where Cabinet officers detailed the impact of cuts under the so-called congressional sequester to their agency programs.

"Whether it's all sequester-related, I don't know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now," he added.

But Diane Young, the coordinator of the Head Start program for Kanawha County Public Schools, cautioned that Duncan's explanation does not get an "A" for accuracy.

Young blamed Head Start. She said the federal program for needy children has yet to notify the school system whether it will have Head Start money in the fall.

"The Board of Education cannot wait that long for the funds to come through," Young said.

Read the full post from CNN's Political Ticker blog

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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Politics • School budgets
November 29th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

How education could plunge off the 'fiscal cliff'

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Sequestration: The word strikes fear in the hearts of school boards and administrators nationwide, and with good reason.

What does it mean? The term refers to the across-the-board budget cuts that will automatically occur in federal programs in January 2013, unless Congress reaches an agreement by the end of this year on reducing the deficit.

What kind of cuts will this mean for education?

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) estimates the reductions would amount to over $4 billion. That would plunge education funding into pre-2003 levels, according to the National Education Association.

Why is that so scary? Part of the reason is that America’s schools have added 5.4 million new students to their rolls since 2003, and costs have risen about 25%. Budget cuts triggered by the fiscal cliff could potentially affect millions of students and teachers by reducing programs and services and increasing class sizes.

According to Deborah Rigsby, director of federal legislation for the National School Boards Association, if sequestration happens, each school district could lose more than $300,000 for every 5,000 children enrolled.

“Sequestration would hurt our school districts and ultimately, our students,” said Rigsby on a conference call Wednesday.

Not all of the effects would be immediate, although some federal programs, such as Title I, Head Start, and state special education funding would feel the impact of the cuts right away. Schools that receive Impact Aid funding would also experience immediate cuts.

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Filed under: Fiscal cliff • Policy • Politics • School budgets • Sequestration