Music Education Policy Roundup – August 9, 2017

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


  • On August 29 at 7-8PM ET, the public policy staff of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) will hold a free webinar for music educators and other stakeholders during which they will discuss where we are in the federal budget process, what’s next on Congress’s docket in Washington, and how music education advocates can make a difference in the process.  NAfME’s public policy team invites all invested in music education to join the webinar and learn what they need to know to make the opportunities for music education come to reality in their states, districts, and schools for the coming school year, 2017-2018.  Please join in the webinar to discover how NAfME is leading in equipping music educators to be prepared and proactive.
  • NAfME takes a closer look at the US House of Representatives Labor-HHS-Education Bill for FY2018 and how it will affect music education.



DeVos drops plan to overhaul student loan servicing

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday abandoned her plan to overhaul how the federal government collects payments from the nation’s more than 42 million student loan borrowers after it faced growing resistance from congressional Republicans and Democrats.

The Trump administration announced that it was scrapping plans to award a massive contract to a single company to manage the monthly payments of all student loan borrowers, and said it would come up with a new proposal aimed at improving customer service for student loan payments.


Education Department Clarifies ESSA Rules on School Improvement Evidence

Using research to improve schools means more than just finding a successful evaluation of a program. Tailoring interventions to students, implementing them well, and evaluating them carefully all make the difference between a program that has worked somewhere and a program that works in your school.  The U.S. Education Department hopes to get more states, districts, and researchers thinking about evidence use more deeply with new rules to apply standards of research evidence for school improvement and other projects under the Every Student Succeeds Act. In a Federal Register notice published Monday morning, the department lays out the new requirements for direct grants under the Education Department General Administrative Regulations, or EDGAR, to bring them in line with the tiered standards for evidence that are outlined in ESSA. 


Like it or not, Betsy DeVos has made a mark in six months as education secretary

It is tempting to conclude that after six months as education secretary, Betsy DeVos hasn’t accomplished all that much.  Congress has not been kind to her legislative agenda, and Republicans have joined with Democrats in criticizing her proposed budget cuts. She faces protests at many public appearances, which is why she receives special protection from the U.S. Marshals Service, at an average cost so far this year of $1 million a month. Her department, like many others in the Trump administration, has yet to fill a long list of empty jobs.  But, like it or not, DeVos has taken some major steps to change education policy, and her very presence at the head of the U.S. Education Department signals something important about the past, present and future of public education in the United States.


Why Men Are the New College Minority

Jessica Smith raised an arm and pointed across the lobby of the university student center like an ornithologist who had just spied a rare breed in the underbrush.  “There’s one,” she said.  It was, in fact, an unusual bird that Smith had spotted, especially on this campus: masculum collegium discipulus. A male college student.  Women outnumber men by more than six to one here at Carlow University, where Smith is a senior and an orientation leader who was preparing to welcome incoming freshmen.  That’s an extreme example of a surprising shift besetting all of higher education.  Where men once went to college in proportions far higher than women—58 percent to 42 percent as recently as the 1970s—the ratio has now almost exactly reversed.


Trump spurs wave of state immigration laws

State legislatures across the country have enacted a wave of immigration-related measures in the seven months since President Trump took office.  With Washington paralyzed on broader immigration reforms, lawmakers have taken matters into their own hands, implementing new measures either encouraging support for immigrants or cracking down on those who enter the country illegally.  “You’re seeing legislation that comes up because the feds haven’t fixed the issue, so states are trying to find ways around that,” said Mo Denis, a Democratic state senator from Nevada. 


What should America do about its worst public schools? States still don’t seem to know.

Two years after Congress scrapped federal formulas for fixing troubled schools, states for the most part are producing only the vaguest of plans to address persistent educational failure.  So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have submitted proposals for holding schools accountable under the 2015 law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. With few exceptions, the blueprints offer none of the detailed prescriptions for intervention, such as mass teacher firings or charter-school conversions, that were once standard elements of school reform.  Many in the education world, from state superintendents to teachers unions, applaud this hands-off trend. Each struggling school faces unique circumstances, in their view, and deserves a tailored solution shaped by community input — not a top-down directive from faraway bureaucrats.


NAACP: School choice not the answer to improving education for black students

Education for black students in the United States has long been unequal and inadequate, but the solution to that problem does not lie in the school choice movement, NAACP leaders said at the organization’s national conference Wednesday.  The nation’s oldest civil rights group called for tighter regulation of existing charters and an outright ban on those operated for profit, as well as greater investment in traditional public schools, particularly those where students struggle most.  “While high-quality, accountable, and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education,” wrote members of the NAACP’s task force on quality education in a report released Wednesday.


Japan Might Be What Equality in Education Looks Like

KAWAMATA, Japan—In many countries, the United States included, students’ economic backgrounds often determine the quality of the education they receive. Richer students tend to go to schools funded by high property taxes, with top-notch facilities and staff that help them succeed. In districts where poorer students live, students often get shoddy facilities, out-of-date textbooks, and fewer guidance counselors.  Not in Japan. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 35 wealthy countries, Japan ranks highly among its peers in providing its rich and poor students with equal educational opportunities: The OECD estimates that in Japan only about 9 percent of the variation in student performance is explained by students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. The OECD average is 14 percent, and in the United States, it’s 17 percent. “In Japan, you may have poor areas, but you don’t have poor schools,” John Mock, an anthropologist at Temple University’s Japan campus, told me.



In Buffalo’s Children, Wounds No One Sees

It was the first week of summer vacation, and Juan Rodriguez couldn’t wait to get outside to play with his friends on Humason Avenue.  But when he heard gunshots outside, the 11-year-old ran to the front door to get his younger siblings out of the line of fire. As he opened the door, a bullet from a high-powered rifle struck him between the eyes and went through his brain.  Miraculously, Juan survived.  But his life changed forever.


How New York stopped being the nation’s education reform capital

A little over three years ago, the leaders of New York City’s charter school sector gathered thousands of their students on the steps of the State Capitol for a show of strength.  The children, dressed in matching neon yellow T-shirts reading “charter schools are public schools,” raised colorful signs painted by staffers from charter advocacy groups, and danced to Top 40 songs piped in on a massive speaker system.


Returning full local control to Newark school district is ‘monumental,’ Ed commissioner says

Twenty-two years after being stripped of its autonomy by the state, New Jersey’s largest public school system is on its way to regaining full local control, having received high marks in its latest state evaluation.  Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington said during Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting that she will put forth a resolution in the next month or so for the board to vote to formally start the process of developing a transition plan for the Newark school district.  Her recommendation comes as the result of Newark’s most recent scores on the Quality Single Accountability Continuum, the state’s monitoring and evaluation system. Districts must score at least 80 percent in each of five areas — instruction and program, fiscal management, governance, operations and personnel — to be considered high-performing.


Senate education chair: House school finance plan “not a long-term solution” (Texas)

The Texas Senate’s education chairman said Tuesday that he would not accept a House proposal to put $1.8 billion into public schools.  During a Senate Republican Caucus news conference, Sen. Larry Taylor touted his plan to create a commission to study the school finance system over the House’s plan to reform it by adding more funding. The House gave final approval to that proposal, House Bill 21, on Monday.  “The time for tinkering around the edges and making minor changes is over,” Taylor said, adding that  a one-time influx of money to the system is a “political fix” and “not a long-term solution.” He also likened the House’s plan to attempting to drive a broken-down car “knowing you will be facing expensive repairs and ultimately be driving it into the ground.”


Senator wants education savings accounts for students in worst-performing schools  (Kansas)

A Pennsylvania senator has introduced legislation to help students in the state’s worst-performing districts attend a different school.  Sen. John DiSanto’s legislation, Senate Bill 2, would provide education savings accounts for students attending public schools in the bottom 15 percent.  Parents would receive the statewide average funding per pupil, between $5,000 and $6,000, that they could use to pay for private school tuition, home schooling, textbooks, and other Department of Education-approved educational expenses.


Editorial: Early childhood education and economic growth (Kansas)

As Shawnee County moves closer to the implementation of Momentum 2022 — a strategic plan to improve quality of life, spur economic development and attract new people to our community over the next five years — we must remember the vital role that education will play in this process. And we’re not just talking about secondary and postsecondary attainment — primary education and even early childhood development are also indispensable for the creation of a more dynamic and stable workforce.


Idaho Education Notecard August 4

Reading scores trend upward. The spring scores on the Idaho Reading Indicator are in, and the numbers are moving in the right direction. Seventy-three percent of kindergartners through third-graders are reading at grade level, up from 72 percent in 2015-16 — and fewer students are lagging behind grade level. The spring scores come one year into an $11.25 million-a-year state initiative designed to provide extra help for at-risk readers. More information HERE.


Chicago’s school funding disaster just got a lot worse

llinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) vetoed part of an education funding bill Tuesday, making it uncertain how much state money — if any — public schools across the state will receive for the about-to-start new school year. In a claim that belongs in the why-let-facts-get-in-the-way category, he said the legislation was a “bailout” of the financially beleaguered Chicago school system, the third-largest in the country. It wasn’t.  According to WBEZ,  public schools are supposed to receive first state payments for the new school year Aug. 10, but some have said they will have to borrow money or make cuts, “and they warn of more dire circumstances if f the standoff drags on.” As is often true, the school districts at the most risk are those in poorer areas, where there is less income from property taxes than in wealthier areas to make up for state shortfalls.


Research and Analysis

State Education Governance Structures: 2017 update

This 50-State Review provides an overview of governance structures in the states, as well as implications for practice, deep dives into four governance models and examples of other governance models.


Winners and losers in President Trump’s student loan plan

President Trump proposed major changes to the federal student loan program in his first budget request to Congress. These include reforms to the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program and the interest-free benefit on some loans for undergraduates. This paper offers a first look at the likely net effect of these changes proposed for undergraduate and graduate students (excluding the effects of eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program).


The complications of state-level education policymaking

With the US Department of Education now approving state ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) plans, attention turns to those plans’ contents. This includes how states intend to help kids assigned to persistently struggling schools — one of K-12 education’s perennial challenges. The need to do something different is pronounced because of the long history of unsuccessful “school turnaround” approaches and the failure of the Obama administration’s School Improvement Grant program.