GOP health-care bill could strip public schools of billions for special …

School superintendents across the country are raising alarms about the possibility that Republican health care legislation would curtail billions of dollars in annual funding they count on to help students with disabilities and poor children.

For the past three decades, Medicaid has helped pay for services and equipment that schools provide to special-education students, as well as school-based health screening and treatment for children from low-income families. Now, educators from rural red states to the blue coasts are warning that the GOP push to shrink Medicaid spending will strip schools of what a national superintendents association estimates at up to $4 billion per year.

That money pays for nurses, social workers, physical, occupational and speech therapists and medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs. It also pays for preventive and comprehensive health services for poor children, including immunizations, screening for hearing and vision problems and management of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

Many school districts, already squeezed by shrinking state education budgets, say that to fill the hole they anticipate would be left by the Republican push to restructure Medicaid, they would either have to cut those services or downsize general education programs that serve all students.

“We’d have to make a local decision about what services we continue to provide and which we don’t,” said Paul Gausman, superintendent of a school district of 15,000 students in Sioux City, Iowa, that receives about $3 million in Medicaid reimbursements each year.

“I haven’t met many people who enjoy writing a check for their taxes, and I understand that,” Gausman said. “But it does not mean taxation is evil, and we’ve got to consider the most vulnerable of our population.”

In the Washington area, Montgomery County schools receive about $5 million a year in Medicaid reimbursements, Fairfax County about $1.5 million and D.C. Public Schools $49 million. Cutting that money “is not the way to set D.C.’s young people up for success,” D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson wrote to families Tuesday.

Schools have been able to register as Medicaid providers and seek reimbursement, as doctors and hospitals do, since 1988. Two-thirds of districts that bill Medicaid use the money to pay the salaries of employees who work directly with children, such as school nurses and therapists, according to a January survey by AASA, the superintendents’ association.

But the Republican push to overhaul healthcare would implement a new “per capita cap” system for Medicaid: Instead of matching whatever states spend on Medicaid, the federal government would instead give them a fixed amount for each Medicaid enrollee.

Under the House GOP bill, which passed last month, that change would reduce federal spending about $880 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The Senate GOP version would cut about $772 billion over the same time period.

The Senate bill has stalled amid pushback from several key Republicans — including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has raised concerns about the impact of cutting Medicaid on special education — and so details may change as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seeks to negotiate a deal that can pass.

But the underlying philosophy — that controlling federal spending would force the healthcare system to become more efficient in providing services — almost certainly would not.

Katie Niederee, a spokesperson for the Senate Finance committee, said that cuts to Medicaid in the current version of the bill “reflects Republican priorities to bend the cost curve on federal entitlement programs and encourage states that tend to spend beyond their means to actually stay within their budget.”

The Republican plan for Medicaid is likely to hurt schools in several ways, said Sasha Pudelski, who tracks healthcare policy for AASA. Most directly, states may decide to prohibit schools from receiving Medicaid dollars because of what is likely to be stiff competition against doctors and hospitals for limited resources, she said.

Less directly, states struggling to cover healthcare costs now covered by the federal government would have to seek cuts elsewhere in their budgets, including in education, which accounts for a large share of many states’ spending.

“The kids who will be hurt first and foremost are special ed kids and kids in poverty, but then everybody will be hurt, because we’ll have to shift dollars from the general education budget,” she said.

Schools receive less than 1 percent of federal Medicaid spending, according to the National Alliance for Medicaid in Schools. But federal Medicaid reimbursements constitute the third-largest federal funding stream to public schools, behind $15 billion they receive each year for educating poor children and $13 billion they receive to educate students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).

The federal government initially promised far more financial support for IDEA, the four-decade-old law that outlines schools’ obligations to educate students with disabilities. Congress pledged to pick up 40 percent of the cost of special-education services under the law, yet has never come close. It now pays only about 15 percent.

Medicaid payments have helped fill that gap. Without those dollars — and facing a recent Supreme Court decision that raised the bar for the services school districts owe students with disabilities — many districts wonder how they will pay for services they now provide.

In the small town of DuQoin, Ill., about 200 of 1,500 students receive special-education services. Medicaid helps pay the salaries of social workers, speech therapists and school nurses, as well as transportation for students with disabilities.

“If we’re not able to access the resources we have now … we’re going to be hurting kids,” said Superintendent Gary Kelly. DuQoin schools stand to lose about $170,000 in Medicaid reimbursements — a small but important fraction of the district’s $15 million annual budget, Kelly said.

Thanks to a political deadlock in the state capital, Illinois is headed into its third year without a budget, and schools across the state — including in DuQoin — are already scrimping, having cut teaching positions and other costs to balance their books. Illinois schools receive $286 million per year in Medicaid reimbursements, more than any other state except New Jersey and Texas, according to 2015 federal data.

In Crawfordsville, Ind., with a district of 2,400 students, Medicaid helps pay for a full-time registered nurse at each school. Those nurses provide primary care for many low-income students who don’t have a doctor of their own, Superintendent Scott Bowling said.

They also provide a first response to growing mental-health needs, and they care for children with complex medical needs, suctioning tracheostomies, tube-feeding children with gastric tubes, administering breathing treatments and emergency medication for seizures.

Bowling said that without the $50,000 in reimbursements, he’d have to lay off at least one nurse, and schools would be left without full-time nurse coverage. That gives him pause when he thinks about the emergencies his nurses have confronted: One saved a little boy from a severe asthma attack, administering an Epi-Pen to open his airways as they waited for medics to arrive. Another said this year she had intervened with two children who were suicidal, urging their parents to seek help immediately.

“Our nurses have literally saved students’ lives over the past few years – lives that we may have lost if we had to call them in from another site,” Bowling said.

Hey Betsy Devos! Use That Money Is for Student Needs, Not Funding Private Schools

The Trump Education Budget for FY 2018 adds more than $250,000,000 to the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program established under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) to support educational research.  This research must benefit students with high needs.  Presumably economic, social, psychological, learning and developmental needs all make children fit within the embrace of this legislation.  It is intended by Congress to make lives and learning better for children. Fitting within this imperative of recognizing and meeting children’s “needs” is a serious requirement for a research proposal to be fundable using these federal resources.   

Congress directs the Department of Education to distribute these resources to researchers.  EIR funds are not meant to support children’s movement out of public schools to schools that do not show progress in innovative learning.  So why does President Trump believe he can use $250,000,000 of the EIR research budget to make tuition reimbursements to parents who want to send their children to private and parochial schools?  

Apparently the well conceived intentions of Congress and the oversight of researchers who are invested in education innovation – people who are responsible for reviewing proposals and allocating research funds under EIR – can be ignored by a White House that does not really value learning and does not respect expertise.

For those who do not know the EIR program – here is a description of the purpose of this legislation:  the EIR program is established to “provide funding to create, develop, implement, replicate or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-needs students and rigorously evaluate those innovations.  The EIR program is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and to support the expansion of effective solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students.”   

It would be a better investment in urban schools if the EIR education budget were to make an investment of $250,000,000 in understanding and healing the consequences of children’s exposure to poverty, toxic stress, violence in communities and trauma.  These traumas and stresses can have serious adverse impacts on a child’s brain development, creating disruptive behavior and inhibiting learning.  Creating a Trauma-Informed Education Fund under this program would make investments in innovative strategies that heal the effects of trauma and (literally) grow brain matter to improve self-regulation, reduce aggressive behavior, alter how children perceive threats and increase focused attention – all to contribute directly to improvements in students’ capacities to engage in learning and academic achievement.  We know childhood trauma is an important factor contributing to low-performing urban elementary schools.  But childhood trauma can be healed if we create nurturing, accepting, engaging and stimulating learning environments in schools.  We can create trauma-sensitive compassionate schools for urban disadvantaged children – if we have the political will and understand early childhood education as a collective moral responsibility.  We can do this.  

In 2012, Eric Holder’s “AG Task Force Report on Children Exposed to Violence” (pdf) recommended that federal funding continue to develop clinical and scientific strategies to increase effective evidence-based treatments for children exposed to violence.  The Task Force found that 60% of children’s lives (46 million children) are impacted by violence, crime, abuse and psychological trauma in a year. The costs of children’s exposure to trauma and violence are “astronomical.” These financial burdens fall on public systems for child welfare, juvenile justice and education.  The Task Force called for federal Departments to require that all grantees in areas of children’s needs address violence and psychological trauma by implementing and planning services and treatment collaboratively (48).  Federal grant guidelines should integrate evidence-based trauma informed principles whenever their activities impact children’s lives.  

Elementary schools are public institutions where children spend thousands of hours of their early lives.  Any federal funding to these schools in urban poor communities should address effects of childhood trauma on child development. Childhood trauma interferes with self-regulation, the ability to form relationships with peers and cope with overwhelming stress.  Mastering these developmental tasks is a fundamental foundation for learning. See Brooke Stafford Brizard’s excellent paper “Building Blocks for Learning” (pdf) published by TurnAround for Children in NYC.

The EIR obviously is a federal funding source that should integrate evidence-based and trauma-informed principles – requiring that grantees consider the adverse effects of trauma on children’s abilities to learn.  In fairness to people in the U.S. Department of Education who developed guidelines for and evaluate EIR  grant proposals – they have funded development of valuable and important research on children’s literacy, writing, self-regulation, student engagement, principals’ professional development , teachers’ effectiveness, students’ mindfulness, cooperative learning, education technology, college readiness , parents involvement,  leadership, summer learning, data-driven school transformations, and arts education, to name some areas of investment in innovative education research (EIR was originally the Investing In Innovation Fund, grants were identified as i3 grants).      

Obviously, a system that distributes education vouchers and tuition reimbursement to private schools to enable children to leave low-performing public school systems does not meet the criteria for federal funding under this Education Innovation Research legislation.  But Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposes to use EIR funding to distribute tuition vouchers of $12,000-$18,000/children to families who want an alternative choice for their child’s education.  We welcome an investment of $250,000,000 in education research and the public institutions that educate our children. What children in urban core schools need is a deeper investment in and commitment to make their schools successful.  We think this budgeted $250,000,000 to improve education could more wisely, morally and thoughtfully be invested in developing strategies and tools in schools that heal persistent childhood trauma and exposure to violence experienced by many poor children in our urban core schools.  This would be truly innovative.

ISU Today: Bengal Bridge, Holt Arena Updates & More – kpvi.com

On the fourth Wednesday of each month we tell you all the top stories from Idaho State University.

Now that it is June, school is out for the summer -well at least for some students.

Others they are getting a head start in college.

170 recent high school graduates are spending seven weeks in the classroom at Idaho State as part of the Bengal Bridge program.

Bengal Bridge helps students get ready for college with a major benefit – tuition is only $65 per credit.

Students earn 10 credits over the course of the program including both general education courses and specific classes that count toward their degree.

“This is a perfect transition for students who are coming from high school and don’t know what to expect,” explains Misty Prigent, the Bengal Bridge Coordinator/Instructor. “They don’t know what college is, they don’t know that the studying and rigor is a lot different from high school courses, so this is something we are helping the students understand.”

Bengal Bridge is the only program like this in the state.

In Blackfoot, The ISU Outreach Center has a new home.

The Outreach Center is now located on West Pacific Avenue in a newly renovated office space.

The Free Resource Center gives anyone 16 years or older an opportunity to complete their GED.

Students can also enroll in language, reading, writing and math classes to help strengthen their skills before applying to college or entering the work force.

“I didn’t finish high school so they offered the program to me and it was very helpful,” shares Mayra Flores, a student at the center. “They have helped me a lot with the subjects they offer for the GED. They have been very helpful with that.”

“Our job is to bring them in and get their skills up and get them ready to be prepared for their futures,” says Korey Mereness, the Director of Adult Basic Education.

Idaho State has outreach centers in Pocatello, American Falls, and Soda Springs.

They are also planning on going online starting this fall.

In sports news, next time you step into Holt arena things may look a little different as the dome is going through a renovation project.

85 LED lights are being installed and they are replacing two lighting systems that were installed in 1971 and 1981.

The $536,000 lighting upgrade will require 62% less electricity than the old metal fixtures.

Fans may not notice a major lighting difference in the stands, but players will see a change.

“The way the new lights are constructed is that they won’t be blinding so they won’t really notice but they should see a better coverage on the field when events are going on.”

Crews began installing the lights this week and they expect to be completed by August 21st.

Once installed, ISU is eligible for an estimated $183,000 Idaho Power incentive rebate.

ISU has a new Faculty Athletic Representative and it’s someone very familiar to the community.

Caroline Faure, also known as “Smitty,” was appointed by ISU President Arthur Vailas to be the Faculty Athletic Representative.

Faure is tasked with helping student athletes balance academics and athletics, assisting in NCAA compliance, and insuring the student athlete’s wellbeing.

Faure is a Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Sports Science and Physical Education in the College of Education and is an accomplished researcher on sport related concussion and prevention.

GOP health care bill could strip public schools of billions for special education

School superintendents across the country are raising alarms about the possibility that Republican health care legislation would curtail billions of dollars in annual funding they count on to help students with disabilities and poor children.

For the past three decades, Medicaid has helped pay for services and equipment that schools provide to special-education students, as well as school-based health screening and treatment for children from low-income families. Now, educators from rural red states to the blue coasts are warning that the GOP push to shrink Medicaid spending will strip schools of what a national superintendents association estimates at up to $4 billion per year.

That money pays for nurses, social workers, physical, occupational and speech therapists and medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs. It also pays for preventive and comprehensive health services for poor children, including immunizations, screening for hearing and vision problems and management of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

Many school districts, already squeezed by shrinking state education budgets, say that to fill the hole they anticipate would be left by the Republican push to restructure Medicaid, they would either have to cut those services or downsize general education programs that serve all students.

Lincoln University fights for survival amid pressure on many fronts

A Lincoln University student makes their way uphill across the bare campus on Monday, June 19. Recent budget cuts have affected faculty and students of select degree programs. Mike Middleton, former MU interim chancellor, has been tasked with bridging the divide between Lincoln’s faculty and administration. Randy Mitchell, a student at Lincoln University, said the university has a history of dealing with financial challenges, but recent events have aggravated tensions. “If it was MU, there’d be protests,” Mitchell said.

ISU Today: Bengal Bridge, Holt Arena Updates & More

On the fourth Wednesday of each month we tell you all the top stories from Idaho State University.

Now that it is June, school is out for the summer -well at least for some students.

Others they are getting a head start in college.

170 recent high school graduates are spending seven weeks in the classroom at Idaho State as part of the Bengal Bridge program.

Bengal Bridge helps students get ready for college with a major benefit – tuition is only $65 per credit.

Students earn 10 credits over the course of the program including both general education courses and specific classes that count toward their degree.

“This is a perfect transition for students who are coming from high school and don’t know what to expect,” explains Misty Prigent, the Bengal Bridge Coordinator/Instructor. “They don’t know what college is, they don’t know that the studying and rigor is a lot different from high school courses, so this is something we are helping the students understand.”

Bengal Bridge is the only program like this in the state.

In Blackfoot, The ISU Outreach Center has a new home.

The Outreach Center is now located on West Pacific Avenue in a newly renovated office space.

The Free Resource Center gives anyone 16 years or older an opportunity to complete their GED.

Students can also enroll in language, reading, writing and math classes to help strengthen their skills before applying to college or entering the work force.

“I didn’t finish high school so they offered the program to me and it was very helpful,” shares Mayra Flores, a student at the center. “They have helped me a lot with the subjects they offer for the GED. They have been very helpful with that.”

“Our job is to bring them in and get their skills up and get them ready to be prepared for their futures,” says Korey Mereness, the Director of Adult Basic Education.

Idaho State has outreach centers in Pocatello, American Falls, and Soda Springs.

They are also planning on going online starting this fall.

In sports news, next time you step into Holt arena things may look a little different as the dome is going through a renovation project.

85 LED lights are being installed and they are replacing two lighting systems that were installed in 1971 and 1981.

The $536,000 lighting upgrade will require 62% less electricity than the old metal fixtures.

Fans may not notice a major lighting difference in the stands, but players will see a change.

“The way the new lights are constructed is that they won’t be blinding so they won’t really notice but they should see a better coverage on the field when events are going on.”

Crews began installing the lights this week and they expect to be completed by August 21st.

Once installed, ISU is eligible for an estimated $183,000 Idaho Power incentive rebate.

ISU has a new Faculty Athletic Representative and it’s someone very familiar to the community.

Caroline Faure, also known as “Smitty,” was appointed by ISU President Arthur Vailas to be the Faculty Athletic Representative.

Faure is tasked with helping student athletes balance academics and athletics, assisting in NCAA compliance, and insuring the student athlete’s wellbeing.

Faure is a Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Sports Science and Physical Education in the College of Education and is an accomplished researcher on sport related concussion and prevention.

GOP health-care bill could strip public schools of billions for special education

School superintendents across the country are raising alarms about the possibility that Republican health care legislation would curtail billions of dollars in annual funding they count on to help students with disabilities and poor children.

For the past three decades, Medicaid has helped pay for services and equipment that schools provide to special-education students, as well as school-based health screening and treatment for children from low-income families. Now, educators from rural red states to the blue coasts are warning that the GOP push to shrink Medicaid spending will strip schools of what a national superintendents association estimates at up to $4 billion per year.

That money pays for nurses, social workers, physical, occupational and speech therapists and medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs. It also pays for preventive and comprehensive health services for poor children, including immunizations, screening for hearing and vision problems and management of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

Many school districts, already squeezed by shrinking state education budgets, say that to fill the hole they anticipate would be left by the Republican push to restructure Medicaid, they would either have to cut those services or downsize general education programs that serve all students.

“We’d have to make a local decision about what services we continue to provide and which we don’t,” said Paul Gausman, superintendent of a school district of 15,000 students in Sioux City, Iowa, that receives about $3 million in Medicaid reimbursements each year.

“I haven’t met many people who enjoy writing a check for their taxes, and I understand that,” Gausman said. “But it does not mean taxation is evil, and we’ve got to consider the most vulnerable of our population.”

Schools have been able to register as Medicaid providers and seek reimbursement, as doctors and hospitals do, since 1988. Two-thirds of districts that bill Medicaid use the money to pay the salaries of employees who work directly with children, such as school nurses and therapists.

But the Republican push to overhaul healthcare would implement a new “per capita cap” system for Medicaid: Instead of matching whatever states spend on Medicaid, the federal government would instead give them a fixed amount for each Medicaid enrollee.

Under the Senate GOP bill, that change would reduce federal spending about $772 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The House GOP version, which passed last month, would cut federal spending $880 billion over the same time period.

Republican proponents argue that controlling federal spending would force the healthcare system to become more efficient in providing services. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) referred a request for comment to the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Finance Committee.

Katie Niederee, a spokesperson for the committee, said that the bill “reflects Republican priorities to bend the cost curve on federal entitlement programs and encourage states that tend to spend beyond their means to actually stay within their budget.”

Democrats believe that the nation’s neediest will be denied essential services — including in schools.

“No matter how they try to spin their massive cuts to Medicaid to make the Senate version look less ‘mean,’ it is clear that Trumpcare would mean massive cuts to schools and districts and massive pain for students and families,” said Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The Senate bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, exempts some of the most disabled children from the per-capita caps, but the number of children who would be affected is not known. Education advocates that whatever the exact number, schools will be in the same pinch.

“Health care will be rationed and schools will be forced to compete with other critical health care providers — hospitals, physicians, and clinics — that serve Medicaid-eligible children,” a coalition of more than 60 education, civil rights and child-welfare groups wrote to senators on Tuesday, urging them to reject the GOP legislation because of the impact on schools.

The Republican plan for Medicaid is likely to hurt schools in several ways, said Sasha Pudelski, who tracks healthcare policy for AASA, the superintendents’ association. Most directly, states may decide to prohibit schools from receiving Medicaid dollars because of what is likely to be stiff competition for limited resources, she said.

Less directly, states struggling to cover healthcare costs now covered by the federal government would have to seek cuts elsewhere in their budgets, including in education, which accounts for a large share of many states’ spending.

“The kids who will be hurt first and foremost are special ed kids and kids in poverty, but then everybody will be hurt, because we’ll have to shift dollars from the general education budget,” she said.

Schools receive less than 1 percent of federal Medicaid spending, according to the National Alliance for Medicaid in Schools. But federal Medicaid reimbursements constitute the third-largest federal funding stream to public schools, behind $15 billion they receive each year for educating poor children and $13 billion they receive to educate students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).

The federal government initially promised far more financial support for IDEA, the four-decade-old law that outlines schools’ obligations to educate students with disabilities. Congress pledged to pick up 40 percent of the cost of special-education services under the law, yet has never come close. It now pays only about 15 percent.

Medicaid payments have helped fill that gap. Without those dollars — and facing a recent Supreme Court decision that raised the bar for the services school districts owe students with disabilities — many districts wonder how they will pay for services they now provide.

In the small town of DuQoin, Ill., about 200 of 1,500 students receive special-education services. Medicaid helps pay the salaries of social workers, speech therapists and school nurses, as well as transportation for students with disabilities.

“If we’re not able to access the resources we have now … we’re going to be hurting kids,” said Superintendent Gary Kelly. DuQoin schools stand to lose about $170,000 in Medicaid reimbursements — a small but important fraction of the district’s $15 million annual budget, Kelly said.

Thanks to a political deadlock in the state capital, Illinois is headed into its third year without a budget, and schools across the state — including in DuQoin — are already scrimping, having cut teaching positions and other costs to balance their books. Illinois schools receive $286 million per year in Medicaid reimbursements, more than any other state except New Jersey and Texas, according to 2015 federal data.

In Crawfordsville, Ind., with a district of 2,400 students, Medicaid helps pay for a full-time registered nurse at each school. Those nurses provide primary care for many low-income students who don’t have a doctor of their own, Superintendent Scott Bowling said.

They also provide a first response to growing mental-health needs, and they care for children with complex medical needs, suctioning tracheostomies, tube-feeding children with gastric tubes, administering breathing treatments and emergency medication for seizures.

Bowling said that without the $50,000 in reimbursements, he’d have to lay off at least one nurse, and schools would be left without full-time nurse coverage. That gives him pause when he thinks about the emergencies his nurses have confronted: One saved a little boy from a severe asthma attack, administering an Epi-Pen to open his airways as they waited for medics to arrive. Another said this year she had intervened with two children who were suicidal, urging their parents to seek help immediately.

“Our nurses have literally saved students’ lives over the past few years – lives that we may have lost if we had to call them in from another site,” Bowling said.

Struggling schools fail to apply for millions in federal grants

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Dropping out of college to serve my country was the best decision I ever made

For most, going to college after high school is pretty straight forward. Some choose to move away to four year universities and state schools, while others stay local at community college and commute from home. Whichever way you decide to do it, pursuing higher education after graduating high school is almost always the move.

Now imagine starting down that path and realizing that it just wasn’t right for you, so you enlist in the military of all things.

Sound crazy? It happens more often than you might think. Numerous college students from all over the United States have left school to join a branch of the armed forces, and with absolutely no regrets.

Take a look inside the mind of a few college drop-outs who put their education on the back burner to risk their lives serving out great country.

Let’s get it straight, the military isn’t a last resort for failures

John Colbert of Manhattan, Illinois signed an eight year contract with the United States Navy in 2015 during his first semester at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The 20-year-old was then studying biomedical sciences when he dropped out to join the military simply because, “college was just too easy.”

John serves as a Hospital Corpsman, a Navy medical specialist. Hospital Corpsman training involves twelve months of both classroom schooling and intense hands-on training, which John says is extremely fast paced and more challenging than that of college pre-med education.

“I didn’t drop out because I was failing. It was quite the contrary, I wasn’t being challenged enough,” he said.

In training, Hospital Corpsmen are challenged every day. “My training was all medical care in real situations, where my split decision would mean the difference between someone living and dying. That’s challenging. You won’t find that in a college classroom.”

John explained that the military offers incentives for quality performance in training.  “Your rank among everyone else in your class can mean you get to decide where you’re stationed after schooling,” he said.

Since signing his contract, John has completed his twelve months of Hospital Corpsman training. Eight of these months were spent working with the United States Marine Corps at Field Medical Training Battalion West in Oceanside, California this past year.

As a result, John is attached to a Marine Corps unit and will serve with them on any future deployments as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman.

The military makes going to school worth it

It goes without saying that college isn’t free, and nearly every individual seeking higher education ends up paying for college by means of financial aid and student loans, ultimately leading to debt. John says that the military seeks to help its soldiers obtain the education they want.

“My friends in college are already in debt, going to school to find a career and make money to pay off the debt that got them exactly where they are. It’s a vicious cycle,” he said. “But the military will pay to send me to school so I can get a degree. So if I work hard for the military now, I can live a life that’s debt free later.”

For Hospital Corpsman like John, hard work spent in training is especially worth it, as classroom schooling operates on a credit system just like college does. His credits will transfer over as college credit later on when he goes back to school, meaning he won’t have to start from the very beginning with general education and core courses.

Looking forward, John maintains a positive outlook on the rest of his life. “I hope to put my training to good use in the future and save lives during my time with the military. After that I’m going to get a four year degree, move on to higher level schooling and aspire to be better than yesterday.”

Sometimes joining the military is all but a change of scenery

Zacharry Carel, 22 years old, from Mount Pleasant, Iowa enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 2014. At that time, he had completed two years at Scott Community College in Bettendorf, Iowa, but simply found himself unsatisfied with his day to day life.

“I liked going to school, but my everyday college routine got pretty boring after a while,” Zacharry said. “I love my country, so I enlisted to shake things up and try something new. I ended up dropping out of community college to go active duty.”

Zacharry serves on a Howitzer cannon crew as a gunner, spending each day on base at Fort Stewart in Georgia working with heavy artillery. This year will be his last with the Army, as he plans to go back to school and finish his last semester of classes before getting his degree.

Although his time with the military is nearing its end, Zacharry says it has been a experience he will never forget.

“I’ve taken away a lot of great morals and life skills,” he said. “I’ve learned how to present myself, customs and courtesies. To always do the right thing even when no one is looking.

“I’ll always remember being so close with with everyone in my unit. We are a family. And I got to shoot cannons for a living, who else can say that!”

For some, returning to college after the military doesn’t always go as planned

Justin O’Donnell, now 31 years old, from Mansfield, Ohio enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at 21 years old after a semester at community college. Like most others, he planned to complete his education after his time with the military.

At the end of his five year contract with the Marines, Justin attended the University of Oklahoma and the University of Iowa, looking to pursue a degree in Business. However, after two consecutive years at two different universities, he realized that a career in Business simply wasn’t his calling.

“I wasn’t certain of my career path when I was 19, and I still wasn’t certain of it when I was 27,” Justin said.

“What’s important is that I’ve been productive in the meantime and made an effort to find a career that I can be passionate about.”

Although he strongly encourages anyone pursuing an education to find their passion in education regardless of how long it may take, Justin recalls his experience as an older adult returning to college. “There were times when I regretted being older than my classmates, however being a veteran I’ve always felt as if I have a great deal of institutional support at my disposal.”

Last year, at 30 years old, Justin chose to return to the military and re-enlisted in the Army National Guard where he now serves as a medic. That being said, re-enlisting doesn’t mean that he has given up on pursuing an education. He currently is enrolled in the nursing program at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City, Iowa and works at a local hospital as a nursing assistant.

He recalls his decision to enlist as one he does not regret. “My experience in the Marines was great. For me it put a lot of my day by day struggles into perspective. It’s easy to get lost in the idea that different obstacles are the end of the world; for me The Marine Corps has helped me accomplish tasks as they come to me.”

As for the ‘college experience’, these drop-outs haven’t missed much

While college is a time of discovering responsibility and independence, let’s be honest, its also a time of partying and wild irresponsibility before settling down to be a real adult. However, the general consensus is that enlisted men and women haven’t missed out on partying just because they left college.

“College is nothing compared to how the military lives and parties,” said Zacharry.

John said, “I’ve done some of the craziest things with my enlisted friends that I know my other non-enlisted friends would never be up for, like going skydiving on a whim or spending weekends climbing mountains. The military is full of thrill seekers who do some of the most physically challenging activities just for fun.”

Boulder Valley school board narrowly approves budget, disagreeing over dyslexia funding

The Boulder Valley school board on Tuesday approved next school year’s $394 million operating budget in a 4-3 vote, adding more services for dyslexic students and school counselors at elementary schools.

The board also voted unanimously to approve salary increases for administrators and professional staff members, but didn’t approve the handbook that includes salary ranges.

Instead, the board directed the interim superintendent to commission a market salary survey and recommend revisions to the handbook, including potential revisions to salary ranges.

The administrative salary increase approved for the next school year was a standard 2.8 percent cost-of-living raise, plus a 2 percent raise for experience.

The highest priority identified by schools was to hire elementary school counselors. Now, the district only has counselors at middle and high schools.

The budget includes $1.3 million to hire 10 elementary counselors, two behavioral health advocates and a half-time coordinator. Each counselor is expected to serve multiple schools.

While board members agreed on adding elementary counselors, they didn’t agree on how much money to spend to support students with dyslexia.

Parents of students with dyslexia have been regulars at school board meetings, lobbying for $1.2 million to cover general education materials, awareness training for all teachers, professional development for interventions and a screening tool.

The budget, however, included $750,000 for targeted interventions for dyslexic students and teacher training, up from the $500,000 originally proposed.

Staff members also didn’t recommend a screening tool designed specifically to identify students with dyslexia. Instead, district officials said, they plan to better use an existing assessment to screen students.

Board member Shelly Benford proposed an amendment to use $450,000 from a $900,000 ending fund balance being held in reserve to increase the amount for dyslexia support to $1.2 million.

“This is a matter of priorities,” she said. “I would really like this board to make this a priority.”

But board member Tina Marquis said she wanted to stick with the staff recommendation, which includes hiring a consultant to work collaboratively with district staff members and parents of dyslexic students to develop a plan.

If the consultant recommends spending more money, then the district could tap into the $900,000 reserve, she said.

“Staff and community haven’t come together,” she said. “We need to go through this with some vision of success that we share. I feel pretty strongly that we have to get somewhere together.”

Benford’s motion failed 4-3.

Benford and the other two board members who voted for her motion, Richard Garcia and Tom Miers, then voted “no” on the original budget.

Next year’s budget is based on enrollment increasing by about 190 students, with state per-pupil funding increasing by $240 a student, to $7,588.

Adding to the revenue side, Boulder Valley voters in November approved an operational tax increase, freeing up money that otherwise would be spent on operational services and bolstering the budget.

On the expenses side, there’s a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase for employees, plus increases for experience and additional education for teachers.

The district is keeping $2 million in reserve to address class size issues that come up after the school year starts. District staff members also committed to class size caps for core classes for ninth- and 10th-graders.

Then there’s about $2.3 million to open Meadowlark, a new PK-8 in Erie, and $1 million to hire more special education staff members.

Districtwide, there’s $2.8 million for new learning materials for K-5 language arts in the general classroom that include phonological awareness and phonics kits, plus $100,000 for teacher training in English language development.

The board also set aside $100,000 for a national superintendent search to replace Bruce Messinger, who was fired in May over an unspecified personnel issue. Cindy Stevenson, former Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent, is filling in as interim superintendent.

Funding requests from two outside school readiness programs — the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition’s PASO program and the Community Foundation of Boulder County’s ELPASO program — didn’t make the cut.

In other business, the school board hired Mike Gradoz as the interim human resources assistant superintendent.

Gradoz, senior director of professional learning at The Colorado Education Initiative, previously worked at the Colorado Department of Education and as a human resources director in the St. Vrain Valley School District.

He replaces Shelly Landgraf, who resigned on May 25.

The board also approved re-hiring Sandy Ripplinger, the assistant superintendent of elementary school leadership.

Ripplinger recently retired, but now will continue in her position for the next year under a “110” plan, allowing her to work 110 days without compromising her retirement benefits.

Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, boundsa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/boundsa