Friday, January 19, 2018

Conn. Supreme Court Sides With State in Education Funding Fight

Court refuses to dictate level of funding for particular schools

The Connecticut Supreme Court has found families in an education funding lawsuit failed to show disparities in the classroom are tied to unequal state funding.

Wednesday’s decision reversed a Hartford Superior Court ruling that the state violated Articles 8, 1 and 20 of the state constitution by allegedly failing to provide minimally adequate and substantially equal opportunity to all students. The court remanded the case to Hartford Superior Court with direction to render judgment for the state.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2005 against the state by more than 50 parents and students.

While Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who wrote the majority opinion, said the court sympathized with the plight of students in rural communities, she also noted that the plaintiffs in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, did not make their case.

“Although the plaintiffs have convincingly demonstrated that in this state there is a gap in educational achievement between the poorest and neediest students and their more fortunate peers, disparities in educational achievement, standing alone, do not constitute proof that our state constitution’s equal protection provisions have been violated,” Rogers wrote. “The plaintiffs have not shown that this gap is the result of the state’s unlawful discrimination against poor and needy students in its provision of educational resources as opposed to the complex web of disadvantaging societal conditions over which the schools have no control. Indeed, the trial court found that the state is providing significantly more educational resources to schools with large numbers of poor and needy students than to other schools.”

Rogers said it’s up to the Legislature, not the courts, to create educational policy.

Rogers also noted that the trial court properly found the plaintiffs failed to establish that the state violated the equal protection provisions of the state constitution.

Justice Richard Palmer, who wrote the concurrence and dissent along with Justices Richard Robinson and Michael Sheldon, said he believed the families “were not afforded the opportunity to prove their case according to the correct legal standard. … I dissent from that portion of the majority opinion that directs judgment for the defendants. Instead, I would remand the case for a new trial.”

Joseph Moodhe, an attorney with Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City, was lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Moodhe did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Other attorneys on the case referred questions to Moodhe.

Attorney General George Jepsen applauded the ruling.

“I am grateful to the Supreme Court for its careful and thoughtful consideration of this important case,” Jepsen said in a statement. “We argued in this appeal that the trial court exceeded its authority and that, therefore, the decision should be overturned. The court correctly determined that Connecticut’s public education system and its public education funding do not violate constitutional standards and that—absent such a constitutional deficiency—education policy decisions rest with the representative branches of government.”

Nicholas Mercier, vice chairman of the New Britain Board of Education, said he believes there’s a disparity between urban centers such as New Britain and their suburban counterparts.

“It’s a shame this has been dragging out for so long,” Mercier said. “The state clearly needs to do more to fund our poorest school districts, including New Britain. The evidence of that is not only in the state testing, but the fact that they [the Legislature] do not even follow their legislative formula in determining need.”


Chan Zuckerberg philanthropy taps UMass Amherst to create AI scientific research tool

This might actually be helpful.  The flood of new academic papers must be hard to navigate.  The methods I used to use to keep up would not work very well these days

A philanthropy started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan has awarded a $5.5 million grant to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Data Science to create a free tool that would make millions of published scientific and medical findings easily accessible to researchers worldwide.

The project, called Computable Knowledge, would use a branch of artificial intelligence known as knowledge representation and reasoning to create a navigable map of scientific findings from millions of new and historical research articles. The project aims to help scientists stay current on new research and to make it easier to find previously unknown connections between findings in genetics, diseases, drugs, and treatments.

Using AI, the initiative promises to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery by removing the bottleneck created by the millions of peer review papers published every year. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is also building a team of AI scientists to collaborate on the project.

For UMass, it is a chance to showcase its work in artificial intelligence by “revolutionizing science,” said Andrew McCallum, director of the Center for Data Science, who will head the partnership.

“AI was getting to the point that it was ripe to help [by using] automated reasoning and making predictions about relations [in scientific findings] that are not directly observed, but for which we have peripheral evidence,” McCallum said, comparing the first-of-its-kind project to “how map apps are now indispensable tools for navigating the physical world.”

The service, which is expected to take several years to complete, will be accessible through Meta, an AI search tool acquired by the Chan Zuckerberg initiative a year ago. McCallum said that work has already begun and that the first version of the tool could be released within a year.

In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Chan said the tool will allow scientists “to explore research in a highly visual way.”

“If we hope to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases in our children’s lifetime, we must help scientists find new ways to explore, navigate, and reason across research,” she wrote.

The $5.5 million investment, the organization’s first donation and partnership with the university, is expected to result in the hiring of software engineers in Western Massachusetts to work on the project, as well as support the research of several graduate and PhD students, and postdoctoral researchers at the Center for Data Science, McCallum said.

In the statement Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker praised the selection of UMass Amherst to “play a major role in this groundbreaking initiative that will give scientists tremendous power to share their research around the world.”


More Australian graduates head into part-time jobs as economic chill persists

Economic chill my foot.  Employment grew markedly last year.  The economy delivered a near record 380,000 new jobs last year — most of them full-time.  The problem is useless degrees and the continual dumbing down of what is taught

Impact of global financial crisis and increased supply of university-educated candidates leaves 38% of graduates in part-time work

University leavers in Australia are increasingly settling for part-time employment after graduation as a flood of job seekers holding bachelor degrees dilute their own buying power.

On Friday the latest graduate outcomes survey revealed that the last decade has seen a rise of 17 percentage points increase in the number of university leavers in part-time employment, while the number of recent graduates in full-time work remains stubbornly below below the levels of the global financial crisis.

It’s what the survey authors say is part of a “pronounced trend towards part-time employment among graduates”. Between 2008 and 2017 the proportion of employed graduates working part-time increased by 17 percentage points to 38% of all graduates.

While the shift to part-time employment is part of a broader trend in the labour market, it’s particularly pronounced amongst university leavers.

For example in 2017 male graduates were far more likely to be employed part-time than the overall male workforce. Part-time employment was 32% for male graduates compared with 18.7% for employed men overall.

Phil Lewis, the director of the Centre for Labour Market Research at the University of Canberra, said the trend to part-time employment was down to supply and demand.

Between 2009 and 2016 domestic undergraduate enrolments grew by 33%, which Lewis said was have an impact on employer choice.

“There’s a certain number of people and a certain number of jobs,” he said. “When the economy is booming the queue becomes very short so employers take whoever they can get [but] the huge increase in graduates since the introduction of the demand-driven system just means the queue gets bigger.

“These people will get a job eventually but at the moment new graduates are right at the back because employers can pick whoever they want.”

The survey also found that since 2008 the full-time employment rate among bachelor degree holders has fallen from 85% to 71.8%.

Bruce Guthrie, a research manager from Graduate Careers Australia, said: “In a way it’s the unfortunate timing of an increase in graduate output coinciding with a reduced demand for new graduates.

“I used to hold out hopes that the situation would return to pre-GFC levels of strong employment outcomes for new graduates but it looks like the GFC has dislocated many industries and patterns of doing business world-wide and it might be that we’ll never get back to those levels of demand.”

The survey comes as the federal education minister Simon Birmingham engages in a war with universities over funding.

In its mid-year budget update the government announced it will cut $2.2bn from universities predominantly through a two-year freeze in commonwealth grants funding for teaching and learning – effectively the end of the demand-driven system.

The minister has signalled that he will seek to force universities to improve graduate outcomes by attaching performance-based measures including graduate outcomes to funding.

He said the survey demonstrated the benefits of “ensuring universities are more accountable and transparent about the job prospects of their graduates”.

“For example the results show that 82% of graduates with degrees in teaching secured full-time employment within four months of finishing, with the figure dipping to 60% for graduates in the creative arts and communications fields,” he said.

But Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia acting chief executive, pointed out the figures only accounted for graduate outcomes four months after graduating.

“The data shows that graduates, like everyone entering the labour market, need time to establish in their careers. But this immediate outlook can shift quickly – within three years of finishing their studies, nine in 10 graduates are employed full-time,” she said.


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