Class Notes: School Lunches, Tuition Hikes and More Education News

Each week, TIME's Kayla Webley fills you in on the goings on in the education world, everything from pre-K to higher ed.

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Should States Require Students to Graduate?
President Obama spent a fair amount of time talking about education during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. One of his more ear-catching proposals was to have states require students to attend high school until they graduate or turn 18. Currently, only 21 states require students to do so, while others set the bar lower at ages 16 and 17. For more on this topic, read this New York Times op-ed on the true cost of dropouts.  (Hint: it costs much more to let kids drop out then to require them to graduate.)

Obama to Colleges: Lower Tuition…Or Else
During his speech, President Obama also had some tough words for colleges: “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. High education can’t be a luxury, it is an economic imperative that every family should be able to afford.” While that may sound like a great idea, some have said that could actually make things worse. Read more on what the president said about higher ed, including his take on job-training programs, tuition tax credit, work study, and student loans, here.

States Dramatically Reduce Funding for Public Colleges and Universities
The annual Grapevine report from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University showed state funding for higher education has declined by nearly 8%, or $6 billion, in the past year. Forty-one states reduced funding as a result of the slow economic recovery and the end of federal stimulus funds. As state money declines, universities are left with no choice but to put more of the financial burden on students — the same students who are already taking on more debt than ever recorded. Read more in my column for TIME Moneyland, “Students Bear the Burden of State Higher Ed Cuts,” here.

Number of the Week: $363,000
The amount of money the school district in Atlanta that was involved in a massive cheating scandal last year has agreed to repay; teachers and administrators in that district won the federal money for having low-income students consistently score well on standardized tests. Nearly 180 teachers and principals in the district were accused giving answers to students or changing answers once the tests had been completed. Read more here.

Education Doesn’t Prepare Young People for Careers in Innovation and Invention
It seems the increased focus on the importance of science, math, technology and engineering might be paying off. According the 2012 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, young people are acutely aware of the importance of invention and innovation in their personal lives and within the context of the nation’s economy. But that awareness does not necessarily translate. Forty-five percent of the 16- to 25-year-olds surveyed said invention is not given enough attention in their schools, and 28% said their education left them unprepared to enter these fields. Read more here.

New School Lunch Standards Unveiled
School lunches received a much-needed makeover this week when Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released new standards for school meals that will require more whole wheat, more fruits and vegetables and less sodium. They also set a calorie limit and require milk to be low-fat or nonfat. But is serving more veggies really going to persuade kids to eat them? Read more in my column for Healthland.

Kayla Webley is a Staff Writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley, on Facebook or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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