- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Scholarships for D.C. youths

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Reps. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon and Darrell Issa, both California Republicans, introduced legislation last week to reauthorize the D.C. scholarship program.

The scholarships allow low-income students to receive up to $7,500 to attend private schools.

Since 2004, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program “has provided unprecedented educational opportunities for thousands of inner-city students who are poorly served by the D.C. Public Schools system,” said Mr. Issa, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

An independent report last month found that students in the scholarship program performed at statistically higher levels in reading that were “equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning,” Mr. Issa said.

Mr. Boehner said at a news conference on Thursday that one of the reasons he was joining his colleagues is because “we all know where D.C. parents are on this.”

“I’ve got three binders full of … petitions signed by some 7,400 parents of children here in the District of Columbia asking us to continue this program. And on behalf of those children, getting them a chance at a decent education ought to be our No. 1 goal.”

Obama plan for school spending

President Obama’s fiscal 2010 plan allocates $46.7 billion for the Department of Education, an increase of $1.3 billion over fiscal 2009. It also includes more funding for the Institute of Education Sciences, which would receive $689 million.

The Obama administration also proposed a merit-pay plan and a plan to curb dropout rates, while eliminating some abstinence-only federal sex-education programs. Here are the winners and losers, according to Education Week:

Winners

• Teacher Incentive Fund: Grants to school districts to create pay-for-performance programs. Program received $97 million in fiscal 2009 and is slated for $517 million in fiscal 2010, on top of $200 million from the economic-stimulus package.

• School Improvement Fund: Funding for schools struggling to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act would nearly triple to $1.5 billion in fiscal 2010, on top of $3 billion from the stimulus.

• Reading: Boosting appropriations for the Striving Readers program to $370.4 million, including $300 million for new Early Literacy Grants and a doubling of funds for the Adolescent Literacy program to $70.4 million.

• High School Initiative: A $50 million competitive-grant program for high schools and their feeder middle schools to help curb the dropout rate.

Losers

To be eliminated:

• Safe and Drug-Free Schools State Grants, $294.8 million

• Even Start family-literacy program, $66.5 million

• College Access Challenge Grants, $66 million

• Mentoring program, $48.5 million

• Civic education program, $33.5 million

• Character education program, $11.9 million

• Ready to Teach program, $10.7 million

• Javits gifted and talented program, $7.5 million

• National Institute for Literacy, $6.5 million

• Academies for American History and Civics, $1.9 million

• Close Up Fellowship, $1.9 million

• Foundations for Learning, $1 million

• Education Technology State Grants: Program that helps districts integrate technology into classrooms would be slashed to $100 million in fiscal 2010, from $269.9 million this year. Program received $650 million under the stimulus package.

• Abstinence education: The Community-Based Abstinence Education and Title V Abstinence Education programs, which together got $133 million in fiscal 2009, would be eliminated. Their replacement is $110 million in grants to teen-pregnancy prevention programs.

Bell back home

The 1882 bell at the School Without Walls returned home Thursday.

The D.C. public high school, located on the campus of George Washington University, where students take college courses, is slated to reopen for the 2009-10 school year. Parents are happy the bell is back in its tower.

“This is another step in the respectful restoration and modernization of this 1880s building,” said Terry Lynch, a Walls parent and member of the School Improvement Team. “The school’s original pine wood floors have been uncovered and are being restored, the school’s masonry has been repointed, and its ornate metal staircases are to be restored as well.”

Other historical elements, including long-lost wooden front doors and wooden wainscoting for classrooms, will be reproduced, said Mr. Lynch, who also is executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.

“In restoring and modernizing this building, we uncovered a Washington Times Herald article from 1940 of a visit by [first lady] Eleanor Roosevelt, where she said: ‘From a physical standpoint, this school is in very bad shape. The teaching seems to be very good, but I don’t see how anything could be done for children in a building of this type.’

“Well, she visited the school when it was almost 60 years old, and now it’s almost 130 years since it first opened, and at last it will become a model facility, with its historic features restored,” he said.


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