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Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

School districts across the valley are trying to figure out what to do with new money intended to help their most vulnerable students. But a letter from the State Department of Education raises questions about whether some of their spending on things like teacher raises is allowed. The interpretations of the new funding formula vary, based on who you ask.

The special funding, known as supplemental and concentration funds, is a big funding boost for schools to help the neediest kids, such as poor students, non-English speakers, and foster kids.

Brooke Ashjian

Local schools have a lot on their plate, preparing students for life, a job and the possibility of a college education. But what about students who likely won't attend college? The answer used to be in vocational education classes, things like auto shop and wood shop. But increasingly those classes have disappeared from schools with the emphasis on standardized testing and college readiness.

FUSD

A day after the U.S. Department of Education gave eight of California's largest school districts a waiver from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson praised the decision, saying it will improve accountability and student performance, and "allows us to do work very differently." 

The districts, which include Sanger Unified and Fresno Unified, are all members of a coalition called the California Office to Reform Education or CORE.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Two Valley school districts – Fresno Unified and Sanger Unified – were granted a one-year waiver from requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act today by the U.S. Department of Education. The move will allow school officials to introduce their own plans for a new statewide curriculum and avoid costly penalties under the law.

The districts were among eight in California to receive the waiver, and are all members of a coalition called the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Pao Saephan crouches down in his sun-drenched field. He cups a red jewel in his hand.

In a few more days, his strawberries will be fully ripe. He’ll pick them once they are garnet-colored from stem to tip.

“We want all the strawberries, to be full ripe, full flavor, with 100 percent sugar in them,” says Saephan.

In the past, he would sell the fresh berries at his roadside stand - called Sam’s Strawberry Patch. It’s located at the intersection of Manning Avenue and I Street in Reedley.

Today on Valley Edition we look at the competing tax measures on the November ballot, Propositions 30 and 38. Both promise to protect funding for schools but critics have questioned both, and some political observers have said that the presence of both on the ballot could mean neither will pass. We also talk with a Fresno couple who donated $1 million to fund scholarships for students at Fresno's Tehipite Middle School. And we also learn more about plans for a walk and series of events to raise awareness about asthma in the Central Valley. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A coalition of teachers and education activists gathered today to announce an effort to recall Fresno Unified school board member Tony Vang. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Earlier this Spring, the Fresno Unified School District established a community task force to provide the district with recommendations to help solve the district's dropout problems. FM89's Juanita Stevenson reports on how residents offered their input to the task force at a recent meeting.

This week on Valley Edition, we talk about the work being done by Fresno Unified's Graduation Task Force, which is working to slow the dropout rate in the district. We also talk about the challenges kids today face in getting a summer job, and learn more about a health conference in west Fresno.

Valley Edition for June 12, 2012:

This week on Valley Edition we talk about the challenges of providing health care in the Valley's rural communities. We'll hear a special report about a Reedley hospital that has recently emerged from bankruptcy, and talk with Assembly Member Linda Halderman, who is a physician, about the efforts to reform the state's Medi-Cal program. We'll also learn more about Fresno Unified's new graduation task force and find out what this commission will do to help stem the wave of dropouts that has been a major source of concern in the district. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

New information emerged today on the alleged plot by three Fresno Unified students to poison their classroom teacher.

Fresno Teachers Association President Greg Gadams told the media today the poising incident took place at Balderas Elementary School shortly before winter break. He said the students placed rat poison in their teacher's coffee cup, and in the frosting of a cupcake given to the teacher. The teacher was unaware of the attempt, and never ate the cupcake.

This week on Valley Edition we talk about solutions to the truancy problems that plague local school districts, as well as efforts to boost shoppers at locally owned businesses, as well as the annual "holiday lights" show at the California Living Museum in Bakersfield. 

Segment I Nuclear Power In the Valley? - The State of California has a long love-hate relationship with nuclear power. It's now been 26 years since Diablo Canyon, the state's newest nuclear power plant, came online on the Central Coast. In the intervening years, reactors at Rancho Seco, near Sacramento, and San Onofre near San Diego have been decommissioned, and the state's moratorium on the construction of new plants still remains in effect.

Segment 1: School Health Programs - When we hear about budget problems in California schools, we usually think of teachers losing their jobs. But school nurses are also worried about job security and cuts to student health services. On this edition of Quality of Life, correspondent Shellie Branco brings us a feature report on school health, and talks with school nurses and one Visalia family who relies on them.

Segments 1 & 2: Mark Arax - Journalist and author Mark Arax has spent much of his career exposing the dark secrets of life in the Central Valley, from corrupt politicians to secretive land barons. A former senior writer with the LA Times, Arax joins us on this edition of Valley Public Radio’s Quality of Life, to talk about his books, the Valley, and the troubled Fresno Unified School District.