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Korsmo's news roundup: Budget shortfall, college completion rates and investing in early learning

If you were a tree, would you be one of those really annoying trees that dropped nuts that attracted squirrels who dug up the bulbs in my yard? Oh. Goodness. Where was I?

Show Me the Money: With a looming $2 billion shortfall, state legislators are gearing up for a post-Thanksgiving special session sure to make dried turkey and crazy uncle Larry look like an oasis. The governor has asked agency chiefs to send her their initial thoughts about where they could find between 5-10% in their budgets. State schools chief, Randy Dorn, took a pass on the assignment. Submitting budget cuts “would be a violation of my constitutional responsibilities and inconsistent with my oath of office,” he said in a letter to Governor Gregoire. Dorn opposed cuts to education last session and sees the distinct possibility of a train wreck for the education budget in the special session. The governor has said that cuts to education are not off the table. Meanwhile, the two men vying to replace Gregoire answered questions about how to resolve the budget crisis this way; don’t cut education, punt, don’t answer the question, it’s complicated.  It’s not so complicated that a couple of activists can’t start a website devoted to the Washington education budget, though.

College Completion Elusive: This past week, President Obama urged high school kids in Washington, DC to climb the mountain to college. “I want all of you to set a goal to continue your education after you graduate,” he implored. It got a little weird when he said “And if that means college for you…” IF? Seriously? “… just getting into college isn’t enough. You also have to graduate.”  Maybe the POTUS hedged because he’d received an advance copy of the new Complete College America report. College completion rates in this country are about as anemic as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense. Take Texas. Please. For every 100 kids who enroll in college, 79 will start out in community college and of those a whopping two will graduate on time. Even with extra time, only seven will complete. Think Washington is kicking some Texas booty? According to the report none of the students entering community college, attending part time finished on time. And only two did so with extended time.  Four year schools don’t do much better.(Of the 100 students enrolled in public two and four year schools, 43 start out in 4-year schools. Of the four who were part time, only one graduated) The lesson here is part time college generally means a slow train to nowhere. One could surmise that part time students are those most likely to need to work – low income, middle class and those without a lot of financial support for college going. Take a look at this new report on how admissions officers find the right “fit” for their schools and you might see an even bigger problem on the horizon.  Among the findings, the top priority for admissions directors is recruiting more students who can pay more.

Folks in San Francisco are tackling these issues head on, initiating a Kindergarten to College (K2C) campaign where every kindergartner is automatically enrolled in a college savings program seeded with $50.00. A pretty bold – and positive – step forward for the next generation of global citizens.

Early and Often: With budget belts tightening and short term “solutions” trumping long term transformation, here’s a tidbit that could go unnoticed. Investments in early learning yield huge gains later; for every dollar invested in early learning in the U.S., we save eleven. In addition, no credible strategy for eliminating the opportunity gap can ignore early learning. Not convinced about the importance of early learning and its connection to brain development?  Be persuaded.  Congress has introduced a number of early learning bills, though right now, it’s not clear any will cross the finish line this session.

Odds and Ends:

  • Local school closes (opportunity) achievement gap. People notice.
  • NBC holds second annual education forum, Education Nation. I must have missed my invite, because everybody else was there. What’s up with that?
  • Secretary Duncan releases guidelines for the NCLB waiver process. Judges, death panels, Russian ice skating pairs! Oh my.
  • GOP POTUS candidates take aim at NCLB and federal ed policy. (Romney misses and hits Perry’s hair. Film at eleven.)
  • To recertify or not. That is the question in this new-normal for Wisconsin unions.
  • The Christian Science Monitor weighs in on the Tacoma strike. The title is rather telling.
  • Sesame Street goes all STEM.

That’s all for now newshounds. Say a small prayer that Kyle Orton gets out of Lambeau alive. If you have to ask…. I’ll have to show you my cheesehead. Have a fantastic weekend all!

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  1. Shelley Kloba October 5, 2011

    The website started by two education activists that you mention is worth its weight in gold. It is a little text-heavy, but often my go to source for ed funding info that I am looking for. I urge all your readers to take a look at it.

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