In his State of the Union address, President Obama held out the hope of overhauling the main law outlining the federal role in public schools, a sprawling 45-year-old statute that dates to the Johnson administration. But experts say it would be a heavy lift for the administration to get the job done this year, because the law has produced so much discord, there is so little time, and there are so many competing priorities, reports the New York Times. In 2001, when Congress completed the law’s most recent rewrite, the effort took a full year, and the bipartisan consensus that made that possible has long since shattered. Today there is wide agreement that No Child Left Behind needs an overhaul, but not on how to fix its flaws. NCLB has generated frequent, divisive debate, partly because it requires schools to administer far more standardized tests and because it labels schools that fail to make progress fast enough each year as “needing improvement.” That category draws penalties and has grown to include more than 30,000 schools. Several states sued the Bush administration over the law in the last decade, unsuccessfully. Connecticut challenged its financing provisions, saying it imposed costly demands without providing adequate financing. Arizona fought rules on the testing of immigrant students. “It’s hard to see how they can get” a rewrite done, said Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding. “If there’s some bipartisan agreement about what the administration proposes, and the Republicans say, ‘We want to work together,’ then maybe. But I think it’s going to be tough.”…Read More
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Investment losses cause steep drop in university endowments
Reflecting the difficult financial environment for higher education, university endowments lost an average of 18.7 percent in the last fiscal year, the worst returns since the Great Depression, reports the New York Times. A study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund, a nonprofit organization that manages university investments, found that universities with endowments over $1 billion had the greatest decline, an average of 20.5 percent. Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, the wealthiest universities, all lost more than 26 percent of their endowment values. At the same time, the study found, debt rose, especially at the largest universities, and gifts declined. The 2009 losses in endowment income come on top of an average loss of 3 percent in fiscal 2008. The three-year average return, which most universities use to determine how much of their assets to spend, was negative 2.5 percent, compared with the five-year average of 2.7 percent, and the 10-year average of 4 percent. “We’ve had two bad years, so the endowment performance this year will go a long way to determine how quickly endowment spending will recover in the future,” said John S. Griswold Jr., executive director of the Commonfund Institute. “Most universities continue to spend at a healthy rate despite the large declines in their value.”…Read More