Thursday, October 7, 2010
Today I came across several stories reporting on the Supreme Court's decision to decline hearing an appeal in the six-year old legal battle that started when parent Michael Stratechuk sued the School District of South Orange-Maplewood, New Jersey, over a policy that barred religious songs at the school district's public concerts.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban last year, and Stratechuk attempted to take the case to the higher court. On Monday, the Supreme Court effectively ended the battle. While the 3rd Circuit's ruling technically applies only to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Stratechuk's attorney, Robert J. Muise of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, opined that the Court's rejection of the case could lead to a chilling effect on religious music in school districts across the country. According to Muise, "Religion has not been banned totally in schools but we're headed in that direction. The South Orange-Maplewood Schools are in the forefront of taking that step."
In a statement, School Superintendent Brian Osborne said the policy "was adopted to promote an inclusive environment for all students in our school community. We have always felt our policy was constitutional and are pleased with the outcome."
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
CNN is reporting that President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced additional, private funding for cash-strapped community colleges in an effort to bridge the growing degree gap between the United States and other nations.
The announcement came at the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges. According to CNN, President Obama said that the United States' decade-long decline from first to ninth in the world in the percentage of young people holding college degrees "not only represents a huge waste of potential; in the global marketplace it represents a threat to our position as the world's leading economy."
According to the White House, the aim of the summit is to explore ways to reach the President's goal of an additional 5 million community college degrees by 2020, and to discuss community colleges' role in developing the U.S. work force.
One private funding initiative comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which, as we blogged on Monday, plans to invest $34.8 million over the next five years for a program called Completion by Design. The money will come in the form of grants to groups of community colleges that come up with new ways to make the college experience more responsive to the needs of today's students.
Monday, October 4, 2010
According to a report in today's Washington Post, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is making a $34.8 million, five-year commitment to raise stagnant completion rates in the nation's two-year public colleges. The Gates initiative, Completion by Design, will seek applications from groups of community colleges in nine target areas: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington. As many as five proposals will be funded, based on their prospects for success.
The Postquotes Hillary Pennington, director of education, post-secondary success, at the Gates Foundation, as saying that the Foundation hopes the initiative will cause two-year colleges to "step back and analyze how many students they are losing, and why."
Across the nation, two-year colleges serve 12 million students. However, they lag far behind four-year colleges in completion rates. The Post outlines several reasons for this problem. They are worth examining closely, with a view to fixing the problems.