Weekly NewsBrief 9/13/21 - 9/19/21

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School districts hesitate to use ARP funding for construction projects – By Sebastian Obando, K-12 Dive

survey by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) reveals that school districts across the country don't plan to spend much of their American Rescue Plan funds on facilities renovations or new construction.

Close to half of districts indicated they would spend no more than 10% of ARP funding on school facilities improvements, while 16% of districts said they would spend between a quarter to half of ARP funding on such improvements. 

About 25% of respondents indicated the 2024 spending deadline was an obstacle in using the ARP funds for infrastructure and construction. Although reasons varied slightly, the most common issue identified was finding contractors willing and able to take on projects given continuing supply chain disruptions.

 

Ida deals new blow to Louisiana schools struggling to reopen – By Matt Sedensky, The Associated Press

Tara Williams’ three little boys run shirtless, because most of their clothes were swept away, and they stack milk crates beneath a blazing sun because their toys are all gone too. Their apartment is barely more than a door dangling from a frame, the roof obliterated, most everything in it lost.

A Ford Fusion is the family’s home now, and as if Hurricane Ida didn’t take enough, it has also put the boys’ education on hold.

“They’re ready to get inside, go to school, get some air conditioning,” said 32-year-old Williams, who has twin 5-year-olds and a 7-year-old and is more pessimistic than officials about when they might be back in class. “The way it’s looking like now, it’s going to be next August.”

After a year and a half of pandemic disruptions that drove children from schools and pulled down test scores, at least 169,000 Louisiana children are out of class again, their studies derailed by the storm. The hurricane followed a rocky reopening in August that led to more COVID-19 infections and classroom closures, and now it will be weeks before some students go back again.

 

Illinois board of education moves to change state test by 2023 – By Samantha Smylie, Chalkbeat

The Illinois State Board of Education is moving ahead with a plan to switch state tests before its existing contract expires in 2025.

That means some students in Illinois school districts will have to take both exams before the state’s contract with developers of the Illinois Assessment of Readiness expires. The new exam could debut as early as the 2023-24 school year.

The board has been working since last spring to determine what the new exam should look like as it aims to have a contract with a vendor by July 2022. The board wants the assessment to include an optional kindergarten to second grade test and a Spanish Language Arts exam. So far, the board has heard from stakeholders who say that they want an exam that is relevant to their curriculum and instruction, gives data to schools in a timely manner, and provides quality tests for all school districts.

School district leaders have not found the current end-of-year exam to be useful because the data isn’t shared until the following fall. A majority of school districts use an interim test to examine students three times a year to track students’ academic progress.

 

Alabama education chief wants $800 million more for teachers and students in 2023 budget – By Tricia Powell Cain, AL.com

Alabama education officials have big plans for the 2022-23 school year, judging by the more than $800 million increase they’ll request when the legislative session starts in January.

“The amount of [state] money we think is going to be available this year is going to be phenomenal,” Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey told board members during a presentation of the proposed ask.

The education trust fund, which pays for schools, is expected to grow 16% year over year. The current fiscal year, which determines how much money lawmakers will have to distribute, ends Sept. 30.

Mackey’s proposal calls for more than $5.8 billion in spending for K-12 public schools, an increase from the department’s $5.2 billion ask last year. Priorities are tied to the state’s education strategic plan and are aimed at improving student achievement, creating lower class sizes in middle grades, paying for school nurses and incentivizing effective teachers.

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