Comcast Offers Low-Cost Internet Service to Low-Income Students

Low-income families are able to purchase broadband service for $9.95 a month from Comcast, under a new program that was launched in May and will continue through the 2013-14 school year. Called Internet Essentials, the program is available to any family with a child living in the home who qualifies for free lunches under the Department of  Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program. The broadband program, which is an outgrowth of Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal, is available to eligible families in any area served by Comcast, which has a presence in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Charlie Douglas, a spokesman for Comcast, outlined the program after its official launch today in the Washington, D.C. area. The program has previously been launched in other locations including Miami, Chicago,  Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., and Atlanta.

For Police, Demand and Supply of Training on Juveniles Going in Opposite Directions

The need for training on juvenile justice issues is great at a time when funding for such training is declining in many areas, according to the Juvenile Justice Training Needs Assessment Survey, a survey of 404 law enforcement agencies released last month by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.About one-third of the surveyed departments said they do not have an assigned staff in charge of juvenile operations, while 25 percent have a centralized juvenile unit. Twenty-two percent of the agencies have at least one officer assigned to youth services, and 16 percent have multiple officers assigned to the youth issues, but these officers do not make up a centralized unit.Eighty-eight percent of the agencies surveyed have written guidelines for how to respond to incidents involving youth. About half of the agencies saw a decrease in their training budget over the last five years, while only 17 percent received an increase. Seventy-six percent of the surveyed states said they do not mandate juvenile justice training for law enforcement departments.Of the agencies with written guidelines, 64 percent have general orders, 60 percent have standard procedures for how to operate and 17 percent have a departmental memorandum in place.The majority of the departments surveyed, 71 percent, get funding for juvenile operations from their agency operating budget. Other departments reported funding that comes from non-agency funding allocations, federal or state grants, and other funding sources such as co-funding through a partnership with a private organization.The participating agencies identified eight issues concerning juvenile crime, delinquency and victimization to be the most pressing.

California Education Board Clarifies Regulations for State’s ‘Parent Trigger’ Law

The California State Board of Education has tentatively approved more specific regulations on how the state’s parent trigger law will work.  The new regulations came after parents of children in one of Compton Unified School District’s schools had a very difficult time pulling the trigger. Passage of the new regulations on June 13 followed months of debate, and subsequent compromises, among organizations representing parents, school districts, teachers and other stakeholders on a variety of different issues related to the law. The new regulations include specific instruction on how petitions seeking to force a school turnaround must be executed and how signatures gathered on the petitions should be verified. A petition by parents of children at McKinley Elementary School in Compton, Calif., was nullified because the signatures did not include the dates their children attended the school and thus signers could not be verified as people who had legal standing in the matter. The California parent trigger law, passed in 2010, allows parents to demand the school’s principal and half of the staff be replaced, for the school to be turned into a charter school, or for the school to be shut down altogether, if the parents of at least 50 percent of the school’s students sign a petition.

Campaign Afoot Against Textbook Prices

A rally in a Washington-area suburb last month officially launched the Textbook Rebellion, a campaign aimed at ensuring affordable textbooks for college students, and featured opening remarks from an Education Department official. The Education Department initially sent out a press release saying that Hal Plotkin, an adviser to Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter, would join the “launch of Textbook Rebellion cross-country tour.” The release was later recalled and replaced with softer language, saying that Plotkin would “help launch a campaign for affordable textbooks.”
XPlotkin helped build a department initiative to provide grants to colleges and college consortiums interested in developing resources and course materials for students. The grants require that anything developed using those grants be licensed to the public to "copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the copyrighted work." In response to a survey of 1,905 undergraduates on 13 campuses conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, seven in 10 college students said they had skipped buying a textbook because of its cost. A separate report by PIRG found that textbook costs are comparable to 26 percent of tuition at state universities, and 72 percent of tuition for community college students.

National League of Cities Joins Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The National League of Cities (NLC) is joining a national effort to increase the number of low-income children who read at grade level by the end of the third grade. Called  the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the effort is based on findings of an Annie E. Casey Foundation study that showed reading ability at the third grade level is an early indicator of whether a student will graduate from high school on time. Eighty percent of students from low-income families do not read proficiently by the end of the third grade. In 2012, the National League of Cities will take part in the National Civic League’s 2010 All-America City Awards that recognize the outstanding civic accomplishments in cities and towns. This year’s challenge is specifically geared towards grade-level reading.

Groups Lobby for New Background Checks

Alexandria, Va.-based MENTOR and its associated Mentoring Partnerships are leading the push to provide a new way for youth-serving volunteer groups to get FBI background  checks quickly. A bill proposed in Congress, known as the Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA) would serve as a replacement for SafetyNET, which until March allowed the youth-serving groups to get expedited FBI fingerprint checks. SafetyNET, created in the PROTECT Act of 2001, made it possible for organizations to run background checks on potential volunteers  at a low cost and within about 10 days. 
 “Going from 10 days to six weeks (to process background checks) is killing our recruitment efforts,” said Jeannette Simon, director of volunteer and mentoring services at Concerned Black Men National Organization in Washington, D.C. “When people want to volunteer, they do not mind waiting a week or two, but having to wait six weeks gives them the opportunity to find something else”
In its eight years, SafetyNET helped conduct almost 105,000 background checks, revealing that 6.1 percent of volunteers had criminal records that included rape, murder and child sexual abuse. CPIA would once again create a streamlined system to allow these youth-serving programs to access this information and be able to hire the best possible volunteers. The legislation was reintroduced by Reps.

Public School Expenditures in 2009 Remain the Same as 2008

Expenditures for each elementary and secondary education pupil in fiscal year 2009 were essentially unchanged from the previous year, accounting for inflation.  The new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences shows that the expenditures averaged $10,591 per pupil in FY 2009. The report looks at data submitted annually by state education agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Other findings from the report showed that, adjusted for inflation, per pupil local and state revenues decreased by 1 percent or more in 16 states, while increasing in 25 states. During the same time period, per pupil current expenditures decreased by 1 percent or more in eight states, and increased by 1 percent or more in 36 states. The total collected for public elementary and secondary education in FY 2009 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia reported $593.1 billion.

Education Department to Study School Bullying Policies

The Department of Education’s Policy and Program Studies Service (PPSS) is conducting case studies in 24 school sites studying the effectiveness and implementation of bullying policy. “There is limited data or knowledge about implementation of bullying policy at school district and school levels,” says the department notice explaining the study.    
The goal is to identify how these policies are influenced by state and district legislation, and identify and analyze positive strategies that are being implemented by some schools. In the last 20 years there has been an increase in anti-bullying legislation at the state level. Forty-six states have since enacted either new laws pertaining to bullying or amended their existing laws, according to one document in the study entitled “Analysis of Bullying State Laws and Policies.” Some of these laws specifically address the emergence of cyber-bullying as a new avenue to bullying.

Labor Dept. Elected to Strip $10 Million Grants from YouthBuild, Corps Network

The Department of Labor used its own discretion to vacate two $10 million grants to national youth organizations after a challenge to their selection, and now there is litigation concerning one of the groups chosen in the second competition round, Youth Today has learned. It is unclear when any of the money will be released to be used for programs to assist dropouts and young ex-offenders in gaining skills that lead to employment.  The money for the Employment and Training Administration project was appropriated more than two years ago. Youth Today reported last week that two, two-year $10 million grants that the Department of Labor awarded to YouthBuild USA and The Corps Network were vacated in November 2010, six months into the two projects. YouthBuild and Corps Network leadership were informed that the grant review process had been challenged. Both groups were reimbursed for money they had already spent.

College Loan Default Rate Rose to 9.6 Percent in 2009

The overall federal student loan default rate rose 25 percent in 2009 – from 7.7 percent in 2008 to 9.6 percent – according to preliminary information released today by the U.S. Department of Education.  The default rate for for-profit colleges was the highest at 15.7 percent and the default rate for private colleges was the lowest at 4.7 percent, according to the data. Defaulting for-profit students made up more than half of all the defaults, though students at proprietary schools make up only about 12 percent of all post secondary education students. In all categories – public, private nonprofit and for-profit – students who attended less than four years of postsecondary schooling, whether they dropped out or pursued shorter programs, had higher defaults that those who completed baccalaureate degrees. The biggest percentage increase is number of borrowers who defaulted was among students who attended private nonprofit colleges.  Their default rate climbed almost 31 percent, though in numbers they represented less than a quarter of the actual number of for-profit students who defaulted on their loans. The numbers were compiled in February and represent two-year cohort default rates.