August 15, 2011
State School Systems Find Plenty of Uses for Leftover Cash
By Ben Wieder, Staff Writer
EXTRA CASH: The spring brought headlines of historic cuts to education, but a few states are finding unexpected money that could soften the blow. In Idaho , schools are drawing from a $60 million pool that's part of leftover funds from the most recent fiscal year, according to the (Boise) Idaho Statesman . Some are fixing leaky roofs left unrepaired for years, while others are cancelling furlough days for teachers. In North Carolina , Democratic Governor Bev Perdue wants about $100 million of $120 million in leftover funds from the previous fiscal year to go to education, The (Raleigh) News and Observer reports .LEGISLATOR SCHOLARSHIPS: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn ended a century-old scholarship program that has allowed legislators to hand out free college tuition to students in their districts — with the tab picked up by the colleges. " I cannot in good conscience sign any legislation that continues to allow legislators to bestow this benefit on a select few," Quinn wrote to legislators, according to the Chicago Sun Times . The move comes as federal investigators are looking into legislative scholarships that a former state representative gave to children of a campaign donor who didn't live in his Chicago district. Legislators do have the power to override Quinn's amendatory veto, but the bill's Senate sponsor agrees with the governor's move.NCLB WAIVERS: As expected, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would allow states to apply for waivers from No Child Left Behind requirements, while a full-scale overhaul of the law is stalled in Congress. States have wasted no time in declaring their intention to apply for the waivers. Tennessee had already submitted a request before the announcement. Minnesota says that it will do the same, and Kentucky , Montana , Nevada and Georgia are among other states that say they are making waiver plans. The department didn't say what it will ask of states in return, but Education Week reported in July that there could be multiple types of waivers, with some asking for college and career readiness standards; some for new state testing targets and penalties for failing schools; and others demanding new teacher evaluation systems.The majority of states currently have performance standards for their pupils that are at or below what the Department of Education classifies as basic proficiency, according to a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The report looks at tests from 2009 and compares them to results from 2007 and 2005. The report did find that states that most recently revised their standards had made them more rigorous.
CONCUSSIONS: Education Week reports that 20 states have added laws in the past six months to protect student-athletes who sustain concussions. The majority of those laws — which are now on the books in 31 states and Washington, D.C. , require students to be removed from athletic activities if there's any indication of a possible concussion and allowed to return only after being medically cleared.