#tellEWA Member Stories (January 20-26)

Here’s what we’re reading by EWA members this week.

For years, many conservatives wanted a liberal Florida college gone. Now the Sarasota school is in the crosshairs of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is waging a statewide politicized battle over education. To rebrand the school, DeSantis appointed six board trustees, including conservative activist Christopher Rufo. The latter wants to implement a “a small ‘equality, merit, and colorblindness’ department,” among other initiatives, Jack Stripling reports for The Washington Post.

Megan Menchaca details how she spent months reporting on college affordability and access. In the series for the Austin American-Statesman, she highlights how low-income students at the University of Texas at Austin are struggling with housing costs and investigates on-campus housing shortages, which forced about 40% of freshmen to live off campus.

A Nevada program awarded students with disabilities $5,000 grants for certain services. A mother used the funding to enroll her children in smaller, specialized schools called microschools. School choice advocates say the program – which is funded by federal COVID-19 relief money – is a model for other states. Writing for Youth Today, Elizabeth Hlavinka explains the program, the rise in school choice legislation and how the pandemic disproportionately affected children with disabilities.

An incarcerated student in the South describes to Open Campus’s Charlotte West how they take online college classes using a contraband cellphone. While using the phone could lead to punishment, the student resides in a prison that offers few higher education opportunities. No one knows about the student’s situation: “On Zoom, I use a filter with a nice, office-type setting as my background so that others don’t see my actual cell.”

Because the local school district couldn’t fill a teacher vacancy, Mississippi Delta high schoolers are expected to learn geometry virtually. Finding teachers, especially math instructors, is difficult in the South; the long-standing issue has worsened. The Washington Post’s Moriah Balingit spotlights school funding inequities that affect low-income students and students of color, and discusses staffing challenges in underfunded schools.

Reporting for the Austin American-Statesman, Fernanda Figueroa sheds light on how declining enrollment fits into a Texas school district’s multi-step process to change its campus boundaries. The district now has four potential redistricting plans on the table: Two would lead to school closures, and the others would affect where students attend school.