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Public schools score a win; UCSD launches brain mapping center

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In the first six months of 2013, California’s public schools got a boost when state lawmakers reached a budget deal in June, the University of California, San Diego, created a center for brain mapping, local college campuses continued to work on increasing student body diversity and recent college graduates find that the price tag for their degree is worth the student debt they incurred, as it pays off in finding stable employment.

K-12 schools gain money
When Gov. Jerry Brown struck a budget deal with state lawmakers in June, the state’s K-12 public schools emerged as winners, empowered by access to the surplus to bolster school budgets. This was welcome news for schools since they can now count on receiving state money, which will be a reversal of a five-year-trend of budget cuts. School districts will get one big sum of money, as opposed to separate funds for earmarked projects. Schools in poor areas and with more disadvantaged students, English language learners and foster children will get proportionately more support.

UCSD creates brain mapping center
In a quick response to President Barack Obama’s challenge to map the brain’s activities, which he announced in April, UCSD launched the Center for Brain Activity Mapping, at the behest of new Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, who spearheaded the effort with UCSD scientists. Like the human genome project, the brain mapping research is expected to be a years-long effort that will bring much needed research dollars to the university.

ACLU sues local schools over poor English learner programs
In April, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state over inadequate English language instruction for students not fluent in the language. It singled out Grossmont Union High School District, where, according to the ACLU, 40 percent of students who are English language learners don’t get the instruction they need. The school district refuted the charges. As demographics change within the state, teaching English to non-native speakers has become a core focus.

San Diego colleges focus on boosting diversity
Local colleges have been working on increasing diversity on campus, since Proposition 209 banned admitting students according to race in 1996, and they have seen some progress. At San Diego State University, Latino students represented 30 percent of the freshman class in the 2012-13 academic year, compared to 17 percent in 2002. At UCSD, Latino students made up 13 percent of freshmen compared with 10 percent a decade ago, while African-American representation grew from 1 percent to 2 percent.

College degree worth the debt
A report from the Public Policy Institute of California found that despite the debts that the state’s college graduates incur in getting through college, they’re finding it well worth the price when they have the advantage in securing stable jobs.

Comparatively low fees for community colleges than in other parts of the country and strong state financial aid are two factors that keep the state’s students debts low, the report said. However, borrowing money to go to a for-profit college may not pay off.

-Compiled by Padma Naggapan.

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