Claudio Sanchez | KERA News

Claudio Sanchez

The Obama administration is calling for major changes in Head Start, the 46-year-old early childhood education program that helped launch President Johnson's War on Poverty.

President Obama says too many children today aren't learning, and too many education programs are mismanaged.

"We're not just going to put money into programs that don't work," the president announced late last year. "We will take money and put it into programs that do."

College and university presidents are wringing their hands over the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to revisit the issue of affirmative action next fall. Critics of racial preferences are thrilled because the court could significantly restrict the use of race in admissions, but proponents of affirmative action say this would be a huge setback for institutions struggling to diversify their student body.

Every year, roughly 750,000 high school dropouts try to improve their educational and employment prospects by taking the General Educational Development test, or GED, long considered to be the equivalent of a high school diploma.

The latest research, however, shows that people with GEDs are, in fact, no better off than dropouts when it comes to their chances of getting a good job.

This is raising lots of questions, especially in school districts with high dropout rates and rising GED enrollments.

A Second Chance, But Is It Enough?

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on every state to require students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18. "When students don't walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma," he said.

The White House cited studies that showed how raising the compulsory schooling age helps prevent kids from leaving school. And while some of that is true, some of it is also wishful thinking.

For New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner of Education Paul Leather, the president made the right call in his address.

Nearly three decades ago, Kenny Buchanan decided to drop out of school. Over the last 26 years, he's jumped from job to job and unemployment. He now has a full-time job and for the first time in years, he and his family have health insurance and can enjoy a few luxuries.

School funding in Texas is in turmoil. State lawmakers slashed more than $4 billion from education this school year — one of the largest cuts in state history — and more than 12,000 teachers and support staff have been laid off.

Academic programs and transportation have been cut to the bone. Promising reforms are on hold or on the chopping block. Next year, the cuts could go even deeper.

Virginia Tech is quiet Friday morning after a gunman shot and killed a campus police officer and then killed himself Thursday afternoon. For hours the sprawling campus in Blacksburg, Va., relived the horror of a 2007 shooting that left 33 dead and raised troubling questions about the university's slow response to the tragedy.

The sort of offenses that might land a student in the principal's office in other states often send kids in Texas to court with misdemeanor charges. Some schools have started rethinking the way they punish students for bad behavior after watching many of them drop out or land in prison because of tough disciplinary policies.

In a downtown Houston municipal court, Judge David Fraga has presided over thousands of cases involving students "ticketed" by school police. His docket is still relatively small at the moment, with only 45 to 65 cases per night.

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