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state & regional education

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California lawmaker proposes parents get paid time off for kids' school activities

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Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D- Los Angeles, proposed a bill last week that would give parents paid time off from work to attend school activities for their children, according to KTLA.

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The bill, AB 2405, would allow parents three paid days off a year, or 24 hours.

“Being involved in your child’s education shouldn’t be limited by your family’s income, and it shouldn’t come down to a choice between meeting with a teacher or volunteering in the classroom, versus paying the bills," Gatto said in a news release Thursday.

"You shouldn’t have to be a cast member of the ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ to be involved in your child’s education," he said.

The release cites a 2013 EdSource survey in which 24 percent of parents with incomes of $30,000 or less described themselves as "very involved" in their children's education.

The bill would update California's existing Family-School and Partnership Act.

Passed in 1995, the act currently allows parents, grandparents and guardians to take up to 40 hours of unpaid time off for school activities and related emergencies. The time off is protected.

AB 2405 would require 24 or those hours be paid time off.

"Too many parents are prevented from participating in their children's education due to economic barriers," Gatto said. "Parents shouldn't have to choose between paying the bills and being involved in their child's education."

According to Gatto's spokesman, the legislation should be referred to a committee hearing  next month, followed by a vote on it by the Assembly.

It will go to the state Senate if it passes.

CNN Money reported that, according to the spokesman, small businesses with 25 employees or less would not be required to follow this law, if passed.

School lunches: Here’s what your kids will be eating if this bill passes

A bipartisan Senate agreement expected to be voted on Wednesday will include some changes to the meals your children will be offered at school, and it may be changes that would bring them to the table.

The bill, which is expected to be passed by the full Senate, will offer more flexibility to the nations nearly 100,000 public schools as it eases requirements on the use of whole grains and delays a deadline to cut the level of sodium in school lunches.

The legislation has grown out of complaints by some schools that the requirements for their meals – changed in 2012 with the support of first lady Michelle Obama – are burdensome and that children are not eating the food.

To qualify for federal reimbursements for free and reduced-cost meals, schools are required to meet federal government nutrition guidelines. The guidelines set in 2012 imposed limits on the amount of fats, calories, sugar and sodium that meals could include.

Many schools balked at the standards, saying children would not eat the healthier options. Wednesday’s vote comes after a bill that would have allowed schools to opt out of the program entirely failed in 2014.

Per the bill, the Agriculture Department would be required to revised the whole grain and sodium standards for meals within 90 days of its passage.

Here’s how the legislation would change what school lunchrooms are serving:

Grains: Currently, all grains served in public schools must be whole grains, meaning the food made from grain must have been made using 100 percent of the original grain kernel. The new legislation requires that 80 percent  of the grains used be whole grain or more than half whole grain. (Currently, schools may request waivers from the whole grain requirement.)

Salt: The implementation of stricter standards for the amount of sodium in school meals would be delayed until 2019 under the new legislation. The bill would also fund a study into the benefits of lowering salt levels in school meals.

Waste: The problem of waste is a big one in school lunches. Under the new legislation, the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be tasked with coming up with a way to reduce what is not eaten by students – particularly fruits and vegetables. Children are currently required to take the food on the lunch line, but many toss them without touching a bite.

Summer programs: More money would be allocated for summer feeding programs – where school lunchrooms offer meals for children who qualify.

University sends 450 mistaken acceptance brochures

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More than 450 students received acceptance brochures to Texas State University last month only to be told it was a mistake.

University spokesman Jayme Blaschke said that on March 27, an outside vendor accidentally mailed acceptance brochures to hundreds of students with incomplete admissions applications. Some of those students have completed their applications and received formal acceptance letters, but many applications are still incomplete.

The brochure contained orientation and residence hall information.

The university plans on mailing out a letter today to brochure recipients acknowledging the error and clarifying their status.

Blaschke said that a mistake of this nature has not happened before at the university in San Marcos.

“Texas State is reviewing the process to understand how this happened and to ensure it does not happen again,” he said.

In December, John Hopkins University accidentally sent 294 applicants a welcome message even though most of them were denied admission or had been deferred.

In February, Carnegie Mellon University accidentally accepted about 800 applicants into its computer science graduate program. They all had been rejected.

Teacher returns to job after video shows her dragging boy down hallway

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A teacher is back on the job after dragging a 6-year-old boy down a school hallway in Kentucky.

Surveillance video shows teacher Ashley Silas dragging the first grader to the principal’s office. Silas said the boy refused to walk on his own after being disruptive and threatening another student.

Silas was fired after the incident, but she filed an appeal. She told a review board that she wasn’t hurting the boy and that he, “enjoyed” sliding down the hall.

The review board reduced the teacher’s punishment to a suspension.

An attorney for the school said they didn’t want to hire Silas back, but the appeals systems left them no choice. 

APS cheating scandal as the AJC reported it

Spring storms pound Oklahoma, killing at least four

EL RENO, Okla. (AP) — Violent storms that swept through a chunk of the central U.S. killed at least nine people in three states, toppling trees, crushing cars and tearing through a rural Arkansas fire station.

The high-powered storms arrived as forecast Tuesday night and early Wednesday, just days after a massive tornado tore through the southwest Missouri town of Joplin and killed 122 people. After killing two people in Kansas and five in Oklahoma, they continued their trek east into Arkansas before petering out.

At least two people died as the storms ripped through Arkansas' Franklin and Johnson counties, the state's Department of Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said. One person died after a tornado ripped the tiny western Arkansas community of Denning shortly after midnight Wednesday. Another person died in an area called Bethlehem, in Johnson County.

Emergency officials had accounted for everyone else in Bethlehem, said county emergency management director Josh Johnston. Crews were working through the night in the hopes of saying the same thing for other communities.

Just outside Denning, winery owner Eugene Post listened to the tornado from his porch. He saw the lights flicker, as the storms yanked power from the community.

"I didn't see anything," Post, 83, said early Wednesday. "I could hear it real loud though. ... It sounded like a train — or two or three — going by."

A number of people were injured in both Franklin and Johnson counties, though officials weren't sure exactly how many. A rural fire station in Franklin County was left without a roof as emergency workers rushed to the wounded. Downed trees and power lines tossed across roadways also slowed search-and-rescue crews' efforts.

Hours earlier, several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during the Tuesday night rush hour, killing at least five people and injuring at least 60 others, including three children who were in critical condition, authorities said.

Some residents said they had been warned about the impending weather for days and were watching television or listening to the radio so they would know when to take cover.

"We live in Oklahoma and we don't mess around," Lori Jenkins said. "We kept an eye on the weather and knew it was getting close."

She took refuge with her husband and two children in a neighbor's storm shelter in the Oklahoma City suburb of Guthrie. When they emerged, they discovered their carport had been destroyed and the back of their home was damaged.

Chris Pyle was stunned as he pulled into the suburban neighborhood near Piedmont where he lived as a teenager. His parents' home was destroyed, but the house next door had only a few damaged shingles.

"That's when it started sinking in," he said. "You don't know what to think. There are lots of memories, going through the trash tonight, finding old trophies and pictures."

His parents, Fred and Snow Pyle, rode out the storm in a shelter at a nearby school.

Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner, said four people died west of Oklahoma City in Canadian County, where a weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds.

At Chickasha, 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, a 26-year-old woman died when a tornado hit a mobile home park where residents had been asked to evacuate their trailers, Assistant Police Chief Elip Moore said. He said a dozen people were injured and that hundreds were displaced when the storm splintered their homes.

In Kansas, police said two people died when high winds threw a tree into their van around 6 p.m. near the small town of St. John, about 100 miles west of Wichita. The highway was shut down because of storm damage.

The path of the storms included Joplin, which is cleaning up from a Sunday storm that was the nation's eighth-deadliest twister among records dating to 1840. Late-night tornado sirens had Joplin's residents ducking for cover again before the storm brushed past without serious problems.

The storms also blew through North Texas, but the damage seemed to be confined to roofs and trees and lawn furniture and play equipment.

"The hail was probably more destructive," said Steve Fano, National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth.

___

Associated Press Writers Jeannie Nuss in Little Rock, Ark., Terry Wallace in Dallas and Dana Fields in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.

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