Weekly NewsBrief 1/4/21 - 1/10/21

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More Evidence Suggests In-Person School is Safe, as Long as Virus Is Controlled – By Lauren Camera, US News and World Report

REOPENING SCHOOLS FOR in-person learning did not result in an increase in coronavirus hospitalizations as long as hospitalization rates in the community were low at the time of reopening, according to the latest study to wade into the controversial K-12 reopening debate.

The study – conducted by researchers at the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, a school choice advocacy, policy and research organization run out of Tulane University – seems to bolster the emerging narrative that the benefits of getting children back into the classroom outweigh the risks as long as infection rates are relatively low and schools are vigilant about mask-wearing, social distancing and sanitization.

Notably, the study is the first to examine how reopening schools in person has affected COVID-19 health outcomes as opposed to positivity rates.

"It appears that, when hospitalizations rates are low, it is safe to reopen schools in-person," said Doug Harris, study co-author and director of the research center. "This conclusion is consistent across a wide range of data and research methods. This is important given the side effects of closure for students, such as limiting access to essential services, social isolation, and learning loss."

 

(SC) State education leaders set to announce plans after federal COVID paid leave expires – By Kaitlin Stansell, WCSC

Federal provisions to help pay employees, including teachers, while they quarantined due to COVID exposure or sickness expired at the end of the year, and educators are anxious to hear how school districts and state leaders will handle these situations moving forward.

“Without access to paid leave, means that teachers are either going to have to draw down their sick leave balance or their personal leave balance or in many cases, especially for our early career teachers…they could be looking at days without pay,” said Patrick Kelly, with the Palmetto State Teachers Association.

Some districts, like Dorchester School District Two, are still working to finalize plans now that the Families First Coronavirus Act expired on December 31st.

District officials said, “staff will be reviewing and discussing possible options to make sure teachers are covered and don’t have to go without pay if they use all their sick days to quarantine after COVID exposure or sickness.”

Groups advocating for teachers, like SC for Ed, are calling on the governor and state superintendent to step in and make sure educators are covered.

 

With Public Education Resources Stretched Thin, Missouri Charters Ask The State For More Local Dollars – By Elle Moxley, KCUR.org

Charter advocates are once again hoping Missouri lawmakers will change how schools are funded to give them access to more local revenue.

Doug Thaman, the executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association, said charter schools aren’t getting their fair share of property taxes.

“There are local lines of funding that were left out of state law, and a portion of property tax is locked in at a rate that is from 2005, so going on 16 years,” Thaman said.

MCPSA estimates charters receive about $1,000 less per pupil than traditional public schools as a result.

But persuading lawmakers to “fix the glitch” hasn’t been easy. Charter advocates tried in 2019 and 2020.

 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigns in wake of Capitol insurrection – By Roger Riddell, K-12 Dive

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tendered her resignation letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday evening, citing Trump's rhetoric around the Wednesday afternoon storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters that temporarily delayed the certification of presidential election results.

In her letter, she wrote what should have been a time to highlight and celebrate the administration’s accomplishments was instead marred by “the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people's business.” She continued, “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me."

DeVos also cited the administration's education achievements during her tenure, including expansions of school choice and “education freedom” in several states, returning decision-making power to local levels, and having “defended the First Amendment rights of students and teachers."

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