Public School Policies

From unions to vouchers, school budgets to discipline policies, we cover some of the most controversial issues affecting public schools today. Learn more about education reform and how it impacts your family. Keep current on the latest controversies regarding religion, sex-education, civil rights and more.
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What is Race to the Top and How will it Benefit Public Schools?
We provide an overview and current status of the Race to the Top program that was designed as an incentive and funding program to promote education reform in public school districts across the country.
Photo Credit: BarackObama.com
Race to the Top, the education reform championed by the current administration, is now in full swing. States across the country have received funding from the program, in exchange for changes to their public education systems that would benefit the students in those states. While some are touting the success of the program already in its early stages, others are voicing concern that the program is not doing what it was meant to do.
 
An Overview of the Program
 
Race to the Top was introduced by President Obama in 2009, as a competitive fund to promote school improvement on both a state and local level. At that time, $4.35 billion was pledged in what the White House called the “largest ever federal investment in education reform,” according to the Washington Post. State governments were called upon to submit plans for education reform in order to gain a portion of the funding pledged for the program.
 
The White House website stresses four key areas of reform for Race to the Top funding criteria, which include:
  • Improvement of assessments and more rigorous standards for schools
  • Turn-around of failing schools through increased emphasis and resources
  • Support that allows teachers and staff to be more effective
  • Better methods for tracking progress of both students and teachers
Each state had the opportunity to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education for education reform, keeping these four criteria in mind. Since the program was launched, 46 of 50 states have submitted plans and a number of those
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Controversial Curriculum Taught in Public Schools
We examine a number of controversial curriculum choices in public schools nationwide, from yoga and religion to sex-ed for kindergarteners.
Parents send their children to school each day with the full expectation that they will learn literature, mathematics, science and history – subjects that will help them advance their life goals and ambitions. However, in districts across the country, children are learning subjects that their parents do not agree with. When such controversial curriculum is taught in public schools today, it typically raises concerns among students, parents and teachers. Check out these three subjects that have come under significant scrutiny – and even wrath – in some schools today.
 
Does Bible Teaching Violate Separation of Church and State?
 
The teaching of the Bible as literature has ruffled the feathers of educators, parents and lawmakers in school districts around the country. Texas is currently grappling with the debate over introducing the Bible into schools as a new study from Southern Methodist University explores the constitutionality of such teaching. The study, authored by Dr. Mark A. Chancey, targets a class at Eastland High School in Eastland, Texas.
 
According to the New York Times, Dr. Chancey has used this new study to examine a class taught by Gay Hart at Eastland. Based upon Dr. Chancey’s assessment, the Eastlan class would not pass constitutional muster. Hart’s class explores the Bible, as well as other religious teachings, including Judaism and Muslimism. However, the Bible is the primary focus of the class. To participate in the study, Hart sent Dr. Chancey some of her teaching material. However, Hart did state that Dr. Chancey never actually visited
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What the Sequester Means for Public Schools
Now that the sequester is a reality for the U.S., we take a look at how spending cuts will impact public schools across the country.
Now that the sequester has officially gone into effect, many are wondering how spending cuts will impact the public school system across the country. While federal funding cuts would not take effect for any schools until the new school year begins in the fall, concerns are in the minds of educators, parents, students and community members now. In fact, some districts are already taking steps to make appropriate adjustments in case federal funding does not come as planned.
 
What is the Sequester?
 
The sequester is a series of budget cuts that were put into law by the Budget Control Act and signed by President Obama in August, 2011. The budget cuts were designed to provide incentive to Congress to find a solution to the country’s debt crisis. They were never meant to go into effect, but a stalemate in Congress has led to the implementation of the dreaded sequester.
 
The sequester impacts most aspects of current government spending, according to the Huffington Post. About $550 billion of the $1.2 trillion in cuts will be seen by the U.S. military and national security operations. The rest will be cut from domestic programs, including unemployment benefits, health care – and education. Due to the way the sequester was set up, some areas of federal funding will see no impact, such as Medicare, social security and money spent on wars.
 
The sequester took effect on March 1, at 11:59 p.m. Congress could still minimize the impact of the new law, by coming to an agreement on
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Students Protest Standardized Tests
With the standardized test season approaching, we look at recent protests of the tests by some students and school districts.
‘Tis the season for standardized testing at public schools across the country, as school districts gear up for statewide testing that provides a glimpse into how and what students are learning. The season is not typically met with happy anticipation by most students and teachers; in fact, the mood may better be described as anxiety and even trepidation. In a few areas of the nation, students and teachers are taking matters into their own hands, organizing boycotts of tests that some say are a waste of valuable instruction hours and inaccurate gauge of how well schools are teaching and students are learning.
 
Portland’s Opt-Out
 
With the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) examinations looming in Portland, some students have decided that enough is enough when it comes to the statewide testing process. Members of the Portland Student Union have launched an opt-out campaign to protest the examinations with a district-wide boycott by students. According to U.S. News and World Report, members of the student union are encouraging other students to boycott the examinations, by opting out on test days.
 
The Washington Post reports that ideas of the boycott began to circulate when two different Portland Student Unions got together and realized they shared a common concern involving the state examinations. The students involved in the unions began educating themselves on the impact a boycott of the testing might have on the schools involved. The students also familiarized themselves with the opt-out process, in order to let other students
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Is School Reform doing More Harm than Good?
We explore the effects of the government targeting low-performing schools for turnaround, as well as the backlash that has been seen from some low-income and minority populations.
School reform at the federal level has been highly touted as the way to turn around failing schools and ensure a high quality education for all students in the U.S. However, opponents of that reform are claiming that the process currently used to improve failing schools is actually having the opposite effect – discriminating against the very students it is claiming to help. Is school reform doing more harm than good? The answer depends on who you ask.
 
The Advent of School Reform
 
In 2010, President Obama championed school reform by revamping the School Improvement Grant program. The move increased the annual budget of the program from $125 million to $535 million. The administration also pumped a one-time amount of $3.5 billion in 2010 allocated directly to districts that were willing to undertake one of four jumpstart models toward serious education reform.
 
The four jumpstart models include:
  • Turning a failing school over to a charter operator
  • Instituting a new principal and learning strategy
  • Replacing at least half the school’s administrative staff
  • Closing the school completely
Schools labeled as improvement schools may receive up to $2 million in additional funding annually for up to three years. A number of districts have risen to the challenge, identifying schools most in need of reform and establishing plans to turn those schools around. Unfortunately, the results of those efforts have been mixed thus far.
 
Claims of Civil Rights Violations
 
In some cities where education reform has been in the works, residents are protesting the efforts, accusing lawmakers of civil rights
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Public School Policies

Education Reform

Education reform is in the works, and you can stay updated on the latest changes, debates, and policies here. Learn more about No Child Left Behind and how it impacts your child. Explore how federal and state government is working to improve school performance, student achievement and education standards.

Teachers and Unions

A comprehensive look at teachers, tenure, and unions. Learn how unions impact school performance. Explore the impact of education reform on teaching qualification standards, traditional unions and controversial tenure rules.

Public School Budgets

We offer an overview of public school budgets; where the money comes from, how it’s spent and what schools are doing to get more funding. Learn how schools are cutting budgets and how the cuts will impact your child. Delve into some of the creative ways school districts are trying to raise money and where the extra money is spent.

Vouchers

Explore both sides of the school voucher debate. Learn what your options are, how those choices are funded and the impact on your local school district. From the latest government initiatives to results from recent studies, explore vouchers and the options they provide.

School Discipline Policies

Examine the various discipline methods being put to use in public schools. From detention to expulsion, spanking to handcuffing, school discipline can often be controversial. Does spanking work? Do police belong in schools? Learn more about what is being done to punish out of control students.

School Controversies

The most controversial issues impacting public school students today. From bullying to book bans, this is a comprehensive look at some of the most oft-debated issues. This section features articles on school segregation, religion, over-crowding, civil rights, and green technology.