Curtis Whatley is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

New York: As city makes plans for parent academy, union opens its own
Three years after city officials first considered forming an “academy” to teach parents about the school system, the teachers union has found a group of parents who are tired of waiting. Plans for a parent training center have been in the works since 2009, when state legislators told the city to create one. But requisite funding never materialized and the project lay fallow until last fall, when Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced plans to open a parent academy for the 2012-2013 school year. The city’s parent academy would give parents study tools, and inform them about the high school and college process, Walcott said at the time. The city is now seeking proposals from community organizations that could be involved in creating the training program, which is scheduled to begin this fall. The workshop series, planned by the teachers union and longtime parent organizer Mona Davids under the name “Parent Leadership Academy,” will touch on those issues. But with workshop titles such as “Parent as Leader,” and “Parent as Lobbyist,” the academy’s main purpose is to motivate parents to advocate on behalf of their children and schools, and demand education policy changes. (Gotham Schools)

Maryland: Three schools chiefs push to save Maryland education funding
Three prominent local schools chiefs have joined forces to push the Maryland General Assembly to preserve funding for public education when it convenes in Annapolis for a special session next week. Last month, the legislature ended its regular session without approving a package of tax increases that had been the subject of lengthy negotiations. The inaction raised the prospect of $500 million in funding cuts to education and other services taking effect July 1. Prince George’s County Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr and Baltimore City Schools Chief Executive Officer Andres A. Alonso sent a letter Monday to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and legislative leaders, urging them to expand funding for education and expressing their “collective concern” about the budget impasse. O’Malley announced Friday that he would call a special session to start May 14 at which legislators will take up the tax package. Takirra Winfield, an O’Malley spokeswoman, said Monday the governor shares the concern of the schools chiefs. “We agree that the legislature should pick up where they left off” when it adjourned, Winfield said. “If the ‘doomsday budget’ takes effect, our school systems face dire cuts.” Under that scenario, public schools would lose $128.8 million in an annual supplemental education grant that benefits counties with higher costs of living and higher rates of poverty. The grant is known as the Geographic Cost of Education Index, or GCEI. Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore collectively would lose $94 million. (WaPo)

Minnesota: More students relying on free and reduced lunches
The number of Minnesota students who rely on free or reduced lunch rose two percent this school year, according to new numbers analyzed by MPR News. That number is one of the best indicators of children in poverty. While it’s not a major increase compared to some of the increases of recent years, it means more than one in three children in Minnesota is on free and reduced lunch. That bothers state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “Any amount up is a major amount – even one percent,” she said. “And it’s just scary because after 10 years that’s 10 percent.” In Minnesota, it’s more than that. Since fall 2008, the number of students on free and reduced lunch in Minnesota has jumped 14 percent. More than 312,000 students are now on the subsidy. “As we keep upping the expectations for what we want to get done with kids, and want to be globally competitive now, but yet more and more of our kids have less advantage and less opportunity, Cassellius said. “How do we expect to get there if we’re not adequately resourcing and meeting the needs for every single kid?” The increase has major implications for families and schools to get students the food they need to concentrate. The numbers also reflect the achievement gap. When experts talk about the achievement gap, they’re actually talking about many achievement gaps. Many people think of the gap between how well white students do compared to students of color. But there’s also the gap between how well students do based on their families’ income. (MPR)


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