Music Education Policy Roundup – Dec 5, 2016

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.

Federal Transitions

Virginia Foxx tapped to lead House Education and the Workforce Committee

Politico By Michael Stratford 12/02/2016 10:55 AM EDT

House Republicans today voted to name Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) as chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in the next Congress.

“My colleagues have entrusted me with a significant responsibility, and I look forward to building on the foundation established by leaders such as John Kline and John Boehner and continuing their legacy of honest, dogged work confronting the challenges facing America’s schools and workplaces,” Foxx said in a statement.

Foxx has been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s agenda, and has pledged to undo many of the current administration’s education policies, which she views as federal overreach. She also told POLITICO in September that she would prioritize repealing the Labor Department’s major initiatives under Obama, including the overtime, fiduciary, and persuader regulations.

Foxx replaces the committee’s current chairman, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who is leaving Congress at the end of the month.


Transition comings and goings (from Committee for Education Funding) – This week brought more changes among the education staffers on the Trump transition team.  Reportedly, the following changes occurred.  Out: Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute.  In: Townsend McNitt, former deputy chief of staff at ED, to support Betsy DuVos in preparing for the confirmation process.  In: Robert Goad, on leave from the staff of Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), who reportedly crafted the President-elect’s school choice plan.  In: Thomas Wheeler, formerly on Mike Pence’s staff, to be part of the ED landing team (those who work ahead of time within agencies to get the scoop on how things work).



Politico By Benjamin Wermund | 12/02/2016 05:51 AM EDT With help from Caitlin Emma and Kimberly Hefling

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to create a massive $20 billion block grant to expand charter and private school options for poor children. But when voters in states across the country have been asked if they want to send public money to private schools through vouchers, they’ve pretty much always said no, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. Since 1978, voters in California, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, Utah and Washington all rejected measures to enact private school choice programs. And the ballot referendums lost big — none of them drew support from more than 38 percent of voters. Voters in Florida and Oklahoma, in 2012 and 2016, shot down efforts to repeal so-called Blaine Amendments — which prohibit states from spending public money on religious schools and can limit a state’s ability to fund private school choice programs.

Public polling, however, has been mixed on vouchers, with support levels ranging from 40 percent to 60 percent, said Josh Cunningham, a senior education policy specialist at the National Council of State Legislatures. “It’s probably fair to say that much of the public does not fully understand what school vouchers are,” Cunningham told Morning Education. “If anything, this history shows that going through the legislature may be an easier road towards adopting school choice policies than using the ballot.” Thanks to state lawmakers, there are 17 states (as well as D.C.) that have voucher programs, according to the council.

The legislature is the route that Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, has taken repeatedly over the years. DeVos, through her groups, including the American Federation for Children and All Children Matter, has pushed voucher measures — successfully — through statehouses across the country, including in Indiana in 2011. DeVos told the Philanthropy Roundtable last year that “successful advocacy requires coordinating a lot of moving parts: identifying potential legislators, educating them about the issue, getting them elected, helping them craft and pass legislation, and helping with implementation once laws are passed to ensure that programs work for children.” Showering lawmakers with money also helps — and DeVos’ groups have spent millions on candidates who support vouchers. DeVos has been blunt about the power that donations have in politics. In 1997, she wrote in Roll Call that “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”


Catholic colleges urge Trump to keep DACA

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/30/2016 04:13 PM EDT

Dozens of Catholic schools have joined hundreds of other colleges and universities in urging President-elect Donald Trump to preserve a program that protects undocumented students.

On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to scrap the program — known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — that began under President Obama and allows some children of undocumented immigrants to receive two-year work permits, along with exemption from deportation.

Leaders at 60 Catholic colleges and 28 Jesuit schools have sent separate letters urging Trump not to eliminate DACA, which applies to children of undocumented immigrants who arrived after 2007 at age 16 or younger.

“Many of us count among our students young men and women who are undocumented, their families having fled violence and instability,” says a letter signed by members of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. “We … express hope that the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses.”

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities sent a similar letter, saying “we feel spiritually and morally compelled” to speak out on the matter.

Advocates estimate there could be as many as 1.4 million people in the U.S. who are eligible for DACA. As of June, the Department of Homeland Security had approved more than 840,000 DACA applications. Undocumented students attend some of the nation’s top universities and in many states are allowed to pay cheaper in-state tuition.


Trump’s Education pick says reform can ‘advance God’s Kingdom’

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 12/02/2016 06:32 PM EDT

The billionaire philanthropist whom Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Education Department once compared her work in education reform to a Biblical battleground where she wants to “advance God’s Kingdom”

Trump’s pick, Betsy DeVos, a national leader of the school choice movement, has pursued that work in large part by spending millions to promote the use of taxpayer dollars on private and religious schools.

Her comments came during a 2001 meeting of “The Gathering,” an annual conference of some of the country’s wealthiest Christians. DeVos and her husband, Dick, were interviewed a year after voters rejected a Michigan ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to allow public money to be spent on private and religious schools, which the DeVoses had backed.

In the interview, an audio recording of which was obtained by POLITICO, the couple is candid about how their Christian faith drives their efforts to reform American education.

School choice, they say, leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” The two also lament that public schools have “displaced” the church as the center of communities, and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.

The audio from the private gathering, while 15 years old, offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of DeVos’ personal views — views that may guide her decision-making as the nation’s top education official. DeVos has repeatedly said she wants policies that give families choices about their children’s education — the choice of public schools included — but her critics fear that her goal is to shift public funding from already-beleaguered traditional public schools to private and religious schools.

DeVos remains a harsh critic of the traditional education system, which she calls a “monopoly” and a “dead end.” But she said in the audio that she doesn’t want to destroy public education — only inject competition.

“Dick and Betsy are not radical fundamentalist, ‘in the hills’ kind of people,” said Rev. Robert A. Sirico, head of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, who described himself as a close friend. “They’re not the kind of people who want to force their beliefs down anybody’s throat.”

DeVos’ spokesman referred questions to the Trump transition team, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The DeVos family are billionaires, but in the interview, Betsy DeVos said that rather than just give money to boost Christian schools, she’s fighting to change the whole system, because there “aren’t enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education.”

Betsy DeVos also used the Biblical term “Shephelah,” an area where battles — including between David and Goliath — were fought in the Old Testament, to describe her efforts.

“Our desire is to be in that Shephelah, and to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory,” Betsy Devos said.

Those who know DeVos say her goals are not sinister — though they acknowledge the policies she’s likely to advance would benefit Christian schools. In fact, Trump’s $20 billion school choice program that would allow low-income students to select private or charter schools was devised with the help of the advocacy group DeVos headed until recently.

“What she wants to do is just make sure education is much more locally controlled,” said Sirico, who talked to DeVos about her “dreams generally” while celebrating Thanksgiving with her family. “That it’s sensitive to the localities, to the states, to the cities, to the families. That’s just going to naturally involve — at least in the great swath of flyover America — that’s going to involve religious education.”

Betsy DeVos has served on the board of directors of Sirico’s Acton Institute, which seeks to educate religious leaders of all denominations, business executives, entrepreneurs, university professors and academic researchers “in the connection that can exist between virtue and economic thinking,” according to the group’s website.

But the views expressed in the audio disturb advocates for the separation of church and state.

“It’s very alarming,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Boston’s group has referred to DeVos as a “four-star general in a deceptive behind-the-scenes war on public schools and church-state separation.”

“People support school vouchers for different reasons. Some make a free-market argument because they are opposed to public schooling. Others want to prop up sectarian teachings with taxpayer money,” Boston said. “DeVos has a foot in both camps, which does not bode well for our public schools.”

The audio of the 2001 interview was given to POLITICO by Bruce Wilson, who works for the LGBT rights nonprofit Truth Wins Out and has researched the “Gathering” conferences. The Devos family has a long history of supporting anti-gay causes —including donating hundreds of thousands to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that supports so-called conversion therapy aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation.

During the DeVos interview, the couple talks about a trip to Israel where they learned about a geographical region, called the Shephelah, where battles were fought between the Israelites and Philistines. Betsy DeVos then links this topic to education.

“It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture — to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things — in this case, the system of education in the country,” she says.

Using an anecdote about pig remains found on archaeological digs in the Shephelah, the couple compares their work in education reform to the long-ago battles waged in that region. Pigs are not kosher, Dick DeVos says, so you could tell where the Jewish people influenced what the couple call “pagan” communities, because “the pig bones were gone.”

“We could run away and just go back up in the hills and live very safely and very comfortably — or are we going to exist in the Shephelah and try to impact the view of the community around us with the ideas we believe are more powerful ideas of a better way to live one’s life and a more meaningful and a more rewarding way to live one’s life as a Christian?” Dick DeVos says. “Our job is to figure out in the contemporary context — how do we get the pig bones out of our culture?”

In the decade and a half since that interview, the DeVoses have poured millions into school choice efforts. Through a variety of DeVos-backed groups — including the American Federation for Children and All Children Matter — the couple funded voucher-friendly state lawmakers and pushed statewide ballot measures for vouchers.

At this year’s American Federation for Children Policy Summit, Betsy DeVos boasted about the growing momentum for her “education revolution.”

“We are winning in state after state,” she said. “In the past six years, we’ve doubled the number of private school choice programs to 50, the number of private school choice states to 25, plus Washington, D.C., and doubled the number of students currently benefiting from private school choice to 400,000. All told, together, we’ve helped more than a million kids in private school choice programs, and we’re just getting started.”

The DeVoses say in the 2001 interview that they adhere to the Calvinist perspective of Christianity. Richard Israel, a professor of the Old Testament at Vanguard University in California, said Calvinists see it as the work of Christians to influence culture.

“Their view of the Christian mission isn’t to be in the fortress and hold out against the pagans, but to engage culture from a Christian worldview and transform it,” Israel said.

At one point in their interview, the Devoses are asked directly if they want to “destroy our public schools.”

“No, we are for good education, and for having every child have an opportunity for good education,” Betsy DeVos says.

“We both believe that competition and choices make everyone better and that ultimately if the system that prevails in the United States today had more competition — there were more choices for people to make freely — that all of the schools would become better as a result.”

However, the DeVoses also say public schools have “displaced” the church in terms of importance.

“The church — which ought to be in our view far more central to the life of the community — has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity, the center for what goes on in the community,” Dick DeVos says.

“It is certainly our hope that churches would continue, no matter what the environment — whether there’s government funding some day through tax credits, or vouchers, or some other mechanism or whatever it may be — that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education,” he says. “We just can think of no better way to rebuild our families and our communities.”

When asked why they don’t just spend their time — and money — funding Christian schools, Betsy DeVos says they want to reform the whole system to bring “greater Kingdom gain.”

“We could give every single penny we have, everybody in this room could give every single penny they had, and it wouldn’t begin to touch what is currently spent on education every year in this country and what is in many cases … not well spent,” she says.


Stabenow: DeVos “undermined public education in Michigan”

Politico By Michael Stratford 12/01/2016 01:27 PM EDT

Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she’s concerned about Donald Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary, given her record in Michigan.

“I have deep concerns,” Stabenow told reporters today. “She and her husband have been very involved in advocating for policies that have seriously undermined public education in Michigan.”

The Michigan Democrat said she would have “a lot of tough questions to ask” about DeVos.

DeVos previously chaired the state Republican party in Michigan and her husband, Dick DeVos Jr., ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.


Democratic senator says he is “very troubled” by DeVos pick

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/29/2016 12:02 PM EDT

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said today that Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, has some “serious threshold questions” to address “before she should receive a single vote on the HELP Committee.”

“I want to know how Congress would put someone who has spent her life trying to strip funding from public schools in charge of those very schools,” Murphy said, adding that he plans to ask how DeVos “can lead the effort to build positive school climates when she has spent so much time and money promoting discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.”

Murphy said the nation’s schools are at a “fulcrum point” after the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, with more power being handed to states and school districts.

“At the same time, we are learning that the best schools are those that combine great teaching with inclusive, positive school climates,” he said. “So I was very troubled to learn that President-elect Trump plans to nominate a person for Secretary of Education who has spent so much time funding partisan efforts to attack public education and push anti-gay political causes.”

Fellow Senate HELP Committee Democrat Sen. Patty Murray said last week that she looks forward to a “robust vetting and hearing process.”


Bush calls for an education “earthquake” with new administration, Congress

Politico By Caitlin Emma 12/01/2016 09:52 AM EDT

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said this morning that he hopes a new presidential administration and Congress will usher in an “earthquake” when it comes to education and federal education funding.

“I keep hearing there’s a big shakeup in Washington, D.C. and I hope that’s true,” he said at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual summit. Bush founded the education reform organization in 2008. “This new administration and Congress have the real opportunity to bring wholesale disruption.”

Bush also applauded Betsy DeVos, who has sat on the board of the foundation, as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary.

“What a phenomenal, strong woman,” he said. “She’ll do an extraordinary job as secretary of education.”

People across the country are angry and anxious for a reason, Bush said.

“The basic institutions in their lives don’t work, education being front and center,” he said.

Bush named three major priorities moving forward: First, Congress needs to “cut strings that come with federal education funding and let states innovate with those dollars,” he said.

Trump has proposed taking $20 billion in existing federal education funding and allowing those dollars to follow children to the public, private, charter or magnet school of their choice.

Bush also stressed the need to direct more federal dollars to charter schools and allow states to expand education savings accounts, which allow parents to use tax dollars to pay for services, including private school tuition or therapy for students with special needs.


DeVos steps down as chair of the American Federation for Children

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/28/2016 05:30 PM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has stepped down as chair of the American Federation for Children.

DeVos resigned last week when Trump offered her the job and she accepted it, a spokesman for the school choice advocacy group told POLITICO. Cabinet appointees are required to divest from financial holdings that could present a conflict of interest.

The AFC board will discuss finding a replacement for DeVos this week.

AFC has pushed for expanded access to school choice across the country — advocating for charter school growth, school voucher expansion and the adoption of education savings accounts, which can allow parents to use tax dollars to pay for services including private school tuition or therapy for students with special needs.

“We are confident Betsy will take the same passion, commitment and leadership she’s shown in the school choice movement to the helm of the U.S. Department of Education,” AFC Vice Chairman John Kirtley said in a recent statement.



Politico By Michael Stratford | 12/05/2016 05:52 AM EDTWith help from Caitlin Emma and Benjamin Wermund


Beyond the millions of dollars that the DeVos family has spent bankrolling Republican candidates across the country, Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick, also have given away tens of millions of dollars of their fortune through a philanthropic foundation they started in 1989.

Much of the billionaire couple’s charitable giving reflects their conservative political views and Christian beliefs — and looking at where they’ve chosen to funnel money may also offer some clues about the causes that Betsy DeVos may seek to champion as Donald Trump’s education secretary.

The foundation’s most recent tax forms, which were completed several weeks ago and obtained by POLITICO after a request, show that the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation in 2015 doled out more than $10 million to a wide range of organizations — and pledged an additional $3.2 million in grants to be paid out in future years. Here are some of the highlights:

The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation approved $400,000 in funding for Loudspeaker Media Inc., helping former CNN anchor Campbell Brown launch her education site, The 74. Brown said recently that she’d recuse herself from editorial involvement of her site’s coverage of DeVos. A couple of days before that decision, however, Brown authored an op-ed for The 74 that praised DeVos. The foundation also gave $400,000 to Brown’s nonprofit, The Partnership for Educational Justice.

Success Academy Charter Schools received $150,000 from the foundation in 2015, with another $150,000 approved for future payment. The New York City charter school chain’s founder, Eva Moskowitz, who was also considered for Trump’s Education secretary, tweeted that she was “thrilled” about DeVos as the pick. The DeVos Family Foundation also donated $5,000 to GREAAT Schools, Inc., a non-profit charter school management company.

The Potter’s House, a Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich., received $200,000 from the foundation in 2015. In an interview with Philanthropy Roundtable, Betsy DeVos, who hails from Michigan, credited her visit to the school several decades ago as helping to spark her interest in school choice advocacy.

— The couple gave $100,000 to the nonprofit Alliance for School Choice, which works closely with the American Federation for Children, of which DeVos recently stepped down as chair. DeVos has also sat on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The foundation gave the group $50,000.

Conservative organizations: Betsy DeVos sits on the board of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy. In 2015 her family foundation donated $750,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based think tank — and approved another $1 million in future funding for it. In addition, the DeVos’ foundation donated $10,000 to Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian law firm that has funded school choice lawsuits across the country, and $6,500 to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Inc., a group that promotes conservative viewpoints on college campuses.

— Colleges and universities: University of Maryland College Park Foundation, which has an arts management institute named after the DeVoses, received $500,000. The School of Missionary Aviation Technology, which offers undergraduate certificates in aircraft maintenance and flight and whose goal “is to equip men and women to serve God in mission aviation,” received $150,000, with another $100,000 approved. Ferris State University, a public school in Michigan, received $113,500. Davenport University , a private nonprofit school in Michigan, got $55,000, with another $100,000 approved. In addition: Rollins College ($50,000); Calvin College, Betsy DeVos’ undergraduate alma mater ($35,000); Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University ($10,000); the University of Michigan’s Food Allergy Center ($10,000); Grand Rapids Community College Foundation ($5,000); Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical Center ($500); and Wake Forest University ($250).

The couple donated to a wide range of Christian-related education groups, such as the Grand Rapids Christian School Association ($350,000); the Ada Christian School Society ($50,000), the Rehoboth Christian School Association ($10,000), and Christian Schools International ($1,000).

The DeVos’ foundation also donated to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ($250,000), where Betsy DeVos previously served on the board; ArtPrize Grand Rapids ($400,000), an art festival found by the family; the Boy Scouts of America ($305,000); the Xprize Foundation ($1.8 million) and a number of Christian ministries, churches and pro-life groups. Read the full list here.


Federal Updates

Budget and Appropriations update: Continuing Resolution + New House Approps chair

Politico By Ben Weyl | 12/02/2016 04:24 PM EDT With help from Kaitlyn Burton

CR WAITING GAME — The text of a continuing resolution to fund the government into the spring may not see the light of day until Tuesday next week, congressional aides say. Expect Congress to go right up to the Dec. 9 deadline, though don’t worry: A government shutdown ain’t happening.

House Republicans didn’t discuss the funding bill at their conference meeting this morning, but most still expect a CR that lasts through April. Items that are still being considered as possible add-ons to the short-term spending bill are funds for Flint, Mich., disaster relief, overseas war operations and implementation of the 21st Century Cures bill. More on much of that below.

NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN — Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen<> (R-N.J.) aims to reassert congressional control of government funding and push for the always-out-of-reach return to “regular order” as the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee next year.

“My commitment to every Member is to restore our role under the Constitution’s Article One, Section 9 — power of the purse — and to put Members back in charge of funding decisions,” he said in a statement. He focused on similar themes in an impromptu chat with reporters today. “Once you have the CR, the administration has control over just about all the spending, and I think Congress wants to take back the control of our spending habits,” he said.

Frelinghuysen said “true regular order” would be one of his top priorities. “It’s been 22 years since we’ve passed all of our bills within that fiscal year,” he said. “I made a commitment to the steering committee, to the leadership, that I would do my level best to do true regular order.”

Brief Thought Bubble: Sadly, it’s not up to Frelinghuysen whether regular order is achieved. The Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate have done their jobs and approved 12 bills two years in a row. But GOP leadership has declined to bring many of those measures to the floor.

On earmarks, Frelinghuysen, an old-school appropriator, declined to say whether lawmakers should revive the controversial practice. “Oh boy,” he said when asked about it. “Fortunately the speaker has convened a committee to continue to examine the whole issue of congressionally-directed funding.” A politic response from a former earmark champion: He sponsored or co-sponsored 39 earmarks totaling more than $75 million in fiscal 2010, according to<> the Center for Responsive Politics.

Asked whether Congress would prevent lower discretionary spending caps from returning next year, he said, “I think that remains to be seen. Obviously that’s something that’s been of concern.” He added that Congress would be doing multiple budget bills next year, which could offer an opportunity for relief.

On what his promotion means for the Garden State, the two-decade congressman said, “A lot of people in New Jersey don’t even know I serve on the House Appropriations Committee. It may hopefully be a pleasant surprise to find out today and tomorrow that I chair the whole committee.”

Frelinghuysen dodged questions on the fight between Hal Rogers<> and Kay Granger<> to chair the defense appropriations subcommittee. “I’ve got to talk to quite a lot of people. I’ve got to talk to the leadership about the timetable,” he said. A decision is likely by the end of next week. Asked whether he expected a lot of shuffling among subcommittee posts, he said, “I think you’ve got some really great, super people in the positions they are now.”


GAO: Education Department dramatically underestimated the cost of income-based loan repayment plans

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/30/2016 11:46 AM EDT

Income-based student loan repayment plans — which allow borrowers to make student loan payments based on how much they make — will cost more than twice as much as the Education Department expected them to, according to a Government Accountability Office report out Wednesday.

The Education Department’s approach to estimating the costs of the repayment plan “do not ensure reliable budget estimates,” the GAO report says.

The report explored a repayment plan that has been expanded under the Obama administration and allows borrowers to pay as little as 10 percent of their income each month. Loans can also be forgiven after 20 years. President-elect Donald Trump pitched a similar repayment program on the campaign trail, but said he would cap payments at 12.5 percent of income, and forgive the loans after 15 years.

The growth in actual costs of the program — which GAO expects to more than double over what was originally expected — was largely due to the growing popularity of the repayment plan. Between 2013 and 2016, the share of borrowers on the plans jumped from 10 percent to 24 percent, according to the report.

Borrowers’ income — and their corresponding loan payments — can fluctuate over time, so the ultimate taxpayer cost of the program will not be known until borrowers fully repay their loans.

But according to estimates in the GAO report, the federal government will have issued $355 billion in loans between 1995 to 2017. Borrowers will have repaid just $281 billion of that — meaning the federal government is subsidizing some $74 billion in loans. The cost estimate for loans issued between 2009 and 2016 is now $53 billion — $28 billion higher than original estimates, according to the report.

In a response included in the report, the Education Department said it “generally concurs” with the findings, but noted that “the decisions made (and critiqued in this report) were based on existing staff and systems resources available, assessed impact, and consideration for conservatism.”

“The lifecycle of a student loan is exceedingly complex, with a multitude of projection paths and outcomes,” the department’s response said. “Estimating the federal cost of student loans is a task we take very seriously, and we are constantly seeking to enhance and refine our cost estimation models.”

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee who requested the GAO report, responded to its findings by harshly criticizing the department.

“This Administration has been manipulating the terms of the student loan program without the consent of Congress, while shirking its statutory duty to carefully assess the cost impact of those changes,” Enzi said in a statement. “It will be crucial to consider updates to the Federal Credit Reform Act because Congress is not receiving credible, transparent cost data under the existing statute, as this report suggests.”


Democrats praise final accountability rule, but say it could have been stronger

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/28/2016 01:54 PM EDT

Leading education Democrats Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott said today that they’re “disappointed” the Education Department’s final rule for holding schools accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act “doesn’t go as far as we would have hoped.”

But they praised the department for listening to more than 20,000 public comments, adding that “this rule will provide states and school districts with much needed stability and clarity as they work to submit state plans and implement statewide accountability systems.”

The rule also received praise from groups like the Center for American Progress and The Education Trust.

“We strongly urge the next administration to maintain these regulations to avoid unnecessary confusion, delay, or wasted time in state implementation,” The Education Trust said in a statement.

During a press call with reporters, Education Secretary John B. King Jr. wouldn’t speculate on the Trump administration’s education policy priorities, or whether the final rule will survive under the next president. But he said the Education Department is “committed to ensuring a smooth transition” and “committed to ensuring that the incoming landing team has a clear understanding of the work underway and good information on where states are in their work.”

King said it will be critical for the “entire education sector” to remain “vigilant” and ensure that states and school districts are taking “meaningful, evidence-based” actions to improve outcomes for students.


Blunt-talking Foxx targets Obama’s education legacy

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 12/01/2016 05:01 AM EDT

BANNER ELK, N.C. — Virginia Foxx pulled herself up by her own bootstraps and wants every American child to be able to do the same.

As the 73-year-old GOP lawmaker and former community college president is poised to assume the leadership of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, she plans to help deliver on that idea — or at least, erase what she regards as Barack Obama’s wrongheaded approach.

Foxx, who boasts she was “tea party before the tea party started,” is blunt about her agenda: She says she will do everything possible to expunge most of Obama’s education legacy. She is a strong supporter of school choice as the president-elect rolls out his $20 billion school choice plan emphasizing vouchers — and she expects to have an ally in Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

“I’m going to push to diminish the role of the federal government in everything it’s in that isn’t in the Constitution,” Foxx said in an interview in her district. “That’s education, health care. All the things that the federal government does that it should not be doing. I’m happy to diminish its role.”

Foxx’s small-government views are rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains in a slice of Appalachia where she grew up without power and running water and began working as a weaver at age 12 to help support her family — experiences which convinced her that it’s an individual’s hard work, and not federal programs, that lead to success.

Foxx said she would love to dismantle the federal Education Department altogether, but acknowledges that that is unlikely in the near term.

“I definitely don’t think the Department of Education has any business doing all the things that it’s doing,” she said. “But I don’t think you do it overnight. I think you have to devolve it over time.”

Foxx reels off a list of possible targets: The billions doled out annually under Title 1 — a Great Society program that boosts funding to schools catering to poor students. The money is now considered a possible funding source for Trump’s school choice plan. Despite the trillions spent on the program, “we haven’t changed reading levels one bit. Not one bit,” she said. “They are the same they were when we started putting out that money in 1965. Something’s wrong with the system.”

(Scores on the “Nation’s Report Card” show reading scores for students ages 9 and 13 going up since the ’70s, although scores for 17-year-olds have remained largely stagnant.)

She wants to reexamine the role of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which conservatives revile for its focus on issues such as campus sexual assault and bathroom access for transgender students. “The office deserves some scrutiny, let me just put it that way,” Foxx said.

She’d like to reverse a Democratic Congress’ decision to have the Education Department, not banks, issue student loans — because “that’s not a function of the federal government.” And she wants to reverse its regulations targeting for-profit colleges — cutting off financial aid to programs where students leave with high debt and poor job prospects.

Battles past and future

It’s an ambitious and some would say, startling, to-do list and has unnerved not just Democrats, but civil rights organizations, unions and even establishment K-12 and higher ed groups, who worry her views are too harsh and will hurt vulnerable groups.

“There’s a history in this country of under-serving children of color and low-income children and we still have gross inequities when it comes to serving these populations,” said Peter Cunningham, executive director of Education Post, a nonprofit communications group, who also worked in Obama’s Education Department.

Civil rights groups, among others, are aghast.

Liz King, director of education policy at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, views this as a time when federal civil rights and consumer protections should be ramped up — not put on the chopping block.

Just scaling back federal education efforts “across the board doesn’t do anything except shoot ourselves in the foot,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, (D-Conn.) an Education committee member, who added that he has tremendous respect for Foxx.

By all accounts, Foxx has the confidence of Republican leaders — among them, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, with whom she has a years-long relationship.

She dates her friendship with Pence to 2005 when she bucked the party to become one of just a handful of lawmakers to vote against a $50 billion plan for Hurricane Katrina because there was no oversight or plan about how the money would be spent. Foxx said she and Pence talked afterward and decided to work together to find ways to pay for future spending increases.

She is also an ally of Speaker Paul Ryan, who tapped her to help write “A Better Way,” considered a new version of the “Contract With America” orchestrated by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich as part of the 1994 Republican Revolution. Ryan also called on her to serve as a co-chair of the Republican Party’s platform committee, which called for school abstinence programs; encouraging high school electives in the Bible as literature and reversing the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling.

Foxx is deeply religious. Comfortable in both the Baptist and Catholic faiths, her experiences at a Thursday morning prayer breakfast on Capitol Hill inspired her to publish the book, “God is in the House: Congressional Testimonies of Faith.” She doesn’t drink and rarely attends Washington cocktail parties.

But she is not averse to confrontations that sometimes grab headlines.

In 2009, she asserted on the House floor during a debate about hate crimes legislation that it was a “hoax” that Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay — and then called his mother to apologize after learning she was wrong. Then, in 2012, during a reelection campaign stop in North Carolina, she hit back after Obama referenced a radio interview in which she had said she had “little tolerance” for students who take out debt loads of $80,000 or $200,000 “because there’s no reason for that.”

“Can you imagine saying something like that?” Obama said. “Those of you who have had to take out student loans, you didn’t do it because you’re lazy. You didn’t do it lightly. You don’t like debt.”

Foxx told Fox News the president was trying to deflect attention from his “failed policies,” instead of working together to tackle rising college costs. “We’re not going to solve this problem with the president simply casting stones,” she said.

Foxx would continue to be a regular opponent of many Obama education policies, although she did vote in favor of the Every Student Succeeds Act signed by Obama — the law governing K-12 policy that replaced George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind.

Still, Foxx is well-liked even by many who disagree with her. Long-time former Democratic House Education Chairman George Miller, a liberal from California, called her “a hoot” and said she uses humor and simple language to describe complicated issues and connect with all sides.

“She believes every person can,” Miller said. “It’s not at all malicious intent.”

Shaped by her origins

The key to Foxx’s view of the world comes from this plot of ground in the Blue Ridge Mountains, now dotted with vacation resorts and decidedly Trump country.

Foxx remembers a time when community members like her father went “into the wilds” to gather bushes and trees to sell in New York to make ends meet. Her district is more prosperous now because of tourism, but it’s still deeply conservative with an occasional Confederate flag flying in the wind.

As she walked down the main street of West Jefferson, N.C., one recent day and got ready to line up for the annual Christmas parade, she greeted many people by name who cheerfully congratulated her — and the president-elect — on Election Day wins. Foxx laughed and quipped: “Is the Pope Catholic?” when a group of teenage girls costumed in black robes and halos for the parade asked if she would pose with them for a picture to show to their Advanced Placement political science class.

Foxx’s outfit that day was a red turtleneck and pants — clothes, she acknowledged, when asked, that cost $2 from a thrift store. She also wore her signature “X”-shaped earrings — a play on the double “X” in her last name.

Her property near Grandfather Mountain reflects just how far she and her husband of more than 50 years, Tom, have come. Their olive green house towers from the top of a hillside. Near the base of the driveway is a shack constructed around an abandoned school where her husband had lived in high school. The family’s nursery and landscaping business, which used to include tens of thousands of Christmas trees, is on the same street.

Working multiple jobs, it took Foxx seven years to get her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina. She spent another two years living apart much of the time from her husband and then-4-year-old daughter to earn her master’s degree, and another seven to earn her doctorate — a period in which she lost sight in her right eye. She later taught and worked at Appalachian State University before serving as president of Mayland Community College, part of the North Carolina system.

“I’m not complaining and I’m not bragging,” Foxx said. “People can overcome obstacles in this country. I’m just so convinced of it, and my own experience tells me that.”

She is notoriously hardworking to this day. She writes her own mail to constituents well past midnight from her congressional office, and walks so fast that 20-something aides can barely keep up with her.

Even as she’s skeptical of federal programs, she acknowledges she has benefited from them. Her father went to cosmetology school after World War II using the GI Bill. During part of her career, she worked in a federally funded Upward Bound program at Appalachian State, where she said she saw students benefit.

“I know there are some programs that have worked in the past, but the cost I’m not convinced is … always as effective as it can be,” she said.

Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), another member of the House Education and Workforce committee, said few lawmakers command as much respect instantly as Foxx.

“She reminds you of the toughest teacher you had,” Messer said. “When she taps the chalkboard and says time to listen, everybody stops.”

Foxx said her job ahead is to ensure that the new administration isn’t “co-opted by the bureaucracy.”

“People come in with lots of good intentions and then they start defending the bureaucracy … and that’s the problem,” she said. “We need people who’ve got strong backbones, and very strong convictions.”


Language benefiting for-profit colleges removed from defense policy bill

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 11/30/2016 04:29 PM EDT

Language that would have expanded access to for-profit college recruiters on military bases was removed from the final defense policy bill released today.

The language had been included in the Senate version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act in May as part of an amendment by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), that was backed by Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain. But it was not included in the House version.

American Public University System, which is popular among service members, is headquartered in Charles Town, W.Va.

It wasn’t immediately clear why negotiators from the two chambers shut out the provision. But opposition from veterans groups and Senate Democrats was likely a driving factor.

Those critics argued that the Senate language would undermine consumer protections for military members rolled out by the Defense Department as part of a 2012 executive order by President Barack Obama. The order requires schools that participate in the military tuition assistance program to sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to certain terms. Among the terms is that a college must get permission from an installation’s education adviser to enter.

The Senate bill language said the military “shall” grant access to schools that sign the agreement for the purposes of advising enrolled students, but also military members eligible for tuition assistance dollars.

Manchin’s office has previously denied that the language would prohibit military commanders from barring institutions from their installation that they deem predatory. Regardless, the language is absent from the final bill.

The House is set for a final vote on the legislation on Friday, and the Senate is expected to follow next week.


Graham preparing ‘Dreamers’ bill

Politico By Seung Min Kim 11/30/2016 03:39 PM EDT

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is readying legislation that would extend legal protections for previously undocumented immigrants who came here as children — benefits granted under a 2012 directive from President Barack Obama that are at risk with the incoming Trump administration.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump vowed to revoke Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including one that has shielded more than 740,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported and gave them permits to work legally. With Trump’s surprise election earlier this year, Democrats on Capitol Hill and immigrant advocates have been urging the President-elect to back off those threats.

But should Trump follow through on that promise, some key lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to make sure those protections stay in place for the immigrants who willingly gave personal information to the federal government and went through background checks. One big fear among advocates is that the Trump administration could use that personal information to track down the immigrants to deport them.

“The worst outcome is to repeal the legal status that these kids have,” Graham said Wednesday. “Whether you agree with them having it or not, they’ve come out of the shadows.”

Graham said he is working with both Democrats and Republicans, and named Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as one GOP supporter of the forthcoming legislation. While lawmakers are discussing the proposal now, actual legislation won’t be rolled out until the new Congress next year, Graham said.

One Democrat who has spoken to Graham about the issue and potential legislative remedies is Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat who has been giving daily floor speeches since the election on behalf of the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, who are known as Dreamers.

“Durbin will be involved in any effort to save the Dreamers,” spokesman Ben Marter said.

The plan discussed by Graham would apply just to the immigrants who had been approved under the 2012 directive from Obama. Graham indicated that the legislation would be a bridge from a repeal of DACA “until we can fix the overall problem.”

“It’s going to be basically, if you have legal status, you’ll continue legal status,” Graham said. “I think it would pass overwhelmingly.”



State Updates

OH Lawmakers Pass Bill to Include Biliteracy Seal on High School Diplomas
The Ohio House has passed a bill that would acknowledge students with high second-language skills. Lawmakers hope the move will better advertise valuable job skills. (WKSU, Dec. 1)


MA – Board of Ed Floats Change in Educator Evaluations
Education officials on Tuesday began seeking feedback on a proposal to change the way teachers are evaluated in Massachusetts and eliminate a controversial separate rating tied to student test scores. (Lowell Sun, Nov. 29)


SD – Mentoring Program Helps Teachers Survive First Few Years
Veteran educators say that the first year in a classroom can leave those new to teaching disillusioned, but a new state-funded teacher mentoring program hopes to help new teachers set goals, manage their classrooms and, most importantly, stay in the profession. (Argus Leader, Nov. 25)


Earlier and More Often: WA Teachers Seek Broad Boost to Civics Education
The next generation of voters show “a dismaying inability” to tell the difference between online advertisements and legitimate news stories, according to a study of nearly 8,000 middle, high school and college students released last week by Stanford University. (Seattle Times, Nov. 28)


New Jersey: State Supreme Court rules school board should have negotiated furloughs

Politico By Linh Tat 11/29/2016 02:11 PM EDT

The New Jersey Supreme Court today reversed a lower court’s decision that a local school board acted within its managerial prerogative when it imposed furloughs without negotiating with the teachers union.

Instead, the state’s highest court found that the Robbinsville Township Board of Education should have entered into negotiations before instituting three furlough days during the 2010-2011 school year.

The board’s action prompted the Washington Township Education Association, which represents Robbinsville teachers and other school employees, to file unfair practice charges on grounds that the board had to negotiate the furloughs because they related to the terms and conditions of employment.

But the charges were dismissed by the Public Employment Relations Commission, and the state Superior Court Appellate Division later affirmed PERC’s dismissal.

In its decision, the appellate court cited another case (Borough of Keyport v. International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 68), in which municipalities that imposed temporary furloughs during an economic downturn were considered to be exercising their “management prerogative” to ensure “efficient delivery of services.”

This week, the Supreme Court rejected that “overly broad and mistaken reading” of the Keyport decision, it wrote in its opinion. In the Keyport case, a temporary emergency regulation existed that authorized the furloughs for civil-service municipalities. Such authorizing regulations did not exist for the school district, the court determined.

Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote the opinion for the unanimous court.


All Students Deserve Opportunities to Find Their Passion
By Stephen Pruitt, KDE Commissioner of Education – November 1, 2016

This column originally appeared in Kentucky Teacher, a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education.  Reprinted with permission.

In a week that kicks off with many of us participating in trick or treat, I got a real treat on Saturday night. I got to attend the Kentucky Music Educators Association’s (KMEA) State Marching Band Championships. It was an incredible event and I was honored to be a part of it.

I had the chance to watch these bands’ astonishing performances. The sound, the presentation and the sheer majesty of each performance showed all the hard work that each student and adult put into it. It was clearly hard work, but I want to spend a little time on something bigger and more inspiring. These kids and adults (I say adults because in addition to band directors/teachers, the parent commitment is incredible) do not spend time on this just because of hard work. They do it because they love it. And when I say they love it, I do not mean that in the way that the term is overused today. I mean they LOVE it. There is a real passion for what they do. You can see it in their faces, their actions, and in their performance.

One of the most impressive parts of the evening was the closing ceremony. The bands marched into the stadium and lined up across the football field. The pageantry and pride as they marched in and took their positions was on the scale of the closing ceremony of the Olympics. I was struck by the look of pride and joy on each student’s face as they marched past me. They did this because they love it, not just because it’s hard or they wanted something to do.

Some will read this column and think my observations are obvious. I wanted to write about it because it inspired me to think about how important opportunity is for all of our students. As we are working on our new accountability system, we must remember the importance of providing a rich, well-rounded education to each student. We have to realize that a well-rounded education not only shows an increase in assessment scores in tested subjects (which is supported by research), but it also gives students the chance to do something they love, which makes them appreciate and engage in their school and education.

We must move past the test and compliance and into quality education. We owe it to our students across the Commonwealth. Education is about more than a test score, it is time we all realize that.The days of “if it’s not tested, it’s not taught” must end. As an education professional, I am appalled when I hear this. It is no different than having a brain surgeon walk past a person having a heart attack and refusing to help because “they don’t do the heart.” It is shameful and we cannot afford this attitude any longer.

The reality is we teach children and those children need the opportunity to experience music, art, career and technical education, science, social studies, languages and all the other aspects of school. If we want to see our achievement and opportunity gap close, we must start with a change in mindset.

My time this weekend inspired me. I am thankful to John Stroube and KMEA for allowing me to participate and see some of Kentucky’s best marching bands in action. Those students showed me their passion for their music. We need to keep that enthusiasm in mind as we go about making sure their education and opportunities to excel are second to none.


Research and other articles of interest

A NEW VISION FOR THE NATION’S REPORT CARD: The National Assessment Governing Board passed a “strategic vision” for the National Assessment of Educational Progress — the test otherwise known as the “Nation’s Report Card.” NAGB, which oversees and sets policy for the exam, wants to spread the word about the test and focus more on outreach. The governing board wants to make the data more accessible and help policymakers and the general public better understand the data. That’s in addition to adapting to changes in technology and academic standards across the country. More.


U.S. Students Still Lag Many Asian Peers On International Math and Science Exam
Eighth-grade students across the United States showed some improvement in math and science over the past four years, but fourth-graders’ performance was stagnant and students in both groups continued to trail many of their peers in Asia, according to the results of a major international exam released Tuesday. (Washington Post, Nov. 29)


Many State Report Cards Leave Parents in the Dark About School Achievement
DQC analysts spent 100 hours last summer reviewing report cards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, noting how difficult the report cards were to find, whether they included some information required by state and federal law, and how easy it would be for a parent or other layperson to understand. (Education Week, Dec. 1)


NEA sees membership uptick after years of decline

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/30/2016 01:34 PM EDT

The National Education Association’s membership went up slightly in 2015-16 after years of decline, according to the union’s most recent financial disclosure form.

The union now has 2,968,722 members. In the previous year, NEA had 2,952,972 members, which was a decrease from the 2,963,121 members in 2013-14. NEA had just over 3 million members in 2012-13 and about 3,068,000 members in 2011-12.

The newest financial disclosure also shows that the NEA spent more than $43 million on lobbying and political activities, — up from $41 million in 2014-15 and $31 million in 2013-14. The union has spent more on lobbying in recent years due to a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind and elections. A union spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

The union also spent about $95 million on contributions, gifts and grants, compared to about $90 million in the previous year. NEA gave $312,160 to the Democracy Alliance, a liberal group that attracts some of the country’s biggest Democratic donors and is considered akin to the Koch brothers’ political network. The union also gave $225,000 to the Economic Policy Institute and $200,000 to Media Matters for America, a nonprofit progressive research group.

Overall, NEA had about $311 million in net assets at the end of this August, compared to $310 million in the previous year and $280 million in 2013-14. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García took home a gross salary of $332,944, an increase from $303,934 in 2014-15 and $262,521 in 2013-14.


State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools Report

The annual State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) report was recently released. According to data collected by Ingenuity from CPS schools and community arts partners, more than two-thirds of students now attend a school that is strong or excells in the arts. More


At Georgia State, More Black Students Graduate Each Year Than at Any U.S. College
Over the last five years, Georgia State has turned itself into a leader among U.S. colleges for generating high academic achievement by populations that have often struggled at large, predominantly white institutions: African-American students, lower-income students and first-generation college students. (Hechinger Report, Nov. 25)


Politico, By Michael Stratford | 11/29/2016 05:47 AM EDT With help from Benjamin Wermund, Caitlin Emma and Kimberly Hefling

The nation’s fourth and eighth graders have gotten better at math since 1995, according to new data out today. The results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study show that eighth graders have also made additional improvements since 2011, while fourth graders have stayed steady since then. In 2015, students in 10 education systems across the globe — including Japan, Singapore and Norway — scored higher on average than U.S. fourth grade students in math. And students in eight systems scored higher on average than U.S. eighth grade students in math. “The TIMSS results for fourth- and eighth-graders are encouraging because we are seeing elementary and middle school students continue to show long-term growth,” said National Council of Teachers of Mathematics President Matt Larson. “This may reflect an increased focus on mathematics in the early grades and could be a longer-term effect of standards reform and the implementation of research-informed instructional practices in more schools.” Find the full report here.

The data wasn’t all positive . For example, U.S. high school seniors who are considered advanced haven’t gotten any better at advanced math and physics since 1995. And the numbers reveal a wide gender gap among high school seniors, with boys scoring 46 points higher in physics and 30 points higher in advanced math than girls in 2015. “This is the group that is most likely to pursue college-level study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields,” said National Center for Education Statistics Acting Commissioner Peggy Carr. There was no measurable difference between eighth grade girls and boys in math and there was a five-point difference between eighth grade girls and boys in science.

“The TIMSS results again confirm the longstanding challenges regarding gender disparities in high school that we have seen on other assessments such as the ACT and SAT,” said Larson. “It is our responsibility — teachers, parents, policymakers, media, everyone — to present positive messages and role models that encourage girls and women to pursue their interests in mathematics education and other similar STEM fields. This is not solely a mathematics education concern.”

Children of immigrants more likely than their parents to attend college, report shows
Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 11/29/2016 12:18 PM EDT

Although foreign and native-born students are almost equally as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, college enrollment and attainment rates vary among immigrant, second-generation and third-generation students, according to a report released today by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Specifically, the data shows that 16 percent of foreign-born residents obtained some college education, compared with 27 percent of second-generation Americans and 29 percent of third-generation Americans. Second-generation American students also tend to attend school longer and are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to all other undergraduates.

The proportion of second-generation undergraduate students increased to approximately 16 percent as of 2011-2012, up from 10 percent in 1999-2000, while the proportion of third-generation or higher students decreased from 81 percent to 76 percent and the proportion of immigrant undergraduates was mostly unchanged.

The report also found that Asian students were more likely to attend and complete college than Hispanic students — which the researchers attributed to higher educational attainment rates among parents in Asian immigrant groups.

In fact, 32 percent of immigrant Asian American students and 37 percent of second-generation Asian American students enrolled in public four-year institutions, compared with 25 percent of immigrant and second-generation Hispanic students.

Among immigrant students, individuals who moved to the U.S. before age 12 also fared better in school than those who moved at a later age.