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Spokane woman heading to D.C. to highlight importance of early childhood education – The Spokesman

On Sunday, Katie Zobell will load her 23-month-old daughter Paige onto an airplane and fly across the country to speak to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

Zobell, her daughter and husband are one of 50 families – one from each state – addressing lawmakers on Tuesday. She will be highlighting challenges new parents face in the hope of influencing federal legislation around early childhood development funding.

“If we as parents aren’t doing our part to make these issues known, then they will be put on the back burner,” she said.

Zobell will meet with Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Zobell applied for the trip and was selected by the organization Zero to Three, a nonprofit focused on early childhood education and support.

The event, called Strolling Thunder, is part of the broader campaign Think Babies.

“I think that babies are a bipartisan issue,” said Patricia Cole, the senior director of federal policy for Zero to Three.

“I don’t think they’ve ever seen 100 or so babies in strollers cruising around the capital,” she added.

Zobell’s story focuses primarily on the difficulty and cost of finding quality day care.

When Zobell moved to Spokane with her husband, her daughter was 3 months old. The family lives off her part-time job at Gonzaga while her husband attends school at Spokane Falls Community College. Because they didn’t know anyone in Spokane they had to find child care almost immediately.

“It was hard to find a place where I felt comfortable leaving her,” she said.

The best places were too expensive. That could have put the family into a problematic cycle, Zobell said.

“If we couldn’t find child care then I wouldn’t be able to work, and I’d have to rely on government assistance to be able to survive,” Zobell said.

That’s why lawmakers should provide more support to early childhood education programs, whether in the form of federal subsidies or grants, she said.

“Everybody needs to be working together so families don’t have to get caught in this loop,” Zobell said.

Zobell and her husband ended up finding child,care at Spokane Falls Community College’s Early Learning Center. She said she was lucky to get a spot there as there is a normally a waiting list.

However, Zobell is pregnant and expecting another child this summer. How the family will adapt to that has yet to be seen.

“That changes things as well,” she said. “My husband is graduating the same week my baby is due.”

Early childhood education should be a primary concern of lawmakers because it directly impacts the future of the country, Cole said. According to a report published by HighScope Educational Research Foundation, investing in early childhood education leads to better jobs, health and relationship outcomes for those children.

“We know that is really the key to some of their (lawmakers) long-term goals, like a stronger economy and a really productive workforce,” Cole said.

Cole advocates on a daily basis for policies and legislation that support early childhood development. She focuses on three main areas: supporting parents, early childhood programs and early childhood mental health.

The Strolling Thunder event is designed to humanize the issues for lawmakers. Cole hopes that by meeting families, legislatures can better understand why federal support is necessary.

“Hopefully that will make my job easier,” she said.

The families participating in the event will meet with lawmakers on Tuesday. At noon they will gather across the street from the capital and march down Constitution Avenue.

Later in the evening there will be a reception where Sen. Patty Murray is scheduled to speak.

Each family had to apply for the spot. Zero to Three and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are paying for all of Zobell’s travel expenses.

“They (lawmakers) need to keep in mind why it’s important,” Zobell said of early childhood funding.

Here’s why funding public education and research funds America’s future

Federal funding for education and research has been critical to America’s competitiveness and innovativeness. The recent budget blueprint released by the administration projects deep cuts to several student aid programs, including programs that aid low-income and minority students, and decreases in funding for agencies that support research, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

The proposal also eliminates funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, funding that has been critical to creative thought and expression and to the historical and cultural development of our communities.

If enacted, the proposal can have a profound negative impact on our nation’s ability to sustain its competitive position in science, technology and education.

With an increasing proportion of students entering our institutions from low income and under-represented communities, it is imperative that the federal government continues to expand support for those populations if we are to avoid a highly segmented society with a permanent underclass population.

Sabah Randhawa, president of Western Washington University

Federal policies and funding starting with the 1862 Morrell Act to establish land-grant universities, and continuing through the 1945 GI Bill, the 1963 Higher Education Facilities Act and the 1972 Basic Education Opportunity Grants (renamed Pell Grants in 1980) have been essential to the democratization of access to higher education.

These actions have enabled millions of U.S. residents to have access to post-secondary education, an opportunity that in many ways is uniquely American. College enrollment in colleges increased from about 2 million in 1965 to over 20 million in 2014. More recently, enrollment in post-secondary institutions increased by 21 percent between 1994 and 2004 and by 17 percent from 2004 and 2014.

Access critical

Access to post-secondary education is even more critical at this time. Workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher accounted for 73 percent of the 11.6 million jobs gained in the recovery after the Great Recession. With an increasing proportion of students entering our institutions from low income and under-represented communities, it is imperative that the federal government continues to expand support for those populations if we are to avoid a highly segmented society with a permanent underclass population.

Federal funding has also been the catalyst for research conducted in our universities that has been the backbone for America’s global innovation and competitiveness, while being equally important to enrich both undergraduate education and graduate education at our institutions. This research has enabled the United States to develop and sustain a leadership role in manufacturing, medicine, national security, the internet and computer technology, and unparalleled productivity gains in manufacturing, agriculture and transportation, among other industry sectors.

… decreasing or eliminating federal support for education and research is shortsighted and it will have a significant negative impact on our competitiveness in the global marketplace – in terms of our home-grown human talent and our innovativeness in improving the safety and quality of our lives.

Sabah Randhawa, president of Western Washington University

Furthermore, university research creates new technologies, new businesses, new industries and new jobs. A liberal arts education, supported in so many ways by National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, is exactly the training ground for jobs and careers that we cannot now envision or even anticipate. While industry-based research funding is needed to complement federal research funding, it is no substitute for basic and foundational research funded by federal investment through agencies like National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation – research that is critical to addressing society’s major challenges.

It is fair for the public to hold us, in education, responsible and accountable for outcomes, whether it is the number and quality of our graduates and student access and affordability, or it is the impact of our universities’ research work. But decreasing or eliminating federal support for education and research is shortsighted and it will have a significant negative impact on our competitiveness in the global marketplace – in terms of our home-grown human talent and our innovativeness in improving the safety and quality of our lives.

I hope that we can partner with the federal government to position our education enterprise for the benefit of our citizens and our future. And, in the process, work on outcomes that can better demonstrate that funding in public education and research is funding in America’s future.

Sabah Randhawa is president of Western Washington University.

Trump On Education Department: ‘Reverse This Federal Power Grab’

President Trump ordered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to look into whether the federal government has usurped state and local control of education.

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images


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Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

President Trump ordered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to look into whether the federal government has usurped state and local control of education.

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

As we head into the 100th day of the Trump presidency, NPR Ed has our regular weekly education roundup to keep you in the loop.

Attorneys General speak out on behalf of student borrowers

Twenty state attorneys general and the District of Columbia this week sent a letter criticizing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for revoking federal protections for student borrowers.

As we reported earlier this month, DeVos revoked three Obama-era memos governing new contracts for student-loan-servicing companies that collect payments for the Education Department.

The state officials said the memos provided necessary guidance to help borrowers get accurate information about their loans and repayment options and to increase accountability for the servicers.

The memos had also called for targeted outreach to those at greatest risk of default.

“My Student Loan Assistance Unit works everyday with student borrowers who are struggling to repay their loans,” Massachusetts AG Maury Healey wrote. “With loan defaults on the rise, this rollback of student protections comes at the worst possible time. We are urging the Secretary to change course immediately.”

A coalition of labor and community groups weighed in, calling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help “clean up the mess” it said was left by DeVos in scaling back the borrower protections.

When DeVos withdrew the memos she said the loan servicing contract process had been plagued by, “moving deadlines, changing requirements and a lack of consistent objectives.”

DeVos’ office did not return requests for comment on the protest letter.

Student loan servicer tops complaints list

Speaking of student loan servicing, guess what financial services company drew the most consumer complaints of any in the country in the last three months? Not a bank. Not a credit reporting agency. It’s Navient, the largest student loan servicer. That’s according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this week. The federal agency is currently suing Navient for what it says are patterns of misinforming borrowers and delaying services in ways that cost them money. Navient’s leadership has responded that the company feels it is being unfairly “singled out.”

The executive order

President Trump this week ordered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to look into whether the federal government has usurped state and local control of education.

The executive order, which gives DeVos’ office 10 months to conduct a review of laws and procedures, is short on details. The first question from a reporter to a White House official was, “Can you remind me exactly how this executive order would, I guess, change anything?”

It says that DeVos can change or cut any regulations to “ensure strict compliance with statutes that prohibit Federal interference with State and local control over education.” This power was already inherent in her office.

But the rhetoric may resonate with many conservatives who’ve long complained about federal education overreach.

“Previous administrations have wrongly forced states and schools to comply with federal whims and dictates for what our kids are taught,” President Trump said at a White House signing ceremony on Wednesday.

Federal spending consistently represents less than 10 percent of K-12 school funding. Critics have often singled out the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the 2009 Race To The Top effort as examples of D.C. overreach.

But as Margaret Spellings, who served as education secretary under President George W. Bush, put it to us earlier this year: “Frankly, in NCLB’s case, the federal intervention was oversold. There was a ton of local control in funding and policymaking.”

And, as we’ve reported often, the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, puts even more power in the hands of states.

Low-income students cut off from grant program by a half-inch margin

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week that the Department of Education denied grant applications from at least 40 colleges and universities, totaling $10 million, because of formatting errors.

The grant program, Upward Bound, is over half a century old. It assists tens of thousands of low-income and first-generation students in the transition to college. And it’s one of many programs targeted for cuts in the President’s budget proposal.

These rejections over the past few weeks came for issues like double-spacing that was too narrow, or use of the wrong font. Members of Congress are reaching out to the Department of Education to ask them to reconsider, and there is a citizen letter-writing campaign as well.

Collins, fellow senators push to reverse rejections of education grant …

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A group of U.S. senators, led by Susan Collins and joined by Angus King, is pushing the federal Department of Education to reconsider grant applications affecting thousands of potential first generation college students around the country, including at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Earlier this month, UMPI learned that two applications for nearly $624,000 in grant funding to serve 800 students through the Upward Bound program over five years were rejected because of line-spacing errors on two of the 65 pages in each application. U.S. Department of Education rules require that Upward Bound applications be double spaced, but two pages contained infographics that had only 1.5 spaces between lines.

Similar formatting errors caused rejections of grant applications at at least four dozen colleges and universities in 17 states, and school officials were not given an opportunity to correct the mistakes. UMPI was the only school in Maine.

On Friday, Sens. Collins and Jon Tester, D-Montana, sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos rebuking the department for its actions. Twenty-three other senators, including King, co-signed it.

“The decision to exclude applications from consideration due to minor, non-substantive concerns is a clear example of the harm that results from inflexible, bureaucratic procedures,” Collins and Tester wrote. “Many applicants that were rejected have served generations of first-time, low-income students successfully for decades.”

The senators pointed out that 61,747 students nationwide relied last year on Upward Bound to succeed in high school and prepare for college. They also stressed that the Federal Register, which invites grant writers to seek new awards, includes “arbitrary formatting criteria not mandated by Congress.”

“The Department of Education should be supporting successful partnerships, not constructing bureaucratic roadblocks while administering Upward Bound and other” student services programs, the senators wrote.

They asked the secretary to reverse the rejections and reconsider the applications.

Darylen Cote, director of TRiO College Access Services at UMPI, said Friday that she was overwhelmed by the support from Collins and the entire Maine congressional delegation. Collins, King and Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree had sent their own joint letter to DeVos earlier this month, also expressing their support for reconsideration of the UMPI applications.

Cote said she felt that Collins made a “really great case for the university.”

“Collins made several good points in her letter, including the fact that the guidelines were not in the Federal Register and all of the rules were made up by the Department of Education,” said Cote. “I am hoping common sense prevails, because they are not seeing the unintended consequences of what something like this could do.”

She also said that since last Friday, more than 1,700 UMPI alumni, former Upward Bound students and their parents have flooded Devos’ office with letters in support of the Upward Bound program.

“That really touches my heart,” she said.

 

Draft suggests core-course learning goals

FAYETTEVILLE — Core educational requirements under a draft proposal from University of Arkansas, Fayetteville faculty members would formally emphasize ethical reasoning, diversity in the United States and global awareness.

Ten learning goals for UA undergraduates have been developed over the past year by a group of 13 faculty members, said David Jolliffe, chairman of the General Education Core Curriculum Committee.

He said at a town hall-style meeting Wednesday that the ideas have yet to be formally presented for approval, with the immediate goal to get more feedback on the measures.

Jolliffe, an English professor, said approval would involve the university’s faculty senate, a larger group that has no further meetings scheduled for this academic year.

He said that the goals complement the state’s existing minimum core requirements, which consist of 35 semester hours fulfilling five areas: English/communication, mathematics, science, fine arts/humanities and social science.

“Those hours will still be there,” Jolliffe said. But “rather than simply courses you need to take, we’ve reshaped it so that we’re thinking about this as goals that students achieve when taking these courses.”

Students at UA need a minimum of 120 credit hours to graduate.

The committee recommended “core” goals tied to understanding academic subjects, plus “value-added” goals relating to ethics and critical thinking, diversity and international awareness.

Other recommendations include having students take more courses with a “substantial writing/speaking/multimodal communication component,” support for an electronic portfolio system and the creation of thematic links between courses satisfying requirements.

Metro on 04/29/2017

Higher ed grant deadline is May 1

Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch A student fills out a Free Application for Student Aid (FASFA) during a financial aid night on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, at Huntington High School. Monday, May 1, is the deadline to apply for the Higher Education Grant Program, the state’s need-based financial aid program.

Preschool for special needs students opens to the public in Pleasanton

PLEASANTON — A new preschool that will be for both special education and general education students is now open to the general public.

The iPal Preschool, previously called the Harvest Park Preschool Center, opened this week to the public after serving special education students for 11 years. The district expects that the expansion to both student groups will be beneficial for the children in the program.

“For our special needs children, it provides an opportunity to learn alongside typically developing peers. For our ‘general education’ students, the inclusive setting allows them to appreciate differences, and develop empathy and compassion,” said Patrick Gannon, district spokesman.

The program would be paid for by the Special Education Department, which provides a majority of the funding, and tuition by non-special education students. For three hours a day, three days a week, a 12-week tuition costs a typical student $810.

There were five classrooms for children with special needs ranging from mild to severe. The school can accommodate 18 students three days a week, and eight students four days a week. There already is a waiting list for next year, Gannon said.

The preschool is located at the Harvest Middle School campus at 4900 Valley Ave. For more information, visit the district website. 

 

 

Preschool for special needs students opens to the public in Pleasanton

PLEASANTON — A new preschool that will be for both special education and general education students is now open to the general public.

The iPal Preschool, previously called the Harvest Park Preschool Center, opened this week to the public after serving special education students for 11 years. The district expects that the expansion to both student groups will be beneficial for the children in the program.

“For our special needs children, it provides an opportunity to learn alongside typically developing peers. For our ‘general education’ students, the inclusive setting allows them to appreciate differences, and develop empathy and compassion,” said Patrick Gannon, district spokesman.

The program would be paid for by the Special Education Department, which provides a majority of the funding, and tuition by non-special education students. For three hours a day, three days a week, a 12-week tuition costs a typical student $810.

There were five classrooms for children with special needs ranging from mild to severe. The school can accommodate 18 students three days a week, and eight students four days a week. There already is a waiting list for next year, Gannon said.

The preschool is located at the Harvest Middle School campus at 4900 Valley Ave. For more information, visit the district website. 

 

 

Collins, fellow senators push to reverse rejections of education grant applications over minor errors

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A group of U.S. senators, led by Susan Collins and joined by Angus King, is pushing the federal Department of Education to reconsider grant applications affecting thousands of potential first generation college students around the country, including at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Earlier this month, UMPI learned that two applications for nearly $624,000 in grant funding to serve 800 students through the Upward Bound program over five years were rejected because of line-spacing errors on two of the 65 pages in each application. U.S. Department of Education rules require that Upward Bound applications be double spaced, but two pages contained infographics that had only 1.5 spaces between lines.

Similar formatting errors caused rejections of grant applications at at least four dozen colleges and universities in 17 states, and school officials were not given an opportunity to correct the mistakes. UMPI was the only school in Maine.

On Friday, Sens. Collins and Jon Tester, D-Montana, sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos rebuking the department for its actions. Twenty-three other senators, including King, co-signed it.

“The decision to exclude applications from consideration due to minor, non-substantive concerns is a clear example of the harm that results from inflexible, bureaucratic procedures,” Collins and Tester wrote. “Many applicants that were rejected have served generations of first-time, low-income students successfully for decades.”

The senators pointed out that 61,747 students nationwide relied last year on Upward Bound to succeed in high school and prepare for college. They also stressed that the Federal Register, which invites grant writers to seek new awards, includes “arbitrary formatting criteria not mandated by Congress.”

“The Department of Education should be supporting successful partnerships, not constructing bureaucratic roadblocks while administering Upward Bound and other” student services programs, the senators wrote.

They asked the secretary to reverse the rejections and reconsider the applications.

Darylen Cote, director of TRiO College Access Services at UMPI, said Friday that she was overwhelmed by the support from Collins and the entire Maine congressional delegation. Collins, King and Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree had sent their own joint letter to DeVos earlier this month, also expressing their support for reconsideration of the UMPI applications.

Cote said she felt that Collins made a “really great case for the university.”

“Collins made several good points in her letter, including the fact that the guidelines were not in the Federal Register and all of the rules were made up by the Department of Education,” said Cote. “I am hoping common sense prevails, because they are not seeing the unintended consequences of what something like this could do.”

She also said that since last Friday, more than 1,700 UMPI alumni, former Upward Bound students and their parents have flooded Devos’ office with letters in support of the Upward Bound program.

“That really touches my heart,” she said.