Secretary DeVos Praises Expansion of Educational Opportunities for Illinois Students and Families

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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today released the following statement:

“Real change and innovation in education will not come from Washington—it will come from states where parents and students demand more education options and have their voices heard. I commend Gov. Rauner and Superintendent Smith for their leadership in making Illinois the 18th state to adopt a tax credit scholarship program. By expanding choices for families and focusing funding on individual students, this program will help thousands of Illinois children succeed.”


Illinois Lawmakers Give Students More Opportunities in Education

In the throes of a debate about how much taxpayer money would go to Illinois public schools, state lawmakers have agreed to provide students more educational options.

On Thursday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature created a program that allows for up to $75 million in tax credit-eligible contributions to K-12 private school scholarship organizations. Under the law, individuals and businesses can make charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations that award scholarships to eligible students.

Donors will receive a credit on their state taxes worth 75 percent of their contributions. To be eligible for a scholarship, students must be from families with household incomes not greater than approximately $74,000.

Commonly known as “tax credit scholarships,” this school choice opportunity helps thousands of students in 17 states access a quality education when their assigned district school is not a good fit for them.

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In Florida, more than 100,000 children use a scholarship, while Arizona scholarship organizations awarded some 70,000 private school scholarships in fiscal year 2016.

The scholarships have helped students like Gabe Alva-Rivera. As a child, he attended a school in Mexico that didn’t even have running water, but his family moved to Arizona where he thrived in a private Catholic school.

In a 2013 interview, he explained that he founded and coached a middle school robotics team. He went on to study mechanical engineering at MIT.

This year, Illinois joins Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina as states that created or expanded ways for students to find a great learning experience when they struggle in a district school.

Arizona and Florida lawmakers made more students eligible for education savings accounts, scholarships that allow parents to customize a child’s education through personal tutors, private schools, and online classes, to name a few possible uses. North Carolina policymakers enacted a similar law in June.

Illinois’ new scholarships are a bright spot in a bill marked by burdens on taxpayers and even requirements for private schools that want to enroll scholarship students. The Illinois Policy Institute explains that taxpayers will fork over another $150 million to Chicago Public Schools, and city residents should expect a property tax increase.

Additionally, scholarship students under the bill will be required to take the state assessment. This rule undermines a private school’s ability to decide what and how to teach, and gives schools an incentive to provide the same instruction as district schools since students will take the same tests.

Surveys indicate that similar rules in Louisiana’s K-12 private school voucher system have prevented some private schools from enrolling scholarship students, and, as a result, families have fewer educational options.

President Donald Trump’s administration has indicated that a federal tax credit scholarship proposal could be in the offing later this year.

But Heritage Foundation experts and researchers from states like Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, New Mexico, Idaho, Iowa, Utah, and Oklahoma have urged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to keep federal activity within the bounds of Washington’s areas of responsibility.

The Trump administration would do well to provide more private educational opportunities to children in Washington, D.C., students in active-duty military families, and children living on Native American reservations.

Meanwhile, proposals to give students more learning opportunities in the 50 states should be left to state lawmakers. Well-intentioned proposals to help students can be mired in complex federal funding formulas and extend the federal government’s reach into our everyday lives.

Trump administration officials that favor more learning options should use their high profile to explain that every child should have the chance at a great education and the American dream. For students succeeding in their local district school, policymakers should encourage these achievements.

But when a district school isn’t a good fit for a child—students with special needs or those looking for more challenging material—state lawmakers should create opportunities like the new Illinois scholarships (absent the aggressive regulations) for families living within their borders. Washington should practice restraint.

Students turn creative to raise funds for design project

Reshaping spaces: The architecture students plan to create a vertical garden under the bridge on TTK Road.   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Hold painting exhibition under TTK Road bridge

The aspiration of a group of architecture students to compete in a contest has turned the space below the bridge on TTK Road colourful.

When 20-year-old Shruti Mohan and 20 other students of Mohamed Sathak AJ Academy of Architecture wanted to participate in the annual NASA Design Competition conducted by the National Association of Students of Architecture, which requires them to effectively utilise public space, they struggled to mobilise the necessary money.

Quickly, they put together some pocket money and decided to put on a painting exhibition on Sunday under the bridge itself.

“This painting exhibition is like a fund-raiser for implementing the project of creating a vertical garden on the pillars of the bridge. We have used insulation and used tyres, made them colourful and turned them into seats. Then, we approached some artists, who promised to give us about 50% of the sale money from their paintings to us,” she said.

They have about 100 paintings of many noted artists with the price ranging from ₹1,000 to ₹3 lakh. This project, they say, will cost them ₹6 lakh.

Dhanya M, another student, said, “We have been able to raise about ₹10,000 so far. We are hopeful of getting funds somehow.”


UGC warning to Bhimrao Ambedkar University faculty on discrimination against SC, ST students

BBAU authorities have been asked to  develop a page on the university website for complaints of caste discrimination against SC/ST students and also make available a complaint register at the registrar’s office.

Lucknow: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked officials and faculty members of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) to desist from any act of discrimination against scheduled caste (SC) nd scheduled tribe (ST) students on grounds of their social origin.

BBAU authorities were also asked to develop a page on the university website for such complaints of caste discrimination against SC/ST students and also make available a complaint register at the registrar’s office.

BBAU has 50% seats reserved for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students.

UGC under secretary Madhu Verma in her order said if any such incident came to the notice of the authorities, action should be taken against the erring officials/faculty members promptly.

The order said the university should ensure that no official, faculty members indulge in any kind of discrimination against any community or category of students.

The university may constitute a committee to look into the discriminating complaints received from SC/ST students, teachers and non teaching staff, the UGC order reads.

The university was asked to advise the official/faculty members that they should be more sensitive while dealing with such incidents of caste discrimination and send an action taken report to UGC within 30 days.

There have been a number of number occasions when students have made allegations of caste discrimination and lodged complaints.

Last year in September, a Dalit student studying forensic science, Sumit Kumar, who was suffering from liver cirrhosis, was allegedly forced to vacate his room by officials on charges of beating up a professor.

“The university officials threw out all my medicines, ultrasound reports and other belongings without showing any mercy. They were so heartless that they did not even bother to inform me. They simply uploaded the order of my rustication (with seven others) and threw away all my belongings from the room in my absence,” Kumar told Hindustan Times.

The university administration, however, has denied the charge.

BBAU was in the news on January 2016 when a few Dalit students raised slogans against PM Modi during its convocation ceremony over his silence on Hyderabad University PhD student Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

It was here at BBAU that Modi spoke about Vemula’s death for the first time saying his death “pained” him and that “Mother India has lost one of her sons”.