Music Education Policy Roundup – Jan 6, 2017

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

NAfME Updates

  1. Please note that the DeVos confirmation hearing are set for Thursday, December 11th, and NAfME policy staff will be present to report on the hearing.
  2. In addition, the policy staff have completed our analysis of the ESSA State Plans and Accountability System final rules. You can find the blog regarding our analysis, as well as the 6-page analysis here.
  3. The policy staff will work on an update regarding the new ESSA guidance released today (you can find it in the Federal Updates section) later this month. The guidance is designed to help states respond to the ESSA state plan rules described in #2.


Federal Transition Updates

Former transition team member: Trump’s school choice plan could be funded in ‘creative ways’
Politico By Caitlin Emma 01/04/2017 03:52 PM EDT

Some education policy wonks assume that if President-elect Donald Trump pushes for his $20 billion school choice plan, he would propose drawing from existing funding for the Education Department.
But Gerard Robinson, an education policy fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former member of the Trump transition team, said there are “creative ways” to think about that funding — outside of the Education Department. He spoke this afternoon at an event hosted by The Brookings Institution on the future of education policy under the Trump administration.
Robinson, who’s now an informal adviser to the transition team, said there are other agencies that support education. As an example, he offered up the Interior Department, which runs the troubled Bureau of Indian Education schools.
Robinson said a number of white, working-class voters voted for Trump and they live in school choice “deserts.” But there’s too much focus on pitting public schools and schools of choice against each other, he said, when both require equal attention.
Lindsay Fryer, vice president at Penn Hill Group, said a large-scale school choice proposal would likely require congressional approval, which could be tough to get. She said she advised Trump against forcing school choice on states and districts.
But Trump might consider existing school choice options under the Every Student Succeeds Act, she said, or some kind tax credit scholarship initiative.


GOP Lawmakers Put ESSA Accountability, Teacher-Prep Regulations on Hit List
By Alyson Klein on December 13, 2016 4:35 PM EdWeek

The Obama administration’s teacher preparation regulations under the Higher Education Act and its accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act appear headed for the trash heap, if the Senate Republican Policy Committee gets its way.

Both sets of regulations are being targeted by the policy committee for the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to vote to strike down rules lawmakers don’t like, essentially putting the kibosh on them. If a set of regulations is subject to the CRA, the administration can’t issue similar regulations until there’s new authorizing legislation. Congress has until May to use this option to get rid of recently enacted Obama administration regulations, according to the committee’s website.

The incoming Trump administration can also take immediate steps to pause the implementation of some recently finalized regulations, by essentially delaying their effective date.  

It’s unclear if school districts and states actually want Congress to toss the accountability regulations. State and district advocates raised some serious questions about the administration’s draft regulations, which solicited more than 20,000 comments.

But the final version, released late last month, got largely positive reviews from groups including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the AASA, the School Superintendents Association. Both said the department assuaged their concerns by granting more them more time and flexibility to implement ESSA.

If the regulations are scrapped, it could make it tougher for states to finish their ESSA plans, which they can begin filing this spring. To keep the momentum going, the Trump administration would have to outline its own vision on accountability.

The teacher-preparation regulations call for states to collect new data on starting teachers they have trained, with the aim of tracking whether they work in high-needs schools, stay in the profession, and are able to improve student learning. The regulations, which were finalized in October, have come under fire from teachers’ unions, and some state officials say the new requirements could be a capacity challenge.  

Interestingly, an arguably more-controversial set of regulations for a spending provision of ESSA known as supplement-not-supplant is not on the Republicans’ target list. That could be because those regulations haven’t been finalized yet. But there’s another set of draft regulations, pertaining to Planned Parenthood, that is on the policy committee’s hit list. Of course, it’s hard to imagine Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education panel, would be on board with any final rule that looks similar to what the education department proposed earlier this year. So that regulation could easily end up on this list, once it’s finalized. 


Bill to ease path for Repeal of Obama-era Education Regulations passes House
Edweek, By Andrew Ujifusa on January 5, 2017 1:22 PM

Republicans in Congress are already targeting several education-related regulations adopted under President Barack Obama. A bill recently passed by the House could make that job a lot easier.

On Wednesday, the House passed the Midnight Rule Relief Act, which would amend the Congressional Review Act by allowing Congress to overturn simultaneously multiple regulations finalized in the last 60 days of a presidential administration, according to the Hill newspaper. (Hat-tip to David DeSchryver of Whiteboard Advisors for highlighting this for us.) 

The Congressional Review Act already allows for Congress to dump such regulations. But the legislation would make the process easier, from a Republican perspective, by allowing Congress to get rid of those rules in “batches” (as one commenter in the Hill puts it) and therefore more efficiently. The Midnight Rule Relief Act, co-sponsored by 14 GOP House lawmakers, was still awaiting action by the Senate as of mid-day Thursday. But it is clearly intended for President-elect Donald Trump to sign once he takes office. Democrats say the bill is being acted upon too quickly and could hurt protections on various fronts.


Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing officially set for January 11

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 01/04/2017 11:13 AM EDT

Betsy DeVos’ Senate confirmation hearing is a go for Jan. 11, the Senate HELP Committee announced today.

Following the hearing, an executive session will be scheduled for the committee vote on DeVos’ nomination for education secretary, according to the committee notice.

DeVos is a billionaire philanthropist from Michigan who has long advocated for school choice options such as private school tuition vouchers and charter schools.

HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander has called DeVos an “excellent choice” to run the Education Department.

But Democrats have been clamoring to get their hands on DeVos’ financial paperwork in hopes of finding potential ammunition to use against her.

A spokesman for a group representing allies of DeVos has said the paperwork will be filed by the close of business on Thursday.

The Jan. 11 hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in 430 Dirksen.


Stebenow says she opposes Betsy DeVos for education secretary
Politico By Kimberly Hefling 01/06/2017 02:08 PM EDT

Betsy DeVos’ home state senator Debbie Stabenow says she will be voting against DeVos’ confirmation to be education secretary.

Stabenow (D-Mich.), told the Detroit Free Press her decision after a Capitol Hill meeting this week with DeVos.

“Our conversation reaffirmed my strong concerns about her nomination,” Stabenow said. “Betsy DeVos and her family have a long record of pushing policies that I believe have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children. Therefore, I cannot support (her).”

More than a dozen Senate Democrats have said they are troubled by some aspect of DeVos’ record, though they have generally avoided statements on how they intend to vote.

Stabenow does not sit on the HELP Committee, which will be holding DeVos’ confirmation hearing on Wednesday. It’s expected that DeVos will be confirmed by the committee, which would then send the nomination to the full Senate.

Michigan’s other senator, Gary Peters, who is also a Democrat, has not said how he plans to vote, A spokeswoman for Peters said he plans to first meet with DeVos.


Murray still has “serious concerns” after meeting with DeVos

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 01/04/2017 05:31 PM EDT

Sen. Patty Murray — the top Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee — said after a Capitol Hill meeting today with Betsy DeVos that she continues to have “serious concerns” about DeVos’ work in education.

DeVos’ record includes “working to privatize and defund public education, expand taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, and block accountability for charter schools, including for-profit charter schools,” Murray said in a statement.

DeVos is a billionaire and philanthropist who will appear before the HELP Committee on Jan. 11 for her confirmation hearing to be education secretary. DeVos has a long history of supporting school choice programs — including private school vouchers and charter school expansion — in states across the country.

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), has called DeVos an “excellent” pick, and it’s unlikely Democrats can thwart her nomination.

But Murray also said today she has concerns about DeVos’ “extensive financial entanglements and potential conflicts of interest.” Murray said she hopes more “information and transparency on this front is forthcoming.”

A spokesman for a group of allies backing DeVos has said her financial records would be submitted to the committee by the close of business on Thursday.

Murray added that, “I look forward to a robust hearing where we can learn more about Ms. DeVos’ record and plans.”

In addition to Murray, DeVos is expected to meet this week with other HELP Democrats, including Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jon Tester of Montana. Before the holiday break, DeVos met with committee Republicans such as Alexander and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).


Progressive groups target Betsy DeVos’ donations to GOP senators

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 01/06/2017 11:36 AM EDT

Two progressive groups today called on five Republican senators on the HELP Committee to recuse themselves from voting on Betsy DeVos’ nomination because of campaign donations she’s made to them.

End Citizens United and Every Voice encouraged supporters to sign a petition backing that view.

“Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos represents the worst of the rigged system in Washington,” said Tiffany Muller, executive director of End Citizens United.

DeVos — a billionaire philanthropist — will appear on Wednesday before the HELP Committee for her confirmation hearing to be education secretary. The five GOP senators have collectively accepted $50,000 in campaign donations since 2010. The senators are Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Previous cabinet nominees, from both sides of the aisle, have also been political donors. HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn.), who isn’t one of the recipients, has said that all the donations by DeVos are disclosed and there are limits on campaign contributions.

Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group representing allies of DeVos, said sarcastically in response that his group “looks forward” to an End Citizens United press release calling on every Democratic senator who received cash from teachers unions to recuse themselves from considering the DeVos nomination. Teachers unions have been highly critical of DeVos.


DeVos Spends Big on Politics
Politico By Benjamin Wermund | 01/06/2017 05:46 AM EDT
With help from Michael Stratford, Kimberly Hefling and Caitlin Emma

It’s no secret that Betsy DeVos, the billionaire philanthropist tapped to run the Education Department, has used her considerable wealth to influence policy. But documentation that DeVos was required to file with lawmakers ahead of her confirmation hearing next Wednesday lists every single one of her political contributions over the last five years. The grand total? Just under $5.3 million. The lengthy list of donations takes up 10 pages of the 23-page disclosure document, which was released by the Senate education committee late Thursday.

DeVos has previously said she’s not ashamed to admit she’s buying influence. Her giving has focused mostly on Republicans, but has also included the occasional Democrat. In Florida, for example, DeVos donated to Democratic politicians such as North Florida congressman Al Lawson ($2,000), Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer ($1,000), and Miami state lawmaker Daphne Campbell ($1,000).

DeVos was also required to list her lobbying activity during the past 10 years. She wrote that while she has never registered as a federal or state lobbyist, she has met with Congressional lawmakers in her capacity as chairman of the American Federation for Children, the school choice advocacy group she founded. Those meetings with lawmakers focused on “school choice programs generally and the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program and SOAR Act specifically.”

DeVos disclosed she is a former member of the American Opportunity Alliance, a group of major GOP donors led by New York billionaire Paul Singer. The operation, of which DeVos was a part from 2014 to 2016, was aimed at bringing together some of the richest pro-business GOP donors in the country, several of whom share Singer’s support for gay rights, immigration reform and the state of Israel. Read more about that group here.

Senate Democrats say they want to know more — specifically about DeVos’s involvement in organizations such as the American Federation for Children. “Understanding your leadership roles in this complicated web of political and not-for-profit organizations is necessary for us to be able to evaluate any conflicts of interest you may bring to the position, and whether you should recuse yourself from particular matters that may come before you as Secretary,” the senators wrote in a letter signed by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Al Franken of Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The information they want: an explanation of the role DeVos played in creating and running AFC, along with more details about other groups that she has been involved with. The senators also want a list of all donations made by DeVos, her family and foundations she was affiliated with to any other 501(c)(4) groups, over the past five years.


Senate Democrats to portray DeVos as public school enemy

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 01/04/2017 05:01 AM EDT

Democrats will seek to paint Betsy DeVos as Public School Enemy No. 1 as they ramp up a longshot effort to thwart her confirmation to be Education secretary by challenging her qualifications for the job.

More than a dozen Democratic senators from all wings of the party have stepped forward to say they are troubled by some aspect of the billionaire philanthropist’s record on public education — a drumbeat expected to grow louder in the lead-up to her confirmation hearing tentatively scheduled for Jan. 11.

The senators include Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the committee that will handle her hearing, red-state Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who has been mentioned as a possible Agriculture secretary under President-elect Donald Trump, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who has supported vouchers in the past.

“I look forward to asking tough questions about Ms. DeVos’ extensive record, career experiences, financial history and vision for the Department of Education and the many ways it impacts students and families,” Murray said.

Democrats say they will use DeVos’ history of bankrolling efforts to create state tuition voucher programs and to boost Michigan’s loosely regulated charter school sector to paint her views as out of the education mainstream. They are also drawing attention to her lack of experience working in a traditional public school setting as a teacher or superintendent — or even sending her own kids to public schools.

She and her husband’s philanthropic support of groups opposed to gay rights and in favor of “right to work” laws disliked by unions also inflames the opposition among Democratic constituencies such as teachers unions, which are big donors to Democratic senators.

Teachers unions gave more than $70,000 in donations to Senate HELP Committee Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders — an independent who caucuses with Democrats, during the 2016 campaign cycle.

“The record is clear: Betsy DeVos is an anti-public education activist,” teachers union presidents Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten wrote in a joint letter encouraging members to sign a petition opposing DeVos. “A true leader for all students must reject the ideological demands that isolate, outsource and abandon, and instead commit to this American vision for public education.”

The group Journey for Justice, a coalition of community and parent organizations, is encouraging DeVos opponents to tweet their opinions on Wednesday to senators who are part of the HELP Committee that will host her confirmation hearing. On Thursday, Journey for Justice wants opponents to call senators’ offices.

Still, those efforts are unlikely to derail DeVos’ confirmation given Republicans’ 52-seat majority in the Senate. Her backers point out that her views on using public funds to enable low-income students to attend charter and private schools, including religious schools, are in line with much of the GOP establishment. Those views are also shared by Trump, who proposed a $20 billion plan during the campaign that emphasized vouchers and charter schools.

DeVos is also a Republican establishment figure in her own right, having chaired the Michigan Republican Party, and served as a longtime benefactor to GOP candidates and causes. She and her husband, Dick, have contributed directly to 17 senators considering her nomination, and the Center for Responsive Politics estimates her family has given $20.2 million to GOP candidates and committees since 1989.

“No one who has spent any time with Betsy walks away believing she doesn’t understand education and isn’t knowledgeable on the issue,” said Ed Patru, a spokeswoman for a group that calls itself the Friends of Betsy DeVos, and is advocating for her confirmation.

DeVos also has a powerful ally in HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander , a former U.S. education secretary himself, who showcased his political leadership in 2015 when he kept lawmakers in line to pass an update to No Child Left Behind in a gridlocked Congress.

Alexander has said Trump made an “excellent choice” in selecting DeVos, and that he would “move swiftly” to schedule her confirmation.

Democrats “are certain to try to not have her get the nomination, but they will not succeed at that,” said Diane Rentner, a former House Democratic aide who is now deputy director at the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University. “But they will put on the record their concerns and issues.”

At a minimum, Democrats want to spotlight the problems they see with private school tuition vouchers in hopes of making it more difficult for DeVos or Trump to implement them. They also see the hearing as an opportunity to pin DeVos down on how she would handle hot-button enforcement issues from the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which ramped up enforcement on issues such as transgender bathroom access and campus sexual assault under President Barack Obama.

“Before any senator votes to move the nominee forward, we would expect a commitment by the nominee to continue to enforce our nation’s civil rights laws,” said Liz King, director of education policy for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Enforcement during the Obama administration has been one of the highlights during the administration with regard to education, and we need to move forward on that agenda and not backwards.”

Democrats are also holding out hope that DeVos’ paperwork on her financial holdings might contain potential ammunition to use against her.

“Given the depth of her financial holdings, and the very active political past that she’s had, there’s a lot to go through, but it’s certainly a possibility” that things could surface, a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide told POLITICO.

In a nod to the fight ahead, the circle surrounding DeVos is hitting back hard — sometimes aggressively — against what they perceive as unfair attacks. After The New York Times published a story on Detroit’s troubled charter schools quoting Skillman Foundation President Tonya Allen saying DeVos is “committed to an ideological stance that is solely about the free market, at the expense of practicality and the basic needs of students,” a group of allies released a private email from Allen sent to DeVos congratulating her on being selected by Trump.

It said that “not even Tonya Allen believes her own vitriolic rhetoric.” The statement failed to mention that Allen acknowledged in the email that the two of them have differences.

Then, the same week, after Democrats Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sanders (I-Vt.), sent a strongly-worded letter to DeVos asking her to repay more than $5 million in election fines owed by her school-choice advocacy groups in Ohio, it issued a statement saying DeVos was never a party to the suit and accusing the senators of a “transparently political maneuver.”

And when more than 30 civil rights groups and unions issued a joint statement saying they were “deeply” concerned about DeVos’ level of experience, the Trump team issued a statement to POLITICO saying that, “If confirmed, Betsy DeVos is fully committed to ensuring that all children are safe to learn and thrive in high-quality schools.”

The defensive measures are in anticipation that HELP Committee Democrats, such as Sheldon Whitehouse, will ask DeVos hard-edged questions. Whitehouse recently said Trump had put forth a “billionaire whose views on education seem to be out of line with many Rhode Islanders’ values.”

The committee’s two newest members, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Tim Kaine of Virginia, have expressed similar sentiments.

Heitkamp, who is not a member of the HELP committee, told POLITICO in a statement that she has “some concerns about Betsy DeVos’ commitment to public school education and the fact that her political action committee defaulted on a multi-million dollar fine.”

Booker, in turn, said in a statement that he will treat her nomination with a healthy skepticism.

“Like all of Trump’s nominees, I will approach her nomination with deep scrutiny, especially because I am alarmed by President-Elect Trump’s overall education agenda, and fear that he has little respect for — or interest in — the critical work that the Department of Education performs for our children,” he said.

As part of the discussion over vouchers expected at the confirmation hearing, Thomas Toch, director of the independent FutureEd think tank at Georgetown University, said he would expect questions about separation of church of state issues, given DeVos’ past comments comparing education reform to a biblical battleground to “advance God’s Kingdom.”

DeVos wants to help individual students, but she also supports efforts like vouchers because of a “deep ideological skepticism of public institutions,” Toch said.

“The Democrats are going to push on that very hard because we do have separation of church and state,” Toch said. “Public education is in fact public.”


Young will join Senate Education Committee

Politico By Michael Stratford 01/03/2017 12:45 PM EDT

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) has been tapped to serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the new Congress, Republicans announced today.

Young, who was elected to the Senate in November after serving three terms in the House, fills an open GOP seat on the committee after Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) lost his reelection bid.

In the House, Young has talked about reducing the role of the federal government in education and has also introduced legislation that would allow for income-share agreements in higher education.

The 11 other Republican senators who were already on the committee will remain on the panel in the coming Congress.

Democrats have added two new members to the Senate education committee: Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)


Two new names join Education Department landing team

Politico By Caitlin Emma 12/20/2016 05:35 PM EDT

Two new names have volunteered for President-elect Donald Trump’s landing team at the Education Department: attorney Kent Talbert and education researcher Kathleen Madigan Rebarber.

Talbert is also a possible pick for general counsel at the Education Department, POLITICO has reported. Prior to starting his own law firm, Talbert was general counsel for the department under President George W. Bush. He has legal expertise in matters pertaining to K-12 and higher education.

Madigan Rebarber comes from the nonprofit education organization AccountabilityWorks. She’s a senior research scientist and former educator who “co-founded and served as President of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, an innovative and nationally recognized standards-based teacher certification program,” according to her bio.

Madigan Rebarber and the Trump transition team could not immediately be reached for comment. Talbert deferred questions to the transition team.


DeVos talks with Lankford about reining in Office for Civil Rights
Politico By Caitlin Emma 01/05/2017 02:14 PM EDT

Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, has had several phone conversations with Republican Sen. James Lankford about reining in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, according to an aide for the senator.

Lankford has long accused the department’s civil rights arm of federal overreach. Civil rights advocates, meanwhile, worry the Trump administration will move to gut the office or greatly diminish its enforcement role.

Lankford doesn’t want to eliminate the Office for Civil Rights, the aide said. But Lankford stressed to DeVos that there are areas that he sees as federal overreach — like the Education Department’s position that Title IX offers explicit protections for transgender students. In those areas, Lankford said OCR needs to change its position.

A spokesperson for the transition team could not immediately be reached for comment. DeVos’ confirmation hearing has been set for Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET


Delegated director of the Institute of Education Sciences to step down

Politico By Caitlin Emma 01/03/2017 02:02 PM EDT

Ruth Neild will step down as deputy director of policy and research and delegated director of the Institute of Education Sciences on Jan. 13, according to an internal note sent to IES staff.

Neild was named to the post in July of 2015 and was previously commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Technical Assistance.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. has asked “Thomas Brock to take on the delegated duties of the director of IES, while continuing to serve as commissioner of the National Center for Education Research,” King’s chief of staff, Laura Ginns, said in the internal note sent to staff.

“IES has an essential role in providing our country with high-quality, trustworthy, and timely statistics, research, and evaluation, and Ruth has helped significantly to move IES forward in its mission,” Ginns wrote. “I know that Tom will continue and expand on that work during his tenure.”


Federal Updates

Congressional preview: Here are the key education issues to watch

Politico By Michael Stratford 01/03/2017 05:00 AM EDT

As the 115th Congress gavels into session this week, lawmakers will return to some unfinished business on education policy — while also navigating the legislative priorities of a new administration.

Some of the issues before the new Congress are familiar. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the chairs of the Congressional education committees, both plan to turn their attention to overhauling the Higher Education Act, which was last comprehensively reauthorized in 2008.

And Republicans and Democrats on the education committees also say they’ll continue to watch closely to see how the Education Department implements the Every Student Succeeds Act, the K-12 education law that Congress passed in 2015.

An Alexander aide said the senator will be focused on “reauthorizing the Higher Education Act to make it easier and simpler for more students to attend college and implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act as Congress wrote it.” Alexander has previously criticized the Obama administration for pursuing ESSA regulations that the GOP senator says exceeded the law’s authority.

Democrats, meanwhile, will be working to preserve as much of the Obama education legacy as possible.

“We’re expecting to be on the defense, especially in the first 100 days,” said a House Democratic aide, citing possible efforts by Republicans to expand private school choice, gut mandatory funding for Pell Grants, or scale back the Office for Civil Rights. “We anticipate a lot of fights.”

Under Obama, the Office for Civil Rights expanded protections for transgender students, and also called for colleges and universities to more aggressively crack down on campus sexual assault. The office’s stance that transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity was fiercely criticized by many conservatives.

Another potential item on the Republican agenda: President-elect Donald Trump’s $20 billion “school choice” plan that calls for an expansion of charter schools and voucher programs, which allow families to use public funds to enroll their children in private or religious schools.

Republicans are also expected to target the Obama administration’s rules aimed at cracking down on for-profit college abuses. That battle will likely prove contentious.

The first flashpoint could be the confirmation process for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Education secretary. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chair of the Senate education committee, has tentatively scheduled a confirmation hearing for Jan. 11.

Democrats and teachers unions plan to cast DeVos as an enemy of public education, while also questioning her qualifications for the job. But Republicans have been unified in their support of DeVos, who has donated millions to GOP candidates and once led the state Republican party in Michigan.

Even if DeVos comfortably clears a vote on her confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans have a 52-seat majority, any battles this month over her nomination could set the tone for education policy debates in the coming years.

One thing that Congressional Republicans and an incoming Trump Education Department will likely have to hammer out in the early months of the new Congress is a strategy for undoing the Obama administration education policies that many GOP lawmakers have railed against.

Some recently-finalized Education Department regulations could be overturned under the Congressional Review Act. Other policies could be blocked by attaching a rider on bills to keep the government funded beyond April 28, when current government appropriations expire. Or, the Trump administration could begin a new rulemaking process to completely repeal or replace existing regulations.

The new Trump Education Department could also delay or decline to implement some regulations that haven’t yet taken effect, such as state authorization rules for online college programs, new funding restrictions aimed at troubled for-profit colleges, and a system for forgiving federal loans of students defrauded by their college.

Even after the polarizing 2016 election, however, there are still some areas of possible bipartisan cooperation.

One piece of legislation that could potentially attract support from both sides of the aisle is a rewrite of the Perkins Act — the law governing federal funding of career and technical education. The House passed a bill last year to reauthorize Perkins on a 405-5 vote.

But the legislation hit a snag in the Senate, as Sen. Alexander sought to include new provisions to restrict the education secretary’s authority to approve state plans for spending the money on career and technical education programs.

This year, House Republicans and Democrats have indicated that getting the career and technical education bill over the finish line will be a priority.


Education Department to release first round of gainful employment data

Politico By Michael Stratford  01/06/2017 04:11 PM EDT

The Education Department plans to publicly identify which career college programs have failed the gainful employment rule next Monday, according to a notice published today.

The department will release the final debt-to-earnings rates to colleges on Sunday and plans to publicly release them “late in the afternoon” on Monday. The data will show which colleges pass, fail, or are in the warning “zone” under the rule.

Programs that fail or are in the warning “zone” for multiple years will eventually lose access to federal student aid.

The data release will fulfill the Obama administration’s pledge to fully implement its gainful employment rule before the president leaves office. And it comes as Republicans in Congress eye a repeal of the rule, which largely targets for-profit colleges.


Education Department posts new ESSA guidelines

Politico By Caitlin Emma  01/06/2017 01:35 PM EDT

The Education Department today posted new guidelines for states as they implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The materials are meant to help states as they draft and carry out new plans and set new goals, develop new state and local report cards and calculate graduation rates.

For example, in developing new state plans under the law, the Education Department notes that states should reach out to a number of public officials, groups and individuals. That includes the governor, state lawmakers, higher education institutions, representatives of private school students and more. States should then detail that outreach in plans submitted to the department.

ESSA also allows states to incorporate a new measure of school quality or student success in their systems for holding schools accountable. The Education Department’s guidelines remind states that whatever measure they choose, research should show that students’ high performance or progress on that measure can increase student learning.

Possible examples of student learning include grade point average, credit accumulation, performance in advanced coursework, increased graduation rates or better postsecondary persistence, the department notes.


State Updates

What’s on Tap in Statehouses this year?

Politico By Benjamin Wermund | 01/05/2017 06:00 AM EDT
With help from Caitlin Emma, Kimberly Hefling and Seung Min Kim

Legislatures in all 50 states are in session this year, with many starting this month, and a slew of education issues are on the agenda, including state plans to comply with the new Every Student Succeeds Act and proposed laws that would send public money to private and religious schools. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest issues that state lawmakers are likely to tackle this year:

State lawmakers are crafting plans to comply with ESSA. With the window to submit those plans opening in April, the new federal law is likely to take up a lot of their time, according to Josh Cunningham, a senior education policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Those plans will cover a number of major education issues, including standards, assessments, teacher policies and strategies for turning around struggling schools. “States are really being given a lot of flexibility to come up with their own strategies and their own plans,” Cunningham said. “That will consume a lot of their energy this upcoming session.” A second window to submit the plans opens in September.

The 2016 election put some wind in the sails of “school choice” advocates who are expected to make a big push to get states to pass laws allowing public money to be spent on private schools. “There’s an energy within the school choice community where they’ll be pushing a lot of legislation around the country,” Cunningham said. Republicans now control both chambers of the statehouse in Kentucky — one of the few states in the nation without a charter school law in place. Kentucky’s board of education has already put together recommendations to help guide lawmakers on how to craft a charter law. Missouri lawmakers, meanwhile, introduced a bill on Wednesday to create a first-of-its-kind program that operates like a tax credit scholarship program but offers parents the flexibility of an education savings account, Cunningham said. Virginia lawmakers earlier this week introduced their own effort to create an education savings account and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has vowed to push vouchers in the state this session (and in future years as well, if they don’t happen this go-round).

While lawmakers in North Carolina still might repeal a controversial “transgender bathroom bill,” lawmakers in several other states are likely to make a push to pass their own versions of the law. One Virginia bill would require schools to alert parents within 24 hours if a student asks to “be recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronouns inconsistent with the child’s sex, or to use a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex.” That bill was pre-filed this week. At least 19 states tried to pass so-called “bathroom bills” in 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Texas, where an effort to pass such a bill failed in 2015, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said he’ll make it a priority when the legislature reconvenes this month.

A handful of states are likely to become battlegrounds for campus carry laws this year. Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill last month removing a state ban on guns on college campuses, and gun-rights advocates are already gearing up for a renewed push in 2017 to expand the state’s campus carry laws even further. Across the country, the new year is expected to bring new battles over guns on campus. Ohio is one of several states where the issue is likely to resurface. Efforts to expand gun laws are also likely to pop up in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, among other states. Read more about the pro-gun push here .


Grant to fund fast-track teacher prep in Calif. (ASCD K-12 Leadership Brief) 

Nearly $750,000 in state grants will be used by San Diego State University to create a program that allows undergraduates to earn both their degree and teaching credentials at the same time. Joe Johnson, dean of the College of Education, says the program will help ease the state’s teacher shortage.

Times of San Diego


NJ Teachers Will Spend Less Time Under Evaluation with New Rules
New Jersey teachers will be evaluated by their supervisors in three 20-minute sessions a year under new rules

 approved Wednesday that significantly reduce the amount of time principals must spend observing classrooms.

 (, Jan. 4)


SC Department of Education introduces K-8 Computer Science Standards

All South Carolina public school students in kindergarten through eighth grade would be required to learn computer science beginning in 2018 under new standards proposed by the state Department of Education. (Post and Courier, Dec. 25)


Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy gave his annual State of the State speech Wednesday and called for a new formula to fund public schools. Malloy’s call comes after a judge in September issued a sweeping order that demanded that the state design a new and better way to fund public education, while excoriating state lawmakers for their spending decisions. Malloy said Connecticut provides more than $4 billion in annual state aid to public schools, and that spending must address the greatest needs in the state. “The budget that I will present to you next month will outline a more equitable system for providing town aid. It will be based on the local property tax burden, student need, and current enrollment,” he said. “The result will be a fairer distribution of our state’s limited funds.” The Hartford Courant has more. Read the full speech here.


NC’s Charter Surge: Attendance Has Doubled in the Last 5 Years
While North Carolina’s traditional public schools lost students this school year, charter school enrollment has more than doubled since the state lifted a 100-school cap in 2011. (Charlotte Observer, Jan. 3)


OH – State Seeks Comments on Some Learning Standards
Ohioans interested in what students learn in social studies and science classes can now tell the state how to improve learning standards that cover topics ranging from the Constitution to chemical reactions. (Blade, Jan. 2)


North Carolina judge temporarily halts transfer of education powers

Politico By Caitlin Emma 12/30/2016 11:38 AM EDT

A North Carolina judge has temporarily halted a new law that transfers power from the state board of education to the incoming state superintendent after board members filed a lawsuit this week.

The bill, signed earlier this month by outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, transfers more flexibility in managing the state’s education budget to Superintendent-elect Mark Johnson, who won in an upset against incumbent June Atkinson in November.

It would also give Johnson more power to dismiss senior employees, control charter schools and choose a leader for a state-run school district to oversee some of the lowest-performing schools.

A court hearing will be held next week, The Associated Press reports.

The state board chairman, a majority of state lawmakers and Johnson are all Republican, AP notes. But Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, who takes office Sunday, is expected to replace many members of the state board.


Research and other topics of interest

EdWeek releases its annual ranking of states in terms of education: