Music Education Policy Roundup – Feb 5, 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 Policy Updates

Recent blog posts dealing with the ED Secretary confirmation process.


NAfME Webinar on the Post-Inauguration Federal Landscape happens this Wednesday, February 8th at 7:00 p.m. EST. Join your Policy Shop and learn about what is going on within the Beltway, and how the changes in D.C. are impacting (if at all!) state and local level education policymaking and funding. To register for the webinar, click here:


Federal Transition

DeVos opposition snowballs into avalanche
Politic By Caitlin Emma and Austin Wright 02/03/2017 07:34 PM EDT

Adversaries of Betsy DeVos are mounting a furious last-minute bid to sink her nomination for Education secretary, with tactics that include a “tie-breaker telethon” in Alaska, a flood of emails to U.S. senators and celebrity appeals to millions of Twitter followers.
Teachers unions and a ragtag assemblage of other opponents are bombarding congressional offices with tens of thousands of phone calls and more than 1 million emails — a massive but almost certainly doomed effort to vanquish one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial Cabinet picks.
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, said on Twitter that the last three days had “been the busiest in Capitol switchboard history” by “almost double.” He urged opponents of DeVos to “keep it up.”
The campaign kicked into high gear this week after two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced their opposition, leaving the charter schools advocate hanging by a 50-50 thread. Just one more “no” vote and DeVos is done — a prospect that seems tantalizingly close for Democrats but that GOP leaders say they’re confident won’t happen.
Author Stephen King, a Maine resident, tweeted to his 2.8 million followers: “Thanks to Susan Collins for saying ‘No’ on Betsy DeVos. Notice that it’s possible to be a good Republican and still say no to Donald Trump.”
A final vote is expected Tuesday, and as it stands, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to be summoned to the Capitol to push DeVos over the top. DeVos cleared a key procedural hurdle Friday morning.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday he was “100 percent confident” DeVos would be confirmed. “I hope that that vote, you know, gets 60, 70 votes,” Spicer said. “She is an unbelievable, remarkable woman who has fought very hard to improve our nation’s education system and to make sure that schools are serving children.”
But critics are going into overdrive, determined to try to turn one more Republican before Tuesday’s vote.
George Takei, the activist and former “Star Trek” star, urged his 2.1 million followers to double down on their efforts. “With two GOP Senators defecting, Betsy DeVos could be denied,” he tweeted. “We need one more with courage.”
Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer, whose mother was a public school teacher, is among those who have been caught in the crossfire. Fischer became a target after DeVos’ opponents assumed she was undecided. But Fischer, a DeVos supporter, said she was merely sticking to her longtime practice of keeping silent until she voted.
She now plans to change that policy.
“There was such a to-do over this that, yes, I had to put out my statement before I voted,” Fischer said in an interview, saying that phone lines to her office were entirely tied up.
Nevada Republican, Sen. Dean Heller , who also came out in support of DeVos, said on Twitter that his staff was struggling to keep up with all the calls.
“We are experiencing heavy call volumes in all our offices,” he tweeted later. “Staff is answering as many as possible. Please continue calling to get through.”
Sen. Bob Corker, who supports DeVos and had lunch with her last week, said the number of calls his office is getting on all of Trump’s nominees, including DeVos, is “very, very large.”
“People are very sincerely concerned,” the Tennessee Republican said.
Teachers unions, who have long warred with DeVos over her support of charter school expansion and using taxpayer money for vouchers, among other things, are continuing to mobilize hundreds of thousands of their members across the country to call lawmakers.
The country’s largest union, the National Education Association, says it has organized more than 80,000 phone calls and more than 1.1 million emails in the past four weeks.
But the opposition to DeVos mushroomed into something bigger after clips from her bumpy confirmation hearing exploded across social media, reinforcing questions about her qualifications for the job and turning the nominee into a punchline on late night television.
“Betsy DeVos teaches us that if you’re born rich, never go to public schools, and hate public schools, someday you can run public schools,” tweeted comedian Mike Birbiglia.
Union organizers say that although they are still campaigning against DeVos, a good deal of the backlash comes from the general public. And they anticipate those efforts would increase over the weekend as activists share lawmakers’ phone numbers on Facebook and Twitter.
“This has become such a high-profile fight for our education system that there will no doubt be an enormous amount of activism over the weekend,” said Mary Kusler, senior director of the Center for Advocacy at the NEA.
Parent groups have become soldiers in the cause, incensed that DeVos has never been a teacher or school administrator and fearful she will put their children’s education at risk.
Deena Mitchell, a parent activist in Anchorage, said she is disturbed by Devos’ “absolute lack of experience for this job.” “I think anyone who makes a comment that public education is a ‘dead end’ doesn’t fundamentally believe that public education is the bedrock of our democracy,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and her group, Great Alaska Schools, cheered Murkowski’s decision to oppose DeVos. This weekend, they’re organizing “a tie-breaker telethon,” collecting comments to deliver to their other senator, Dan Sullivan, who has said he’ll vote to confirm her.
The push against DeVos has also sparked some unlikely alliances. Billionaire philanthropist and education reformer Eli Broad, a Democrat who has donated to both parties and pushed for charter school expansion, penned a letter this week urging the Senate to reject DeVos. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who is usually on the opposite side from Broad, shares his position on DeVos. Education secretary nominees are usually given great deference by both parties, she said. But “DeVos breaks the mold.”


Alexander predicts Senate will confirm Betsy DeVos on Tuesday

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 02/03/2017 02:43 PM EDT

HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander said today that the Senate is poised to vote on Tuesday on whether Betsy DeVos should be Education secretary — and that he anticipates she will be confirmed.
Early this morning, senators voted 52-48 in a procedural vote to limit debate to move toward the final vote. The Senate adjourned in the early afternoon after several Democratic senators argued against confirming DeVos. The Senate is expected to return at noon on Monday and again take up the DeVos nomination.
Sen. Patty Murray , the ranking Democrat on the HELP Committee, said she anticipates more senators will take to the floor into the night on Monday and Tuesday morning to address DeVos’ record.
The Senate is divided on DeVos, and it’s anticipated that the Senate will split 50-50 on whether to confirm DeVos. That would mean bringing in Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote — a first for a Cabinet nominee.


DeVos clears Senate procedural vote

Politico By Michael Stratford 02/03/2017 07:21 AM EDT

Betsy DeVos’ nomination to be Education secretary cleared a key procedural hurdle this morning as the Senate voted to limit debate and move toward a final vote, expected early next week.
The vote fell along party lines, 52-48.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted to limit debate but have said they’ll oppose DeVos’ confirmation during the final vote. Their opposition means that the final vote on DeVos is expected to be 50-50, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie to ensure her confirmation.
Democrats, labor unions and other groups opposed to DeVos have been frantically seeking a third Republican vote to sink her nomination. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called DeVos “one of the worst nominees that has ever been brought before this body for a Cabinet position” and urged more Republicans to break with the White House over her nomination.
But Senate Republican leaders have said they’re confident they won’t lose any more GOP votes and DeVos will be confirmed. The final vote on DeVos’ nomination is expected on Monday or Tuesday.


THE LATEST EDUCATION DEPARTMENT HIRES: Seven new names have been added to the list of Education Department hires in the Trump administration, according to information obtained by POLITICO. That includes Matt Frendewey, who was national communications director for the American Federation for Children, of which Betsy DeVos is a former chair. Other names on the list: Nate Bailey, Michael Brickman, Gillum Ferguson, Ebony Lee, Laura Rigas and Jana Toner.


TV ADS TARGET DEVOS CRITICS: A conservative group is launching a pair of scorched-earth TV ads defending DeVos — and accusing her Democratic opponents of being “full of rage and hate.” One of the commercials, from the nonprofit organization America Next, is complete with clips of rowdies protesting against President Donald Trump by destroying cars and lighting fires. It also has footage of actress Ashley Judd delivering impassioned remarks at the anti-Trump Women’s March on Washington on the day after the inauguration. More from POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt.


Will DeVos be a weakened Education secretary?
Politico By Kimberly Hefling 02/02/2017 08:04 PM EDT       Updated 02/02/2017 08:24 PM EDT

If Betsy DeVos survives her confirmation process, the political bruising she’s taken on Capitol Hill could hamper her ability to govern and build support for President Donald Trump’s sweeping $20 billion school choice plan.
The tens of thousands of calls and emails to derail her confirmation all but guarantee she would begin her tenure as Education secretary as a polarizing figure without the usual honeymoon period to get her bearings — or to repair fraught relationships with school groups and Capitol Hill.
Sen. Patty Murray , the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, has already threatened to question “every decision she makes.”
“There is a lack of confidence,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which assists parents of students with disabilities. “The onus is on her to reach out and create that trust and build those relationships because we don’t have a foundation in that regard right now.”
Historically, Education secretaries have seized the secretary’s bully pulpit and traveled around the nation to promote their ideas. But that may be more challenging for DeVos since several mainstream K-12 organizations — including influential special education groups — have opposed her confirmation. Her poor performance during her confirmation hearing reinforced concerns about her lack of conventional classroom experience and commitment to public schools.
DeVos would presumably be the cheerleader in chief for Trump’s promise to encourage vouchers and charter schools — an effort showcased in a $20 billion plan he rolled out on the campaign trail and in his selection of DeVos to run the department.But she’s had to repeatedly reassure even Republican senators such as Susan Collins of Maine and Deb Fischer of Nebraska that she would not impose vouchers on any state.
“While I’m a strong supporter of school choice, I am also respectful of state and local decisions on this issue,” DeVos wrote to Collins.
That wasn’t enough to persuade Collins, however, who declared on Wednesday that she would oppose DeVos’ nomination. Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski came out a short time later, saying that she, too, would vote no on the nomination after hearing “from thousands, truly, thousands of Alaskans who have shared their concerns about Mrs. DeVos.”
Democrats are expected to be united in their opposition.
While Trump’s selection of DeVos has energized many school choice advocates who see vouchers and charter schools as an effective way to help low-income kids stuck in failing schools, those ideas are a much harder sell in some areas, particularly in rural states and towns.
As it stands now, a 50-50 split is expected on her Senate confirmation vote, which could come as early as Monday. That means Vice President Mike Pence would be called to cast the deciding vote — a first for a Cabinet secretary nomination.
DeVos would start out with limits that most of her predecessors did not. The 2015 education law that updated No Child Left Behind explicitly bars the secretary from incentivizing states to adopt certain standards, such as the controversial Common Core math and reading standards for K-12.
And neither she, nor the Trump administration, has yet to spell out their education plan. Even with Trump’s promise to increase funding for charter schools, it’s unclear how that would be funded or carried out — although making changes to the tax code to encourage expansion is one possibility. Less still is known about the administration’s plans for higher education, as lawmakers begin work this year on a rewrite of the law that governs federal student loans, which could include an overhaul of accreditation and loan policies.
Peter Cunningham, a former top aide to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, suggested that DeVos will have to go out of her way to meet with groups — and do a lot of listening to win people over.“If there is a more balanced side, this is the time to show it,” he said.
That view was seconded by Noelle Ellerson of AASA: The School Superintendents Association, who said DeVos will have to reach out to teachers and superintendents who don’t like her if she wants to appeal to them.
“It’s a necessity of that office to be open, transparent and facilitating conversations — especially the tough ones where you don’t agree,” she said. Her group has remained neutral on the confirmation.
To be sure, some of what DeVos wants to do might be accomplished regardless of her perceived mandate.
With Republicans in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, Democrats may complain but they have little ability to stop DeVos.
“A lot of us screamed about the Obama administration, but that didn’t really matter,” said Michael Petrilli, president, of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
If Democrats challenge DeVos on everything she does, she might do “what she thinks is appropriate without undue concern,” said Rick Hess, an education scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “In some ways, I think that will make things more challenging for her and other ways, I think it will be liberating,” Hess said.
But the Education secretary — more than many Cabinet officials — touches the lives of millions of Americans and even Republicans would be likely to push back against plans that they regarded as harmful to local schools or unpopular with their constituents.
Of course, even without Congress, DeVos could make policy through guidance and regulations. One of the most controversial moves of Obama’s Education Department was to issue guidance on the handling of sexual assault cases under Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination. DeVos has promised to hold schools accountable for violating Title IX, but advocates worry she will interpret it differently.
When asked about the animosity toward DeVos, HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander this week blamed it on tension left over from the “very testy” November election.“I expect her to assemble an experienced team of people, once she’s confirmed,” Alexander said.
Similar assurances came from Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group of allies backing DeVos, who insists the contentious confirmation fight won’t have a lasting impact. He said Democrats’ leftward slide has created a climate that he predicted would lead to more 50-50 deadlocks in the Senate. “I think this is the new normal,” Patru said.
But several education groups said they will be watching to see how much of an effort DeVos makes to engage with those who work directly with students and their parents.“Her success will depend on engaging principals, assistant principals and other education stakeholders,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.


Politico, 02/01/17, Caitlin Emma

The Education Department might undergo some restructuring if Betsy DeVos is confirmed — and the agency’s third highest-ranking position could be on the chopping block, sources tell Morning Education. DeVos’ team is thinking about scrapping the Office of the Under Secretary, which could concentrate more power with DeVos, her chief of staff and the Office of the Deputy Secretary. (POLITICO has reported that Josh Venable is a leading pick for chief of staff and Education Week has reported that Allan B. Hubbard is a frontrunner for deputy.) The restructuring comes amid conservative calls to downsize or even eliminate the Education Department. Getting rid of the Office of the Under Secretary is a move that could help satisfy conservatives, sources say. Jason Botel, the new senior White House adviser for education, did not respond to a request for comment.

If the under secretary position is eliminated, some duties could be shuffled around. During the Obama administration, the Office of the Under Secretary oversaw Federal Student Aid, postsecondary education, career and technical education and more. Ted Mitchell, Obama’s most recent under secretary, aggressively pushed for college data transparency, for-profit college accountability and debt relief for defrauded borrowers. Lynn Mahaffie is in charge of the office for now.

Liberty University President Jerry L. Falwell Jr. told the Chronicle of Higher Education that President Donald Trump has asked him to lead a task force on higher education that will identify changes to the Education Department’s policies and procedures. The task force is a response to “overreaching regulation,” he said. The goal is to pare back the Education Department and “give colleges and their accrediting agencies more leeway in governing their affairs,” Falwell said. “I’ve got notebooks full of issues.” More.


Former Education Secretary King speaks out against DeVos, Trump
Politico By Caitlin Emma 02/02/2017 04:06 PM EDT

Former Education Secretary — and one-time charter school operator — John B. King Jr. says he has serious concerns about the Trump administration, and Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos.
“I’m very worried, as I think many people are who care about civil rights,” King told POLITICO. “I’m very worried about the initial policy steps of the new administration. And I’m also very worried about the kinds of things we’ve heard from Mrs. DeVos.”
King’s critical comments came less than two weeks after he left his Cabinet post. It’s unusual for a former Education secretary to publicly take shots at their potential successor, but the rules have shifted in Trump’s Washington. Former President Barack Obama, for example, recently sided with protesters who are upset over President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.
King told POLITICO that DeVos didn’t inspire confidence during her much-criticized confirmation hearing. And he’s concerned about her “seeming lack of familiarity” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law that ensures students with disabilities have access to a “free appropriate public education.”
Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group of DeVos supporters, disputed that she is unfamiliar with federal special education law, although he said, “there’s no question Betsy didn’t answer a few questions in the hearing as articulately as she could have.” “She has spent years in the trenches working to provide better options for parents whose special needs kids haven’t been adequately served by public schools,” Patru said. “And she’s long been concerned about the fact that [federal special education law] is interpreted and applied unevenly from district to district.”
Patru said that Democrats at the confirmation hearing were “determined to grandstand and embarrass her, and most Americans saw through that.”
But King’s criticism of DeVos goes beyond just her confirmation hearing performance. King said he’s also worried about the Education Department fulfilling its role as a protector of student civil rights going forward.
“People who care about public education, who care about equity, who care about civil rights should speak out loudly,” King said. “When there seems to be a lack of clear commitment to protecting student civil rights, we’re going to speak up loudly.”
King, who co-founded a charter school and has managed a charter school chain, said he was “disappointed” that DeVos hasn’t expressed a strong commitment to public education — or a commitment to strong accountability for charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.
King starts a new job as president of the advocacy group The Education Trust next month. The former Education secretary also said he’s concerned about POLITICO’s recent report that Trump’s education political appointees have shared unflattering views of minorities and women on social media.
“It’s very scary to think that folks who hold racist, sexist, anti-LGBT views would be working at the Education Department,” he said. “I would hope that, subsequent to those news reports, that the administration will carefully review the allegations and ensure that the people who work at the department respect human rights and civil rights.”


DeVos questionnaire reveals her views on wide range of issues
Politico By Michael Stratford and Kimberly Hefling 01/30/2017 06:54 PM EDT

Betsy DeVos divulged new details on how she views the federal role in higher education, school vouchers and protecting civil rights in a Senate questionnaire released Monday. The questionnaire spells out DeVos’ positions on a wide range of issues.
The answers came in response to questions from Sen. Patty Murray , the ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee, who has repeatedly complained about not having more time and information when it comes to reviewing DeVos’ record and vast financial holdings.
Although the issues raised in the 62-page response to Murray’s questions are wide-ranging, in many cases DeVos declined to provide specifics on how she would approach various policies.
The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the nomination of DeVos to be Education secretary. DeVos is a GOP mega-donor and advocate for private school vouchers and charter schools. Despite many Senate Democrats pledging to oppose her nomination, the committee is expected to approve DeVos’ confirmation and send it to the full Senate.

Among DeVos’ answers:

On the Office for Civil Rights: DeVos said that schools that “violate civil rights statutes will be held accountable.” But when it comes to releasing information that an investigation has been opened, she looks forward to discussing with the office’s leadership “how the release of information addresses its mission.”

On the issue of sexual violence in schools, DeVos said schools must have procedures that are “fair, accessible, and consistent.” She added that she would “work to ensure robust enforcement of laws that protect students from violence and commit to working with the leadership at the Department to examine mechanisms that improve public access to information and empower students, parents, and others to ensure a safe environment.”

On the issue of virtual schools, DeVos said “High quality virtual charter schools provide valuable options to families, particularly those who live in rural areas where brick-and-mortar schools might not have the capacity to provide the range of courses or other educational experiences for students. Because of this, we must be careful not to brand an entire category of schools as failing students.”

On the issue of school closures, DeVos said that, “Unlike other public schools, charter schools can — and should — be closed when they fail to meet the obligations outlined in their charters. We need to bring traditional neighborhood schools up to the same high-level of accountability as public charter schools.”

On the issue of school bullying , DeVos said she will work with first lady Melania Trump to speak out against bullying and harassment. “I believe the role of the Department of Education is to help states and local school districts enforce the law and improve education for all students.”

On the issue of free public tuition, DeVos said that “calls for free college and debt elimination are in stark contrast to an approach that seeks to address the core challenges in higher education.”

On the issue of support for LGBT students , DeVos said she’s never supported “conversion therapy,” for gay and lesbian individuals, even though DeVos and her husband have given hundreds of thousands to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that has pushed the discredited practice, according to the Human Rights Campaign. “Every student deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn, achieve and thrive and are not discriminated against,” DeVos wrote. “Period.”

On the issue of her family’s political donations, DeVos answered “yes” on whether she believes her extended family would continue their political donations if she becomes Education secretary.

On the issue of protections for students with disabilities in private schools, DeVos said that, “Offering parents of students with disabilities the opportunity to choose between a private school, a different public school, or a non-public school setting empowers the parents to receive what works best for their child. Just like in the public schools, not every private school will offer every service for every student with a disability. It would be misguided to seek to impose on individual private schools a standard that is also not imposed on every individual public school. If parents are not satisfied with the private options available, they maintain all of their current options and rights within their local public school system.”

On the issue of supporting school choice measures that could increase school segregation, DeVos said, “I do not support programs that would lead to increased segregation. Empirical evidence finds school choice programs lead to more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.”

On the issue of school vouchers, DeVos said she looks forward to working with President Donald Trump and Congress to pass legislation that would use federal funds to create “voluntary voucher programs.” “I hope that we will be able to secure sufficient resources to address this concern so more children can attend a school of their choice.” DeVos also said she does not and “will not advocate for any federal mandates requiring vouchers. States should determine the mechanism of choice, if any.” She also said she’s OK with schools that follow religious principles accepting voucher funds “if that is the decision that the family makes.”

On the issue of the use of Title 1 spending as it’s written into law , “Title I is the major federal spending program in K-12 education and is very important to states and local school districts. If confirmed, I will look closely at the budget of the Department of Education to determine the best allocation of taxpayer dollars to programs when making a proposed budget for future fiscal years.”

On the issue of early childhood education, DeVos said the “pay for success” model is an idea worth looking into. The model allows private or philanthropic funders to provide up-front capital for early learning or other social programs and the government only repays the funder if evaluations show the program achieved results.

On the issue of immigrant students not legally in the United States, DeVos said she would defer to the Homeland Security and Justice departments. But she said she would use “compassion and sensitivity” where the Education Department has a role.

On fraud at colleges and universities, DeVos said: “Fraud should never be tolerated. Period. Bad actors clearly exist-in both public and nonpublic institutions. If confirmed, I will act decisively to protect students and enforce existing laws. I should note, Trump University was not a recipient of federal student aid, nor an accredited college or university, and therefore would not fall under my jurisdiction as Secretary of Education.”

— On federal accountability tools for higher education, DeVos said that she plans to review whether “the use of cohort default rates is the best tool for determining institutional eligibility” for federal student aid.

On the issue of regulation of higher education, DeVos emphasized that “fraud should never be tolerated.” She said her legal role “would not be to determine the quality of a school but rather ensure that they meet all of the eligibility standards for participation in Title IV programs as dictated by the Higher Education Act.” She said she’ll review regulations issued by the department to ensure “a fair review” that protects all parties, including student and taxpayer interests.


Federal Updates

Mixed reaction to Republican efforts aimed at scrapping Obama rules

Politico By Caitlin Emma 02/02/2017 01:42 PM EDT

Reaction to House Republican efforts today to scrap two Obama administration education regulations has been mixed.
Rep. Brett Guthrie unveiled a Congressional Review Act resolution to stop the regulation governing teacher preparation programs and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) introduced a resolution to block the Obama administration’s rule to carry out the accountability provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
When it comes to ESSA, the National Governors Association said that “accountability for education rests with the states, regardless of federal regulations.”
The organization said it will “work with the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that clarity on accountability is swiftly provided to states through guidance and technical assistance. Governors will also forge a strong relationship with the new education secretary to guarantee that K-12 civil rights safeguards continue to be upheld.”
But Daria Hall, interim VP for government affairs and communications for The Education Trust, said: “Overturning this regulation would cause nothing but confusion, delay, and wasted time in the effort to advance equity in ESSA state plans.”
On teacher prep, NGA said the resolution would deliver states from “unfunded mandates that would have hampered higher education institutions from preparing the next generation of teachers.”
But Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners, who once worked on teacher preparation at the Education Department, said the move was “short-sighted” and “politically motivated.”
“Left alone, the regulation will lead to the collection of vitally important data on things like placement and retention rates, which would be useful data points for programs and for future teacher candidates,” he said.

Background on the rules resolutions from Fritzwire, 02/03/17:

 Leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to block implementation of two flawed Obama administration regulations. Both rules from the former administration expand the federal role in education and diminish the ability for state and local leaders to make decisions affecting their students and schools.

H. J. Res. 58 – introduced by Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) – would stop a rule related to teacher preparation programs. Finalized in October 2016, the rule significantly expands the federal government’s involvement in teacher preparation and may lead to fewer teachers serving some our nation’s most vulnerable children.

“Teachers play a vital role in helping students learn and succeed, both in and out of the classroom,” Chairman Guthrie said. “Unfortunately, as it did so often, the Obama administration acted unilaterally, overreached, and took a one-size-fits-all approach to how teachers are prepared for the classroom. As a result, the rules finalized by the Department of Education ignore the principles guiding recent bipartisan education reforms and would actually make it more difficult for state and local leaders to help ensure teachers are ready to succeed. This resolution will roll back those misguided rules and give us the opportunity to examine teacher preparation in the context of higher education reauthorization.”

H. J. Res. 57 – introduced by Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) – would address a regulation implementing accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The bipartisan law empowers states to develop systems for holding schools accountable to parents and taxpayers. However, the regulation dictates prescriptive accountability requirements and violates prohibitions on the Secretary of Education’s authority.

“Last Congress, Republicans and Democrats worked in a bipartisan way to advance reforms that will help all children receive the education they deserve. However, the Obama Department of Education worked in a very partisan manner to implement those reforms,” Chairman Rokita said. “We are committed to holding both the former and current administrations accountable to students, parents, and local leaders, and this resolution is one way we can do just that. It puts a stop to an overreaching rule that diminishes the authority of state and local education leaders – something Congress expressly prohibited with the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

In reaction to the resolutions, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) applauded both measures and thanked the chairmen for their work to deliver commonsense education reforms.

“For years, the Obama administration’s approach to education prevented state and local leaders from delivering the excellent education all children deserve,” Chairwoman Foxx said. “Even after Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act with overwhelming bipartisan support, the administration insisted on using rules and regulations to unilaterally push its failed education agenda. These congressional resolutions send a signal that those days are over. I commend Representatives Rokita and Guthrie for pushing back on the flawed policies of the past and moving us closer to a more positive, more responsible federal role in education.”

BACKGROUND: Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress may pass a resolution of disapproval to prevent, with the full force of the law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or issuing a substantially similar rule without congressional authorization. The resolutions introduced by Chairmen Guthrie and Rokita would block the teacher preparation and accountability rules from taking effect and prevent future administrations from promulgating similar rules.


Trump threatens federal funding after Berkeley cancels alt-right speaker
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 02/02/2017 08:37 AM EDT

President Donald Trump this morning threatened to pull federal funding from the University of California-Berkeley after protests there last night led the school to cancel a talk by an alt-right speaker and Breitbart editor.
“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The school canceled the talk by Milo Yiannopoulos after protesters turned violent Wednesday night, smashing windows, throwing rocks and starting fires.


Alexander: safe to “assume” feds will say yes to state ESSA plans
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 01/30/2017 05:40 PM EDT

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican chair of the Senate education committee, told a group of state and school board leaders today to “assume that the U.S. Department of Education will say yes” to the plans they’re drafting to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act.
“You will have a president and an Education secretary who do not believe in a national school board. They believe in you,” Alexander told the crowd of more than 700 school board members and state education leaders at the National School Boards Association Advocacy Institute meeting in D.C. “They want you to make those decisions.”
The state ESSA plans will cover a number of major education issues, including standards, assessments, teacher policies and strategies for turning around struggling schools.
But some civil rights advocates worry the Trump administration will essentially rubber stamp plans without strong federal oversight. Republicans counter that Trump’s administration will ensure states get the flexibility intended by the law.
Alexander also said that school leaders should assume that the schedule in place will remain — they can submit their draft plans in April and September — regardless of the fact that DeVos has not yet been confirmed.
“Mrs. DeVos, should she be confirmed, said in her testimony that she would keep the same schedule,” Alexander said. “I think that’s important for the states to know to continue working on your plans.”
Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) also addressed the crowd.
A group of about 60 protesters, meanwhile, gathered outside the downtown D.C. hotel holding signs saying “Vote no” and chanting “Betsy DeVos is not my choice.”


Senate Democrats ‘deeply troubled’ by ‘racist, bigoted’ views shared by Trump appointees
Politico By Caitlin Emma 02/01/2017 12:46 PM EDT

Six Senate Democrats said Wednesday they’re “deeply troubled” by “racist, bigoted, and misogynistic statements” made on social media by several of President Donald Trump’s Education Department hires.
In a letter to Jason Botel, new senior White House adviser for education, and Acting Education Secretary Phil Rosenfelt, the senators said they want a briefing on the agency’s “efforts to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce free of prejudice or malice, the administration’s vetting procedures for appointees, and how the department intends to handle reports of inappropriate communications or behavior from staff.”
The letter comes after POLITICO reported that several of Trump’s political appointees, prior to being given jobs at the Education Department, shared unflattering views about African-Americans, transgender people and “fat chicks” on social media. The letter was led by Sen. Patty Murray and signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Al Franken.
At least one of the employees cited by POLITICO, Teresa UnRue, appears to no longer be working at the Education Department.
UnRue, a former field organizer for the Trump campaign and graphic designer from Myrtle Beach, S.C., shared a video on Facebook of an African-American man eating fried chicken and wondering aloud why other African-Americans are mad about slavery when “Y’all weren’t no damn slaves.”
“Had me crack’n up!! Thank you!” UnRue wrote.
Another Education Department hire, Kevin Eck, tweeted about an all-black cast for “The Wiz Live!” on NBC. “There sure would be quite an uproar if it was an all-white cast.” He later posted his apology.
In response to POLITICO’s report, Botel said last week that Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, if confirmed, “will take expedient action to discipline any employees who are engaged in inappropriate and unacceptable activities.”
“Secretary-designate DeVos is working with the White House to address issues that were brought to her attention involving social media posts and other behavior that is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by her or President Trump,” Botel said.
The Senate Democrats write that, “While it now has been reported that at least one employee in question will no longer be joining the department, we remain concerned about the employment decisions and hiring practices being established by the Trump administration.”
Botel could not immediately be reached for comment about the Democrats’ letter. Multiple POLITICO requests for an updated list of Trump’s Education Department hires have gone unanswered.


OMB issues guidance on hiring freeze 
Politico By Mel Leonor 01/25/17

The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance today directed at agency heads on how to implement the president’s across-the-board hiring freeze of federal workers.
Workers who were offered a job on or before Jan. 22 and have documentation showing a start date of Feb. 22 or earlier should report to work, according to the memo sent by OMB acting director Mark Sandy.
Workers whose start date falls later than Feb. 22, or who do not have a start date, may have their job offers revoked. The memo leaves agency heads to determine whether to revoke job offers. They are instructed to consider “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels.”
The memo says departments and agencies are allowed to reallocate workers to “ensure essential services are not interrupted and to ensure national security is not affected.” They may also make limited exceptions to the hiring freeze “that they deem necessary to ensure national security or public safety.”
More guidance on the hiring freeze is forthcoming, according to the memo.


House lawmakers schedule hearing on school choice
Politico By Caitlin Emma 01/31/2017 11:30 AM EDT

House lawmakers aren’t wasting time on their education priorities, and have scheduled a hearing for Thursday titled, “Helping Students Succeed Through the Power of School Choice.”
Members at the hearing “will examine how federal policies can support innovative education options and discuss ways to extend school choice opportunities to more students,” according to a release from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The release notes that efforts nationwide are working to provide parents with more “school choice” options, like charter schools, homeschooling, scholarship programs and education savings accounts.
The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, chaired by Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, will hold the hearing at 10 a.m. in 2175 Rayburn. Witnesses have yet to be announced.


Trump signs executive order requiring that for every one new regulation, two must be revoked

Politico By Matthew Nussbaum 01/30/2017 10:38 AM EDT Updated 01/30/2017 11:15 AM EDT

President Donald Trump signed an executive order this morning requiring that for every new federal regulation implemented, two must be rescinded. The order, signed in the Oval Office, fulfills a campaign pledge.


Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, told Morning Education that he met with Betsy DeVos this week
02/03/17 Fritzwire

A good chunk of the conversation was focused on what states need as they implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, he said. States are in the middle of drafting plans to hold schools and districts accountable for student learning and progress, among other things. But President Donald Trump placed a 60-day hold on the Obama administration’s final accountability regulation to guide those state plans. If Republicans decide to use the Congressional Review Act to scrap that rule, then states are going to need clarity – and fast, Minnich stressed to DeVos. “I tried to get across the need for stability for states on ESSA planning,” Minnich said. “They need clarity as quickly as possible.” Minnich said DeVos “asked all the right questions.” She was interested in states’ work and what state education chiefs need, he said.  Politico Morning Education


Polis picked for education subcommittee posts
Politico By Caitlin Emma 01/31/2017 12:11 PM EDT

Rep. Jared Polis has been chosen as the lead Democrat on the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee and as a member of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee.
Polis said he plans to oversee implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and “introduce legislation to protect student data privacy and combat discrimination in schools,” his office said in a release. He also “plans to introduce several bills this Congress that tackle the skyrocketing cost of college, addressing everything from the cost of textbooks to tuition, and legislation that will help ease the burden of student loan debt.”
“I believe we can work together to make progress in education this Congress, while also holding the Trump administration accountable,” Polis said in a statement.


State Updates

Sandoval: “Governors must be consulted” on ESSA

Politico By Caitlin Emma 01/25/2017 11:30 AM EDT

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, vice chair of the National Governors Association, will stress today that “governors must be consulted” as states implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.
“Last year, Congress passed a new education law that restored states’ authority over K-12 education,” he’ll say in NGA’s annual State of the States speech, according to prepared remarks. “Since then, states have looked to the classroom and local school boards to develop education systems that place students, not the federal government, at the center. It is critical states continue to build on that progress to strengthen our nation’s education system.”
Sandoval will also stress the importance of “workforce development and work-based learning” after Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014. And he’ll ask the Trump administration to support states’ work under that law.
“Now we ask the administration not to stall that important work by preserving governors’ federal workforce reserve at 15 percent to ensure statewide workforce activities can serve all citizens,” Sandoval will say. “We also ask Congress to incentivize and reward employers and job-seekers who take advantage of work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities.”

Teachers Would Have to Demonstrate Ability to Teach Under Bill Headed to UT Senate
The state of Utah would require educators who seek teaching licenses to pass a teacher pedagogical assessment under a bill unanimously approved Friday by the Utah Legislature’s Senate Education Committee. (Deseret News, Jan. 28)


Revised standards for principals take hold  (ASCD Brief)

Officials in some states and universities are overhauling their principal-preparation programs and standards based on guidelines released in 2015 by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Officials in Delaware, for example, plan to review in February the state’s performance evaluation system for school leaders.


New jersey State Supreme Court denies Christie administration request to reopen Abbott case
Politico By Linh Tat 01/31/2017 04:18 PM EDT

The state Supreme Court has denied a motion by the Christie administration to revisit the landmark Abbott v. Burke school funding case, including a request to ignore teacher tenure rules.
The decision is a major blow to Gov. Chris Christie, who had sought permission from the judicial branch to allow the state education commissioner to ignore teacher tenure rules in primarily low-income districts overseen by the School Development Authority so that she could lay off low-performing teachers, regardless of seniority level.
The state also sought permission to ignore New Jersey’s existing school-funding formula and to fund SDA districts at current levels.
The Christie administration used “this Court’s prior Abbott rulings as the basis for relief, but direct challenges to the provisions in question have not been the subject of prior litigation in the Abbott line of cases,” reads the court order.
While the court chose not revisit the case, it noted that the request concerning teacher tenure was denied without prejudice and that the Christie administration could file for action in a trial court.
“The Court does not opine on the merits of the issues or arguments,” the court order reads.
A spokesman for Attorney General Chris Porrino said the department had no comment.


R.I. schools adopt personalized learning
01/25/17 – ASCD Brief
Officials in Rhode Island are working to bring personalized learning to all public schools as part of the RI Personalized Learning Initiative. Officials at one school district say they are working to give students more choice and voice in their education.


OH Gov. John Kasich Proposes Adding Business Experts to Local School Boards
A proposal from Ohio Gov. John Kasich would add three non-voting members to every local school board to keep them apprised of the needs of the business community. The idea is one of several proposed by the Kasich administration in its 2017-2018 budget to bolster work training programs and Ohio’s workforce. (, Feb. 2)


WI – More Than 240 Schools to Participate in Voucher Program
Wisconsin education officials say 241 private schools have signed up to participate in at least one of Wisconsin’s three voucher programs next school year. (Associated Press, Jan. 31)


New York: Regents chancellor concerned over Trump travel ban

Politico By Keshia Clukey 02/01/2017 02:14 PM EDT

New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said today that she wants to make sure that the state’s schools remain “safe havens” for students, regardless of where they were born.
“I’m very concerned about the messaging and the narrative that’s out there on so many different levels,” Rosa told POLITICO New York, referring to President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting travel from seven countries with majority-Muslim population.
“We are a country of immigrants. … That’s at the core of who we are as a people and this notion of lack of inclusiveness or notion of some, and not others, is for me personally, of great concern,” said Rosa, has been a champion for English language learners.
Rosa reiterated her support for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented students, as well as the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
Rosa said the board and the state Education Department are working on a statement reaffirming their commitment to safety. “We want to keep our children safe both physically and keep our children safe mentally, and make sure that our schools are safe havens,” she said.


Politico, 02/01/17: TEXAS EYES ‘SCHOOL CHOICE’ OPTIONS: The chairman of Texas’ Senate Committee on Education filed a bill this week that would expand voucher-like options for families, but it’s unclear if the bill will pass the state House. The bill would create education savings accounts — public funding that families can use to pay for private school tuition and other services. It would also create a tax credit scholarship program that would allow businesses to count their contributions to scholarship organizations as credit against their insurance premium tax, The Texas Tribune reports . “If Texas wants to remain economically sound … we need to pass school choice legislation to give all of our students the opportunity to receive a great education that is tailored to their specific needs,” said state Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, a Republican. The state Senate last year approved a tax credit scholarship bill, but the House didn’t bring it up for a vote.


Common Core Revisions: What Are States Really Changing?
Twenty-one of the 46 states that adopted the Common Core State Standards are revising the standards, but most are not making substantial changes, according to an analysis by the research firm Abt Associates. (Education Week, Jan. 18)


Research and other articles of interest

The Education Commission of the States has a roundup of recommendations for states as they look to design plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act.