Prayers for Governor Larry Hogan and others in similar situations.

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Elected Officials from around the state have signed a card with words of support and encouragement to Governor Larry Hogan as he battles against cancer. We have put partisan politics aside and stand in prayer that God will have mercy on our Governor and heal his body. Maryland is a great state with great people. We are united as one in prayer for the Governor Larry Hogan and all others whom are battling this horrible disease throughout the world.

Hogan rose to national prominence during his handling of the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore this past spring. Hogan surprised political observers last November 2014 when he easily defeated much favored and highly rated Democrat Anthony Brown who was also well funded to retake the governor’s office for Republicans.

“The odds I have of beating this are much, much better than the odds I had of beating Anthony Brown,” he said, to laughter and applause from the room before starting chemotherapy recently. #HoganStrong

Larry-Hogan

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Please Don’t Text and Drive –(Warning graphic)

This video was taken by a state Trooper Dash Cam. See how quickly your life could change by taking your eyes off the road for a split second.

This is the story of how Liz’s daughter car accident from texting while driving has changed lives forever. If you get a text, don’t look at it while you’re driving. It’s not worth it.16369930_BG1USA-Flag-Wallpaper-01

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Colorado Supreme Court rejects Douglas County voucher program

State’s top court rules that Choice Scholarship Program is unconstitutional; district wants to take case to U.S. Supreme Courtcolorado-supreme-court-buildingThe Colorado Supreme Court Building in Denver.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday shot down the Douglas County School District’s groundbreaking, controversial school voucher program, finding it unconstitutional in a split ruling.

The long-awaited decision caps a more than three-year legal battle over the fate of the wealthy suburban district’s Choice Scholarship Program.

The voucher program, which would use taxpayer money to send children to private schools, was put on hold in 2011 just as the first 304 students were about to enroll. Most planned to attend religious schools.

The court found the program conflicts with “broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools.”

Wrote the court “… this stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools.”

During a news conference Monday morning, Douglas County school officials indicated they likely would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case for consideration. They also said they will immediately seek a legal way to proceed with vouchers.

“While we are disappointed in the court’s decision today, we are not surprised,” said Douglas County Board of Education president Kevin Larsen. ” We have always believed that the ultimate legality of our Choice Scholarship Program would be decided by the federal courts under the United States Constitution. This could very well be simply a case of delayed gratification.”

Using private donations, the district has spent $1.2 million on the legal challenge.

Opponents of the program prevailed in Denver District Court in their initial legal challenge. In February 2013, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the program in a 2-1 vote, with the majority ruling finding it was neutral toward religion.

RULING: Read the Colorado Supreme Court’s full decision

A plurality of Supreme Court justices, however, found the program violates the state constitution, reversing the judgment of the appeals court.

The court ruled 4-3 for voucher foes on the constitutionality question, which turned out to be the case’s key argument.

On a different issue, the justices ruled 6-1 that voucher opponents could not challenge the program under a public school finance law.

The significance of Monday’s decision stretches beyond Douglas County.

A decision upholding the program would have opened the door to similar initiatives in other school districts; any districts that had designs on a voucher program will either need to shelve those plans or come up with a new blueprint that stands a better legal chance.

The voucher program “essentially functions as a recruitment program, teaming with various religious schools,” the ruling says.

While money is not funneled directly to religious schools — rather, financial aid is provided to students — the prohibition against aiding religious schools is not limited to direct funding, the court held.

Parents and media attend the press conference at the Douglas County School District after hearing about the Colorado Supreme Court ruling finding

Parents and media attend the press conference at the Douglas County School District after hearing about the Colorado Supreme Court ruling finding the voucher program unconstitutional (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

The court also cited the program’s “lack of vital safeguards,” saying it does not forbid private schools from raising tuition or reducing financial aid in the amount of the scholarship awarded.

If that were to occur, the program would essentially channel taxpayer money directly to religious schools, it said.

This story will be updated.

Eric Gorski: 303-954-1971, egorski@denverpost.com or twitter.com/egorski

>>> Read more

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Florida Enacts $10,000 Bonus for New Teachers with High SAT Scores

nbptsFlorida eliminated bonuses for advanced degrees and for National Board Certification. 

The State of Florida legislature  passed a proposal to award $10,000 bonuses for teachers who are “the best and the brightest.” The cost: $44 million.

The awards would go either to teachers rated “highly effective” in raising test scores. New teachers would get the bonus if they had high SAT or ACT scores when they were high school seniors.

Florida eliminated bonuses for advanced degrees and for National Board Certification. It is just a matter of time if not addressed by the other states before these trends make their way into the counties  across the United States. Educators are asked to stay vigilant and to work together for good of their communities while cajoling, encouraging, and shepherding from behind the scenes in support of emerging leaders with proven records throughout the country. That is the only way to protect the future and the education related jobs throughout the states. Some politicians within the counties have an hidden agenda to sell school buildings and then fire teachers for selfish motives.

>>>Read more 

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Lac de Serre Ponçon in the southern French Alps!

This is Lake Serre-Ponçon (Lac de Serre-Ponçon) in the southerneast French Alps and yes it really is this gorgeous turquoise colour. It is one of the largest artificial lakes in western Europe. The lake gathers the waters of the Durance and the Ubaye rivers, flowing down through the Hautes-Alpes and the Alpes du Sud to the Rhône River. The waters are dammed by the Barrage de Serre-Ponçon, a 123 m high earth core dam.

As well as water control, sixteen hydroelectric plants use the water and the lake provides irrigation to 1,500 km² of land.

It’s one of the biggest artificial lakes in Europe and very popular with holiday makers.

History

The lake was created to control water flow after disastrous floods caused severe damage and loss of life in 1843 and 1856. First proposed in 1895, construction started in 1955 and was completed by 1961.

During construction of the lake, approximately 3 million m3 of material was moved. The dam was constructed and the valley slowly became a lake, flooding some villages in the process. This flooding is the subject of Jean Giono’s movie Girl and the River, starring Guy Béart.

Neighboring communes:

Embrun
Savines-le-Lac
Chorges

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When Charters Go Union

charter1_0Teachers and staff from Olney Charter High School at an ASPIRA board meeting in 2013. (Jake Blumgart)

This is a sneak peek at an article set to run in the upcoming Summer 2015 issue. 

The April sun had not yet risen in Los Angeles when teachers from the city’s largest charter network—the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools—gathered outside for a press conference to discuss their new union drive. Joined by local labor leaders, politicians, student alumni, and parents, the importance of the educators’ effort was not lost on the crowd. If teachers were to prevail in winning collective bargaining rights at Alliance’s 26 schools, the audience recognized, then L.A.’s education reform landscape would fundamentally change. For years, after all, many of the most powerful charter backers had proclaimed that the key to helping students succeed was union-free schools.

One month earlier, nearly 70 Alliance teachers and counselors had sent a letter to the administration announcing their intent to join United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the local teachers union that represents the 35,000 educators who work in L.A.’s public schools. The letter asked Alliance for a “fair and neutral process”—one that would allow teachers to organize without fear of retaliation. The administration offered no such reassurance. Indeed, April’s press conference was called to highlight a newly discovered internal memo circulating among Alliance administrators that offered tips on how to best discourage staff from forming a union. It also made clear that Alliance would oppose any union, not just UTLA. “To continue providing what is best for our schools and our students, the goal is no unionization, not which union,” the memo said.

The labor struggle happening in Los Angeles mirrors a growing number of efforts taking place at charter schools around the country, where most teachers work with no job security on year-to-year contracts. For teachers, unions, and charter school advocates, the moment is fraught with challenges. Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice.

Though 68 percent of K-12 public school teachers are unionized, just 7 percent of charter school teachers are, according to a 2012 study from the Center for Education Reform. (And of those, half are unionized only because state law stipulates that they follow their district’s collective bargaining agreement.) However, the momentum both to open new charter schools and to organize charter staff is growing fast.

>>> Read more 

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