8 Issues That Shaped This School Year

Next week is my son’s last week of school. It has been quite a year. Natural disasters including Hurricane Sandy (which cancelled classes for weeks in some schools in the Northeast) disrupted the schedule for many students. Mandatory budget cuts resulting from sequestration meant that my son’s beloved speech therapist found herself looking for another job.

These are some of the events and issues I’m remembering as the 2012-2013 school year comes to a close.

1. Sandy Hook Tragedy Stuns the Nation

On December 14, six months ago today, 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Their deaths sparked huge and emotional debates about gun control, mental health and school safety. Some have contended we need to train teachers to carry concealed weapons, place armed guards in schools and outfit children in bulletproof clothing.  But U.S. lawmakers have still offered mostly talk but little real action, notably with the defeat in the Senate of legislation for extended background checks on guns in April.

2. Climate Change Becomes Part of U.S. School Curriculum

Under new science education guidelines, U.S. students are now to receive instruction on climate change;  as Care2 blogger Judy Molland wrote, the “guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century.” However, states are not actually required to adopt the new standards, though 26 states, including Arizona, California, Iowa, Kansas and New York, are “seriously considering” doing so.

3. President Obama Calls for Free, Universal Preschool

Obama highlighted the importance of universal preschool education in his State of the Union address, noting that kids who do not attend preschool are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 60 percent more likely not to attend college and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Nonetheless, a number of conservative voices belittled the proposal (even suggesting that universal preschool could “undermine family values”).

4. Students Use Social Media to Turn the Tables on Bullies

Even as states and school districts implement anti-bullying policies, we still hear too many reports of bullying and of students victimizing other students via Facebook and social media, sometimes with tragic results — and of LGBT teachers being cruelly outed and even fired (by schools with a religious affiliation in some cases — so much for tolerance). But some are turning the tables on cyberbullying by using these same tools to create powerful anti-bullying messages: bullies and hate can be fought.

5. Sequestration Imposes Steep Cuts on School Budgets

On March 1, $85 billion in automatic budget cuts went into effect under sequestration, the result of Congress being unable to reach a budget deal back in 2011. Among these cuts are a significant reduction — $600 million — in the amount of funds for special education and students with disabilities$725 million cut from Title I funding (for schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families) and cuts to college access programs.

6. MOOCs Raise Questions About Online Education

2012 has been dubbed the “year of the MOOC,” of massive open online courses that anyone with Internet access can sign up for at no fee. Some universities have begun to accept MOOC courses for college credit, setting off a sort of huge discussion among faculty at colleges and universities about whether they could be replaced by online courses that are often taught by experts in computer science and other topics. But widespread plagiarism has led to questions about how much students in a MOOC are actually learning. One study has found that online courses could actually widen the achievement gap among students.

7. Massive College Debt Makes Some Question the Value of Going to College

The zero dollar tuition for MOOCs highlighted a constantly-raised issue about college, the $1 trillion debt from student loans that many students, graduates and their parents could be weighed down with for life. Middle class families in the U.S. have found themselves unable to afford college and those with college degrees have still struggled to find jobs for the careers they incurred all that debt for. While no one would deny that having a college degree clearly has benefits, including higher lifetime earnings overall, more than a few have asked if college is still worth it.

8. 15-year-old Education Advocate Survives Assassination Attempt

Six months after she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai was able to return to school. Malala was targeted for her campaigning for the right of girls in her native Pakistan to be educated; she spent months in a British hospital undergoing surgery after the shooting.

Thousands have called for Malala to win a Nobel Peace Prize and expressed their inspiration at her story, which is a powerful reminder of why, wherever we are and whatever a child’s abilities and challenges, education is a right worth fighting for.

Photo via nedradio/Flickr


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

NC schools are near the bottom, so i will be homeschooling. we start pre k in 2 weeks. thankfully I am able to do this, i wish more people could. And I wish more that could WOULD

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F.3 years ago

Great article... Some really good points and LOTS to think about!!!

tin leng lim
tin leng lim3 years ago

Thank you.

Amandine S.
Past Member 3 years ago


Kay M.
.3 years ago

Thank you Kristina for the article. It is so sad that after reading this, we have to realize that the politicians do not really care about our kids or their educations all they (the republicans) care about is going to war. stopping the president from accomplishing anything worth while. They do not want gun control and they do not want the american government to have the right to go and purchase guns and ammo for the military or police dept. but it is ok to go to war in Syria, How can we send our boys and girls to war with out the proper equipment. We need to stay home here in America and fix our infrastructure, roads, bridges, etc, what ever money we have ,should be spent here. After we help the rest of the world who is going to come and help us. No one.....that is who......We have no money to spend on our children here in America, we have no money for the elderly for S.S. Medicare, Meals on Wheels, If we can not educate our kids to fill the jobs needed here in America and we put them in debt beyond what they can afford to pay back , we are dooming our nation to destruction.......period.

Susan Clay
Susan Clay3 years ago

The privatization of American schools needs to be on the list and everyone should be outraged by this outright theft of our tax dollars to enrich a few at the expense of quality educations for our children.

Vicky P.
Vicky P.3 years ago

lots of fixing still

David Youmans
David Youmans3 years ago

Face it folks... it's in the "best interest" of a right wing Congress {and of course the corporations that own our Congress} to reduce education, because an educated populace is more likely to realize that the people of this country are getting the shaft. The corporations want everyone ignorant enough to believe their advertising, and unable to understand that this country and the world are being destroyed to increase the profit of unethical companies throughout the world.

Karen G.3 years ago


Liliana Garcia
Liliana Garcia3 years ago

Thanks, Kristina for this article. Each and every issue would certainly need separate discussion. One thing is sure: Either parents start demanding free quality education and reasonable college tuition fees or USA is headed toward a very huge school attrition which I've read was the usual at the start of the Twentieth century.