It just keeps getting worse.

This morning’s AJC headline: “Critics suspicious of school budget and cuts”

I live in DeKalb County, Georgia. Yesterday, my home magically increased in value by $24,000–just in time for the millage rate increase the school board will have to pass in order to keep its head above water. Oh, wait. The school system’s head isn’t above water. It’s going to finish the fiscal year $6 million in debt and faces an additional $73 million shorfall in the coming year.  

The newspaper reports:

Frustration. Suspicion. Outrage.

Those are among the sentiments of parents, teachers and taxpayers in DeKalb County who learned in recent days just how financially damaged their school system is.

While hard times have hit most school systems in metro Atlanta, none has been hit quite as hard as DeKalb. Most districts could turn to cash reserves to cushion the blow of declining tax revenues and increasing costs. In DeKalb though, officials expect to finish this fiscal year in debt. The dire situation and the resulting deep cuts have left many feeling that mismanagement, is to blame.

“It’s ridiculous how much money does not make it into the classroom,” said Bill Armstrong, a parent at a public Montessori school who expects to see teachers eliminated as part of the cuts.

Mismanagement? Ya think?  That’s been the consensus among parents in North and South DeKalb since … well, at least since I was a PTA president. We’ve long viewed the school system’s central office as a bloated, incompetent bureaucracy that functioned as a jobs mill for friends and relations of the well-connected. An accident not just waiting to happen, but happening every day. And now the wreck has fallen into a hole. This really stinks. 

Read more.





5-Star Review for Chain Gang Elementary

This 5-star review  just came in on Goodreads, and I wanted to share it because it contains the praise every former class clown wants to hear from a teacher: “hilariously sarcastic.”  (And without that trip to the principal’s office this time.)

The reader/reviewer, a teacher, put Chain Gang Elementary on her “WINS” list, as well.

5 Stars — Heather on Goodreads:

Maybe I’m just biased because I’m a teacher, but…I loved this book! I completely related to the shady politics of public schools, the idea that “no good deed goes unpunished,” and the endless fight for doing what is right by kids, not by finances, politics, or climbing the district ladder. I like that the story has scandals, secrets, mysteries, crimes, and romance…and it’s well-written too! The author is hilariously sarcastic, and refreshingly intelligent. A good read, for sure 🙂




Cootie alert

Thanks to our efforts to eradicate head lice with powerful chemicals, a newer, stronger breed of cootie has evolved. Yes, evolved.

Last Week, Indian Creek Elementary School in Kuna, Idaho was closed due to a severe infestation of the bugs. Up to 12,000,000 schoolchildren a year are infested by head lice, which suck blood and cause discomfort but aren’t really known as disease carriers. ABC’s Nightline devoted a segment to this problem, starting with a hair salon where professional nitpickers charge $300 to clear up a problem head. There’s even a “Hair whisperer” who specializes in confidential cootie removal.

She advises people who want to avoid the vermin to leave their hair unwashed, which seems kind of counterintuitive.

One woman has opened up several specialty salons across the nation and hopes to create the “Starbucks of head lice removal.”

Learn more.


Will Washington gridlock cause student loan rates to rise?

From Inside Higher Ed:

her a Republican nor a Democratic bill to keep the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent could muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate on Thursday, meaning that rates are still scheduled to double on July 1. The Republican proposal would have paid for the $6 billion extension by eliminating a preventive care fund in the health-care overhaul; it failed, 34-62. The Democratic proposal would have changed a tax provision that allows some small business owners to avoid paying payroll taxes; it failed to advance on a 51-43 vote.

Read more.

Unabomber lists 8 life sentences as awards in Harvard alumni directory

May this serve as consolation for the 93 percent of applicants who didn’t get in. From the Associated Press:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University’s alumni association says it regrets including the Unabomber’s references to his convictions in a directory for his 50th class reunion this week.

Ted Kaczynski graduated in 1962 and is in prison for killing three people and injuring 23 others during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995. He lists his occupation as “prisoner” and his awards as “eight life sentences.”

The alumni association apologized Wednesday “for any distress that it may have caused others.” It says all class members were invited to submit entries.

Read more.

Romney’s higher ed plan: Looser regs on for-profits, return to bank-based loans

Basically, he’d like to undo the changes President Obama has made.

Inside Higher Ed has an overview:

WASHINGTON — The presumptive presidential Republican nominee Mitt Romney pledged Wednesday that, if elected, he would reshape or do away with two major Obama administration higher education policy initiatives: the overhaul of the federal student loan program and tighter regulations on for-profit colleges.

In his education plan, the former Massachusetts governor also proposed consolidating some federal financial aid programs and changing eligibility rules for Pell Grants to ensure the program’s financial future.

During the Republican primaries, Romney was all but silent on his proposals for higher education. The decision to release a detailed platform (accompanying a speech that focused on the candidate’s plans for elementary and secondary education) more than five months before the general election underscores the surprisingly prominent role that college prices and student debt have played in the 2012 election so far. And while Romney blames Obama for abetting the price increases by increasing federal financial aid, on at least one point the two rivals struck the same note: “The federal government will no longer write a blank check to universities to reward their tuition increases,” the platform said, echoing the president’s putting colleges “on notice” over prices in the State of the Union in January.

Read more.