Committee Rejects Malloy Plans on Teacher Pensions, Education Cost Sharing

Joseph DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which advocates on behalf of the state’s cities and towns, said, “We have to look more deeply at the details, but we are very pleased, particularly with the Democratic leadership who worked to put this together and to preserve those types of funding issues. We’re grateful for that. At the same time, I think it would be irresponsible for me to get too far out in front of this thing before I’ve had a chance to review the details. But we are encouraged because we think the conversations headed in the right direction.”

The committee agreed with the governor’s spending proposals on bilingual education, low-performing priority school districts, adult education, the American School for the Deaf, vocational agriculture and health and welfare services that are provided to students in private schools.

In a budget-savings agreement with Malloy, the committee is recommending delaying 3 percent raises for judges for the next two years – after the raises had already been delayed last year.

Social Services

Regarding social services, the committee rejected Malloy’s plan to reduce the income eligibility for low-income adults who are eligible for medical care under the HUSKY A program. Instead, lawmakers said that the current funding and eligibility levels should remain.

The committee also rejected Malloy’s call to cut the personal needs allowance for elderly citizens in nursing homes who receive $60 per month for haircuts, clothing and personal needs. Malloy wanted to save $1.1 million per year by dropping the allowance to $50 per month, but the committee restored the money.

In another move, the committee rejected Malloy’s plan to reduce the burial benefit for poor families to $900, down from the current $1,200. The money is used for funeral, burial and cremation expenses for families that qualify by their level of income under state welfare programs.

Regarding the environment, lawmakers rejected Malloy’s plan to eliminate the Council on Environmental Quality, an environmental watchdog group that has been on the radar screen for years for budget cuts. Lawmakers, though, are calling for no change in the level of funding. The council would be funded through the $10 biennial surcharge on motor vehicle registrations, starting in the second year of the two-year budget.

Potential Tax Increases

A controversial proposal seeks to increase the sales tax to 6.99 percent, up from the current 6.35 percent. Another Democratic proposal recommends increasing the maximum state income tax to 7.49 percent for the state’s highest earners, up from the current 6.99 percent. There are no plans to increase the income tax for the middle class.

Republicans have said they will offer a no-tax-increase budget in the near future, and some say they have no intention of voting for any tax increases. As a result, the Democrats would need unanimous votes at the committee level to pass tax and budget increases because they have a one-vote margin on both the finance and appropriations committees.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin said Democrats know that they must join together in order to pass the budget in difficult times.

“Some speakers have had a 114-member caucus and a surplus,” Aresimowicz said. “I just don’t find my self in that situation.”

When asked if the sales tax increase will be passed by the committee, Aresimowicz said, “I don’t know. I’ve been pretty consistent that I don’t want to take anything off the table. Everything’s on the table. I don’t think raising taxes is ever a decision that is made easily, nor is it the first choice as a legislator.”

Despite the tight margins on the committees, Aresimowicz said he believes the legislature can pass a two-year budget before the scheduled adjournment of the regular session on June 7.

“I am very confident that I will put a budget up on the board before we adjourn the legislative session,” he said.

Two top Republicans – Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven and Sen. L. Scott Frantz of Greenwich – asked for a postponement of Tuesday’s tax hearing because they said the proposals send the wrong message to the general public.

“Just hearing these bills is detrimental to our state,” they said, “and sends a message to businesses and families about the direction our state is headed.”

Taxing non-profits

Klarides spoke out passionately against a plan to assess sales tax on goods and services purchased by non-profit groups. The proposal would generate about $203 million for the state but would also upend a longstanding tradition of exempting non-profits from taxes.

“Going down the road of non-profits being taxed may be one of the saddest things I’ve seen in this building in 18 years,” Klarides said. 

Her comments sparked a spirited debate with one of the commitee’s co-chairman, Democrat Rep. Jason Rojas of East Hartford. 

“I don’t know that anybody on this committee is particularly excited or interested in taxing non-profits,” Rojas said. “But it’s an issue that I constantly hear from my local officials and in the interest of full disclosure, I work at a non-profit which would be impacted by this proposal.

Rojas, who works as director of community relations at Trinity College in Hartford, said the proposal was meant to start a discussion. Non-profits, which are exempt from property taxes, pose a strain the communities that house them, he said. 

“This wasn’t about punishing non-profits, diminishing their value or trying to hurt them,” Rojas said. “This is about a conversation about the almost 10,000 non-profit organizations that are registered here in the state of Connecticut and the conversation about how that impacts municipal finance.”

Courant staff writer Daniela Altimari contributed to this report.

From Middle School Straight To Higher Education: A CUNY SPS …

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What are the first words that come to mind when you hear the words “middle school?” Bad haircuts. Unrequited love. A fear of multiplying fractions. Dodgeball?

Middle school teachers are the unsung heroes of adolescent education—and we may be quick to forget their influence when we think back to the days of shop class and school lunches. Remember: they chose to be with us during our toughest times. But for one teacher, middle school education was not the final frontier.

Amanda Smith teaches 6th grade in Queens by day and pursues an MS in Disability Services in Higher Education at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) by…whenever else she has the time, after finding inspiration in the experiences of her brother and sister, who both have learning disabilities. We spoke with Amanda about the intersection of these two modes of learning, her evolving role as an educator, and how she manages her time on both sides of the “teacher’s desk.”

Can you tell us a little bit more about what led you to middle school education? What subjects do you teach, and why did you gravitate to that age group?
At first, I didn’t want to be in a middle school. But after doing my observation hours in a sixth-grade classroom, I fell in love with the kids instantly. Middle school is that awkward time where you think, feel, and act like a teenager, but have the emotions of a little kid. It’s confusing and fun. In my role, I am a mom, a friend, a teacher, and most importantly, a consistent and positive presence in students’ lives. Middle school teachers can make or break a student’s confidence, and I like to make sure I’m on the side of “making.”

I’ve been teaching math for over 7 years. I love the subject because I can watch my students’ confidence grow. And I love that math is very black and white: 2 + 2 will always equal 4, and there is always a right and wrong answer. There’s instant gratification. The students will know they got it right because the math works, and if it doesn’t, they know they need to try again. As a math teacher, I live for the moment my students finally get it right.

You mentioned that you originally became more interested in higher education based on the experiences of your brother and sister, who have learning disabilities. Can you elaborate on those experiences and how they influenced you?
I worked at a previous school where I felt the staff didn’t encourage the pursuit of higher education for students with disabilities. At the time, it was my first teaching job, and I didn’t know enough to question it, but the experience stuck with me. Around the same time, my brother and sister had begun their college search, and I started to worry knowing that, during and after the transition, they might lose the support they benefited from during their childhood and adolescent education.

As a teacher, I constantly worry about my students. So you can only imagine the intensity of my concerns for my family. My concern for a quality education for my brother and sister led me to discover that higher education does offer support to students with learning disabilities. Knowing these types of programs exist motivated me to encourage students and their families to strive toward higher education, disability or no disability.

Can you talk about the challenges facing students with disabilities today? What are teachers and students in your program most interested in learning about and fighting for?
One of the challenges facing students with disabilities is the outdated notion that they are not smart enough or they are unable to follow the same path as general education students. Many teachers, including myself, are pushing for universal design in higher education. The goal of universal design is to accommodate as many different learning styles and needs as possible within the core education system. Imagine how great it would be to have the tools you need already in place without fighting the system or waiting for complicated paperwork to be processed beyond the classroom.

How was the transition from teaching full-time to adding a full academic course load on top of your classroom obligations?
It’s been a difficult adjustment, but it’s getting better. The primary reason is that I give my students 110%. If they need something, I stop everything and take care of it. This often forces me to make a decision between my students and my coursework. When I have no choice but to pick coursework, it can be disappointing in suddenly not feeling that 110%. When I choose my students, I often have long nights catching up on coursework after I deal with the needs of my classroom. I am a very organized person, and I usually have things done and prepared weeks in advance. However, this new experience has changed my thinking. I now ask myself, “what needs to be done right now.” It’s a mindset I never thought I could live by, but I’m making it work!

How has your work as an educator guided your course of study?
As an educator, it’s much easier for me to relate to student experiences in general. It’s also helpful to know the K-12 educational laws as background. It allows me to understand the different challenges the students will have during their transitional time between high school and college, which is the area that I feel the most passionate about.

And on a similar note, have your studies influenced your teaching style or your approach to education?
I have strong focus on self-advocacy and teaching my students to communicate their needs. When they reach college, they will not have a teacher around to speak for them. The will need to speak for themselves. This worries me, as I have students who struggle to communicate the smallest things like asking for a pencil, so I can’t imagine how they may feel asking for larger accommodations as they get older.

What are some of the CUNY SPS courses that have resonated with you the most?
I’ve loved all my courses so far! I’ve learned something new in every class. Each course serves as a puzzle piece that, when placed together, provides clarification to the higher educational puzzle. It’s difficult to pick just one!

Was there anything that surprised you? Anything you weren’t expecting in your course of study?
Something that surprised me is how slow change takes place. The mindset towards individuals with disabilities often remains negative, despite how many positive changes have actually happened in education and beyond. So the amount of work that still needs to be done involving perception and the education of students with disabilities is eye-opening.

As you know, CUNY SPS mainly offers online programs. What were your initial thoughts about that? Did you have any reservations, particularly as an in-classroom educational professional yourself?
Despite having no problem speaking and often looking silly in front of 70+ students every day, I am an introverted person. For me, it’s very different speaking in front of 11- and 12-year olds than to adults, so the thought of interacting online was a dream for me. I also know people who need that face-to-face interaction, and while I don’t think there is a best medium, it comes down to a learning preference. Also, there was no way I could commute to class, work in two classrooms, and still be the teacher I like to be.

Clearly, you’re quite busy between work and school! How do you balance your time with so much going on?
I don’t know how I’m doing it! It’s about setting an organized schedule and sticking to it. Admittedly, I see these students more than my own family, but I wouldn’t change that for the world.

When you’ve got some time to breathe, what do you enjoy doing outside of school and work?

Some of my favorite things to do other than catching up on my missing sleep is reading, spending time with my husband, and going to the beach or to the park with my pug. While I’m sure he would love to go to the park more, he makes the best homework buddy.

Any advice for professionals looking to go back to school, specifically at CUNY SPS?
The biggest piece of advice I would give anyone looking to go back to school is to organize your life. Get a planner, get three planners, whatever you need to do. Plan for emergencies and unexpected situations in your schedule. Don’t stress perfection. You can’t give 100% to every area of your life always.

And what are your plans after graduation? What does the future hold?
While I am not ready to leave the classroom just yet, I plan to continue working to help prepare students with disabilities for their transition to higher education and all else that awaits them.

For more information about the CUNY School of Professional Studies and how to continue your own education, visit sps.cuny.edu and see what works for you.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between CUNY SPS and Gothamist staff.

Minnesota Attorney General joins 20 others in letter criticizing Department of Education – KMSP

– United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ decision to withdraw guidance for student loan borrowers is not sitting well with many state-level leaders, garnering a response from 21 state attorneys general Monday. 

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson added her signature to a letter outlining opposition to the measure, “at a time when the need for common-sense federal student loan servicing reforms is undeniable,” according to the letter.

Multiple lawsuits against student loan providers in the past few years allege predatory practices from student loan providers, including failure to process income-driven repayment plans and providing poor guidance to consumers. A memo from the Obama administration created incentives for outreach to the most at-risk borrowers and penalties for poor service, among other things. 

The Education Department withdrew these rules April 11, proposing no alternative plans to rein in student loan providers but saying in a statement, “We must promptly address not only these shortcomings but also any other issues that may impede our ability to ensure borrowers do not experience deficiencies in service. This must be done with precision, timeliness and transparency.”

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau estimates more than 25 percent of borrowers are behind on their payments or in default on their student loans, at least partially due to misinformation from providers. 

“Investigations and enforcement actions undertaken by the state attorneys general have repeatedly revealed the havoc that student loan servicers’ poor practices and servicing failures wreak on the lives of borrowers,” the letter said. “The Department’s decision to roll back essential protections imperils millions of student loan borrowers and families.”

The Education Department said at the time they needed to “negate any impediment, ambiguity or inconsistency” in the way student loan providers operated.

The department could not be reached for comment on the letter. 

Attorneys General Ask Education Secretary DeVos To Restore Guidance To Student Aid Borrowers

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia are faulting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for rolling back Obama-era guidance they say is helping protect student loan borrowers.

In a letter sent Monday, Democratic attorneys general Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Lisa Madigan of Illinois called on DeVos to restore the memos instituted by the federal Education Department last year under President Barack Obama.

The attorneys general said the guidance is designed to help borrowers get accurate information about their loans and repayment options — ensuring the consistency of service provided by student loan servicers and increasing accountability.

The letter was co-signed by attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AG Madigan & 20 AGs Oppose U.S. Dept. of Education’s Rollback of Student Loan Servicing Reforms

Reforms Informed by Madigan’s Investigation Into Student Loan Giant Navient Revoked by U.S. Department of Education

Chicago —(ENEWSPF)—April 24, 2017.  Attorney General Lisa Madigan today joined with 20 attorneys general and the Office of Consumer Protection of Hawaii calling out the U.S. Department of Education for abdicating its responsibility to millions of student loan borrowers and their families by revoking critical reforms designed to help borrowers avoid default and curtail loan servicer misconduct.

Madigan along with the other attorneys general and the Office of Consumer Protection of Hawaii sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opposing the Department’s rescission of guidance to protect student loan borrowers and reform the student loan servicing industry.

“These reforms were a result of my investigation into one of the largest student loan companies in the country that showed the industry has repeatedly put borrowers into more expensive repayment options,” Madigan said. “The U.S. Department of Education must take action to protect student loan borrowers and reform the industry to put their needs ahead of private companies’ profits.”

Last year, in the wake of Attorney General Madigan’s investigation of Navient, the Department of Education issued guidance for the student loan servicing industry. The guidance required student loan servicers to inform struggling student borrowers about the availability of affordable income-based repayment plans. Madigan has since filed a lawsuit against Navient and its predecessor Sallie Mae for the companies’ widespread failures and mistreatment of student loan borrowers.

The Department of Education’s reforms addressed many of the findings of Madigan’s investigation into Navient by ensuring that student loan borrowers got accurate information about their loans and repayment options. The reforms also ensured consistency of service, increased servicer accountability, and enhanced transparency by student loan servicers. Critically, these reforms aimed to improve borrowers’ access to affordable loan repayment plans designed to help borrowers in distress avoid default. Now the Department’s action will instead leave student loan borrowers vulnerable to poor practices and abuses that the servicing reforms were designed to stop.

In the letter, Madigan and the attorneys general state the reforms are critical to helping borrowers who are struggling under the weight of their student loan debt, evidenced by an increasing rate of federal student loan defaults. In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimated that more than 25 percent of student loan borrowers were delinquent or in default on a student loan.

“Many such borrowers would benefit greatly from entering income-driven repayment plans but are prevented from doing so by student loan servicer misconduct and misinformation,” the letter states.

Joining Madigan in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection of Hawaii.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Source: www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov

Moran: Congress doesn’t back Trump’s education budget proposals

TOPEKA — The proposed 2018 federal budget from President Donald Trump’s administration that slashes $54 billion in discretionary spending — including a $9.2 billion cut to federal education spending but $1.4 billion more for school choice — largely doesn’t have support from Capitol Hill.

That was the message U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, delivered to members of the Kansas State Board of Education during a special meeting Saturday in Topeka.

“I think the dramatic reductions in spending would not be supported by enough senators to pass,” he said. “I want to make sure the process we’ve been through as an appropriations committee is what the end result is.”

“President Obama’s budget, I don’t know if it ever received a single vote for the eight years he was president,” Moran continued. “This president’s budget will receive little support as well.”

Vouchers and charter schools, which Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are championing but which are a major concern for the public education community, can’t become a reality without congressional approval, Moran said.

“You can’t take money and put it into vouchers without Congress allowing that,” Moran said, adding that there haven’t been conversations among other lawmakers about pushing legislation forward to create vouchers. He said DeVos told him that there will be no federally mandated school vouchers for Kansas, and he said he will hold her to that promise.

“Her commitment to me was that there would be no federally required vouchers,” he said. “We would be an active opponent to any kind of increase in the federal government telling us how to run our schools here in Kansas.”

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said that if Trump’s proposal to cut Title II funding for teacher quality initiatives and more money is put into charter schools and vouchers, Kansas will be “disproportionally hurt.”

“We don’t get a lot of that money anyway,” he said. “Charters and vouchers have a difficult time in our Kansas Constitution and rural state,” he said. “We’re not asking for more (money) but we can protect what we have. We’re asking for what is supposed to be coming to Kansas.”

When it comes to money for education in general, Moran said, the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed an FY17 funding bill that keeps education funding relatively flat.

“Education would receive the funding that it’s expecting and it will be consistent with what it has received in the past if we’re successful in getting out of the continuing resolution and getting these bills passed,” he said.

Moran said the labor, health and education spending bill for fiscal year 2017 is one of the largest outside of defense spending. He told state board members that “Labor H” is one of 12 spending bills that will be passed and the congressional continuing resolution will “go away” on or about April 28.

“We are headed in the direction I think you like,” Moran told board members. However, funding increases proposed by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for Title I and II and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, are “very modest,” he conceded.

Funding for preschool and afterschool programs “has diminished just a little bit,” and career and technical education is going to stay at level funding, Moran said.

More money needs to flow from the federal level to the states to educate special education students under the IDEA, Moran said. He said that while Congress has never fully met its obligation to fund 40 percent of the total amount of money needed to educate children with disabilities, he will “continue that effort” for federal funding of the IDEA so state money for general education doesn’t have to be used to meet federal requirements to educate students with disabilities.

Board member Jim McNiece told Moran that he and his fellow board members want to make sure the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is predictable so that the board’s “Kansans Can” vision “to lead the world in the success of every student” can move forward.

“We have a very challenging plan. It’s a moonshot, as we say, to do this,” he said. “It’s our unique plan. It’s not Florida’s or Washington’s or Maine’s. It’s Kansas. In that plan are some things we would like to continue to be funded.”

The ESSA, signed into law by President Obama in 2015, reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The ESSA allows states to have flexibility in determining accountability standards for student success.

McNiece said he would like to see how the state’s ESSA plans, which Kansas will submit to the U.S. Department of Education in October, play out. He said he is concerned, however, that the Trump administration hasn’t named an assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education who will approve ESSA plans.

“There needs to be an apparatus to have these plans approved,” McNiece said, adding that the concern is felt by elected and professional education officials nationwide. “There’s no review process. There’s nobody at home to do it. They’re not saving any money and they’re not helping us in this regard.”

Jim Porter, chairman of the board, told Moran one of his chief concerns is that Kansas is having a hard time attracting and retaining quality teachers.

“In some places, it is a crisis,” he said, adding that mentoring and professional development programs need to be funded. “If we don’t have teachers in our classrooms that are prepared to meet the needs of today’s students, we very well are not doing the best for them.”

Porter said even though the federal government provides just 10 percent of the state’s total education funding, what money Kansas gets from Washington, D.C., is important, particularly for remedial programs and increasing teacher quality.

“We couldn’t do without that,” he said, “especially in this era of state budget cuts. It would have a huge impact if we didn’t have it.”

Williams Elementary School Sounds Better | Preston Hollow People

Teachers' frequency modulation systems sync with students' hearing devices. (Photo: Tanner Garza)

Teachers’ frequency modulation systems sync with students’ hearing devices. (Photo: Tanner Garza)

The halls at Sudie L. Williams Elementary School echo with the familiar sounds of teachers explaining lessons and students answering queries.

However, it is only because of the school’s unique Oral Deaf Education program that dozens of students on campus are able to hear those questions at all.

Williams has long served students with auditory impairments in kindergarten through fifth grade. It is the only school in Dallas ISD that utilizes additional teachers and special technology to improve students’ access to grade-specific curriculum and instruction.

Students with a range of issues, including physical deformities that affect their ability to hear, travel to Williams daily from throughout the district and as far away as Farmers Branch and Carrolton to attend the school.

“We service a special population, because we have the special tools to do so, but all kids are special,” said Principal Michael Jackson.

Beginning last year, a greater emphasis has been placed on including auditory-impaired students in more general education programs at the school, rather than routinely pulling them from classes to receive specialized instruction in reading, he said.

Each classroom at Williams is helmed by a pair of teachers — a general education and a special education instructor — who teach in tandem. They also don personal frequency modulation systems that use radio waves to deliver speech signals to students who wear hearing aids and cochlear implants.

The technology, which syncs with the students’ hearing devices, provides students better access to sound and allows them to use their listening and speaking skills rather than sign language when interacting with each other and their teachers.

As a result, most of the school’s 40 auditory-impaired students are able to participate in a typical classroom setting alongside their 200-plus hearing classmates.

“We really do try to urge an inclusive environment, so the kids are getting on-grade-level instruction just like their peers are,” Jackson said.

It can be difficult for some students who experienced a delay in being identified as having auditory issues early in their lives or academic careers to adjust.

“They have had to make it the best way that they could with the tools that they had, so they read lips, and they’ll come up with ways to make it,” he explained.
Now, he said, it’s up to the teachers at Williams to use “diverse instructional strategies in order to bring those kids into the fold of understanding.”

The Oral Deaf Education program is “driven by teachers who are super passionate” about giving the students “not only access to instructional material, but also to self-advocacy,” Jackson said.

For example, students are responsible for keeping track of and maintaining their own hearing devices.

(Photo: Tanner Garza)

(Photo: Tanner Garza)

“You have to make sure that you wear it every day, check your batteries and all that,” explained fifth-grader Aaron Caracheo, who transferred to Williams last year from another school.

Jackson said all of the students on campus take the Oral Deaf Education program seriously.

“If a child loses a hearing aid, everybody is scrambling to find it,” he explained. “Think about the level of consciousness the students have to have. They’re not just thinking about themselves. They know that a student won’t have as much access to [instruction] because they don’t have a hearing aid.”

With the help of technology, 10-year-old Carecheo said he can better hear the teacher than at his previous school, where “it was tricky. … I had to ask the teacher again and again if she could repeat” information.

Special education teacher Molly Browning said Williams’ auditory-impaired students “are being pushed more. We are not pulling them out [of class]. We’re not saying, `You can’t do this.’ We’re saying, `You can do this, we’re gonna help.’ ”

Jackson agrees. “We push these kids as hard as we push everybody else. There’s no differentiation in terms of what the expectations are. And they rise up to the challenge. It’s pretty awesome.”

New principal at Canton’s St. Mary’s School starts July 1

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CANTON — St. Mary’s School will have a new principal starting July 1, and other changes are also in store.

Michele A. Meyers, a retired Canton Central School administrator and educator, was appointed to replace Pamela Neal who will teach second grade at the school.

Mrs. Meyers said she’s been a member of St. Mary’s parish for more than 40 years and is looking forward to her new role.

“I feel very dedicated to St. Mary’s parish. I feel this is a good fit for me,” she said. “I believe St. Mary’s School has a lot of wonderful things to offer.”

The school, 2 Powers St., serves about 75 youngsters in grades nursery through sixth who reside in Canton and several other communities, including Potsdam and Ogdensburg.

Registration is being accepted for grades pre-k through fourth. There is a 5 percent discount for those who register by May 15.

Mrs. Meyers has served as president of the school’s Education Council for the past two years.

In a prepared statement, the Rev. Douglas Lucia, parish pastor, said he was grateful that Mrs. Meyers accepted the appointment and grateful for the work Mrs. Neal did to foster the school’s mission during her time as principal.

Mrs. Meyers’ background includes serving as director of special education for more than seven years at Canton Central, where she also taught special education and elementary general education.

At Massena Central School District, she served as director of special education and spent one year as principal of Nightengale Elementary School.

Prior to her tenure in public schools, Mrs. Meyers worked as director of religious education for St. Mary’s parish and St. Thomas More Newman parish.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and elementary education from SUNY Potsdam and a master’s degree in special education from there as well.

Mrs. Meyers also received a certificate of advanced study and a master’s degree from St. Lawrence University in education leadership. She holds New York state certification as both an elementary teacher and a special education teacher and a school district leader.

Some of the new initiatives for St. Mary’s School for 2017-18 include:

Appointment of a family catechist, formerly director of religious education, who will oversee and direct both the school and the parish Christian Formation programs, focusing on getting families more involved in parish and school life.

Beginning Sept. 1, the school’s latchkey program will be expanded to provide supervised care to students before and after school during school and summer vacations.

Upgrades are planned for the building’s interior, including new paintings that will be designed to capture a child’s imagination, a computer lab, renovated office space, a new faculty room and an office and storage space for the family catechist. Volunteers are being asked to assist.

The school will return to having separate classes for second and third graders. The grades have been combined for the past few years.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran addresses Kansas State Board of Education …

The proposed 2018 federal budget from President Donald Trump’s administration that slashes $54 billion in discretionary spending — including a $9.2 billion cut to federal education spending but $1.4 billion more for school choice — largely doesn’t have support from Capitol Hill.

That was the message U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, delivered to members of the Kansas State Board of Education during a special meeting Saturday in Topeka.

“I think the dramatic reductions in spending would not be supported by enough senators to pass,” he said. “I want to make sure the process we’ve been through as an appropriations committee is what the end result is.”

“President Obama’s budget, I don’t know if it ever received a single vote for the eight years he was president,” Moran continued. “This president’s budget will receive little support as well.”

Vouchers and charter schools, which Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are championing but which are a major concern for the public education community, can’t become a reality without congressional approval, Moran said.

“You can’t take money and put it into vouchers without Congress allowing that,” Moran said, adding that there haven’t been conversations among other lawmakers about pushing legislation forward to create vouchers. He said DeVos told him that there will be no federally mandated school vouchers for Kansas, and he said he will hold her to that promise.

“Her committment to me was that there would be no federally required vouchers,” he said. “We would be an active opponent to any kind of increase in the federal government telling us how to run our schools here in Kansas.”

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said that if Trump’s proposal to cut Title II funding for teacher quality initiatives and more money is put into charter schools and vouchers, Kansas will be “disproportionally hurt.”

“We don’t get a lot of that money anyway,” he said. “Charters and vouchers have a difficult time in our Kansas Constitution and rural state,” he said. “We’re not asking for more (money) but we can protect what we have. We’re asking for what is supposed to be coming to Kansas.”

When it comes to money for education in general, Moran said, the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed an FY17 funding bill that keeps education funding relatively flat.

“Education would receive the funding that it’s expecting and it will be consistent with what it has received in the past if we’re successful in getting out of the continuing resolution and getting these bills passed,” he said.

Moran said the labor, health and education spending bill for fiscal year 2017 is one of the largest outside of defense spending. He told state board members that “Labor H” is one of 12 spending bills that will be passed and the congressional continuing resolution will “go away” on or about April 28.

“We are headed in the direction I think you like,” Moran told board members. However, funding increases proposed by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for Title I and II and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, are “very modest,” he conceded.

Funding for preschool and afterschool programs “has diminished just a little bit,” and career and technical education is going to stay at level funding, Moran said.

More money needs to flow from the federal level to the states to educate special education students under the IDEA, Moran said. He said that while Congress has never fully met its obligation to fund 40 percent of the total amount of money needed to educate children with disabilities, he will “continue that effort” for federal funding of the IDEA so state money for general education doesn’t have to be used to meet federal requirements to educate students with disabilities.

Board member Jim McNiece told Moran that he and his fellow board members want to make sure the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is predictable so that the board’s “Kansans Can” vision “to lead the world in the success of every student” can move forward.

“We have a very challenging plan. It’s a moonshot, as we say, to do this,” he said. “It’s our unique plan. It’s not Florida’s or Washington’s or Maine’s. It’s Kansas. In that plan are some things we would like to continue to be funded.”

The ESSA, signed into law by President Obama in 2015, reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The ESSA allows states to have flexibility in determining accountability standards for student success.

McNiece said he would like to see how the state’s ESSA plans, which Kansas will submit to the U.S. Department of Education in October, play out. He said he is concerned, however, that the Trump administration hasn’t named an assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education who will approve ESSA plans.

“There needs to be an apparatus to have these plans approved,” McNiece said, adding that the concern is felt by elected and professional education officials nationwide. “There’s no review process. There’s nobody at home to do it. They’re not saving any money and they’re not helping us in this regard.”

Jim Porter, chairman of the board, told Moran one of his chief concerns is that Kansas is having a hard time attracting and retaining quality teachers.

“In some places, it is a crisis,” he said, adding that mentoring and professional development programs need to be funded. “If we don’t have teachers in our classrooms that are prepared to meet the needs of today’s students, we very well are not doing the best for them.”

Porter said even though the federal government provides just 10 percent of the state’s total education funding, what money Kansas gets from Washington, D.C., is important, particularly for remedial programs and increasing teacher quality.

“We couldn’t do without that,” he said, “especially in this era of state budget cuts. It would have a huge impact if we didn’t have it.”

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or @AngelaDeines on Twitter.

New curriculum brings change to school’s calendar

“The new curriculum is one that we like to think of as a maker space for learning,” said Kyle Dell, chair of the Liberal Arts General Education Revision Committee and associate professor of political science.

In April 2015, faculty approved a revision process for the Guilford College curriculum developed in 1998.

“The process for revising the general education curriculum began in 2011, when the Curriculum Committee began surveying the faculty based on direct experiences and assessment data on the student learning experience,” said Dell.

“The revision was meant to address strategic needs of the College, significant faculty interest in revising learning delivery through the curriculum, dissatisfaction with the performance of some elements of the current curriculum and a number of deferred proposals that would have made smaller changes to the current curriculum.”

A revision committee, the Liberal Arts General Education Revision Committee (LAGER), was assembled to deliver a proposal to the faculty for approval no later than the end of spring semester 2017.

“LAGER has worked with the administration, the senior team, the president’s office, student affairs, alumni and advancement services, external consultants, student government groups and external experts in general education programming from national higher education associations,” said Dell. “Since last year, LAGER has developed a series of draft proposals that have been vetted and discussed by many different groups of faculty, staff, students, administrators and external consultants.”

“We’ve developed an entire curriculum and are close to approval,” said Caleb Anderson, junior and student representative of the clerk’s committee. “Last year, we were still in the process of gathering information for drafting, but now we are in the final stages.”

The new curriculum incorporates changes to allow students to explore their educational passions.

“One of the largest changes is the implementation of ‘Communities in Practice,’ where students will work in campus groups to pursue interdisciplinary topics through experiential learning, projects, off-campus partners and much more,” said Anderson.

In addition to “Communities in Practice,” the revision committee voted to remove a graduation requirement.

“Another large change is the curriculum will no longer require a minor for graduation,” said Anderson. “A third large change comes in the form of ‘Community Week,’ which will be a week in the semester (when) there will be no classes. As a result, the community will have the opportunity to come together to focus on one or more core values through seminars, lectures, games, concerts – the opportunities for where this week could go (is) endless.”

Dell believes the most visible element of the revised curriculum is “Community in Practice” or CiP.

“CiP is a series of common courses and experiential opportunities culminating in a signature individual work by each student around a common theme that transcends the expertise of any one discipline,” said Dell. “For example, a CiP could address suburban sprawl in the Triad or the international response to refugees by nations around the world. These CiPs could leverage existing expertise on campus as well as work with other practitioners to supplement the related courses of a given community.”

The key reasoning behind CiPs is to foster the true interests of students at Guilford.

“The structure of the upper parts of the curriculum is such … that a student is not confronted with random course requirements to check off as you go,” said Dell. “Rather, the experiences and courses cohere (with) a theme, and students can work in teams with others that have a passion for that CiP.”

After considerable discussion and evaluation, LAGER’s proposal was approved unanimously by committee members and has been given to the clerk’s committee to be presented to faculty.

In the meantime, committee members express excitement for the organic nature of the new curriculum.

“Right now, our curriculum for 1998 is a one-size-fits-all approach where choice, coherence and innovation are fairly bounded,” said Dell. “We have built a structure for innovation to happen for many years ahead within the ‘Communities in Practice.’

“Guilford’s seal has a tree on it. We like to think of our new curriculum (as) being rooted in Guilford’s mission, but also growing branches in new and exciting directions in the years ahead.”

With approval from the faculty, Guilford will implement the new curriculum beginning in the Fall 2017 semester.

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