Zirpoli: Education imperative to job creation

If you want to understand our nation’s priorities, start by looking at how we spend our resources and where we plan to invest future resources.

It seems that the only place where federal budgets are targeted for significant increases next year is national defense. We already spend about $611 billion on national defense; the current administration is proposing to spend an additional $58 billion in 2018, and the initial 2018 budget out of the House proposes to spend over $700 billion. This is more money than the next eight countries in the world (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan) spend on defense combined, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Just as you can tell what is important by looking at where a nation invests, you can tell what is not important by looking at where it cuts. For the United States, education spending for all Americans is on the chopping block in a significant way.

Research tells us that education is the number one variable related to individual employment opportunity and stability. According to statistics from the Department of Labor, when unemployment hit 10 percent in 2009 during the Great Recession, it was only 5 percent for college graduates and about 2 percent for Americans with graduate degrees.

Georgetown University, “Of the 11.6 million jobs created after the Great Recession, 8.4 million (72 percent) went to those with at least a bachelor’s degree. Another 3 million (26 percent) went to those with associate’s degrees or some college education.”

In March, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than one-third of Americans age 25 and older had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher for the first time in decades of data.

Writing for CNNMoney.com in June 2016, Tami Luhby reported “Some 45 percent of Americans age 25 to 64 have an associate’s degree or higher … [and] some 42 percent of young adults age 18 to 24 are enrolled in higher education.”

If education is imperative to job creation in America, why is the federal government under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposing to cut our nation’s investments in education by about $10 billion? DeVos has proposed cuts that are specifically targeting after-school programs that, according to the journal American Educator, serve about 1.6 million children. She also wants to cut teacher-training programs by $2.1 billion, federal loans for college students by $700 million, career and technical education funding by $168 million and federal work-study programs by about $500 million. These cuts not only reduce the number of young children who will receive educational services they need, but the number of Americans who will be able to attend college.

Not all education funding, however, will see decreases if the administration’s budget is approved. DeVos has requested that $400 million of the cuts mentioned previously “be diverted to charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools” according to the American Educator. Tamara Hiler of the think tank Third Way calls DeVos “tone deaf” as she steers money away from career and technical education programs that helps rural communities that elected her boss, to private schools that would not benefit rural communities who have few private school choices, even if they could afford the option.

If you want to “grow the workforce” says Alia Wong writing for The Atlantic, job training programs are not the place to save money. But education funding for preschool to adult education programs seem to be the newest target for many Republicans as their perception of the value of education declines. A recent poll by Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of Republicans view colleges and universities as having “a negative effect on the country” compared to 72 percent of Democrats who see higher education as having a positive effect.

When the Great Recession hit, guess who lost their jobs? According to Luhby, of the 7.2 million jobs lost between December 2007 and January 2010, 78 percent of them were “workers with no more than a high school diploma.” And these are the jobs that have still not recovered from the recession. These are the people who voted for presidential candidate Donald Trump, and these are the people his cuts in education and job training will hurt the most.

For the majority of Americans in today’s economy, education is a positive variable on any measure. Research has shown that it is the single most important variable related to job creation, job security and employment income for the American people.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is program coordinator of the human services management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

Virginia’s test scores hold steady overall but English learners make strides

Eighty percent of Virginia students passed state reading tests this year, equal to the previous year’s results, as data released Tuesday showed minimal changes in performance on several academic subjects.

But English learners made significant strides in narrowing achievement gaps. Statewide, 64 percent of those students passed in reading, up three points from 2016. Some school officials attributed the gain to better approaches for teaching students English, including transitioning more of them to general education classes even before they are totally proficient.

When it comes to English learners, “I think school systems are really starting to understand better what the students’ needs are and how to meet the needs, and I think that’s at all levels,” said Samuel Klein, who supervises programs for English learner education in Arlington County schools. In Arlington, 64 percent of English learners passed the writing exam, up nine points from last year.

The Virginia Department of Education released results of the Standards of Learning exams, given to students from third grade through high school. The scores are used to determine school accreditation, and students must pass certain exams to graduate. Some students, including recent arrivals to the United States, are exempted from the exams, but all students must take them in their fourth year of school, regardless of English proficiency.

After the state introduced more difficult exams in 2012 and 2013, test scores tumbled and then began to climb as students and educators adjusted. Before this year, students had made gains for three straight years. But this year, they passed at the same or nearly the same rates as last year in Northern Virginia and across the state.

“Students continue to perform at substantially higher levels on the commonwealth’s rigorous assessments in mathematics, English and science than when these tests were first introduced in 2012 and 2013,” Steven R. Staples, superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement. “This long-term upward trend is far more important than a snapshot for a single year and reflects the hard work of thousands of teachers, principals and other educators and their dedication to helping students meet high expectations.”

In the 2016-2017 school year, 86 percent statewide passed history and social science exams — the same as the previous school year. Passage rates for math and science both fell one point, to 79 percent and 82 percent, respectively. For writing exams, 86 percent of students passed, two points higher than last year.

Northern Virginia’s major school systems had no dramatic movement in scores. Alexandria’s test scores edged downward one or two points in every subject, with passage rates ranging from 66 percent in math to 76 percent in history and social sciences, but officials there said they were unconcerned because the school system had made large gains in previous years.

“While these results are consistent with recent years, we will assess what is required to accelerate our growth,” interim superintendent Lois F. Berlin said in a statement.

Loudoun County — which ranks among the nation’s wealthiest counties — had some of the region’s highest scores in nearly every subject, with passage rates ranging from 85 to 92 percent. In the state’s largest school division, Fairfax County, passage rates for reading and science each dropped by a percentage point, to 84 percent and 85 percent, respectively. Passage rates for all other subjects remained the same.

In Prince William County, passage rates were little changed. But officials said their lowest-performing schools posted huge gains, which they attributed to extra staff and attention. Belmont Elementary School, whose poor performance led the state to downgrade its accreditation, had double-digit gains in all subject tests. In science, 81 percent of students passed, a whopping ­38-point annual gain.

“We’re proud of solid results achieved by students in every group, in every subject, and across all our schools,” Keith Imon, Prince William’s deputy superintendent, said in a statement. “The most exciting thing is to see our efforts paying off with more and more students succeeding where they hadn’t succeeded before.”

Echoing state trends, English learners in nearly all Northern Virginia districts fared better than in previous years. Of nearly 1.3 million students in Virginia, about 12 percent are English learners. Their ranks are growing in Northern Virginia.

In Loudoun, the number of English learners has grown about 15 percent annually. That has led the school system to focus on helping recent immigrants.

Teresa Vignaroli, who supervises English language learner education in Loudoun schools, thinks the efforts paid off: Fifty-six percent of English learners passed the writing exam, compared with 44 percent last year.

The county three years ago opened a welcome center for families of English learners so they can be screened and see a counselor to ensure their academic needs are being met. It also began hiring more teachers for English learners, particularly for students with the lowest levels of English proficiency. And it worked harder to push students out of “sheltered” English language courses and into general education classrooms.

“We’ve moved to a more inclusive model,” Vignaroli said.

On August 20th, which people in global education all focus on, China Education Festival will open in Shanghai, China

NEW YORK, Aug. 15, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The fifth 820 China Education Festival will be held on the 20th-22nd of August in 2017 at Shanghai International Convention Center, which is hosted by Junhsue China and co-organized by Deloitte China and Only Education Group, and undertaken by Shanghai Anser MEDIA Limited Company. In the meantime, almost 5000 educators, experts from diverse backgrounds, social education practitioners, and representatives of educational institutions from China and other countries will attend this conference.

The 820 China Education Festival (820 for short), firstly named for dates, is a large-scale general educational summit forum, which has gathered many elites together in various fields from both domestic and overseas, including capital, academic circles, education, art, politics, business, etc. By organizing many keynote speeches, round tables and discussions around the core concept of education, 820 has accelerated multi-dimensional exchange and collision, and aroused strong repercussions among different social sectors. 820 is no longer just a number, but a symbolic sign for general education.

Since the first 820 China Education Festival was held on August 20th 2013 at Shanghai International Convention Center, it has been successively held four times, with the theme of “quality education, scientific and technological education, life education and education+”. 820 has won its reputation both home and abroad and is hailed as the most high-profile annual event in education by the mainstream media.

The declaration of the 5th 820 China Education Festival is “bringing commonweal to life and making commonweal part of life”.  Visitor flow volume is up to 410 thousand. We hope to further improve the spreading and developing of public spirit by using the power of public envoys and promoting the development of commonweal.

The essence of education lies in awakening. Education makes better life, so does commonweal.

The essence of commonweal is to arouse people’s own moral conscience and individual responsibility. It is the original intention of the fifth 820 that is to awaken the devotion to public welfare through education and to let more people be aware of it and promote it and shoulder the responsibility.

The 820 of this year is a pageant in commonweal culture exchange, which will be a party for media and its related association to promote public welfare. Besides main forums, there are also many different kinds of sub-sessions in the forms of panel discussions, seminars, World Café, and so on.

The three-day summit meeting will provide full-spectrum coverage with tracking and reporting by media, broadcast online, interview, real-time interactions on micro blogging, etc.

Today, online education, hi-tech education and intelligent education prevail. Let’s return to the essence of education and reexamine education in a new perspective and a new way. We expect more education practitioners and those who care about education to join this carnival, show their support to China’s non-government education and build a splendid future of Chinese education.

Media Contact:

Contact Person: Tina Dai

Phone: +86 139 1866 8614

Cash crunch over federal sanctions is upon WV colleges

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s colleges and universities are right in the middle of the cash crunch brought on as a sanction by the federal government but they’ll get through it, said Mike Farrell, chairman of the state Higher Education Policy Commission.

Farrell said state government has been able to front money to be distributed to West Virginia college students for Pell grants and federal student loans.

Because West Virginia was late with a federal audit last year for the third year in a row, the U.S. Department of Education announced a five-year punishment.

Usually the U.S. education department provides funding for Pell grants and federal student loans up front for colleges to distribute to students.

Now colleges will have to come up with the money first and then receive federal reimbursement within a two-week window when other expenses — notably payroll — must also be paid.

Initially affected might be about $240 million in federal funds flowing through West Virginia colleges, just for the fall semester alone. Because students are going back to school this week, that cash flow issue is hitting.

Because students are heading back to school for the fall at most West Virginia colleges and universities, now is the big moment.

Mike Farrell

“This is that moment, and to the credit of the governor and his chief of staff Nick Casey, they have arranged to advance the monies to us. We will then distribute them to the students. Once the money has been paid we can apply to the federal government for reimbursement. In business terms you talk about a bridge loan and that’s exactly what’s happening here,” Farrell said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.

“It is definite, it’s ongoing. It’s a tribute to our state government that sometimes you’ve got to be flexible. In this instance, there’s no hesitation by the administration. Everyone said ‘How can we help with what we need to do?’ They set it up and monies are flowing appropriately. The students are being taken care of. It’s just a matter of there’s a cash crunch because the institutions have other bills.”

Farrell’s comments were made Monday prior to the announcement that Casey was fired as Justice’s chief of staff, following Justice’s switch to become a Republican.

Casey’s future with the administration had been questioned over the past few weeks, though, because of his close association with state Democratic Party politics. Farrell was asked about the possibility of Casey’s departure and said he has confidence that the audit effort could carry on.

“I think it will be OK,” Farrell said. “The metaphor is Nick has worked in enough litigations as I have. If you have a big case, you have a plan. You set out the strategy, set out the activities that need to get done. If he has to go take care of another matter, I’m confident the governor will attract top talent and that individual can pick up Nick’s portfolio and finish this job and we’ll all be in good shape. I have the greatest faith in Nick and the governor.”

Casey, in an emailed response to his firing, described the audit situation as a major component of what had been his current duties. He was responding to a question about the breadth of what chief of staff does.

“Roll heads as necessary e.g. Single Audit may be headed that way,” Casey said, alluding to earlier indications that some people in state agencies could be fired over the tardy audits.

Farrell became chairman of the Higher Education Policy Commission in June. He is a founding member of the Farrell, White Legg law firm in Huntington. Farrell served as interim president of Marshall University in 2005.

An immediate goal for West Virginia’s higher education institutions is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Doing so would be a good argument to the federal government to provide relief from the sanctions, Farrell said.

The colleges are expected to meet a state deadline of Oct. 31 with their individual audit information. That is rolled into a broader state audit of additional agencies. The higher education financial information is then pulled out of that audit by the U.S. Department of Education on an annual March 31 deadline.

All of West Virginia’s colleges missed their Oct. 31 deadline last year. Even if they hadn’t, other state agencies also came straggling in with their information, well into the spring.

Farrell said the colleges have a leg up this year because they have already received pension information from the state Consolidated Public Retirement Board. Last year, Farrell said, the information wasn’t received until late December.

“Now we already have them in hand,” Farrell said of the pension reports. “We got them about 10 days ago. Now we’re ahead of the curve. The administration has set up earlier deadlines. That seems to be not only achievable but should be guaranteed with the amount of time we have now.

He continued, “I just know from our point of view, we’ve got what we need. Our folks have been told this is the highest and best priority because not only do we have the consequence of not having federal money ahead of time to draw against but there’s also a clause in there that the federal government has to approve any programmatic changes that we have.”

That other aspect of the federal sanctions, one that’s gotten less attention, gives West Virginia colleges less flexibility in establishing new programs to swiftly meet shifting economic needs.

“We had several universities wanting to develop new masters programs in various disciplines, and that is subject to their review,” Farrell said.

On July 21, West Virginia’s congressional delegation wrote to ask the U.S. Department of Education to reconsider. Farrell surmises that request remains under consideration, and it’s up to West Virginia to prove it can meet deadline this year.

“That appeal is still sitting in Washington, I’m confident, at some level of the department of higher education hierarchy,” Farrell said. “No one has said yes, no one as said no. We take that as a good sign that maybe intervention by our congressional delegation has caused them to say ‘Let’ see what happens this year.’”

That’s a motivation for all those involved with compiling audit information, Farrell said.

“We really want to be relieved from that and look how well we’re doing and impress on them that this three years of noncompliance was not the fault of the educators. I know I don’t want a hammer coming down on our institutions,” he said. “We want to make all of the students feel comfortable that their money is going to be there.”

Another possibility is making the higher education audit semi-autonomous from the broader audit of state agencies. That way colleges would not be dependent on unrelated agencies to make their deadline.

“We are still trying to make that happen. It may not be this year. Hopefully next year,” Farrell said. “The process is you’ve got to get permission from the federal government. The federal government has to say yes. We have posed that to them. And they haven’t said yes or not yet. Our expectation or belief is they probably want to see how we perform this year.

“In this instance all of our folks had all of the information available before the end of February last year. It’s our belief it could have gotten in. We actually offered on or about March 8.It’s not for the lack of trying. It’s just for the procedures to exist that we’re going to apply with and hopefully we’re rewarded with a new pathway.”

All sides have been focused on getting higher education’s information gathered and ready as soon as possible.

A May 31 memo from state Finance division director Dave Mullins suggests the state’s accountants were already putting the heat on higher education to have financial statements ready. The email, among many others, was obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

“Believe you have Higher Ed training soon,” he wrote to Jane Shinn, an employee of the state’s Financial Accounting and Reporting Section. “Let ’em know we need F/S well before school closes down in December. I know this has never happened for years, but once school closes in I believe early to mid-December, it all stops and then F/S’s are coming in January if we are really lucky. I think the original due date may be mid-October.

“And you’ve seen all the emails from Higher Ed regarding what they can do to avoid late Single Audit submission.”

Shinn responded that she’ll try.

“We tell them every year for the last 20 years and they have never met the due date. The closest they have come is a couple days before Thanksgiving, but usually the end of December.”

Farrell, in this week’s telephone interview, suggested that it’s time for finger-pointing to stop. But he agreed it’s time to meet deadline on the state audits.

“The time for fingerpointing is behind us,” Farrell said. “I am greatly appreciative of the fact that the Consolidated Public Retirement Board data is already in our hands and that all of the educational institutions are going to get the job done on time or before time,” Farrell said.

“Everyone agrees we can do it differently, we can do it better.”

Brad McElhinny

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Central Business College alums praise education

Central Business College, established in Sedalia in 1883, advertised itself widely. In addition to hosting a display in a large tent at the Missouri State Fair where students demonstrated their abilities in rapid mental calculation, penmanship, typing, and the use of business machines, the school used newspapers and its catalogs to draw the attention of potentials students.

Newspaper ads in the local papers featured forms prospective students could complete and mail to the college. An administrator or faculty member from the college would then visit the prospective student and perhaps enroll the student in classes. Ads also used testimonials from former students who were successful in jobs because of their training at Central Business College.

The 1932 college catalog featured several such testimonials. The college had a job placement department that helped graduates get jobs. The department was apparently very successful, as alums held jobs in Sedalia, throughout Missouri, the United States, and the world.

The 1932 catalog begins with endorsements from Charles Botz, president of the Sedalia Chamber of Commerce praising the institution’s staff of “men of honesty and integrity.” Sedalia Public School Superintendent Heber Hunt congratulated the college on the “success of its graduates.”

Other testimonials come from former students. Vesta Spencer, who worked as a bookkeeper at the Sedalia Water Company, noted that she was able to perform her job because of the “excellent training” she received at Central Business College. Two state employees, Georgia Lowe, who had taken a job with the State Treasurer’s office in Jefferson City, and Roy Thiston, who worked for the State Highway Department in Jefferson City, both praised the education they received at CBC.

Two graduates who moved on to jobs in Chicago were quoted in the catalog. Gerald Truitt, who had taken a position at the Plaza Hotel, commented on the “solid foundation” for his future he received. Ruth Dain, who worked as a secretary for the Chicago law firm of Olds, Stolle, and Bellair, said the “thoroughness of the training” enabled her to rise to the position she now held.

Other alums worked farther afield. Henry Neidhart worked as private secretary to the General Manager of the Agua Caliente Company in its offices in Tijuana, Baja California. Neidhart had immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 with two years of high school and no knowledge of the English language. After taking a two-year full business course at CBC, he wrote that he had a good general education, English language skills that enabled him to become a court reporter, and a good income in his present job.

Another testimonial came from a Mexican student who had come to Sedalia to attend Central Business College. Jose Ignacio Pamanes noted the people of Sedalia were “always kind and friendly … with the Latin American students.” Every pupil, he wrote in a letter to the college, became a “merchant and businessman as well as an accurate typist and stenographer under the expert direction of its teachers.”

The catalog also includes testimonials from E. Virgil Neal, a cosmetics tycoon in Paris. Neal left a legacy that did not reflect the integrity of the college. Next week’s column details the questionable career of E. Virgil Neal, graduate of CBC.

By Rhonda Chalfant

Contributing Columnist

— Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

— Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

Surprise, Trump’s Education Ideas Are Polarizing

In the last year, there’s been a big drop in support for charter schools, while other forms of school choice are getting a little less unpopular. That’s the top line of a national poll released today.

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President Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos have put school choice front and center on their education agenda. The general idea of “choice,” however, takes many forms.

Charter schools are paid for by tax dollars, charge no tuition and are managed independently of public school districts.

Vouchers allow students to use tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools.

Tax-credit scholarships, now available in 17 states, which allow individuals and companies to get a tax credit for donating to scholarship funds that are used in turn for private school tuition.

U.S. opinion on these ideas seems to be shifting, according to a new poll from EducationNext, an opinion and policy journal associated with free-market education reform ideas. They’ve been asking similar questions for the past decade.

Here are the latest results:

  • Charters: Last year 51 percent of the public supported “the formation of charter schools”; this year it’s just 39 percent, a 12 point drop in one year.
  • Vouchers: 45 percent are either strongly or somewhat supportive of universal vouchers. That’s a bounce from last year, but more or less in line with the five years before.
  • Tax credits: This was the most popular form of school choice with 55 percent of the general public supporting this year; also a one-year bounce, but in line with longer-term trends.

There’s no one obvious explanation for the change in opinion on charter schools. The drop was seen among both Democrats and Republicans and amongst all racial and ethnic groups.

“That’s the largest change on any survey item, and one of the largest single-year changes in opinion that we’ve seen over the 11-year history of the survey,” Martin West, the editor in chief of EducationNext, said on a press conference call.

The wording of the question — about the formation of charter schools — may hold a clue. In theory, it might be possible to have very positive feelings about the charter schools currently in your community, yet still oppose new ones.

And the expansion of charters is exactly what communities around the country have been fighting over.

Last year the NAACP and Black Lives Matter called for a moratorium on the growth of charter schools (the NAACP called more recently for a ban on for-profit management of these schools). The state of Massachusetts saw a bruising fight over its charter cap. Detroit’s proliferation of charters has been labeled “a glut” and “chaos.” And charter expansion was the central issue in the school board race in Los Angeles, one of the biggest public school districts in the country.

The nationally representative poll breaks down respondents by political party, and there’s a clear partisan divide on many issues, even as public opinion shifts. Last year, for example, 57 percent of Democrats favored universal vouchers, against 45 percent of Republicans. This year they’ve switched places: 62 percent of Republicans like them and only 50 percent of Democrats agree.

Zeroing in on that political divide, pollsters also measured what they called the “Trump effect.” That is, how do responses change when some people are told that the president supports or opposes a particular issue?

They found that self-identified Republicans are more likely to support an issue if they are informed that Trump also supports it, while Democrats are the opposite. However, Trump’s net influence is nearly nil, which makes him less of a force than President Obama was in this poll in 2009. Back then, when respondents on all sides were told the new President supported an education issue, they were more likely to back it, by double digits.

This poll, then, serves as a snapshot of what some have called the breakdown of a long-standing bipartisan consensus on education that dated back to No Child Left Behind.

Still, there is one enduring issue where blue- and red-state opinions are near-identical: approval of the local public schools. 55 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats give local schools a B or an A.

NY re-entry program awards Cornell $750K for prison education

Cornell’s Prison Education Program (CPEP) has received $750,000 in grant funding from the College-in-Prison Reentry Program, an effort to expand educational opportunities at correctional facilities across New York state.

Cornell is one of seven colleges and universities in New York awarded grants totaling $5 million to provide college-level classes, training and re-entry services at 17 state prisons over the next five years. CPEP operates at the Cayuga, Auburn, Elmira and Five Points correctional facilities.

Announced Aug. 7 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., the awards are funded by the Manhattan DA’s office through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative. The initiative backs transformative projects to prevent crime and improve public safety and the justice system with $250 million seized in international financial crime prosecutions.

Cuomo unveiled the college education program in 2016 as part of a common-sense criminal justice reform package through his Right Priorities Initiative.

“New York continues to stand out as a leader in pushing for criminal justice reform and in thinking of education as a vehicle for decreasing the scale of mass incarceration in the United States,” said Robert Scott, CPEP executive director. “A year or so ago this seemed to be the direction the country was heading in its thinking. The federal administration had a similar initiative proposed, using the Pell Grant to fund prison education.”

There was growing bipartisan support at the federal level earlier in the decade for proactive measures addressing mass incarceration, Scott explained.

“Now New York is distinguished for having done that,” he said. “Other states, such as Indiana, have experienced a reduction of college in prison programs in recent years.”

About 1,000 incarcerated individuals in New York state now receive college-level instruction each year. The College-in-Prison Reentry Program will make classes and training available to more than 2,500 additional inmates across the state, increasing the current number by 500-600 each year through grant and matching funds.

Cornell has pledged to add seats for 50 more individuals to its program over the life of the grant, “but over five to six years it may be much more,” Scott said.

Providing education is crucial in preparing a person in prison for successful re-entry into the community, Cuomo and Vance said.

“Prison isn’t just about serving time for one’s crimes. It’s an opportunity to help those who have made mistakes rehabilitate and rebuild their lives,” Cuomo said.

Participants in prison education programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison and 13 percent more likely to obtain employment after their release, according to a 2013 study by the RAND Corp.

“It makes no sense to send someone to prison with no pathway for them to succeed when they get out,” Vance said. “Investing in college education programs is a proven, cost-effective way to break the harmful cycle of recidivism and keep our communities safe.”

Thousands of Incarcerated Individuals Earn More than 32000 College Credits through JPay’s Lantern

MIAMI, Aug. 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — In early 2016, JPay launched JPay’s Lantern, a first-of-its-kind initiative that enables mass education of incarcerated individuals through the use of tablets. Working with prison facilities in Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana and West Virginia, Lantern provides incarcerated individuals with the opportunity for educational attainment, creating a better chance of success upon release, thereby reducing recidivism. Since the launch of the groundbreaking program – the only education solution in corrections that offers college credits through the use of tablets – matriculation and overall participation have been unprecedented:

  • More than 70,400 incarcerated individuals have enrolled
  • Over 32,000 college credits have been earned in partnership with Ashland University
  • More than 4 million education course files have been downloaded onto JPay tablets
  • Lantern has contributed to a 456% increase in graduation rates for the Georgia Department of Corrections

Since the launch of JPay's Lantern – the only education solution in corrections that offers college credits through the use of tablets - more than 70,400 incarcerated individuals have enrolled earning thousands of college credits.

Thousands of students enrolled in Lantern after applying for the Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program, which was reinstated in June 2016. The grant allowed for 12,000 incarcerated students across the country to enroll in postsecondary educational and training programs across 67 universities, and the first three students to earn their associate’s degree recently graduated from Ashland University in Ohio using the Lantern platform.

“JPay’s Lantern created digital education opportunities that never existed. Leveraging a virtual classroom platform, thousands of incarcerated students have taken basic courses, earned college credits and received college degrees,” said Jerry McGlone, Interim Director of the Gill Center at Ashland University. “These students have real hope and can even continue their education with Ashland University once released, an invaluable advantage in the reentry process. We couldn’t have reached these milestones without a transformative program such as Lantern.”

The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) is the first to implement a state-wide digital educational initiative that utilizes Lantern, providing JPay tablets to more than 50,000 incarcerated individuals. By leveraging Lantern’s digital education platform, the student population in 44 facilities has accessed more than 100 GED prep courses and downloaded remediation and enrichment content in general education modules.  In addition to structured courses, GDC students have downloaded over 2.2 million KA Lite videos – a free offering through Lantern.

“We believe education is the key to rehabilitation and post-release success. So when we realized we could leverage our extensive network to dramatically expand access to education, it was a no-brainer – we had to pursue it,” said Errol Feldman, CEO of JPay. “And while the program’s success to date has been gratifying, our goal is to extend the digital education revolution to the entire incarcerated population.”

Studies prove that education reduces recidivism. Digital solutions, such as JPay’s Lantern, will put tablets in the hands of the incarcerated population so they can use their time served to earn a degree and be productive members of society upon release.

About JPay
JPay, a Securus Technologies Company, designs, builds and deploys its technology to prisons and jails across the country, establishing correspondence to help educate and rehabilitate offenders.  Serving more than 1.9 million offenders and parolees in 34 states, JPay makes the corrections process more convenient for offenders and their loved ones, while modernizing processes and increasing intelligence capabilities for corrections facilities. Products include money transfer services, tablets, email and video communications, education, games, music and more.

View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/thousands-of-incarcerated-individuals-earn-more-than-32000-college-credits-through-jpays-lantern-300504019.html

SOURCE JPay

Meet special ed head Nikarre Redcoff | Sonoma Index-Tribune … – Sonoma Index

Walking into the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Office right before school starts one expects a level of chaos, especially this year. Many new hires, an interim superintendent, plenty of rumors and lots of changes. But there is none of that; in fact there is the opposite of that.

“Of course we miss (former Superintendent) Louann (Carlomagno) but we have some very strong leadership and we are all unified in our goal. You can feel the cohesion, everyone is poised to move forward,” says Nikarre Redcoff, director of student services. “I’m excited for the school year.”

There are about 660 kids in the district with a special ed classification. Redcoff oversees special education and supports the behavioral and social-emotional programs in the district. She works collaboratively with the district’s new associate superintendent for instructional services, Karen Strong, on implementing a multi-tiered system of support throughout the district.

Redcoff has been a part of the district since 1999 when she started as a full inclusion specialist and behaviorist for the district. Full inclusion refers to students with severe learning disabilities being mainstreamed into general education.

She then spent years at the Sonoma County Office of Education as the SELPA (special education local plan area) program specialist before returning to Sonoma in her current role. It’s a role that tries to balance the needs of the district, of parents, of teachers and ultimately of students.

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re all our children,” she says. “The more we can do to get parents involved, the better. I welcome ideas for improvement.” This is a common sentiment that the system works best when teachers and parents are all participating and working together.

“There is nothing more important than a teacher,” she adds. “All students benefit when we put tools in the hands of teachers, the goal is to get the right tools in their hands. You have to be respectful, loving and optimistic but also garner results.”

She is especially proud of her staff in the special education department. “That team is dedicated, and so strong, and so devoted,” she says.

Redcoff knows there are challenges – changes, fear, economics, equal access, test scores – but she is hopeful. “In addition to being with students, something else that really makes me happy is to see students make progress – academically, socially, behaviorally – to see the teachers’ and specialists’ hard work pay off for the students.”

But there are disappointments. “When a team tries their best, and we still don’t see the progress we’d hoped for,” she says. “Because the work the staff does is really for the kids. This is the most disappointing thing that can happen.”

When asked about her goals for this year, Redcoff becomes even more animated. “I love getting into classrooms and there is some really cool stuff like the Tiers of Interventions and Elementary Jump Into Reading Program,” she says.

“I understand that every parent comes to the table with fear and love but when we work together, problems get solved,” she added.

Walt Williams teaches at Creekside High School and blogs about issues of the day for the Index-Tribune.

Wheeler Clinic Praises Federal Grant To Increase Opioid Training

Armed with new federal money, the Wheeler Clinic plans to train thousands on spotting the potential for opioid abuse among adolescent girls.

Joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Monday, the clinic’s leadership praised the $300,000 grant received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Treatment and prevention is really important, as is training and education,” Susan Walkama, the clinic’s president and CEO, said.

Wheeler Clinic plans to use the money to train 4,500 professionals on screening for potential abuse. Some of the training will be done in person, while others will get training online, officials said.