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Lawsuit Over Closure Of D.C. Schools Dismissed By Federal Judge
-- Matt Cohen , dcist

District of Columbia: July 22, 2014 -- A federal judge has dismissed the remaining claims of a lawsuit filed against D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson over the closure of 15 D.C. schools. When Henderson announced in January of 2013 that 15 public schools would close by the end of the 2014 school year, activists with Empower D.C.—a social change community organization—filed a lawsuit to stop the school closures, claiming that they were discriminatory, disproportionately affecting minority students and students from low-income families. According to the Post, black students accounted for 93 percent of the students affected in the closures. Empower D.C. also argued that the decision for the school closures—all of which saw under-enrollment, according to Henderson— was to free up the buildings for new charter schools and to pay bonuses for teachers, a disproportionate number of which, the plaintiffs argued, work in schools that have a majority white student enrollment. Although U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg originally dismissed most of their lawsuit in October, he let parts of the lawsuit—a civil-rights claim that the closure of schools by Henderson was racially motivated—move forward. However, in an opinion released on Friday, Boasberg dismissed the rest of the lawsuit, writing that "although Plaintiffs dislike charter schools, performance pay, and the increasing number of D.C. school closures, there is simply no real evidence that these policies are discriminatory." He added in his 29-page opinion that "no one is denying that the racial disparities in the recent closings are striking. In the closed schools, after all, a startling 93 percent of students were black and fewer than 0.2 percent (six students) were white. But here, the disparity appears to be caused by the location of the under-enrolled schools, not by intentional discrimination." But Empower D.C. says they're going to appeal the decision. "The plaintiffs in this case would be happy for their schools to reopen, though it would be too late for their children whose education was already interrupted," the group writes on their Facebook page. "They want the schools to be restored for other children, though, and for discrimination in D.C. Public Schools to stop."

Katy ISD to consider massive construction bond for new schools, renovations
-- Jenny Agee-Aldridge, Houston Business Journal

Texas: July 21, 2014 -- The Katy Independent School District will consider a massive bond package to resolve the rapid growth in the area. A 200-member bond committee will recommend to the board of trustees for the school district to consider a $750 million bond, with 48 percent of that money going toward building new schools in the district. The district is currently growing by nearly 3,000 students every year. “Some campuses have so many students that they start lunch service as early as 9:55 a.m. Additionally, we have many aging campuses in dire need of renovations,” said Denisse Cantu, a spokesperson for the district. If the bond goes to voters and passes, the rest of the money will go toward renovations, expansions safety projects and student activity facilities.

San Diego Unified Receives $34 Million Military Grant to Upgrade 2 Schools
-- ALEXANDER NGUYEN , Times of San Diego

California: July 18, 2014 -- A $34 million grant from the U.S. Defense Department will allow the San Diego Unified School District to renovate two elementary schools that serve the Murphy Canyon Navy housing complex, the district announced Friday. The money will pay for permanent, state-of-the-art classrooms at Hancock and Miller elementary schools in Tierrasanta. “This generous grant from the Department of Defense will help ensure that the students at Miller and Hancock elementary schools receive a world- class education in a state-of-the art learning environment,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. The improvements will include renovation of existing classrooms, replacement of aging portables with single-story permanent classrooms; enhancement of campus security, as well as fire and emergency safety systems; heating, ventilation and air conditioning work; and replacement of old electrical systems and upgrading of the technology network infrastructure. Also, sidewalks, stairs and accessible ramps will be repaired or replaced, and food service areas will be upgraded. All 681 students at Hancock and 793 pupils at Miller are military dependents, according to the district.

OPS plan for new schools, renovations has $683 million price tag
-- Erin Duffy, Omaha.com

Nebraska: July 17, 2014 -- The Omaha school board, with the clock ticking toward signing off on a list of construction projects in time for the November election, will consider a plan Monday that would cost nearly $683 million for renovating and building new schools. The latest plan, presented at a board workshop Thursday, builds on options that have been discussed for months — two new high schools, in South and west Omaha, and widespread renovations for outdated schools that were passed over in the 1999 bond issue — but also adds central air conditioning for all schools and calls for Beveridge Middle to be replaced. Some projects under consideration became casualties of budget constraints. So, instead of building two elementary schools in crowded South Omaha, consultants suggest merely buying land for the future schools. Under the latest proposal, King Elementary wouldn’t be replaced after all, Bryan Middle wouldn’t get an addition, and early childhood education classrooms would be scratched from some elementary schools. And more trims might be coming, even as the board stares down an Aug. 30 deadline to put a bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. “I think that final number will go down,” board member Marque Snow said. A $683 million bond issue would be the largest in Omaha Public Schools history and most likely in state history. The largest OPS bond issue to date was $254 million, passed in 1999.

Are children working on Minnesota school construction sites?
-- Barb Kucera, Workday Minnesota, Twin Cities Daily Planet

Minnesota: July 16, 2014 -- The Laborers International Union has identified a second possible case of child labor being used on Minnesota construction sites and has alerted authorities at both the state and national level. A formal complaint was submitted Tuesday to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and the United States Department of Labor on behalf of Laborers International Union of North America Local 563, regarding a possible violation of child labor laws at a construction site at a Minnetonka elementary school. The complaint, verified by union representatives, documents that a minor child was apparently working on a concrete pour at Scenic Heights Elementary School at 5650 Scenic Heights Dr., in Minnetonka. A representative of Local 563 was at the school for an unrelated matter, when he noticed the boy, who appeared to be underage. The boy initially claimed to be 18, but a co-worker whom the boy identified as his father admitted that the boy was not an adult, the union said. The complaint is the second of its kind filed by the Laborers in the past two weeks. Previously, a child was discovered working on a similar school renovation project in nearby Edina. “It’s becoming clear that these aren’t isolated incidents, but rather a disturbing trend of contractors cutting corners and putting children in harm’s way,” said Tim Mackey, business manager for Laborers Local 563. “Children should be learning in the classroom, not building them.”

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