Music Education Policy Roundup – July 10, 2017

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


Thank you for all of your efforts in making NAfME’s Hill Day 2017 such a huge success.  Because of your commitment and perseverance, nearly 300 congressional offices were visited with the message of asking congress to keep its promise by fully funding “well-rounded” programs in the Every Student Succeeds Act.  More to come later this week as we’ll provide a more in-depth analysis on the success of Hill Day 2017, but a special thank you for your continued dedication to music education.  Please take a moment to look at our Hill Day recap video!



18 states sue DeVos over delay of student loan protections

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia filed suit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday over her delay of regulations meant to protect federal student loan borrowers defrauded by their schools.  The lawsuit in Federal District Court in D.C., led by Massachusetts and joined by 18 other Democratic attorneys general, accuses DeVos of illegally delaying the regulations aimed at predatory colleges, which were finalized by the Obama administration and had been set to take effect on July 1.  The rules, known as “borrower defense to repayment,” are aimed at making it easier for defrauded student loan borrowers to seek debt forgiveness. They also prohibit colleges from requiring students to resolve complaints against their school through arbitration rather than in court.


Catholic Church sees school choice proposals as ‘game-changing’

Philadelphia’s West Catholic Preparatory High School nearly shut its doors five years ago as a result of plummeting enrollment and soaring debt.  But then a godsend of sorts came from the state Legislature. It expanded tax credits for businesses that donate to state-sanctioned scholarship organizations that grant tuition help to low-income families for private schools, many of them religious.  The fortunes of West Catholic Prep High School were transformed. Enrollment doubled and the school now collects $800,000 in tuition from annual tax credits — enough money to fund Advanced Placement and other enrichment classes that had fallen by the wayside in leaner times.


Trump administration further delays parts of ‘gainful’ rule

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday that she is further delaying the implementation of several provisions of the Obama-era “gainful employment” rule.  The Education Department said that it will extend Saturday’s deadline for career colleges to file appeals of their graduates’ earnings data — a key metric the department uses under the regulation to determine if graduates are earning enough to pay off the debt they took on to attend the school.  The extension is targeted toward schools that object to the government’s earnings data on the grounds that they don’t fully capture the income of their graduates.


Trump administration details new civil rights approach to college attorneys

Civil rights officials in the Education and Justice departments have told college attorneys they plan to take a “neutral, impartial” approach to civil rights enforcement — despite concerns from Democrats and other advocates they’re rolling back civil rights protections.

“For those in the press and my friends with other political perspectives who have been expressing fear that … OCR is scaling back or retreating from civil rights, that’s just not the case,” Candice Jackson, the acting head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, said Tuesday, according to a report in Inside Higher Education.


Attorneys general sue DeVos over delay of rule to protect students from predatory colleges

A group of 19 state attorneys general is suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for delaying an overhaul of rules to erase the federal student debt of borrowers defrauded by colleges.“With no notice, with no opportunity for comment … the DeVos team is trying to cancel this rule,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is leading the lawsuit, said on a call with reporters Thursday. “It is important that we take action where we see activity by the federal government, Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education, that is unsustainable, unfair and illegal.” 


Science teachers: DeVos’s Education Department is misinterpreting federal law

Science educators aren’t exactly thrilled with the Education Department under Betsy DeVos.  They weren’t fans when President Trump recently pulled the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement (which all countries had signed except Syria and Nicaragua) — and DeVos issued a statement in support. And many educators were concerned when the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that strongly backs DeVos and does not believe in human-induced climate change, sent to thousands of K-12 and college science teachers materials that reject basic principles on which nearly all climate scientists agree. A group of Democratic senators asked the Education Department whether DeVos or her staff had anything to do with this Heartland project.  Now, the National Science Teachers Association and the STEM Education Coalition have sent a letter to the Education Department saying it is misinterpreting the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal K-12 education law that replaced No Child Left Behind, in regard to science and school accountability plans.


Teachers Union Adopts New, Anti-Charter School Policy

The 3-million member National Education Association is taking a new tack when it comes to charter schools, adopting a policy statement Tuesday aimed at limiting charter school growth and increasing accountability on the sector.  NEA officials hailed the decision as a “fundamental shift” in the union’s stance on charter schools.  “Charter schools were started by educators who dreamed of schools in which they would be free to innovate, unfettered by bureaucratic obstacles,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said Tuesday in a statement.“Handing over students’ education to privately managed, unaccountable charters jeopardizes student success, undermines public education and harms communities,” she said. “This policy draws a clear line between charters that serve to improve public education and those that do not.”



Education chief: New Mexico schools need modern solutions

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is seeing higher graduation rates and more students are reading at grade level thanks to reforms made over the past several years, but a top state education official says the demands of public education are evolving and schools need to be prepared.

Christopher Ruszkowski took over as acting secretary of the Public Education Department this week. He replaces Hanna Skandera, who announced her resignation earlier this month.  A former middle school social studies teacher, Ruszkowski worked for several years with the Delaware Department of Education before being named in 2016 as a deputy secretary for policy and programs in New Mexico.  He helped develop New Mexico’s plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, a law signed by former President Barack Obama that addresses school ratings, student report cards and other ways to spot and help troubled schools.


Maryland governor taps new members of state education board

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday he has tapped four new members of the Maryland State Board of Education.  Hogan’s picks included David Steiner, executive director for the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and a professor of education at Hopkins, and Michael Phillips, senior pastor of the Kingdom Life Church in Baltimore and founder of the Better Life Community Development Corp.  The governor also appointed Justin Hartings, president of Biaera Technologies of Hagerstown and a former member of the Washington County Board of Education in western Maryland, and Kyle Smith, a student at North Point High School in Charles County. Smith, who becomes the state board’s student member, was recommended by the Maryland Association of Student Councils.


Ohio State Budget Update: K-12 Education and Higher Education

This is the final budget of Gov. John Kasich’s two-term administration and it was a challenging budget for the legislature and the administration, with an ongoing decline in state revenue during the current fiscal year.  With the initial announcement in March, state leaders proposed that the pending budget would need to be reduced by $800 million in general revenue funds over the biennium. This total grew to nearly $1 billion by mid-June. As a result, most state agencies received a 4-6 percent across-the-board cut and K-12 education received modest increases, while higher education institutions were mostly flat funded.


Setting the Stage for Arts Integration (Louisiana)

I was the founding school principal of an arts-based elementary school in Louisiana. Our mission was to get kids fired up about learning by integrating the visual and performing arts throughout the curriculum. To accomplish this, we replaced paraprofessionals and other non-instructional staff with working artists: dancers, actors, painters, photographers, graphic designers, and musicians. We did residencies and workshops and held regular exhibitions and performances. We named our classrooms after teachers’ favorite artists, and we started and ended every day with A.R.T., or Art Reflection Time.


Nation’s Least-Funded Schools Get What They Pay For

In his 17 years as a school official in Oklahoma, Robert Romines has dealt with more than his share of painful situations. In 2013, as superintendent in the town of Moore, he had to shepherd his system through the aftermath of a tornado that caused $2 billion in total damage, destroying entire neighborhoods and taking down two elementary schools. Today, he is up against a subtler but deeply corrosive attack on his schools: death by a thousand spending cuts.  No state has suffered more than Oklahoma when it comes to education funding over the past decade. As it has struggled to balance its budget in the face of declining oil revenue, spending on schools has declined further than anywhere else. Oklahoma now spends $1 billion less on K-12 education than it did a decade ago. One in five of its school districts has opted for a four-day school week; the base minimum salary for educators hasn’t been raised in nearly a decade; and emergency credentials are being awarded at a record pace to help fill teacher vacancies. Arts programs are going away. Some schools are consolidating their sports programs with other schools to save money. Funding was cut in this year’s education budget for the statewide science fair, in which students compete for awards and scholarships.


Arizona court overturns in-state tuition for DREAMers

PHOENIX – The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that young immigrants granted deferred deportation status under a program started by former President Barack Obama are not eligible for lower in-state college tuition.  The ruling by a three-judge panel overturns a 2015 decision by a trial court judge that said deferred action recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. under federal immigration laws and therefore qualified for state benefits.  Instead, presiding Judge Kenton Jones wrote for the court that the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA did not confer that status. The court’s decision takes Arizona in the opposite direction amid a push around the country — including Republican-dominant states like Oklahoma, Tennessee and Nebraska — to grant in-state tuition to immigrants in the country illegally. Tennessee recently became the 21st state to do so, earning bipartisan support from lawmakers who said it did not make sense to punish students brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.


State budget revamps basic education funding

WHATCOM — A proposed Washington state budget was passed by the Legislature early Friday after months of back-and-forth negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on education funding.  Within the budget, legislators hope to sufficiently address the 2012 state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling that found Washington State wasn’t adequately funding education as mandated by the state constitution. The 2017-19 proposed compromise budget of $43.7 billion adds many more dollars for education.  It calls for $1.8 billion more per year for K-12 public schools, a total of $7.3 billion over four years. This is on top of $1.4 billion in increased maintenance-level costs from continuation basic education enhancements, according to state budget documents.



Weighing the benefits and costs of universal versus targeted pre-K programs

A recent Brookings report reviewed the evidence on several specific issues related to public pre-K programs. These scaled-up state or district programs are intended to prepare four-year-olds for kindergarten. They are less intensive than the much smaller and heavily studied early childhood experiments, such as the Perry Preschool or Abecedarian programs, that have been shown to generate large long-term benefits relative to their costs.

I recommend the full report to interested readers, but draw here primarily on three of its chapters to reflect on the choice between universal versus targeted progams. I conclude that if limited resources rule out a universal program, then the best strategy may be to target pre-K services to disadvantaged communities rather than to disadvantaged children.


The School Voucher Research Wars

When researchers released new studies on the effectiveness of private school voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana this week, advocates and opponents of such policies were quick to parse the findings and plant a victory flag for their respective causes.  The president of the 1.5-million member American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said the findings from Indiana showed “negative or negligible results for student outcomes.”  “This latest study of vouchers,” she said, “should be yet another red flag to [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos that she is going down the wrong path and it will hurt all students in the end.”  Of the same study, the Center for Education Reform – a private school choice-friendly organization – had this to say: “Not only do the [voucher] kids do better over time than their comparison groups but the kids who didn’t take the vouchers also do better.”