California schools warn of grim future for students

California’s public schools released a report that shows an increase in stress levels even as they must reduce staff levels, Yahoo! News reports. The state’s university system, too, revealed that continued funding cuts are damaging the Golden State’s ability to provide an affordable higher education to its students.

What stresses does the public school system face? The Oakland Tribune cited an increase of children living in poverty. Cases in point are children attending the Oakland school district. Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of children living below the federal poverty level increased by 8 percent, reaching 33 percent. This figure points to stress factors the schools face when working with youngsters to succeed academically, which include the local unemployment rate and budget cuts due to the state’s deficit. “They try to teach an increasing number of children in poverty with fewer employees and a continual threat of cutbacks,” the report notes…

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Education fills big space on Brown’s chalkboard

As Gov.-elect Jerry Brown prepares to take office, major headwinds are buffeting the biggest component of his upcoming budget: California’s schools, reports the Los Angeles Times. They are being confronted by a lack of funding that threatens to further harm pupils and a controversial reform movement that could dramatically reshape how classrooms are run. Most immediate and pressing is the state’s fiscal crisis–a $28-billion gap is forecast for the next 18 months. How that will affect school districts already reeling from years of multibillion-dollar cuts will be the subject of Brown’s second budget forum, which is scheduled for Tuesday in Los Angeles.

“Jerry Brown is entering office at a moment when the capacity of the system is weaker than any time in recent memory,” said John Rogers, director of the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at UCLA. “I worry we may be reaching a breaking point.”

Schools’ financial health is intricately tied to the state budget because roughly 40% of it is earmarked for K-12 education. In recent years, as legislators struggled to close large deficits, schools have seen round after round of funding cuts–$21 billion in the last two years alone. California’s per-pupil spending is now lower than that in nearly every other state, resulting in widespread teacher layoffs, the cancellation of summer school, the shortening of the school year and the overcrowding of classrooms. Educators say the state is seeing the result of these actions–the dropout rate rose three points, to 22%, in the 2008-09 school year–and fear that more cuts could push some districts into insolvency.…Read More

Opinion: Community colleges must commit to change

A new report documents abysmally low student transfer and completion rates at California’s two-year schools. Two L.A.-area campuses have already begun to make changes, say directors at the University of Southern California. California’s community colleges were envisioned by the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education as a low-cost alternative for students to complete the first two years of college before transferring to a four-year school. They were also designed for students whose ultimate educational goal was to attain an associate’s degree or career certification. But a report issued last week calls into question the success of those missions…

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California schools cancel deal with online Kaplan University

California’s community colleges have dropped a controversial plan that would have allowed their students to take some courses at the online Kaplan University and make it easier to transfer to that school for a bachelor’s degree, reports the Los Angeles Times. State community college officials say they’ve canceled a 2009 agreement with Kaplan, a for-profit institution, because the University of California and Cal State University systems had not agreed to accept Kaplan courses for transfer credits. Without the transfer agreements, the plan could have harmed students and the community colleges, the officials said. Kaplan University said it was disappointed by the decision but “will continue to foster relationships with California community colleges and to look for innovative ways to help students meet their academic and career goals.” The plan was intended to give students at the state’s 112 community colleges a way to take courses that might have been canceled or overcrowded because of state budget cuts. But some faculty were concerned about getting entangled with a for-profit school. Even with a discount, Kaplan planned to charge students $646 for a three-credit class, compared with $78 at a community college…

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Computer exec takes this rat race down to the wire

Sure, you’ve used a mouse to do your computing. But have you tried getting wired to the internet with a rat?

Meet Judy’s Rat, a 7-inch albino rodent on a quest to wire California schools for the computer age.

“She runs. She jumps. You name it,” said Dr. Judy Reavis, a biophysician and computer executive who trained Judy’s Rat to navigate the narrow crawl spaces behind walls dragging a telephone cable by her tail. …Read More