Weekly NewsBrief 11/2/20 - 11/8/20

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Washington is buying $24M worth of computer technology for students – By Dahlia Bazzaz, The Seattle Times

Washington state will use $24 million from its share of the federal CARES Act stimulus package to make a bulk purchase of 64,000 computer devices for students learning remotely, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced late last week.

The move is intended to help school districts that haven’t been able to afford devices for all their students, or whose vendors have backlogs and significant shipping delays, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“Buying them in bulk puts the state at an advantage” and may help students get the devices quickly, said Maddy Thompson, Inslee’s senior education policy adviser, noting that “there have been global supply issues.” In Seattle, a likely delayed shipment of 12,000 iPads for elementary school students prompted district Superintendent Denise Juneau and former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire to call in a favor from Alaska Airlines to expedite the order.

The state is negotiating with a few companies for laptops, Chromebooks and tablets, and is distributing them to school districts based on how many students lack devices. In the next few weeks, a shipment of about 20,000 devices will arrive from an Australian company called Evolve III, which sells laptops and tablets that run on the Windows operating system. They will be distributed to 53 school districts that need them, based on recommendations from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The governor’s office wasn’t immediately able to say which districts would receive the devices.


Arizona Proposition 208: Voters OK New Tax On High Earners To Fund Schools – By Rocio Hernandez, Associated Press on KJZZ.org

Arizona voters have approved a new tax on high-earning residents that could bring in nearly $1 billion of new revenue annually to the state’s underfunded school system.

The approval of Proposition 208 came after the state’s business community spent more than $18 million trying to defeat the measure backed by many educators and progressive groups. They argued it would hurt the state’s economy.

Proposition 208 proponents have been confident that they would win since Tuesday. 

"When the canvass is complete and this is officially over, voters will have seal the deal on something that no Legislature has had the courage to do, no governor has had the courage to do and I think they need to take a lesson in voters, and pay attention to the fact that they want to invest in our schools," said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association on a Tuesday Zoom call with reporters. "They want to give students a real opportunity and they want to build a strong economy in our state." 

Under the measure, households making above $500,000 or individuals above $250,000 will pay a 3.5% income-tax surcharge only on the income above those thresholds, according to the Invest in Ed campaign's website


Teachers’ union suffers setback in effort to delay school reopening in Chicago -  By Yana Kunichoff, Chalkbeat

A state labor court on Thursday rejected the Chicago Teachers Union’s request to delay the district’s school reopening plans at this juncture, but said it would reconsider the case when Chicago set a specific date for teachers and students to return to buildings.

The request is part of a broader effort by the union to force Chicago Public Schools to negotiate the terms of its reopening through an unfair labor practice lawsuit.

School officials say they intend to bring pre-kindergarten and some special education students back to school buildings sometime in the second quarter, which runs from Nov. 9 to Feb. 4. They have not yet released a return date or the results of a recent parent survey.

The ruling comes in response to an injunction filed by the union last month. The union accused the district of refusing to bargain over its reopening plan, and asked the state’s education labor board to delay a return to in-person school until the district begins bargaining.


New York City to keep ‘red zone’ schools closed for now – By Erin Durkin, Politico

New York City will keep public schools in Brooklyn’s coronavirus red zone closed for now, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo giving the go-ahead for schools to reopen in areas where Covid-19 infections have spiked.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that the city does not plan to immediately reopen the 45 school sites that remain shuttered, but will take a few days to evaluate the situation.

Cuomo on Friday authorized schools to reopen in coronavirus hot spots with strict testing protocols. Schools will have to test all students and staff before they’re allowed back into the building — with only those who test negative allowed back in — and then randomly test 25 percent of the school population each week.

“We’re assessing the rules. We’re assessing that timeline, and then we’re going to make a decision in the next couple of days about how to handle it,” de Blasio said at a press briefing Monday.

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