Austin school leaders press for education spending as tight budget awaits lawmakers – News – Austin American-Statesman

When the coronavirus pandemic abruptly shuttered schools in March, Austin school leaders scrambled to transition learning online but it quickly became clear that thousands of students without access to the internet and a home computer were being left behind.

District leaders dipped into reserves to spend millions of dollars upgrading technology and getting students WiFi access, laptops and other learning devices. Staff prepared and delivered meals to district families to ensure children remained fed while campuses were closed, and the district purchased masks, gloves, face shields and gallons of hand sanitizer for employees.

The scene played out in school systems across Texas.

As the unexpected costs piled up, the boost in public education funding approved by the Legislature last year proved to be a lifeline. But, as lawmakers prepare to write a new two-year budget amid cost-cutting pressures, school district officials in Austin worry that the hard-fought funding gains will

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Lawmakers want US Army to quicken purchase of Arctic-capable vehicles

WASHINGTON — Senate appropriators want the Army to move more quickly to buy vehicles capable of operating in the Arctic, according to its version of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill released Nov. 10.

“The committee encourages the Secretary of the Army to pursue equipment and vehicles necessary for Arctic and cold weather environments,” bill language stated.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel is adding $8.25 million above the president’s FY21 defense budget request for a family of cold weather vehicles in order to speed up procurement.

Focus on the Arctic has increased in recent years as sea ice is receding at 13 percent per decade, opening up economic opportunities but also competition as Russia continues to project power into the Arctic region and China looks to capitalize on investment in minerals, natural gas, ocean fisheries and trade there.

The Defense Subcommittee also wants the Army, no later than 60

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Epic Charter Schools fallout: Governor says he will work with lawmakers who want audit of Oklahoma Department of Education | Education

“If the state auditor is correct in her assessment that the state Department of Education repeatedly neglected its responsibility to ensure compliance with OCAS (Oklahoma Cost Accounting System) and other required reports, one must ask if this dereliction of duty was confined solely to Epic Charter Schools or if it permeates throughout our public education system,” says a statement released by the lawmakers.

“If SDE did in fact routinely fail to perform its regulatory duties, this could result in the discovery of hundreds of millions of dollars of misused funds.”

Asked to respond, Carrie Burkhart, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said:

“We would be happy to visit with any legislator who would want to better understand the audit findings and Epic’s tactics. We are always open to improvement, but we believe this group’s concerns may stem from a misunderstanding of what has occurred as it relates to the

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COVID-19, police reform among priorities for Black lawmakers

When members of the South Carolina Legislature return for a new session come January, an already Republican-controlled legislative body will have extended its powers, undoubtedly spearheading reform that aligns with the majority party’s agenda.

However, members of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus say this GOP-shift will have no impact on their efforts to continue to push legislation tackling their longstanding priorities in the State House, including health care, rural infrastructure, the unemployment rate, education, and supporting historically Black colleges and universities — all issues made even more urgent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two other Black Caucus priorities — law enforcement reform and adopting a hate crime law — are also ones Republican leaders are considering, which could help any related legislation gain traction.

“Those are the real issues, that folk don’t get bogged down in issues that suits one group over another, but we actually get involved in issues

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