Read here for brief updates on policy developments affecting music education around the United States. These news items include federal, state, and local items that may be of interest to music educators, and are compiled periodically by Lynn Tuttle, NAfME Director of Content and Policy, and Tooshar Swain, NAfME Public Policy Advisor.
NAfME NEWS AND ANALYSIS
- Read NAfME’s analysis on insufficient state education funding, and how our state MEAs are advocating against more cuts.
- Read our summary of the great work our State MEAs did during Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM).
The Trump administration plans to identify and inform disabled veterans that they’re eligible to have their federal student loans discharged, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Monday. The Education Department has reached an agreement with the VA to match records of disabled veterans who may be eligible for a discharge of their federal loans or TEACH Grant aid. Federal law allows student loan borrowers who have a “total and permanent disability” to discharge their debt. Simplifying the loan forgiveness process and proactively identifying veterans with federal student loans who may be eligible for a discharge is a small but critical way we can show our gratitude for veterans’ service,” DeVos said in a statement.
House lawmakers on Tuesday morning touted state grants for student support services that got a boost in the recently passed omnibus spending bill — from which the Trump administration wants to cut out as much as $60 billion.
The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants — which help schools offer counseling and mental health services, among other things — have seen a wave of support following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Congress gave the grants a $700 million boost in the fiscal 2018 $1.3 trillion omnibus spending plan, H.R. 1625 (115), passed last month. “Our nation has seen how vital it is that students are receiving care for mental illness — both for their own well-being and for the safety of those around them,” Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) told members of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education funding. “Another issue we’ve seen time and time again is kids‘ and families‘ access to mental health, particularly for school-age kids. This program is a way to get to the heart of that.“ Hill, who was speaking before the subcommittee during its Members Day hearing, noted the grant program requires schools to spend the money in each of three program areas, of which mental health services is just one. He said he wants the Education Department to survey schools on how they would prioritize the money if there weren’t such restrictions on how it is used and report the findings to Congress. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the subcommittee, said the spending agreement allowed his committee to put more money into programs like those grants.
Republicans in Congress are plotting a breakneck pace of spending bills this summer as they look to avoid a bruising shutdown battle just ahead of the midterm elections. In separate meetings Wednesday, both House and Senate spending chiefs sat down with their committees and laid out aggressive timetables to approve all of the fiscal 2019 appropriations bills by Sept. 30. Frustrated by last year’s stop-and-go funding cycle, GOP appropriators say they’re committed to putting the 12 bills on the floor, even if it means sidestepping partisan battles — like policy riders — in an election that could cost them their majority in Congress. “We’re going to try to do this the right way,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said after the meeting. “Let’s be realistic. You can’t pass an appropriations bill on a partisan basis. It takes two to tango, and we’re ready to tango.” Sen. Richard Shelby, the newly crowned chairman of Senate Appropriations, told his committee that he hopes to pass the first individual bills on the floor in early June. It would be the first time that the Senate passed an individual bill since 2016, and a marked shift from last year, when only a handful of bills were moved out of committee on time.
Alberto Morejon, dressed for business in a white button-up shirt and red tie, stood near the steps of the Oklahoma Capitol, surveying what he had started. Around him, several thousand teachers, many who knew him by name, chanted: “One day longer, one day stronger!” It had been almost two months since Morejon watched news coverage of teachers in West Virginia, who hadn’t had a raise since 2014, as they embarked on a nearly two-week long strike that forced the state’s Republican Legislature to approve a 5-percent salary boost. Teacher salaries in Oklahoma, as Morejon knew well, were not much better than West Virginia — both states have been ranked among the five worst in the nation. Morejon, a 25-year-old social studies teacher and baseball coach at Stillwater Junior High in Stillwater, Oklahoma, saw the price it was taking on his colleagues. One fellow teacher, nearing retirement age, had to mow dozens of lawns after school every week to afford his daughter’s college tuition.
The Senate on Wednesday on a 55-43 vote confirmed Florida attorney Carlos Muñiz to serve as the Education Department’s top lawyer — overcoming objections from some Democrats who challenged his record protecting students. Muñiz heads to the department as it tackles major legal challenges like rewriting regulations governing for-profit colleges and debt relief for defrauded borrowers; deciding whether to rescind Obama-era school discipline policies; and laying out new rules for colleges handling allegations of sexual assault on campuses under Title IX. Republicans praised his legal experience. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Muñiz is the type of person “we would hope would serve in public life.” But Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee, disagreed. Murray said that DeVos needs an independent general counsel “who will stand up to her when laws are being bent or broken. I’m afraid Mr. Muñiz has failed to convince me that … is the kind of general counsel he would be.”
The White House is ignoring warnings from worried Hill Republicans and moving ahead with plans to cut billions of dollars from the massive spending bill that Congress passed in late March, after President Donald Trump has spent weeks grousing about the legislation. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney — himself a former congressman — is taking the lead on developing the rollback proposal, according to eight current and former administration officials and Republicans close to the White House. The White House expects to release it around May 1, according to one administration official. These officials anticipate the White House could propose slashing anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion dollars from the $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill passed for this year — even as Republican lawmakers are openly asking the president not to re-open the negotiations. “The president is frustrated with omnibus. I also know that his base is frustrated with the omnibus,” said Paul Winfree, who served as Trump’s director of budget policy and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council until he resigned in December to return to The Heritage Foundation. “The main question is: How big will they go?”
By CAITLIN EMMA
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) this morning stressed that public school teachers should be paid as highly as college professors and suggested that sexism is a driving factor behind lower salaries. “I’ve often advocated that we reverse the way we pay teachers,” she said, stressing that they should be paid the “same wages as college professors.” Foxx, the chairwoman of the House education committee, spoke at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education and emphasized the need for better pay in response to a question about an uprising of teachersin red states like Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, where teachers are demanding better pay and more education revenue to make up for years of budget cuts. She noted that the majority of public school teachers “are women and the majority of college professors are men.” “If we want teachers to be professionals, we have to treat them as professionals,” she said.
WASHINGTON — An Education Department watchdog has found that the agency has not been properly screening its contractor employees. The department’s Office of Inspector General says in a report released Wednesday that the agency’s financial aid office has not been following guidelines on hiring contractor staff. As a result, there is “increased risk” that some of those employees are working without appropriate security clearance. The watchdog found that the office was sometimes giving employees access to sensitive information without first checking their backgrounds, as well as disclosing sensitive information to non-U.S. citizens. Department press secretary Liz Hill says the agency is working to correct the problems and security “remains a top priority.”
The college admissions season is coming to a close and once again, the results demonstrate the growing divide in American higher education between the haves and have-nots. The “have schools” are selective colleges — those that accept fewer than 50 percent of applicants. Although they enroll only 20 percent of the 17.5 million undergraduates in U.S. higher education, they account for more than one-third of all college applications. Within that group is a sliver of super-selective colleges that accept fewer than 20 percent of applicants, and in some cases fewer than 10 percent. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the acceptance rate among the eight campuses that make up the Ivy League reached record lows this year. Harvard, for instance, admitted only 4.6 percent of applicants; Princeton just 5.5 percent. Among these schools, applications are rising every year as students see ever-lower acceptance rates from previous years and hedge their bets by applying to more schools, helped by technology that eases the process. Looking for any advantage, more students are also applying through the early decision process to their top choice so they can learn their fate in December, when they think the chance for admission is a bit easier (it is, ever so slightly). Many top schools now fill more than half their class through early decision.
President Trump’s Education Department is on its way to delaying by two years the implementation of an Obama-era rule that is intended to address the disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities. The rule amended regulations that are part of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). John King, the U.S. education secretary in December 2016, said then: “Children with disabilities are often disproportionately and unfairly suspended and expelled from school and educated in classrooms separate from their peers. Children of color with disabilities are overrepresented within the special education population, and the contrast in how frequently they are disciplined is even starker.” Current Education Secretary Betsy Devos is not a fan of the rule, and last month, the Education Department published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on a proposal to delay the rule’s implementation, which was supposed to start in the 2018-2019 school year. The notice says the department wants to make this move to ensure the rule’s “effectiveness” can be ensured.
If a student artist wrote an essay, completed a lengthy project, and finished an end-of-course task to show mastery in her discipline, should she be excused from her last Regents exam?
That is one option New York state’s top policymakers considered on Monday during a discussion about how to test students’ knowledge in in areas such as visual arts, music and theater. The conversation is part of New York’s broader effort to expand graduation options and could provide a roadmap for state officials as they try to create testing options that stretch beyond multiple choice bubble tests.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s message to his new schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, has been consistent: Take America’s largest school system “to the next level.” It’s just not entirely clear what that means. The mayor delivered the edict earlier this month as he and Carranza sat over pastrami sandwiches and Cel-Ray sodas at Katz’s. He delivered the same message during Carranza’s visits to the ornate sitting rooms of the mayor’s home, Gracie Mansion, and during the new chancellor’s first appearances in City Hall’s stately Blue Room. In an interview with POLITICO last week, Carranza offered an explanation of what the mayor’s ultimatum means: Take the big-picture education policy initiatives de Blasio conjured up in his first term and actually make them work.
RICHMOND, Va. — More than a dozen school districts in Virginia have been recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation as best communities for music education. In cooperation with researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, the foundation each year selects school districts for recognition and individual schools to be honored with the SupportMusic Merit Award for exemplary music education programs. The Virginia school districts being honored this year include: Arlington Public Schools, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, Henrico Public Schools and Roanoke City Public Schools. The four schools receiving the merit award are: Bull Run Middle School, in Gainesville; Colonial Forge High School in Stafford; Smart’s Mill Middle School in Leesburg; and Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas. The awards program is now in its 19th year.
Two education advocacy organizations who had initially supported Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to give teachers pay raises have withdrawn their support for the so-called #20by2020 measure. Both groups, Save our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teachers Association, released statements on Wednesday withdrawing their support for Ducey’s plan to give teachers a 19 percent raise over the next three years. Adding in the 1 percent given this year, the effect would be a 20 percent raise by the year 2020. The statements from the groups criticized the funding of the plan, calling it unsustainable.
AUSTIN – As a new poll showed Gov. Greg Abbott with just a single-digit lead over either Democrat vying to face him, Andrew White sought to improve his chances of winning the party nod with a plan to pump billions more into public education. White’s plan would be funded in part by revenue from casinos that he wants to allow at destinations including the Retama Park horse track in Selma, an idea that has died in the Legislature before. The gambling expansion would require a constitutional amendment, according to an expert, which would need approval by two-thirds of the Legislature and by voters statewide. White — a Houston businessman battling former Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez for the Democratic nomination for governor — also wants to shift $800 million from spending on border security to education.
All four candidates at Tuesday’s gubernatorial forum in Jackson vowed to revisit the state’s Basic Education Program, a key funding formula for K-12 public schools. The two other top-tier candidates who did not attend the event on rural issues at Lane College said later they also support revisiting the issue. Last year, the state comptroller said the funding formula, known as the BEP and created in 1992, represents $4.5 billion. The formula helps factor how much the Tennessee Department of Education should provide districts for each student. Among the factors included in the formula are teacher salaries and health insurances, in addition to the cost of books and technology for students.
The Florida Constitution Revision’s already controversial education proposal is quickly gaining its own social media tag based on its anticipated spot on the November ballot — #Amendment8. If that sounds familiar to education advocates across the state, it should. Eight years ago, they waged a heated campaign for a different Amendment 8 also focused on schools. That year, lawmakers asked voters to ease the state’s K-12 class-size restrictions. The question failed to meet the 60 percent threshold. This time around, Amendment 8 has three pieces to ponder: School board member term limits, a civic literacy requirement, and expanded state powers to establish local schools outside a school board’s control.
Kentucky’s public education is not the same as it was two days ago. In the past 48 hours, Gov. Matt Bevin has appointed seven new members to the Kentucky Board of Education. The entire 11-member policy group has now been entirely handpicked by him. On Tuesday, the board’s first order of business was to discuss Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt, who, under pressure, ended up resigning. The board’s decision to force Pruitt’s resignation was condemned by the Kentucky Teacher’s Association and state democrats. Several Republican lawmakers joined in the outrage, too. None of the state education board’s new members have experience in public education in regards to teaching.
The Boulder Valley School District serves a largely affluent population with highly educated parents. In Sterling on the Eastern Plains, fewer than 1 in 6 adults has a bachelor’s degree. But both the Boulder district and the Valley Re-1 district serving Sterling send a large portion of their graduates to college, and few of them need remediation classes when they get there. Those are just two of the findings in a new report from the Denver-based education reform advocacy group A Plus Colorado that examines both exemplary and struggling districts. A Plus focuses on data analysis to drive public support for policy changes. This is the second year that A Plus has released “The Outliers,” which is intended to help educators find models to emulate.
Mayor Jenny Durkan is proposing a new property-tax levy for preschool, K-12 and college programs that would see Seattle spend $636.5 million over seven years. The city-education levy, sweeping in size and scope, would replace two existing levies that are set to expire and would cost significantly more annually than those levies combined. The increase in spending is primarily focused on a huge expansion of the city’s subsidized preschool program. Durkan says her proposal — targeted for the November ballot — would cost the owner of a home of median assessed value $249 per year. The existing levies, approved by voters in 2011 and 2014, cost the typical homeowner a combined roughly $170 per year. The mayor plans to announce the proposal at a news conference Wednesday before sending it to the Seattle City Council for review.
RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
Until a few years ago, Emily Bloomfield had not thought much about the needs of children living in foster care. She had been working hard on education policy in Washington, and had served on the board of the local charter-school authorizer. But then she was suddenly given a front-row seat to the problems faced by kids who have had to be separated from their parents. The aunt and uncle of her husband took custody of their two grandchildren, after the mother and father’s parental rights had been terminated by a court. The grandparents, at their advanced age, weren’t sure they could manage full responsibility. But they knew the children needed someone to step up. So they did, and began seeking help from extended family and others. “This got me pretty obsessed” with the problems of children in foster care, says Bloomfield.
In the final days of 2015, Congress ushered in a new era of federal education law, updating No Child Left Behind to reflect both the big lessons we’ve learned over the past 15 years in education policy and the major changes that have taken place on the ground in our nation’s schools since the 1990s. Yet if you listen to the rhetoric of many on the front lines of our education wars, you could be forgiven for thinking that Reality Bites has just premiered, Crystal Pepsi is all the rage, and the Spice Girls are the hottest ticket in town. Though a slow-moving Congress has realized that we live in a new education world, too many who spend their days fighting in the trenches have not.
This resource provides an overview of state instructional time requirements for kindergarten through 12th grade — including days or hours per year, hours per day and start and end date parameters where they exist in state law.
There are many exceptions to instructional time requirements across states and not all of them are indicated in this 50-State Comparison. Unless otherwise indicated, states that have hours per year and days per year require both.
Click on one of the 50-State Comparisons below showing how all states approach instructional time in current policy. Or choose to view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.