Genesee County ISD special education funding formula violates state law, judge says

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FLINT, MI — The formula used to funnel some special education dollars through the Genesee Intermediate School Distrct to local districts violates state law, an administrative law judge has said.

For Flint schools, this could mean the district will get more special education funding because it has a higher than average percentage of special education students. It also could mean less money for school districts with a high total student count but lower percentage of special education students, like Grand Blanc Community Schools.

As it currently stands, the GISD Mandatory Plan appropriates $3.8 million of Act 18 special education funds back to local districts based on a three-part formula: 1. Total special education headcount 2. Full-time-equivalent (FTE) special education student head count 3. Total FTE headcount. FTE head count is adjusted for part-time student numbers. These three factors are currently equally weighted.

However, Administrative Law Judge Michael St. John in a Friday, Oct 9 recommendation to State Superintendent Michael Rice, said this formula should change.

Residents challenge officials to change special education funding to benefit Flint schools

The Flint Community School district has said it is unfair to include total FTE as one third of the formula because it disadvantages the city district, which once was the largest in the county but has since lost ground to suburban districts.

GISD Superintendent Lisa Hagel testified that all three factors, including FTE, are of equal importance.

“However, the funding formula does not provide equal funding for the three factors,” St. John wrote in his recommendation. “Because the three numbers are simply averaged together, the larger number of FTE students dwarfs the smaller SEHC number and substantially dwarfs the much smaller SEFTE number. Rather than using relative percentages of each factor, they are simply added together and then divided. FTE therefore dominates both


Amherst budget chief says Boston business groups’ state education funding report guillotines local school district

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AMHERST – A proposal by two Boston-based business advocacy groups to alter how the state’s Chapter 70 local aid to school districts is disbursed would take a meat cleaver to the local school district, according to the town’s budget chief Sean Mangano.

Nearly $8 million of state education aid would be lopped off the revenue sheets for Amherst school system and Amherst-Pelham regional district, he said.

The two business groups co-wrote a 23-page report – saying more Chapter 70 school aid should go to the least wealthy cities and towns, and less to more affluent communities.

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education jointly wrote the research paper – Ryan Flynn from the Alliance and James Sutherland of the Chamber.

The authors acknowledged assistance from a small group of experts.

Those include two men recently in senior leadership positions at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Both are Chapter 70 whizzes, and oversaw the financial dimension of it – former Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and former Administrator of School Finance, Roger Hatch, who departed the DESE in 2016 after 36 years.

Wulfson, who was also the acting DESE commissioner for a period of time, retired in April after 25 years with the DESE that included time as the agency’s chief financial officer. Previously, he was Director of Administration, at the Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services for 8 years, and for 5 years Chief management analyst at Office of Massachusetts Inspector General back in the 1980s.

In a memorandum to Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman last week, Mangano wrote:

“Amherst schools (secondary and elementary) would lose appx. $7.85 million of Chapter 70 funding or 14% of their combined budgets if the funding formula was changed as advocated by the business groups.

He said


NASA needs new funding by February for 2024 moon landing, administrator says

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Sept. 30 (UPI) — Congress must approve more funding for NASA’s Artemis moon program in the next few months if a 2024 landing is to occur, agency administrator Jim Bridenstine testified Wednesday.

“If we get to February of 2021 without an appropriation, that’s going to really put the brakes on our ability to achieve a moon landing by as early as 2024,” Bridenstine told members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee in Washington, D.C.

The space agency seeks more than $7 billion for Artemis in the current fiscal year, which begins Thursday, and nearly $28 billion through 2025. The House of Representatives has approved a bill for the new fiscal year that cut billions from NASA’s request.

Bridenstine and the Trump Administration argue that a rapid return to the moon within the five-year timeframe announced in 2019 is the only way to overcome political resistance and inflated budgets due to delays.

Bridenstine noted that the committee has provided bipartisan support for Artemis and other missions.

Among the other priorities are funding to develop private commercial space stations as an eventual replacement for the International Space Station and funding to establish a precise global framework to track the growing problem of orbital space debris.

The most efficient method for funding would be an authorization act to codify commitment to the 2024 moon landing over the next several years, Bridenstine said.

NASA is working toward a November 2021 uncrewed test launch of the powerful Artemis rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, Bridenstine said. That rocket is on schedule for an eight-minute test firing in November at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, he said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, asked Bridenstine what he’s doing to inspire Americans, especially young people, to become involved in the moon program.

Bridenstine responded that NASA


Funding crisis threatens zoos’ vital conservation work

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Zoos’ vital conservation work is being put at risk by a Covid-related funding crisis.

Breeding programmes to rescue rare species may have to be cancelled, with many zoos facing the biggest cash crisis in their history.

The body that represents British zoos says a government rescue package is inaccessible for most of its members.

Only one zoo has claimed successfully, the BBC has learned.

Zoos face huge income losses due to lockdown and reduced visitor numbers. Ultimately, this will impact on their ability to care for species which are the last of their kind on Earth, and now found only in zoos.

“The extinct-in-the-wild species are absolutely dependent on human care,” said Dr John Ewen of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

“It’s our decision about which way to go forward that determines extinction or recovery.”

The scimitar-horned oryx is regarded as a conservation success story
The scimitar-horned oryx is regarded as a conservation success story

BBC News has discovered that just one zoo out of around 300 in England has successfully made a claim from a £100m government recovery fund.

The trade body that represents Britain’s zoos and aquariums, Biaza, says the way the government’s bailout fund is structured means it is virtually impossible for most of its members to claim.

They need to be 12 weeks from bankruptcy to qualify and by that time any responsible animal park would already be trying to find new homes for its residents, the association says.

It warns that many international breeding programmes, designed to ensure the survival of rare species, may have to be cancelled and without government help some big UK zoos face closure.

The government says its rescue package was designed to provide a safety net if zoos got into really serious financial difficulties.

Zoos are one of the largest funders of conservation work around the world, particularly large,


New education partnership secures federal funding for Whitecap students

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a group of people sitting at a table: Saskatoon Public Schools' Board Chair Colleen MacPherson and Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear sign an  agreement supporting their ongoing education partnership.

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Saskatoon Public Schools’ Board Chair Colleen MacPherson and Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear sign an agreement supporting their ongoing education partnership.

A new agreement between Whitecap Dakota First Nation, the Saskatoon public school division and the federal government provides federal funding to support Whitecap students.

The tripartite education agreement, signed on Tuesday morning, builds on an existing partnership between the First Nation and the school division that’s been in place since 2014.

The original partnership, extended by another five years in 2019, formalizes decades of collaboration between the division and Whitecap.

The school division operates the pre-Kindergarten to Grade 4 Charles Red Hawk Elementary School, located on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation. It’s the first on-reserve school to be part of a Saskatchewan school division.

Once students reach Grade 5, they are transported to Chief Whitecap School in Saskatoon’s Stonebridge neighbourhood, then to a public high school.

The agreement means federal money will provide funding to support that partnership. In doing so, it contributes to work being done to combat disparities in education, Whitecap Chief Darcy Bear said.

That includes ensuring all Whitecap students have access to language and culture programming.

Indigenous Services Canada has provided about $1,500 per student in language and culture resources, but it was only accessible for people on reserve. Under the new partnership, it also reaches Whitecap students learning in Saskatoon.

“This signing today solidifies that … the money for language and culture can now travel with those students,” Bear said.

School board chair Colleen MacPherson said the “standout” partnership is a step toward ensuring all students can reach their fullest potential.

“I know what we’re signing here today will positively impact the future of our students, not only in school, but as they grow into their roles

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