July 30, 2019

Disability accommodations for schoolwork and testing are not distributed equally across the socioeconomic spectrum, The New York Times reports.

More students than ever in the United States are reportedly securing disability diagnoses, which often allow them to receive extra time for class work and tests, including standardized tests like the ACT and SAT which have bearing on college acceptance. The Times reports that in the country's wealthiest school districts students are obtaining 504 plans — a federal disability designation — at higher rates.

For example, while analyzing Department of Education data, the Times found that in the top 1 percent of wealthiest districts, 5.8 percent of students held a 504 plan, which is twice the national average. In some communities, like Weston, Connecticut, where the average annual income is $220,000, the rate was as high as 18 percent. Meanwhile, in the Cleveland Metropolitan School district, less than 1 percent of students had obtained a 504 plan. Further, a larger percentage of white students held a 504 plan than any other race.

The data does not include private schools, but in some areas, private school students reportedly are even more likely to qualify for accommodations.

The Times reports that while cases of outright fraud are rare, the system is vulnerable to abuse, in part because private mental health practitioners can operate with limited oversight. But speculation about gaming the system aside, the Times reports that the disparity more broadly represents unequal access to resources. Tim O'Donnell

November 4, 2017

After four current and former female members of Congress reported experiencing sexual harassment by fellow lawmakers, leaders from both major parties have called for sexual harassment training in Congress.

"Each of us has a responsibility to ensure a workplace that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation," wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a letter to colleagues Friday that urged them to undergo training and require it of their staff. "We can and should lead by example."

Also Friday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced a forthcoming proposal to update how sexual misconduct is handled on the Hill. "We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers," she said. Bonnie Kristian

February 8, 2016

The White House announced a plan Monday to expand the federal government's ability to investigate and discipline colleges accused of fraud, The Wall Street Journal reports. President Obama seeks $13.6 million from Congress, which would factor into the fiscal year 2017 budget.

Under the plan, the Education Department is forming a Student Aid Enforcement Unit to broaden the types of investigations the federal government already does. It's considered part of the administration's promise to aid Americans grappling with student debt.

Both public and private schools will be subject to investigations for deceiving students with false promises. Julie Kliegman

December 21, 2015

More than one million children in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger are unable to attend school due to Boko Haram's insurgency across the region.

"It's a staggering number," Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF's West and Central Africa Regional Director, said in a statement. "The conflict has been a huge blow for education in the region, and violence has kept many children out of the classroom for more than a year, putting them at risk of dropping out of school altogether."

On Monday, UNICEF announced that about 600 teachers have been killed in Nigeria due to the conflict, which has displaced millions of people, and just one of the 135 schools that closed down in northern Cameroon re-opened this year, Time reports. Already, 11 million children don't have access to an education in the region, and in an attempt to get some kids learning, UNICEF has distributed educational materials to 132,000 children and set up temporary school spaces for 67,000. The agency said it has only received 44 percent of the funding it needs to provide humanitarian relief for children in the area. Catherine Garcia

December 1, 2015

A bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill this week repealing key elements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Bush-era education program that has been widely criticized for its transfer of educational authority to the federal government and emphasis on standardized testing.

The new bill is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and it will continue standardized testing but return significant discretion in these programs to the states. The federal government will also be completely removed from the teacher evaluation process, in contrast with the NCLB waiver program.

ESSA has been endorsed by the National Governor's Association, and it is anticipated to pass in the Senate and win the president's signature by the end of 2015. See more details of what the bill will entail here. Bonnie Kristian

October 8, 2015

On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill that will require school districts to award diplomas to thousands of people who met all of their high school requirements but one.

SB 172 takes effect in January, and will ensure that those who failed the California High School Exit Exam in 2004 or later but met all other graduation requirements will receive their diplomas, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The bill also suspends the exam as a graduation requirement for current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school. People who failed the exam could take it again after they left high school, as long as they were enrolled in community college or adult school. The California Department of Education does not keep track of who passed the exam after high school, but does know that from 2006 to 2014, 32,000 students failed to pass while in high school.

The exam, which tests proficiency in 8th grade math and 10th grade English, was established in 2004, and became mandatory for graduation in 2006. Recently, educators argued that the test was outdated, as students are now learning Common Core standards. Chris Funk, superintendent of San Jose's East Side Union High School District, told the Mercury News the exam "never had the coherence we need in a state accountability system. I'm happy that it was dropped." Catherine Garcia

April 6, 2015

Now that's a work perk: On Monday, Starbucks announced that instead of covering two years of college tuition for employees, it is doubling the benefit to four years.

The company is partnering with Arizona State University's online degree program to offer all eligible full-time and part-time employees tuition reimbursement for a four-year bachelor's degree, USA Today reports. ASU Online offers 49 undergraduate degree programs with the average tuition setting a student back $60,000 over four years. Starbucks is planning to invest at least $250 million in the project, with the goal of helping at least 25,000 employees graduate by 2025.

More than 144,000 employees currently qualify for the program, almost 2,000 are already enrolled, and they do not have to stay with the company after receiving their degrees. "By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition coverage, we provide them with a critical tool for a lifelong opportunity," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement. "We're stronger as a nation when everyone is afforded a pathway to success." Catherine Garcia

January 6, 2015

Colorado doesn't mind if you smoke pot — as long as you do it safely.

State health officials have announced a $5.7 million public campaign to educate residents about marijuana safety. The "Good to Know" campaign will use a "bright, neighborly approach" to promote responsible marijuana use, according to Dr. Larry Wolk, the state's chief medical officer.

The new campaign is a departure from previous approaches that tried to deter pot use among teens. Colorado's former "Don't Be a Lab Rat" campaign was widely criticized for echoing "Just Say No" messages and demonizing the drug.

"We need to start treating marijuana like the drug it is, not the drug some fear it to be," Rep. Jonathan Singer (D), who sponsored the legislation to tax recreational marijuana purchases, told The Associated Press. Meghan DeMaria

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