Music Education Policy Roundup – Apr 18, 2017

Read here for brief updates on policy developments affecting music education around the United States. These news items are compiled periodically by Lynn Tuttle, NAfME Director of Content and Policy, and include federal, state, and local items that may be of interest to music educators.

NAfME Updates

  1. HEA Teacher Preparation Program Rule overturned: This roundup includes President Trump signing into law the rescinding of HEA Teacher Preparation accountability rules, something which NAfME, in partnership with SRME and SMTE leadership, supported, on March 27th.  
  2. ESSA Accountability and State Plans Rule overturned: The President also signed into law the rescinding of the ESSA Accountability and State Plan rules. The U.S. Department of Education issued a revised ESSA State Plan Template, and NAfME has created a “music and arts education opportunities” version of the revised template for your use in state level advocacy.
  3. IDEA and resources for educators: NAfME has also issued recommendations to the U.S. Department of Education on ways to create a more useful website for IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


Federal Updates

States May Get to Run Competitions for ESSA Block Grant Money

Edweek By Alyson Klein April 6, 2017

One of the big goals of the Every Student Succeeds Act was to give districts way more control over their federal funding, in part by creating a new block grant—aka the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants or Title IV. Under the law, districts can use the money for a whole smorgasboard of things: student safety, dual enrollment, dance instruction, training teachers to use technology, hiring school counselors. 

And the funding—a whopping $1.6 billion—was supposed to flow to districts through a formula, meaning that pretty much every district in the country would get a piece of it. The districts would have serious latitude in deciding the dollars are spent. 

It may not quite work out that way—at least not this year. 

Lawmakers are seriously considering turning Title IV into a competitive-grant program at the state level, at least temporarily, sources say. In fact, multiple sources consider the possibility of a competitive-grant program more likely than not this year. 

Here’s why Congress would make that move: Despite the lofty $1.6 billion authorization (Congress-speak for recommendation) in ESSA, there is almost no way there will be nearly enough money on the table to fund Title IV at anything close to $1.6 billion. 

The Trump administration wants to slash domestic spending to bolster defense dollars. And even before Trump took office, financing for the program looked like an uphill battle. The program may be authorized at $1.6 billion, but the smaller programs that comprise it—including grants for elementary and secondary counseling, Advanced Placement, and improving math and science instruction—were only getting about $280 million a year, all told. The Obama administration pitched $500 million for the program in its fiscal year 2017 budget. 

And the Senate panel that oversees education spending passed a bill that included even less, $300 million. Legislation in the House of Representatives got closest to the original vision of the program, a $1 billion ask, but only after making significant cuts elsewhere. 

Lawmakers and advocates fear that if Title IV is funded at $300 million—or even less—and that money went out by formula, districts would get too little money to really do much of anything for arts education, health and wellness, safety, technology, or college readiness. 

But, if the money went out by formula to states, and then states dole it out competitively to their districts, those districts could get significant bang for the buck. 

The disadvantage, of course, is that there would be winners and losers. And state chiefs would likely get a good deal of control of a pot of funding that was really supposed to be for district leaders. 

Last year, the Obama administration also pitched turning Title IV into a state-level competition. And a number of advocates were pretty unhappy with the idea. Advocates aren’t any more excited about the prospect this time around. But some see this as a way to keep the program alive and fuel future conversations on funding levels. 

Of course, there are a number of questions lawmakers would have to answer if they decided to turn this formula program into a state-level competition. First off, would states have to work with districts to figure out what the competition looks like, or could they just decide on their own? What kinds of allowances might be made for rural districts, which may not have the means to employ sophisticated grant writers? 

Another thing to consider: ESSA requires districts that receive more than $30,000 in Title IV funding to spend at least 20 percent of the money on at least one activity that helps students become well-rounded, and another 20 percent on at least one activity that helps kids be safe and healthy. And part of the money could be spent on technology. (But no more than 15 percent can go to technology infrastructure.) 

One more wrinkle: Districts that get Title IV funding are supposed to be able to transfer it to Title II (the teacher quality portion of the law), and Title I, the main program for poor kids. So would districts still be able to do that if the program became competitive? 

The proposal isn’t a done deal yet, but if it happens, stay tuned for answers to all those questions.


Trump says repeal of Obama era education rules will “eliminate harmful burdens”
Politico By Michael Stratford 03/27/2017 04:16 PM EDT

President Donald Trump said today that repealing two Obama administration education regulations will “eliminate harmful burdens” on states and local school districts.

Trump signed into law two Congressional Review Act resolutions that overturn Obama-era regulations governing teacher preparation programs and school accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The education measures were among other Obama regulations that Trump overturned during a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. He said doing so will “cancel federal power grabs that centralize decision-making in Washington away from states and local governments.”

Parents and local leaders “know the needs of their students better than anyone in Washington by far,” Trump said. “We’re removing these additional layers of bureaucracy to encourage more freedom and innovation in our schools.”

Trump was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), other members of Congress and several state and local leaders.

Congressional Democrats sharply criticized the repeal of the regulations.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said in a statement that the move would “undermine public education by jeopardizing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.” And Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said that overturning the rules showed that “strong accountability in our public schools and our teacher preparation programs is not a priority of this administration.”


White House picks Heritage Action alumnus for OMB Deputy
Politico By Sarah Ferris 04/07/2017 05:38 PM EDT

President Donald Trump has nominated Russ Vought to serve as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, the White House announced today.

Vought, who was formerly vice president of grassroots outreach for Heritage Action for America, has been serving as a member of the president’s transition team.

As deputy director, he would be second-in-command to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, playing a key role in next month’s rollout of the White House budget.

Vought also served as a top budget aide to then-House Republican Chairman Mike Pence. And he was also executive director of the House GOP’s in-house policy shop, the Republican Study Committee.


Education Department announces key senior staff hires
Politico By Caitlin Emma and Kimberly Hefling 04/12/2017 05:11 PM EDT

The Education Department announced a number of key senior staff hires Wednesday afternoon.

Jason Botel, who joined the Trump administration in January as senior White House adviser for education, will be deputy assistant secretary at the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and acting assistant secretary. POLITICO reported earlier Wednesday that Botel’s role in the Trump administration was expected to shift to the agency’s K-12 office.

Jim Manning, who worked at the Education Department during the Bush and Obama administrations and led the landing team at the Education Department throughout the transition, will be senior adviser to the undersecretary and acting undersecretary.

Josh Venable, who worked closely with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in preparation for her confirmation hearing, will be chief of staff. POLITICO reported in January that he was a top contender for the job.

Candice Jackson, who wrote a book about a group of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual advances and then helped the Trump campaign organize their appearance at a presidential debate last fall, is joining as deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights and acting assistant secretary. POLITICO reported that Jackson started at the Education Department this week.

Beachhead team members Ebony Lee and Jana Toner will be deputy chief of staff for policy and White House liaison, respectively.

Other hires include Dougie Simmons as deputy chief of staff for operations, Robert Eitel as senior counselor to the secretary and Jose Viana as assistant deputy secretary and director for the Office of English Language Acquisition.

Separately, POLITICO has learned that three other members of the department’s beachhead team are joining the department’s general counsel’s office.

Andrew Kossack, Justin Riemer and Patrick Shaheen will start in their new roles on Monday, according to an internal Education Department email obtained by POLITICO.

Previously, Kossack was senior program officer at the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, a grant-making foundation in Indianapolis. Riemer, in turn, served as deputy secretary to the Virginia State Board of Elections from 2011 to 2014.

Shaheen was a regional field director for the New Hampshire Republican State Committee and has worked as a field staffer for Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

Democrats ask GAO to study state tax credit scholarship programs

Politico By Caitlin Emma 04/14/2017 10:13 AM EDT

Three Democratic senators are asking the Government Accountability Office to study tax credit scholarships across states — noting that the Trump administration has shown interest in creating a similar federal program.

In a letter, Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Ron Wyden of Oregon, refer to the tax credit scholarship programs as “schemes” that have “raised the potential for fraud and conflicts of interest.” The programs are offered in about a third of all states. They typically provide tax credits to individuals or corporations that donate to a state-approved organization, which then awards funds to working class families for private — often religious — school tuition.

The Democrats cite a recent article by The New York Times about an Arizona state senator who “was able to profit significantly off of overhead funds from the voucher program while subsequently advocating for its expansion in the Senate.”

The Democrats want to know more about how states have structured their tax credit scholarship programs, how they’ve imposed financial accountability requirements and how they’ve monitored their programs.

The Trump administration has repeatedly pointed to Florida’s model — the largest in the country — as a success that’s opened the door for low-income students to attend private schools. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) have proposed legislation that would create a similar program at the federal level. But it’s opposed by Democrats and even many conservatives who view it as an undue expansion of the federal role in education.


Pro-charter Democrats branded as Trump, DeVos allies
Politico By David Siders 04/14/2017 05:03 AM EDT

LOS ANGELES — It’s rare that Democrats are cast as puppets of the Trump administration. But on the issue of education, many Democrats who have long supported school choice are newly on the defensive within their party, forced to distance themselves from Trump and his Education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

The unusual dynamic started soon after Trump’s inauguration, when a teachers’ union in Los Angeles sent voters mail depicting two charter-school-friendly school board contenders, both Democrats, as “the candidates who will implement the Trump/DeVos education agenda in LA.”

The message was repeated in New York, where the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group partially funded by teachers’ unions, likened Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policies to Trump’s. The group urged online audiences to “stop Cuomo from doing Betsy DeVos’s dirty work.” In New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker opposed DeVos’ appointment but came in for criticism for working with DeVos on school choice initiatives when he was mayor of Newark.

Though Democrats across the country widely repudiated DeVos, publicity surrounding her controversial appointment has allowed a new line of attack on members of the party who, while resisting school vouchers and certain teacher performance measures, have embraced charter school expansion and other education policies opposed by unions and traditional public school advocates.

Labor-backed Democrats are seizing on the DeVos issue as an opportunity ahead of the 2018 primary elections. In the race for California governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom invoked DeVos’ appointment last month, telling a crowd in Hollister, Calif. that education would be the “wedge issue” in the 2018 campaign.

“The opportunity to brand a reformer as a Trump/DeVos Republican is a real risk for a Democrat,” said Mattis Goldman, a political consultant advising charter school ally Marshall Tuck in his campaign for California state superintendent of public instruction. “It’s important for candidates who disagree with that to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Tuck opposed DeVos’ appointment. But Goldman noted in an email that “the winds of the situation are a little bit perilous for (reform) Democrats these days because you don’t want to be seen as having anything to do with Trump or Betsy DeVos.”

Had Hillary Clinton won the presidential election, candidates such as former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a charter school supporter, and Tuck would have been positioned as the Democrats pushing back against labor and establishment norms on education. Four years ago, Tuck supported a nationally watched lawsuit challenging California’s teacher tenure and job protection laws.

But with Trump and DeVos ascendant, defenders of traditional public education policies have a foil in Washington to bludgeon their reform opponents.

“DeVos and Trump have been explicit about a message of privatizing education and defunding public education in a way that I think reflects us saying, ‘We need to push back on that. We need to protect and strengthen education,’” said Tony Thurmond, a California state assemblyman running against Tuck for the open schools chief post next year. “I’m being really intentional about speaking out against those things.”

While education in recent years has rarely risen to the top of voters’ minds in statewide elections, the effort to yoke reform Democrats to DeVos could prove effective, especially in heavily Democratic states.

“What polling we’ve seen is that Betsy DeVos is very unpopular and of course, Donald Trump could not be more unpopular with the Democratic base, so it makes plenty of sense,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank in Washington, D.C.. “So I think that’s why you’ve seen many reformers on the left running away as fast as they can from Trump and DeVos.”

Reform efforts drew widespread attention in California during Tuck’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat Tom Torlakson in 2014, a race that drew more than $20 million in spending. Despite the influence of labor in state elections, some components of the school choice agenda already have a strong foothold in the nation’s most populous state, and Gov. Jerry Brown, who started two charter schools while mayor of Oakland, has maintained support both in the charter school movement and teachers’ union halls.

Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association, said that 10 years ago in California, few politicians would engage with charter school advocates “aside from a few Republicans.”

“What’s happened over time is that we have seen the Legislature has changed very significantly, and we’ve really seen that among Democrats, we have just many more folks that are supportive of charter schools,” he said. “Do these national winds, do they affect things here? Absolutely, absolutely. But it’s not like we’re just going to be blown across the map.”

Still, Wallace suspected charter school opponents would view DeVos’ appointment as a political opportunity to cut into charter schools’ gains.

“Yeah, that’s going to happen, and we have to be aware of that,” he said.

Newsom, in thinly veiled criticism of rival Villaraigosa, said that “I believe in public education and will fight like mad for our public schools,” according to the news site BenitoLink. “This is not the case of every Democrat running for governor.”

Villaraigosa infuriated teachers when, as mayor of Los Angeles, he tried to increase his office’s control over local schools.

Villaraigosa, whose gubernatorial campaign stands to benefit from potential outside spending by wealthy school reform advocates, told POLITICO that DeVos’ policies are “misguided” and undermine education. But the one-time chairman of the Democratic National Convention said that “I don’t talk about reform as much as I talk about education equity.”

Of DeVos, he added, “I don’t think she boxes me in. I’m unabashedly a progressive.”

But in Los Angeles, in a school board race where paid advertisements have been flying for months, Nick Melvoin, one of the reform candidates opposed by teachers, acknowledged the political problem presented by DeVos. Following the primary election, he told LA School Report that he would have to persuade voters in the runoff that he is not a “Trump guy.”

“The union’s attacks, I think were effective, they were misleading,” Melvoin told the news site. “It doesn’t take people a lot of time at doors to realize how crazy it is, but they’ve hit it so many times and there’s such a discomfort and heightened awareness about Trump, for good reason, that it’s been effective.”


DeVos says Trump administration still developing school choice strategy
Politico By Sergio Bustos 04/06/2017 12:53 PM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said today the Trump administration is still working out how best to encourage more school choice options for U.S. students.

DeVos told reporters there’s a “possibility” that Florida’s quasi-voucher program could be used as a national model.

“We’re not at the point of being able to fully discuss that right now,” she said, following a round-table discussion at the nursing school at Florida International University in Miami.

DeVos, who has advocated for school choice measures such as charter schools and private school tuition vouchers, said the administration is “very much in the middle of discussion on what might be best to try to help promote nationally.”

DeVos said Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which funds private school tuition for low-income students using funds donated by corporations that receive a tax credit, is part of a wide menu of choices that are “really very important.”

Republicans lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Todd Rokita, have encouraged a federal tax credit like Florida’s to be included in any congressional tax overhaul efforts.

Meanwhile, House Democrats issued a press release today that called Florida’s program “a bad deal for children and families.”

“This program has faced many problems, including constitutional challenges in the courts, vast opposition by parents and civil rights organizations, fraud and corruption,” the release said.

DeVos is making multiple stops in Florida today and Friday.

Politico By Benjamin Wermund | 04/06/2017 05:44 AM EDT
With help from Kimberly Hefling, Caitlin Emma and Michael Stratford

When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits the Sunshine State today, she’s expected to deliver a familiar refrain — praise for school choice generally, while focusing attention specifically on the state’s tax credit scholarship, a quasi-voucher program that is one of the nation’s largest. Her first stop in Miami is at CARE Elementary, a private Christian school where 92 out of the school’s 94 students get their tuition paid through public funds. DeVos and President Donald Trump were also in Florida last month visiting a private Catholic school, where they met students using the tax credits.

The Trump administration’s continued embrace of Florida’s program leads to speculation it will push to expand the model nationally . ­Florida’s tax credit scholarships help nearly 100,000 low-income students attend private, mostly religious schools. Research has shown the increased competition has modestly helped improve public schools. And private school students using the funds keep pace academically with their peers. Still, Florida’s tax credits remain one of the most controversial components of the school choice mecca created by former Gov. Jeb Bush, previously Trump’s rival for the GOP nomination. The program survived a legal challenge earlier this year led by the state teachers union, which says the program unconstitutionally funnels public funds into private, religious schools.

Backers of Florida’s model, like Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, want to see a federal version folded into a tax reform package that will be considered on the Hill. But Florida’s program — the largest in the nation — would almost certainly be far more difficult to implement nationwide. For one, state tax credit scholarship programs are designed to generate savings for states, but that’s not necessarily the case with a federal program. And conservatives worry that the 17 states offering their own tax credit scholarships might be constrained by mandates or feel pressure to standardize their programs in order to participate in a federal one. Caitlin Emma and Kimberly Hefling have more.

The elementary school stop at 8 a.m. is one of three today in Miami for DeVos. She’s also visiting Florida International University’s Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences at 10 a.m. and SLAM Charter School, which is backed by rapper Pitbull, at noon.


How Trump might extend school vouchers across America
Politico By Caitlin Emma and Kimberly Hefling 04/06/2017 05:01 AM EDT

President Donald Trump’s path to creating a national school voucher plan runs through Florida, where a program begun by his onetime rival Jeb Bush pays the private school tuition for nearly 100,000 kids.

Replicating that program may represent Republicans’ best shot to realize the president’s promise to extend school vouchers across America — a pillar of Trump’s school choice platform, which he calls “the civil rights issue of our time.”

Supporters of the idea, including Sen. Marco Rubio, are pushing a first-of-its-kind national tax credit based on the Florida model to be included in the tax overhaul Congress is expected to tackle this spring — a move that would allow it to be passed through a budget process requiring a simple Senate majority, rather than the 60 votes required for a standalone measure.

Using tax credits to expand a voucher program nationwide would give a huge push to school choice advocates, many of whom have fought for years to give parents the option to use public money to pay for private school tuition.

“The importance here is that you are empowering parents to make decisions and to place their kids in the environment they believe is best for their children,” Rubio said.

But Florida’s plan would almost certainly be far more difficult to implement nationwide. A federal program would likely be resisted not just by many Democrats, opposed to taking taxpayer funding from public schools, but also by some conservatives, who are likely to regard it as an undue — and expensive — expansion of the federal role in education.

To date, the Trump administration has not officially backed Rubio’s legislation although it has signaled support. The president accompanied Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month to a Catholic school in Orlando with recipients of the tax credit program, praising it as a way to help struggling public school students and poor families.

“St. Andrew’s Catholic school represents one of the many parochial schools dedicated to the education of some of our nation’s most disadvantaged children,” Trump said. “But they’re becoming just the opposite very rapidly through education and with the help of the school choice programs.”

DeVos, meanwhile, returns to Florida for the third time Thursday, visiting a Christian school in Miami where nearly all of the students get tuition assistance from public funds. A spokesman for DeVos did not respond to a request for comment.

Both Rubio and Rep. Todd Rokita, an Indiana Republican who introduced a companion bill in the House, say the White House has shown interest in their legislation. “I expect to have them as a partner as we move forward,” Rokita said.

Backers of Florida’s 16-year-old program say it has saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars because the state spends less to educate children in private schools than in public schools. And they say that competition has also bolstered public schools — a contention borne out by research. Along the way, the program has won over one-time naysayers such as Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.), a former state legislator who says he has been thanked by many parents grateful for the chance to send their kids to private schools.

“Every parent who … had an opportunity to send their kids to these schools, were really happy,” Lawson said.

Florida’s program gives tax credits to corporations that donate to a state-approved organization, which then awards funds to working class families for private, often religious school. The system circumvents a Florida law that prevents taxpayer dollars from flowing to religious schools.

Nearly 70 percent of students participating in Florida’s program are black or Hispanic and more than half of students live in a single-parent home. The average household income of participating families is a little over $24,000. And about a quarter of students are from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth-largest school district.

The program is not without its critics — a legal challenge brought by the state’s largest teachers union contends the program is unconstitutional because it funnels state money into religious schools. More than three quarters of the students in the program are enrolled in religious schools.

But the state’s top court in January dismissed the case, after lower courts had found the union lacked standing to sue.

“All of the normal attacks that the teachers unions have on school choice have just been disproven in the state of Florida,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a reform advocacy organization founded by Bush.

DeVos, who had served on the group’s board, praised the ruling, saying on Twitter it would give families a “clear path toward more opportunity.”

Some of the most definitive research on the Florida program by David Figlio at Northwestern University has shown that it has modestly helped improve public schools, likely as a result of competition. However, students attending private schools through the program do about the same as their public school counterparts.

But Figlio told POLITICO it’s a “very real concern” that kids using vouchers to attend private schools in other states, such as Ohio, are actually doing worse than their counterparts.

Critics also note that Florida’s private schools aren’t held accountable like public schools although they now get millions in public funding. Scholarship students are tested, but don’t take the annual test required of public school students, making comparisons difficult.

“It’s problematic because we’re working on wishes and desires and anecdotal stories, but we aren’t looking at hard facts and we have a problem with that,” said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

Pudlow contended the tax credit scholarship has distracted from work to strengthen neighborhood public schools.

“Our main position and our main goal is that we really ought to make every school in every neighborhood as good as it could possibly be,” Pudlow said.

Experts say that while Florida’s program saves money, it’s difficult to determine how much since some students would have attended private schools even if the program didn’t exist.

And at the federal level, savings aren’t one of the selling points.

“If the federal government is the one offering the tax credit, there’s no mechanism by which its other spending on public education is reduced,” said Martin West, associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “If you did this at a large scale at the federal level, it would amount to a major centralization of spending on public education.”

Conservatives like Lindsey Burke at The Heritage Foundation worry that a national tax credit scholarship program would pressure the 17 states that offer their own tax credits to standardize their programs so they can participate.

States that create scholarship-granting organizations so they can partake in a federal program would likely have to abide by mandates, she wrote. For example, donors might be prevented from receiving tax credits if they give to organizations that are “mission-specific” — that is, working only with schools of a particular religious affiliation.

Rubio dismisses many of the political controversy surrounding vouchers saying a federal tax credit scholarship program shouldn’t fall victim to politics because it’s about helping low-income families and their children.

“This is not an assault on public education,” he said.


DeVos praises Scott bill to create voucher program for military kids
Politico By Kimberly Hefling 04/03/2017 12:43 PM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said today the administration would look “very closely” at ways to make it easier for military families to find high-quality schools.

Speaking to reporters at Fort Bragg, N.C., after touring Kimberly Hampton Primary School, DeVos praised a provision of a bill advanced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) that would create a Defense Department pilot program to allow public dollars to fund private school tuition.

Scott’s measure would create the pilot on at least five military bases that don’t have Defense Department-funded schools. Families would be given up to $8,000 for elementary and $12,000 for high school tuition costs.

DeVos said she heard during her tour that families at Fort Bragg have trouble finding high school options that “work for every child.”

We’re “looking at policies that would perhaps empower parents to be able to choose the right setting for their child,” DeVos said.

While finding good schools is a challenge for military families, not all support voucher programs. The National Military Family Association has expressed concerns to Scott about his bill, said Eileen Huck, the association’s deputy director of government relations.

Huck said that’s because a majority of military children attend traditional public schools.

“Any program that reduced funding to public schools is potentially detrimental to military kids’ education,” Huck said.

During DeVos’ visit to the elementary school, she read the book “Hero Dad” to a group of kindergartners.


ProPublica: Civil rights official once wrote she faced discrimination because she’s white
Politico By Kimberly Hefling 04/14/2017 02:54 PM EDT

Candice Jackson, the acting head of the Education Department’s civil rights office, complained of facing discrimination at Stanford University in the 1990s because she was white, ProPublica reported today.

Jackson wrote in a student publication that as an undergraduate, she once “gravitated” toward a class session that provided students with extra help on calculus problems, but learned the section was reserved for minority students.

“I am especially disappointed that the University encourages these and other discriminatory programs,” she wrote in the Stanford Review. “We need to allow each person to define his or her own achievements instead of assuming competence or incompetence based on race.”

ProPublica, which reviewed multiple writings by Jackson, said she’s also condemned feminism and written favorably about economic historian Murray N. Rothbard, who decried compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When reached by POLITICO, Jackson referred all questions to the Education Department’s communications department, which did not immediately respond to a request to speak to her.

Jackson, who also wrote a book about a group of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual advances and then helped the Trump campaign organize their appearance at a presidential debate last fall, started at the department on Monday.

On Wednesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tapped Jackson as the deputy assistant secretary for civil rights and acting chief of the Office for Civil Rights. Neither role requires Senate confirmation, though the administration would need Senate approval to install a permanent head of the office.

Under President Barack Obama, the civil rights office ramped up enforcement on issues such as school discipline, campus sexual assault and LGBT protections. Civil rights and sexual assault victims’ advocacy groups are watching closely to see how the office handles such issues under DeVos.


Gavin Grimm says transgender students “will be fine” despite Trump administration decision
Politico By Caitlin Emma 04/06/2017 12:12 PM EDT

Gavin Grimm, the student at the center of a high-profile lawsuit over transgender student rights, testified today that the Trump administration’s decision to scrap a directive protecting students like him “could not be more damaging for transgender students.”

“But we will be fine, because we have love on our side,” said Grimm, speaking at a forum on civil rights under the Trump administration hosted by House Democrats.

The Supreme Court last month declined to hear Grimm’s case, sending it back to the 4th Circuit.

In February, the Trump administration said the decision was made to rescind the guidance because the Obama administration’s interpretation of federal law did not “undergo any formal public process” prior to its release and “has given rise to significant litigation.” The Obama guidance allowed transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identity.

But U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairwoman Catherine Lhamon, who also testified, challenged the action by the Trump administration. She said it “questions the very humanity of transgender students.”

Lhamon, the former assistant secretary of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration, said the very selection of Betsy DeVos as Education secretary signals the Trump administration’s “hostility” toward student civil rights.

The federal government as a backstop for civil rights protections “is no more,” she said.


Politico By Michael Stratford | 03/28/2017 05:41 AM EDT
With help from Caitlin Emma, Kimberly Hefling, Helena Bottemiller Evich and Sarah Ferris

After proposing a $9.2 billion cut to the Education Department’s budget for next year, the President Donald Trump is now calling on Congress to slash nearly $3 billion in education funding for the remaining five months of this fiscal year, according to a document obtained by POLITICO. The White House on Friday sent House and Senate appropriators detailed instructions on how they should craft spending legislation to fund the federal government beyond April 28, when the current stopgap spending bill expires.

— The Trump proposal seeks cuts across many federal agencies, but calls for the deepest reductions at the Education Department. The administration proposes $1.3 billion in cuts from the Pell grant program’s surplus this year — on top of the $3.9 billion proposed cut for next fiscal year. The CBO estimates the program will operate with a $10.6 billion surplus next year, but advocates for student aid and Congressional Democrats have blasted efforts to “raid” the Pell surplus and direct that money outside of financial aid programs.

— The White House is seeking to slash in half Title II, Part A funding for the current year. The program helps boost teacher and principal quality through professional development and also funds efforts to reduce class sizes. “Funding is poorly targeted and supports practices that are not evidence-based,” the administration wrote in the document. Trump’s “skinny budget” for next fiscal year called for eliminating the $2.4 billion program entirely.

— Also on the chopping block for elimination this year: A $47 million program that provides grants to school districts and other organizations to support physical education programs and a $49 million competitive grant program that provides money for elementary and secretary school counseling. The White House is also proposing to nix a $152 million program to boost math and science instruction and a $189 million program called Striving Readers that provides competitive grants to states to improve literacy instruction. All of those programs were eliminated by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which created a new large state block grant for those types of support and enrichment activities. But that grant program isn’t currently funded under the continuing resolution.

— The Trump plan calls for reductions this year to other agencies that affect education: National Institutes of Health (3.8 percent cut); National Science Foundation (5 percent cut); NASA (nearly 1 percent cut); National Endowment for the Arts (10 percent cut); National Endowment for the Humanities (10 percent cut); and educational and cultural exchange programs at the State Department (23.7 percent cut).

— But the request for cuts — which would be absorbed by federal agencies between April 28 and Sept. 30 — could prove to be too little, too late from the White House, report POLITICO’s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Sarah Ferris. Top Congressional appropriators have indicated that they’re prepared to reject Trump’s calls to gut programs they deem important – and some have said the White House weigh in too late in the appropriations process to affect the outcome for the current fiscal year.

Lawmakers, groups call for preservation of federal after-school funding

Politico By Caitlin Emma 04/12/2017 12:24 PM EDT

More than 80 House members and nearly 1,500 organizations in separate letters are calling on Congress to preserve federal funding for after-school programs.

The efforts are in response to the Trump administration’s proposal to zero out $1.2 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, a driver of funding for after school programs. Both letters were released by the Afterschool Alliance.

The first letter was organized by Republican Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania — an ally of President Donald Trump — and Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island. It was signed by eight Republicans and 73 Democrats.

The lawmakers say failing to maintain the funding “would be devastating to families across the country who rely on after-school and summer learning programs.”

“More and more working families” rely on the funding “each year to ensure their children are in a safe environment during non-school hours, allowing them to excel in their jobs,” they write.

In a separate letter, 1,456 local, state and national groups representing advocates, unions, at-risk students, teachers, administrators, parents and more argue that “after-school programs show returns on investment.”

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney last month justified the funding cuts by saying “there’s no demonstrable evidence” that after-school programs help students.

But the groups write about “reports from Minnesota, Vermont, Maryland and Oklahoma and nationally showing that each dollar invested in after-school programs saves up to $9 by increasing young people’s learning potential, improving student performance in school and reducing juvenile crime.”


McCaskill demands answers on Trump’s budget proposal and rural schools
Politico By Caitlin Emma 04/03/2017 05:14 PM EDT

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is demanding answers from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on how her agency will support rural schools in light of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts.

In a letter sent today that was obtained by POLITICO, McCaskill wants to know how the Education Department would help rural schools if $1.2 billion in federal funding for after-school programs is zeroed out, for example. She also wants to know more about DeVos’ priorities for supporting rural schools as Education secretary.

McCaskill notes that 70 percent of Missouri’s 517 school districts are located in rural areas. The schools serve a significant number of poor students and often struggle to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, she writes.

“These proposed cuts could have a significant adverse impact on rural schools especially because many rural districts lack the resources some urban and suburban school districts have to make up for these programs’ elimination,” McCaskill writes.

She also asks for an update on a September 2016 investigation by the Education Department’s Office of Inspector General that found the agency could beef up its oversight of competitive grants for rural school districts.

The Education Department couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.


Ed groups fight to preserve teacher training funds
Politico By Kimberly Hefling 03/28/2017 04:29 PM EDT

Five groups representing school administrators said today they are “outraged” by the Trump administration’s proposal to cut in half federal funding to a program that supports teacher training and development.

“Effective teachers and school leaders are crucial to increasing student achievement,” they said.

Their joint letter said the move would do “far worse than devastate the budgets of states and school districts in the country” and deal a “real blow to our nation’s educators and their students.”

It was signed by the National Association of Elementary School Principals; the National Association of Secondary School Principals; the American Federation of School Administrators; the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; and Learning Forward, which focuses on professional development in education.

POLITICO reported earlier today that the White House wants to slash Title II, Part A funding for the current year as part of nearly $3 billion in cuts to education funding in fiscal 2017. That’s on top of proposed cuts to the budget that starts in fiscal 2018 that calls for entirely eliminating the $2.4 billion program.

Trump praises DeVos, local decision making
Politico By Caitlin Emma 04/04/2017 12:53 PM EDT

President Donald Trump praised Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during a White House meeting with CEOs on Tuesday, saying she has “got one of the toughest jobs” and stressing his administration’s commitment to return education decision-making to the local level.

“We have to bring education local,” Trump said, criticizing what he has suggested was the Obama administration’s heavy hand in education decision-making. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015, already strictly curbs the federal government’s influence in schools.

“When I go out to Iowa, when I go out to the different states and I talk, they want to run their school programs locally,” the president said. “And they’ll do a much better job than somebody — and look, these are some very good people in Washington, but you also have bureaucrats that make a lot of money and don’t really care that much about what they’re doing or about the community that they have never seen and they’ll never meet.”

He continued, “And I like that fact of getting rid of Common — you know Common Core to me is, we have to end it. We have to bring education local, to me, I’ve always said it, I’ve been saying it during the campaign and we’re doing it.”

More than 40 states voluntarily adopted the Common Core, which was developed with input from governors, state education chiefs and others. While the Obama administration never forced states to adopt the academic standards in math and English, it incentivized states with billions of dollars in competitive grants.

The Every Student Succeeds Act explicitly prevents the Education secretary from prescribing certain academic standards for states. DeVos said earlier this year that ESSA “essentially does away with the notion of a Common Core.”

Nevertheless, the Common Core has become the conservative embodiment of federal overreach in education policy. For example, the Trump administration recently reversed plans to nominate New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera for a top Education Department job after several Senate Republicans raised concerns about her support for the Common Core standards.

Trump also said that DeVos is “doing a terrific job.”

“Highly respected. Tremendous track record. But she’s got one of the toughest jobs of any of our secretaries,” he said.

He also touted New York’s charter school sector as a model and promised to invest more money in education. His proposed budget, however, calls for a $9.2 billion cut or 13.5 percent reduction to the Education Department’s $68 billion budget.

“We’re going to spend a lot of money and a lot of expertise,” Trump said. “We’re going to have great talent having to do with education because there’s nothing more important than education and we’ve got to get those numbers in New York better and I think they will be better.

“… I see it happening in New York very much but it’s happening elsewhere, too. I think we’re going to have a great four years.”


Democrats press DeVos on requiring states to seek feed on their ESSA Plans
Politico By Michael Stratford 04/03/2017 06:11 PM EDT

A group of Congressional Democrats today urged the Trump administration to rigorously enforce provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act that require states to get feedback from local officials, teachers, parents and other groups as they implement the law.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Mich.), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and 17 other Democrats wrote in letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that they are concerned her latest guidance walks back the Obama administration directive that spelled out an extensive list of groups that states must consult as they develop their plans.

The lawmakers wrote that they are “troubled” the Trump administration’s “revised template does not ask states to describe their extensive outreach and consultation with stakeholders, despite numerous statutory requirements across multiple titles” of the law. The new template, they write, will “complicate the department’s ability to monitor and enforce compliance” with the requirements of ESSA.

Earlier this month, DeVos removed from a state ESSA guide an Obama requirement that states consult with a number of groups and individuals as they develop their plans. DeVos has said her goal is to give states as much flexibility as possible as they develop their plans.

Democrats and unions blasted the move. And groups representing governors, teachers, administrators and parents have said they want to make sure they’re heard as states develop their plans. The Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education chiefs, has said its members will continue to reach out to those groups, even if the administration doesn’t specifically call for it.


DeVos: Educationi Department may use ESSA plans to encourage school choice
Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/29/2017 04:08 PM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said today that the Education Department may push school choice policies as it reviews and approves state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

DeVos, answering questions at The Brookings Institution, said it’s “too early to say” whether she’ll approve every state plan that is submitted. Those plans are due this spring and fall.

But she said the process for reviewing and approving those plans might be a good opportunity to discuss where state school officials might do more to expand charter schools or publicly funded private school options, while highlighting places “that others might want to emulate and follow suit.”

When asked if she’ll instruct states to revise and resubmit their plans based on a deficiency of choice, DeVos said, “I think there’s certainly going to be a lot of discussion back and forth.”

The goal is to implement ESSA “as Congress has intended,” she said, while pushing states to innovate in ways they haven’t before.


DeVos says it’s too early to determine whether she’ll approve every state ESSA plan
Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/29/2017 11:09 AM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said today that it’s “too early to say” whether she will approve every state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“There’s certainly going to be a lot of discussion and back and forth,” DeVos said during a question-and-answer session at the Brookings Institution.

The first window for states to submit plans to the Education Department for review and approval opens on Monday. The second window opens in September.

Earlier today, Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander, a key architect of ESSA who led the charge to scrap Obama regulations for holding schools accountable under the law, said
the education secretary’s role in enforcing ESSA should be that of a “cheerleader” who advocates for changes and improvements while highlighting state innovations in education.

Previously, Alexander said states should expect the Trump administration to approve their plans.

DeVos: Like Uber and Lyft “people want options” for schools

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/29/2017 10:40 AM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this morning compared the impetus behind charter schools and publicly funded private school options to the public infatuation with ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

“Just like the traditional taxi system revolted against ride-sharing, so too did the traditional education establishment revolt against school choice,” DeVos said during remarks at the Brookings Institution.

“The government shouldn’t get in your way,” she said. “People want options.”

DeVos said U.S. scores on the Program for International Student Assessment are suffering and that scores have stagnated on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. She said the U.S. education system “can’t do much worse.”

DeVos said she doesn’t prefer one form of choice over another.

“Choice alone isn’t a panacea, but there’s evidence that it works,” she said. “It could work for millions of more students if options are made available.”

Murray slams Trump administration’s reprieve for fired student debt collectors

Politico By Michael Stratford 04/04/2017 03:19 PM EDT

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says she’s “very concerned” that the Trump administration is preparing to reinstate the federal contracts of student debt collectors that the Obama administration accused of misleading borrowers.

“This looks like just one more example of President Trump and Secretary (Betsy) DeVos putting big corporations, Wall Street investors and special interest groups ahead of protecting students and borrowers,” said Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, in a statement.

POLITICO reported earlier today that Trump’s Education Department plans to essentially nullify the Obama administration’s 2015 decision to cut ties with four companies that collect defaulted student loans on behalf of the government. The Obama administration said the companies made “materially inaccurate representations” to borrowers trying to get their loans out of default.

The department is now considering whether to award new business to the four companies — Navient-owned Pioneer Credit Recovery, Enterprise Recovery System, National Recoveries and Coast Professional — to resolve their lawsuit against the department.

“As President Trump and Secretary DeVos consider whether they should allow taxpayer funding to go to shady debt collectors that violated consumer protection laws and have a record of defrauding students, I have some advice for them: don’t do it,” Murray said in a statement. “I am not going to allow them to slip this change through in the shadows, and I am going to keep fighting to make sure this Department of Education truly puts students first.”

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Report: DeVos’ protective detail costs about $1M per month
Politico By Caitlin Emma 04/07/2017 12:55 PM EDT

The Education Department is spending about $1 million a month for federal marshals to protect Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The costs could continue for months or even years. The Education Department and the U.S. Marshals Service signed an agreement last week to provide protective services for DeVos for as long as the next four years, the federal law enforcement agency said in a statement released to POLITICO.

In the near term, the expected total cost from mid-February of this year through the end of September is expected to be $7.78 million — funds the Education Department has agreed to pay the money back. The figure was first reported by The Washington Post.

Earlier this year in Washington, during DeVos’ first visit to a public school, she was briefly blocked by protesters from entering a middle school. One of the protesters later pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of assaulting a police officer stemming from the incident.

The U.S. Marshals Service declined to disclose “the number of employees providing protection or the nature of threats against the secretary,” but has determined “that a threat to the secretary’s safety exists.”

But the Post reported that the U.S. Marshals Service is hiring nearly two dozen people to protect DeVos, citing “a person briefed on the security arrangements, who was not authorized to speak publicly.”

A spokesman for DeVos did not comment on the total cost and referred questions to the U.S. Marshals Service.

DeVos is the only member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet protected by U.S. Marshals. The past four Education secretaries have been protected by the Education Department’s own small security unit.

Drew Wade, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, told POLITICO in February that he “is not aware of providing a protective detail for the U.S. secretary of Education in the past.”


White House calls for deep agency cuts
Politico By Ian Kullgren and Matthew Nussbaum 04/11/2017 11:00 PM EDT

The White House on Wednesday will direct federal agencies to make deep personnel cuts over the next year, according to the White House budget chief and documents provided to POLITICO.

Agency heads will receive a 14-page memorandum outlining changes. The memo, which replaces the federal hiring ban Trump enacted in January, outlines cuts based on Trump’s “skinny” budget, released last month. The budget proposal called for deep cuts to domestic programs and an increase in military spending.

The memo tells agencies to “begin taking immediate actions to achieve near-term workforce reductions.” It also instructs agencies to develop by June 30 a plan to “maximize employee performance” — i.e., take steps to reward employees deemed effective while working to improve or dismiss weak performers. The memo also calls for delivery by September of an agency reform plan to shrink personnel to accommodate long term budget reductions outlined in the skinny budget.

Speaking to reporters, budget chief Mick Mulvaney said the end result will likely take effect in about 11 months. The executive branch will be dramatically different, Mulvaney said, with agencies operating more like private businesses. Mulvaney downplayed the cuts, saying the focus was on making agencies more efficient, not just smaller.

“Really what you’re talking about doing is restructuring Washington, D.C.,” Mulvaney said. “That is how you drain the swamp.”

“At the end of the day,” Mulvaney added, “this leads to a government that is dramatically more accountable, dramatically more efficient, and dramatically more effective at following through on the promises that the president made during the campaign.”

The White House’s latest instructions to the agencies would appear to bear the fingerprints of chief strategist Steve Bannon, who pledged himself publicly to “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Mulvaney did not discuss specifics of the cuts, including how many jobs will be slashed. That, he said, will be left up to the agencies. But Mulvaney did single out the EPA — perhaps the agency most-loathed by Republicans — as a particular target.

“Everybody acknowledges, given the proposed reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency in the budget, they would have to reduce the size of their workforce,” Mulvaney said. “And it’s just sort of up to them to come up with ideas on how to do that effectively.”

But the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments will increase staffing, Mulvaney said, though he didn’t elaborate on how that will occur. He didn’t address whether agencies might hire contract workers to replace cut positions.

The memo says that agencies should eliminate programs that are duplicative, non-essential to the agency’s mission, or are already carried out in some form by state and local government. It also tells agencies to cut any program that is “not justified by the unique public benefit it provides,” and to restructure programs to provide better customer service.

The memo also tells agencies to explore new technologies to “automate processes and result in increased efficiency and budgetary savings.”

Not all of the staffing cuts will be achieved through layoffs. Trump has yet to fill scores of positions, and the guidance says any vacant posts judged unnecessary can be eliminated immediately.

Mulvaney insisted the process could be bipartisan and include public input.

“We are not just asking conservative right wing think tanks to give us ideas on how to fix this,” said Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina. “We’re asking the general public: intellectuals, academia and the private sector to give us ideas, and it may well be they come in and make suggestions that might be the exact opposite of a former right-wing member of Congress.”


Judge approves $25 million Trump University settlement
Politico By Josh Gerstein 03/31/2017 01:53 PM EDT

A federal judge has approved a $25 million settlement President Donald Trump agreed to late last year in a bid to head off a civil fraud trial over his Trump University real estate seminar program.

U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel issued a 31-page ruling Friday deeming the deal fair and overruling claims from some former Trump University students that they should get larger payments or be allowed to drop out altogether in a bid to force Trump into a trial.

Under the settlement, former Trump University students are expected to get 80 percent to 90 percent of what they paid — typically about $1,500 for a three-day seminar or $35,000 for an in-depth mentorship program.

Curiel called that result “extraordinary” when measured by the yardstick of other class actions that are often settled for pennies on the dollar.

“The extraordinary amount of recovery for Eligible Class Members — an estimated 80%, and potentially higher — is all the more exceptional when viewed in light of the risk of establishing liability at trial, the likelihood of appeal, the possibility of reversal, the complexity of conducting thousands of individual damages determinations, and the likely lengthy duration of further litigation. Moreover, none of the amount offered in settlement will inure to Class Counsel’s benefit, as Class Counsel do not seek any fees or costs,” Curiel wrote.

“Courts have approved settlements with recovery rates far lower than provided for in the instant Settlement,” the judge said. He also praised the class-action lawyers involved for boosting the value of the settlement by giving up their legal fees and waiving expenses incurred in pursuing the cases.

The federal lawsuits — one of which dates to 2010 — alleged that Trump and his aides made several misrepresentations about the program, including claiming that Trump hand-picked the instructors, that the program was akin to a traditional university and that it would share “secrets” Trump had not discussed elsewhere.

Trump’s attorneys denied any fraud and said any loose language in the marketing of the program was no more than “mere puffery” that courts have not found to be legally actionable.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed not to settle the case. He also attacked the San Diego-based Curiel’s pretrial rulings and accused him of bias based on his Latino heritage, calling the judge “Spanish” although he was born in Indiana.

With jury selection set to begin in one of the cases shortly after Thanksgiving last year, Trump agreed to the $25 million settlement, which also involved a $4 million payment to resolve another suit brought by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

In the ruling Friday, Curiel overruled an objection to the settlement by Florida bankruptcy attorney Sherri Simpson, who attended the weekend seminar and split with another person the cost of the $35,000 mentorship.

Simpson’s lawyers argued at a hearing before the judge Thursday that class members should have a right to opt out of the settlement and that an official notice published in 2015 indicated that Trump University students would be given another opportunity to pull out if a settlement was reached. Simpson has said she wants to take Trump to trial over the alleged fraud.

But Curiel said the law doesn’t guarantee class members a right to opt out at this stage and the language in the 2015 notice didn’t promise one either.

“It clearly apprised Class Members that if they wished to bring a separate lawsuit against Defendants, they had to elect to opt out immediately,” the judge wrote. “A plain reading of the parenthetical that Simpson seizes upon — ‘or how to ask to be excluded from any settlement’ — does not objectively give rise to the conclusion that Simpson had an unequivocal right to opt out of the Settlement.

“An average Class Member (and here, an attorney, no less) would not objectively understand the parenthetical to guarantee a settlement-stage opt-out opportunity that would allow absent class members to pursue separate litigation against Defendants,” Curiel added.

An attorney for Simpson did not immediately respond to a question about whether she plans to appeal. If she does so, it could hold up the distribution of funds under the settlement by a year or longer.

However, lawyers for the class have indicated they will try to force Simpson to post a bond that could cost her money if she loses the appeal.

In a statement, Schneiderman welcomed the judge’s approval of the settlement.

“Today’s final approval by a judge of our Trump University settlement will provide relief — and hopefully much-needed closure — to the victims of Donald Trump’s fraudulent university,” the Democratic attorney general said. “Trump University’s victims waited years for compensation, while President Trump refused to settle and fought us every step of the way — until his stunning reversal last fall. In particular, I am pleased that we were able to ensure that members of the class action settlement will receive an even higher settlement than originally anticipated.”


National Endowment for the Arts has closed education gaps, chairman says
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 03/31/2017 10:21 AM EDT

The National Endowment for the Arts has helped close educational achievement gaps, the chairman of the council that oversees the endowment said at the first meeting since President Donald Trump proposed eliminating it.

Research has shown that students who have arts incorporated into their education earn higher grades, do better on standardized tests and are less likely to drop out, National Council of the Arts Chairman Jane Chu said. More than 40 percent of NEA grants specifically target high-poverty neighborhoods, she said.

“These are benefits reaped by students from all walks of life, regardless of any socioeconomic status,” Chu said. “We have also seen firsthand the transformational roles that the arts play in equalizing educational opportunities. When it comes to children and youth, especially those living in the inner cities, especially those from households with very few opportunities, the NEA is there.”

Trump’s budget blueprint would eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which together total about $300 million a year in spending.

Chu told the council today that the budget is far from set and the endowment will continue operating as usual — and that means funding many public education programs.

One program, The Right Brain Initiative, trains teachers in Oregon to incorporate creativity into their lessons. According to the initiative, English language learners saw test scores increase by at least 10 times in classes with the program.

Another program puts on autism-friendly play performances for families with children who have developmental disabilities.


North Carolina governor signs measure repealing controversial ‘bathroom law’
Politico By Elena Schneider 03/30/2017 04:38 PM EDT

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a measure Thursday to repeal the state’s controversial “bathroom law” that leaders said damaged the state’s reputation and would have cost an estimated $3 billion in lost business over a dozen years.

But activists on both sides of the issue panned the compromise deal between Cooper, a Democrat, and the GOP-controlled legislature. It is “at best a punt, at worst it is a betrayal of principle,” said state Sen. Dan Bishop, a Republican who authored House Bill 2, which passed in March 2016. The legislation required people in government buildings to use restrooms that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates and barred cities from enacting new anti-discrimination rules.

The law — which repeals HB2 but restricts local anti-discrimination ordinances until 2020 — comes at a key time for the state. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is expected to announce site locations for championships and tournaments in the coming weeks, and it had threatened to keep games out of the state until House Bill 2 was repealed. The NCAA had already moved basketball tournament games out of the state for this year, meaning men’s teams from Duke University and the University of North Carolina played in South Carolina instead of closer to home.

“It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation,” Cooper said in a statement released late Wednesday night, before the legislature voted on the bill.

Under pressure from the business community, legislators spent much of the last year attempting to broker a deal that would repeal HB2, a law that nearly two-thirds of North Carolina voters said they would rather dismantle than enforce. A long list of big businesses, including Wells Fargo and Dow Chemical, called for its repeal last year, while the NBA chose to relocate its 2017 All-Star game away from Charlotte. HB2 also claimed a political casualty, as Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who vigorously defended the law, lost reelection to Cooper, who ran on repealing it.

Supporters of the deal defended it as a “step forward from this terrible piece of legislation that was passed in March of 2016,” said state Rep. Darren Jackson, a Democrat who helped lead negotiations on repealing HB2.

In a 70-to-48 vote in the state House, the bill passed a final legislative hurdle on Thursday and Cooper signed it into law hours later. But the votes did not fall along party lines, as dozens of hardline Republicans and Democrats voted against the deal.

Both liberal and conservative groups criticized the proposed compromise. The Human Rights Campaign called the proposal a “bad deal that does not actually repeal HB2. Instead, it doubles down on discrimination.”

“Basketball is important, but so are the civil rights of marginalized communities,” said Equality NC’s executive director Chris Sgro, speaking to reporters in front of the North Carolina legislative building.

Conservatives took the opposite, but equally critical, position. “No NCAA basketball game, corporation, or entertainment concert is worth even one little girl being harmed or frightened in a bathroom. She should not lose her privacy and dignity to a boy in a locker room,” N.C. Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald said in a statement.

But the business community, which actively lobbied legislators to repeal HB2, congratulated Cooper and the GOP leadership, thanking them for “their leadership in providing a bipartisan solution for North Carolina to move forward,” per a statement from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.


Feds say FAFSA tool will remain shut down until fall
Politico By Michael Stratford 03/30/2017 03:28 PM EDT

The online tool that helps students apply for federal financial aid will remain unavailable until later this year, the Education Department and Internal Revenue Service announced today.

The agencies said in a statement that they are still working to add “extra security protections” to the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which millions of students use each year to help them automatically input their income information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The tool was suspended over concerns that identity thieves could use it to access student tax information.

“While we are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, students and families should plan for the tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season,” the agencies said in a statement. The next FAFSA season begins on Oct. 1.

The IRS said that it does not know how many taxpayers may have been “affected by the questionable use of the Data Retrieval Tool” or whether any fraudulent tax returns were filed as a result. The agency said it had identified instances where a “questionable” tax return was filed by someone who also accessed the data retrieval tool.

The IRS is also “finalizing plans to notify affected taxpayers by mail about possible identity theft concerns,” the statement said.

The decision by the Education Department and IRS to suspend the tool earlier this month without any warning has drawn the ire of members of Congress. The Republican and Democratic leadership of the congressional education committees, as well as the House Oversight Committee, have expressed concern about the shutdown and demanded more information.

Two states, Texas and Indiana, have also extended state-level deadlines for financial aid as a result of the shutdown.

“While this tool provides an important convenience for applicants, we cannot risk the safety of taxpayer data,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. “Protecting taxpayer data has to be the highest priority, and we will continue working with FSA to bring this tool back in a safe and secure manner.”

Federal student loan borrowers also use the tool to certify their income to participate in income-based repayment programs, which they must do each year. The Education Department said that while the tool is unavailable, borrowers should send their federal loan servicers paper copies of their tax returns, or other documentation of income.

“We have heard from students, parents, and the financial aid community that applying for aid is harder without the DRT,” said James W. Runcie, federal student aid chief operating officer. “We will do all we can to help students and families successfully submit applications while the tool is unavailable and remain committed to protecting applicants’ personal information.”


State Updates

A Look at Some States That Have Turned in Their ESSA Plans
Monday was the first official deadline for states to submit their Every Student Succeeds Act plans to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for approval. And, as of Monday evening, nine states and the District of Columbia had turned in their plans to the feds, according to the U.S. Department of Education. (Education Week, April 4)


CO’s ESSA Plan Gets High Marks
Thanks to an inclusive and well-designed approach, Colorado is among a small group of states that will meet an April 3 deadline to submit plans to implement new federal education legislation. (RealClearEducation, March 29)


KY – Lawmakers Pass Education Reform Bill
Kentucky lawmakers gave final passage to another round of major education reform Wednesday which is aimed at changing how schools are held accountable for student achievement and how teachers are evaluated. (Daily Independent, March 29)


MD General Assembly Passes Bill Limiting Hours of Testing in Schools
With unanimous votes in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, the General Assembly passed a bill that would limit how many hours of standardized testing school students can be made to undergo each year. (Baltimore Sun, April 10)


Maryland Democrats override governor’s veto of controversial accountability bill
Politico By Caitlin Emma 04/06/2017 03:50 PM EDT

Maryland state Democrats today overrode the governor’s veto of a bill that would change the way low-performing schools are identified and bar the state from taking certain actions to improve those schools. The changes will take effect in July.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the state board of education opposed the controversial bill, which would give student test scores a lesser role in the state’s accountability system and also prevent the state from turning low-performing schools into charter schools, or a statewide “recovery” school district, like the Louisiana model that took over the majority of New Orleans’ schools following Hurricane Katrina.

The veto was expected. Hogan and the state board argued the bill makes too little of student achievement when it comes to holding schools accountable. They also said that limiting the state’s options for dealing with low-performing schools would eventually hurt Maryland’s neediest kids.

But proponents, such as the state teachers union, believe the bill will produce an accountability system that paints a fuller picture of how students are performing by decreasing the weight of test scores and factoring in other measures, like school safety and chronic absenteeism.

They have also slammed Hogan for backing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ “privatization agenda,” referring to her support for charter schools and publicly funded private school options.


TX – House Panel Approves Scaling Back A-F Grading System for Schools
The House Public Education Committee approved a bill on Tuesday that would scale back the way that the state plans to grade public school performance each year. (my Statesman via Austin American-Stateman, April 4)


WV – A-F Accountability Grades to Be Waived for 2016-17, Area Officials Pleased
Since the West Virginia Board of Education voted recently to no longer hand out A-F letter grades to public schools, area education officials are relieved to see the state moving toward adopting a new accountability system that will use multiple measures. (Exponent Telegram, April 2)


IL – State Education Board Develops New Accountability Plan for Schools
The Illinois State Board of Education earlier this week submitted its plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the U.S. Department of Education outlining a new vision of evaluating and supporting public schools. It will be implemented starting with the 2017-18 school year. (Daily Herald, April 5)


Illinois districts go to court in fight over K-12 funding
Politico By Kimberly Hefling 04/05/2017 03:52 PM EDT

Seventeen school districts in Illinois filed suit today accusing the state of not properly funding schools.

The districts, many of which serve a high concentration of low-income students, say the lack of appropriate funding prevents them from providing the “high-quality education” mandated by law. They say funding challenges make it difficult to meet requirements spelled out in the state’s standards, and want changes to the states’s funding formula. The suit was filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

“Since fiscal year 2011, the State financial aid received by the plaintiff districts from the State defendants has actually dropped, even as the costs necessary to meet the Illinois Learning Standards required by State law have increased,” the suit says.

A statement from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner noted that he successfully pushed for an increase in education spending despite Illinois’ larger budget problems, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“The governor never stops working to increase funding for our students and hopes school districts across Illinois will work with him and members of the General Assembly on this endeavor,” said Beth Purvis, the governor’s education secretary.

The lawsuit is the latest in a long-running saga over funding for Illinois schools that’s played out in courtrooms and in the state legislature. A separate suit filed by the Chicago district accuses the state of using “separate and unequal systems of funding for public education in Illinois.”

Both name Rauner.


Illinois: Chicago mayor wants students to have college acceptance letter to graduate high school
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 04/05/2017 01:16 PM EDT

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to require high school students to have an acceptance letter to a college or trade school or a plan to go into the military before they can graduate.

Emanuel’s proposal is part of an effort to “make 14th grade universal,” he told “CBS This Morning.” It would require students “have a letter of acceptance to a college, community college, armed services or a trade” before they can earn a high school degree, he said.

“We want to make sure our kids do not see graduation from high school as the end point, but all of them have a plan and all of them have a specific acceptance,” Emanuel said.

Currently Chicago Public School students who earn a B average can attend community colleges for free. Emanuel said that 62 percent of CPS students are accepted at a college or community college. The five-year graduation rate for Chicago schools is 73.5 percent.

New York: Students from wealthier districts continue to crowd city’s gifted classes

Politico 04/06/2017 03:42 PM EDT

Students in New York City’s highest-performing and, in some cases, wealthiest districts continue to flood the city’s gifted and talented programs, while only a smattering of students from underperforming, poor districts test into the competitive programs, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Education.

The data throws the city’s deeply stratified education system into sharp relief as a debate over the value of racial and socioeconomic integration of schools continues, leaving Mayor Bill de Blasio in a political quandary as he looks at how to further desegregate the nation’s most segregated public school system.

Gifted and talented classes have long been seen as a way for white or middle class families to be enticed into staying in public schools rather than sending their children to independent schools or leaving the city altogether.

The city has made some initial efforts to increase gifted and talented applications for families in under-performing districts. About 1,880 families with high-performing students in two Bronx districts, two Brooklyn districts and a district in upper Manhattan were personally notified that their children could apply for a spot in a gifted program.

But Thursday’s data makes clear that gifted and talented classes remain an option mostly for students in middle or upper-middle class districts.

Over 1,000 students in Manhattan’s district 2, which includes the Upper East Side, qualified for a seat in a gifted and talented class based on their test scores. Sixteen students from Brooklyn’s district 23, which includes parts of Brownsville and East New York, tested into a gifted and talented class.

Students test for gifted classes in Kindergarten, first, second or third grades.

As is the case with the city’s specialized high school exam, many more students from privileged neighborhoods take the gifted and talented test than those from poorer areas. Over 3,200 students in district 2 took the exam, compared with 183 students in Brooklyn’s district 16, which includes parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Overall, about 29 percent of students who applied for gifted programs across the city scored well enough to secure a placement; nearly 10,000 students total. That’s a very slight decrease from last year, when 30 percent of students, nearly 11,000 children total, qualified for a spot in a gifted program. The percentage of students qualifying for gifted programs has increased about five percentage points since 2014.

“We are committed to equity and excellence for all students, and gifted and talented classes are one option for families in every district,” Will Mantell, a spokesman for the DOE, said in a statement Thursday.


Politico, 4/13/17

New Mexico is poised to be a state leader under the Every Student Succeeds Act, state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera told Morning Education. New Mexico’s plan was made public this week. Skandera said the state’s long-term goals are “very high and very bold.” By 2020, the state would like to see half its students performing at grade level in math and English, 80 percent of students graduating high school and a significant decrease in the percentage of students requiring remedial education. New Mexico plans to use concrete ratings for schools because Skandera said they are critical to helping parents understand how they are performing. By 2018-19, the state plans to look beyond holding schools accountable for how students are doing in math and English, adding science and also look at how historically high-performing students fare, too. Check out New Mexico’s plan.

New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system is also undergoing changes. Teachers in recent years have protested the emphasis on student test scores in their evaluations, going so far as to burn their evaluation scores at protests. In response, Skandera said the state would decrease the weight given to student academic growth based on test scores, from 50 percent to 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Classroom observations will make up 40 percent of the evaluation. New Mexico is also looking to reduce the amount of time spent on testing.


Sandoval’s ESA Bill Gets Move to Keep It Alive in NV Legislature
The governor’s Education Savings Account bill was sent to the Senate finance committee before being discussed by the Senate education committee Tuesday, a necessary measure to keep the bill alive. (Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 11)


OH – Relaxed Grad Requirements Proposed
High school students in the class of 2018 could see relaxed graduation requirements if the state Legislature approves recommendations backed Tuesday by the state school board. (Courier, April 12)


New York: At tuition subsidy event, Cuomo credits Clinton, not Sanders
Politico By Conor Skelding 04/12/2017 03:55 PM EDT

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that Hillary Clinton was “the inspiration” for a college scholarship program that the governor proposed earlier this year and was enacted in this year’s state budget.

“The inspiration for the idea came from a woman who I know very, very well,” the governor said, as he introduced Clinton Wednesday morning at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.

The governor last visited LaGuardia a few months ago when he rolled out his “Excelsior Scholarship Program,” designed to make public higher education tuition-free for New York families earning $125,000 or less per year once it is fully implemented in 2019. On that occasion, he shared the stage with Clinton’s former foe, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who, the governor said, “awoke the nation to this crisis” of college affordability.

Clinton said on Wednesday that she was “thrilled” that Cuomo, “as you heard him say, took this idea.”

“I am so proud that he has produced this,” he said.

The proposal, pitched as free college tuition for middle-class families, has earned Cuomo national praise, although the plan comes with strings attached. Recipients must work in New York for as many years as they receive the benefit, otherwise the scholarship would be converted to a loan.

Both Clinton and Sanders pitched tuition subsidies during last year presidential campaign. But Cuomo’s program is closer to the one Clinton proposed, which was means-tested. The Sanders plan called for free higher public education for all . (Cuomo backed Clinton, his fellow New Yorker, over Sanders last year)

Press contacts for the senator and for the PAC he spun out of his campaign didn’t return requests for comment about Cuomo’s remarks.

However, Sanders did offer qualified praise for the Excelsior program in a tweet during Wednesday’s event. He said higher education should be a right “regardless of income.” Excelsior, he said, is “in that direction.”


Colo. districts struggle to recruit, retain teachers  – ASCD

A 7.7% decline in teacher salaries over the past decade and a lack of incentive programs are some of the reasons there is a growing teacher shortage in Colorado, especially in rural areas, officials say. State lawmakers are considering a measure to require state agencies and school districts to research the reasons behind the shortages and retention issues.


Politico By Benjamin Wermund | 04/14/2017 05:45 AM EDT
With help from Kimberly Hefling, Caitlin Emma and David Siders

Some higher education leaders are facing a potential “nightmare” scenario as lawmakers in more than a dozen states consider funding cuts to public colleges and universities — on top of possible federal funding cuts proposed by President Donald Trump. In some of those same states, such as Texas and Wisconsin, lawmakers are also pushing to cap or freeze tuition, or have already done so, squeezing yet another revenue stream. “There’s an awful lot of worry,” Raymund Paredes, Texas’ higher education chief, told Morning Education. “That’s a nightmare, as you might expect, for a university administrator.”

Texas is among the states where college leaders face a possible double or triple whammy. Funding for public colleges and universities there will likely be flat at best — while the Senate seeks to make slight cuts. Efforts to restrict tuition and to end a set-aside that helps lower-income students cover college costs, meanwhile, have cleared the Senate. “If all these things happen at once, it’s a train wreck,” Paredes said.

The states that are dependent on oil and gas are in the worst shape because of low oil prices, said Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Those states include Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, North Dakota and Louisiana. In addition, slow economic growth, Medicaid costs and tax cuts are all weighing on state budgets across the country, he said. “You can have your pick. There are a lot of factors squeezing state budgets,” Harnisch said. “Higher education will again be in the crosshairs.”

That’s not exactly a new trend. State funding for higher education has been on a steady decline over the last decade or so. Colleges have increased tuition costs in many instances to cover revenue drops. That has left federal funding for students — in the form of Pell grants and other aid — to help plug some of the gaps. Federal funding for higher education actually surpassed state funding in 2010 for the first time in more than two decades, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. From 2000 to 2012, revenue per student from federal sources to public, nonprofit, and for-profit institutions grew by 32 percent, while state revenue fell by 37 percent, according to Pew. “If this trend continues, the next generation of students is going to have higher tuition costs, escalating debt and lower quality of education,” Harnisch said. “This is a very important issue.”


MO Senate Advances Plan to Expand School Choice
The Missouri Senate has advanced a bill to create education savings accounts for children with disabilities, foster kids and children with parents in the military. (Associated Press via Missourian, April 11)


Politico 04/14/17

Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley once said his home state’s school system “sucks.” Now that he’s out following a sex scandal , a former high school teacher is in charge. Kay Ivey, previously the state’s lieutenant governor, stepped into the governor’s role this week. In Alabama, the governor serves as president of the state board of education, and Ivey takes over at a critical time as officials are developing a plan focused on testing and to improve low-performing schools to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Ivey attended a state board of education meeting on Thursday and pledged to attend as many meetings as possible, telling the audience that, “Education is the foundation for economic development,” according to . Bentley had gone to just five out of 15 state school board meetings since January 2016, WAAY-TV reported.


More ND Parents Opting for Private Schools
More parents in North Dakota are opting for private schools and home schooling as the debate regarding school choice has grown into a national conversation. (McClatchy DC Bureau, March 27)


Florida: Lawmakers set to consider ‘schools of hope,’ ‘best and brightest’ bills in budget conference
Politico 04/13/2017 08:59 PM EDT

The Florida House’s so-called “schools of hope” plan is headed into budget negotiations with the Senate.

The House voted 77-40 to approve HB 5105, which is tied to $200 million in financial incentives and would loosen regulatory requirements for charter school operators that choose to open schools near traditional public schools that are failing.

The legislation would also overhaul the state-mandated process for districts’ efforts to turn around underperforming schools, including by enhancing the options for converting the schools to charters or bringing in outside entities such as charter school operators to run the schools.

The House sent it to the Senate, which replaced the language of the bill with a blank amendment and then passed it. That allows leaders to include the legislation in larger negotiations over the state budget.

Democrats in the chamber opposed the plan in a bloc. During an hours-long debate, they accused their Republican colleagues of shutting them out of the process, shirking bipartisanship.

Pushing back, House education committee chair state Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican, said he attempted to meet with every member of the Democratic caucus to discuss the bill. The sponsor, Clearwater Republican state Rep. Chris Latvala, pointed out that no members proposed amendments to the bill during committee hearings or on the floor.

Several black Democrats said the bill would largely impact minority students, reinforcing segregation.

“Are we returning to the days of separate but not equal in 2017?” said Rep. Patrick Henry of Daytona Beach. “Overfunding charter schools and underfunding public schools is the same thing as separate but unequal.”

Echoing his colleagues, Rep. Roy Hardemon of Miami also argued the bill would disadvantage public schools in order to benefit privately run charters, some of which are managed by for-profit companies.

“This bill ain’t nothing but a cash cow for somebody else,” he said.

Republicans said Democrats were kowtowing to teachers unions rather than trying to help children who’ve languished in underperforming schools for years.

“This bill is not about the adults,” said Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., a Hialeah Republican and the chamber’s lead education budget writer. “This bill is about those children who are sitting in failing schools.”

Bileca said the bill was the “boldest attempt” the Legislature has made in years to try to improve educational opportunities for poor children.

“We do not have to accept that there is a permanent achievement gap,” he said.

The House also passed its plan to expand the “best and brightest” bonuses. HB 7069 would reward educators based on their performance on standardized tests such as the SATs and ACTs and entrance exams for graduate and professional schools. The Senate then adopted a blank amendment and passed it, sending it to budget conference as well.

Legislative leaders will soon announce members of budget conference committees, which will then meet to try to reach compromise on many outstanding issues before session is scheduled to end May 5.


Walker Wants WI to Be First State to Stop Dictating How Much Time Kids Should Go to School
A proposal in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s new budget plan calls for ending the state’s current minimum requirements — 437 hours for kindergarten, 1,050 hours for elementary schools and 1,137 hours for secondary schools —  and allowing school districts to do what they want in terms of seat hours for students. (Washington Post, April 9)


Research and other articles of interest

Study: Black Students more likely to graduate if they have one black teacher
Edweek: A Johns Hopkins University study found that if a low-income black student has just one black teacher in elementary school, that student’s probability of dropping out is reduced by 29 percent. Read more.

(Teaching Now)


Pre-College Factors in Racial Gaps on Graduation
A new study in The Journal of Higher Education finds that 61 percent of the variance on college graduation rates by race can be explained by factors in students’ pre-college experiences. (Inside Higher Ed, April 7)


Report: Teaching Force has become more diverse since 1980’s

Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 04/11/2017 11:35 AM EDT

The U.S. teaching force has become more diverse in recent decades, according to a new report released today by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Although minority teachers are still underrepresented, the percentage of teachers who belonged to all minority groups increased from 12.4 percent in 1987-88 to 17.3 percent in 2011-12.

But the growth during the 25-year period was not even.

“The numbers of Asian and Hispanic teachers increased at a far higher rate than have black teachers, while American Indian teachers declined in numbers since the late 1980s,” the report states.

Throughout the period measured, high-poverty public schools had the greatest percentage of minority teachers — with high-poverty schools employing 42 percent of all minority teachers in 2011-2012, even though they employed one-fifth of the teaching force.

The teaching force has also increased noticeably in size, making it the largest occupation in the country. There was also an overall shift in experience levels — with the total number of beginner teachers with five years of experience or less up by more than 250,000.


New State Education Policy Tracking System from Education Commission of the States

Education Commission of the States is excited to announce the soft launch of our new State Education Policy Tracking system powered by FiscalNote. This improved tracking system allows users to search by topic and subtopic for enacted and vetoed education bills across the country and also to narrow search results by year and state. For more than 20 years, Education Commission of the States’ policy experts have provided concise summaries of legislation—we read the legislation, so you don’t have to. While users can utilize this interactive resource now, Education Commission of the States will continue to update and improve this system to provide users with the most up-to-date information on state education legislation.


Why “academic redshirting” may not be best practice

The practice known as “academic redshirting” may not provide commonly touted benefits, assert education researcher Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and preschool director Stephanie Howard Larson. They explore the practice, which involves not enrolling children in kindergarten when first eligible, but instead holding them back for a year.


Study: Kids who get early education are more likely to be employed full-time
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 04/06/2017 11:20 AM EDT

Children who get a high-quality education very early on — from about six-weeks-old to age 5 — are more likely to hold full-time jobs as adults, according to findings from a 40-year study out of Virginia Tech.

The findings are the latest salvo in an ongoing debate over how effective pre-K programs actually are as states and districts look to expand them.

The Virginia Tech results run counter to those of a high-profile 2015 study of Tennessee’s pre-K program, which found the benefits of its program for at-risk children washed out over time. That study got so much attention that Hillary Clinton drew questions about it as she pushed for universal pre-K on the campaign trail.

The Virginia Tech study followed 96 children who continuously participated in an early education program for at-risk infants and children that started in Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1971 called the Abecedarian Project. The National Institutes of Health funded the original study. It found that children who had high-quality early education were more likely to be employed full-time and have better relationships with their parents as adults.

Craig Ramey, a professor of human development at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute who spearheaded the project, said in a statement that quality is key.

“In our early education program, the most important thing is the quality of interaction between the teachers and the children,” Ramey said. “It’s pretty clear that’s what the magic ingredient is.”

Check out the findings here.


TRACKING FACULTY PAY: The good news out of the annual faculty compensation survey released today by the American Association of University Professors is that salaries for all faculty increased by 2.6 percent in 2016-2017. The bad news? Because of cost-of-living increases, many faculty members will barely notice. The authors say the average salary for full professors was $102,402. The average salary for associate professors was $79,654 and for assistant professors, $69,206. In comparison, the average salary for presidents was $334,617. That means presidents earn four times as much as full professors at private doctoral institutions and more than three times as much as those at public doctoral institutions.

Part-time faculty, who now comprise roughly 40 percent of the academic labor force, had average pay of $20,508.

The authors say Republican domination of the White House and Congress will have “dramatic” effects on faculty compensation for years to come.“With appropriations for higher education still lagging behind pre-recession levels, faculty should expect a prolonged period of little growth in salaries,” the report concludes. Read the full report here.


RI – Will Personalized Learning Become the New Normal?
The state’s six-month-old, $2 million public-private personalized-learning initiative is capitalizing on the freedom afforded by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—the nation’s federal education law, which returns significant power to the states—to chart and test how personalized instructional techniques can be delivered to its 140,000 K-12 students. (Atlantic, March 29)


U.S. adults reach highest educational attainment since 1940
Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 03/30/2017 12:47 PM EDT

More than one-third of U.S. adults hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — the nation’s highest level of educational attainment since the government began tracking the data, according to the Census Bureau.

That’s more than six times the rate in 1940 when the Census began asking the question and only 4.6 percent had completed that level of education.

The data indicates that as of 2016, Asians (55.9 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (37.3 percent) were more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, than blacks (23.3 percent) or Hispanics (16.4 percent).

In 2016, 89 percent of adults aged 25 and older had completed high school (or its equivalent) or more. In 2006, this group totaled 85.5 percent.

The latest statistics also show that the average earnings of high school graduates increased to $35,615 in 2015, up from just $30,999 in 2010. The average earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased as well. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree saw average earnings of $65,482 — a nearly $8,000 increase over the average in 2010.