Feeling Earthy

Did you know about the City’s “Sustainable Backyard” Rebate program?

Just in case you’re doing planning on doing some gardening this weekend (or month), you might want to check this out:

Sustainable Backyards Rebates

Rebate forms are available to Chicago residents for up to 50% off their next local purchase of:

TREES (up to $100 back)

NATIVE PLANTS (up to $60 back)

COMPOST BINS (up to $50 back)

RAIN BARRELS (up to $40 back)

Free money, baby–they’re giving it away! Click HERE for the full story, including information about the process.

Environmental AND Economical–Change Your Font

From the Tribune this week, an article on the value of changing fonts:

Because different fonts require different amounts of ink to print, you could be buying new printer cartridges less often if you wrote in, say, Century Gothic rather than Arial. Schools and businesses could save thousands of dollars with font changes.

Data on the subject from Printer.com, a Dutch company that evaluates printer attributes, persuaded the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to make a switch. Diane Blohowiak, coordinator of information-technology user support, has asked faculty and staff to use Century Gothic for all printed documents. The school also plans to change its e-mail system so it uses Century Gothic…

The school of 6,500 students spends about $100,000 per year on ink and toner cartridges… Blohowiak said the university expects to save $5,000 to $10,000 per year with the font switch.

Who knew?

UPDATED: Sorry, forgot to include the link.

Schools in the News

There’s been a flurry of school news lately. Layoffs are starting to hit districts across the state, as the state money crunch, and Governor Quinn’s proposal to slash education spending by $1.3 billion is becoming more real by the minute. We just found out from our daughter’s Principal that the States “Pre-School for All” program was among the items cut from the state budget this year, and they have no money for music either. And, apparently CPS is changing its menus.

As noted to be a possibility right here on the Harold awhile back, the four day week has been floated and passed the House. It probably won’t happen in Chicago, though, since neither the Mayor nor the CPS Union wants anything to do with it.

One glimmer of hope amidst the economic carnage is the fact that an increase in Pell Grant spending was attached to the Health Care Reform bill, and the feds will spend an additional $36 billion over the next ten years. There was also quite a bit of money attached for Community Colleges, though not as much as had originally been proposed by the President (or hoped for by the colleges).

Still, we’ll take any good news we can get, right?

Graduation Strategies

With all the hootenanny out there about completion and the current administration’s stated commitment for tying federal dollars to graduation rates, this little bit of research shows some interesting promise, especially for any faculty members who are part of the Retention/Completion Committee, that President Wozniak mentioned during the State of the College address and/or interested in the discussion that CAST is proposing. Here’s the upshot:

An examination of the educational records of more than 62,000 adult undergraduates at 48 colleges finds that students who had sought and been awarded academic credit by their institutions for “prior learning” earned in the military, corporate training and other non-classroom settings were more than twice as likely to graduate, and to persist even if they did not graduate, than were their peers who had not earned such credit.

Does anyone know how empowered our advisors are to give credit for prior learning? In four years as Chair, I only recall one student request for credit from prior knowledge being forwarded to me from advising. And my guess is that not a lot of our students would even think to ask…

This is yet another reason to shift the time for registration to significantly earlier than the week before classes.

State Budget Crises

There was a news conference on Thursday where some things were said that bear watching. Y’all have heard all about the state budget fiasco over the past couple of years, most recently at the State of the College Address, so this shouldn’t be news, but the fit is beginning to hit the shan in a big way, and we would be foolish to ignore the possibility of a little spatter, no matter how well Ken Gotsch has managed our (district) money over the past few years.

Chicago Public Schools is facing a deficit of up to $1 billion next year that can be reduced only through a combination of pension reform, union concessions and job cuts, schools chief Ron Huberman said Thursday.

Without all three measures in conjunction, Huberman said, teacher layoffs, increased class sizes and cuts to important programs are distinct possibilities.

Huberman will be seeking concessions from the Teacher’s Union, asking them to renegotiate their current contract while it is in effect. The union, unsurprisingly, showed some resistance to the idea. Stuck into the article, down toward the end is this little bit of scariness:

Huberman can declare a fiscal emergency, which would force the union back to the bargaining table.

That’s right. Under a “fiscal emergency,” as declared by the administration, the CPS contract can be opened up. As in, completely–previously negotiated health care, pay, class sizes, etc.

And, though Illinois is one of the worst, at least when it comes to funding pensions, we are not the only state in a similar rough spot. In Georgia, they’re looking at going to four-day school weeks, with slightly longer hours and a shorter school year.

Now that the Olympics aren’t coming, with the economy remaining in the dumper, and economic pain all around, we should expect there to be little sympathy for unionized teachers, especially for ivory towered elites who work 15 hours a week and average $70,000 a year with their summers off (remember that one?), should the state keep skipping its bill payments and cause a fiscal emergency for our district…