Music Education Policy Roundup – July 24, 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.


The House Appropriations Committee recently released their Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill, which proposes an allocation of $500 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants, otherwise known as Title IV, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Read NAfME’s position on the bill here.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) held yet another successful Hill Day because of the perseverance and commitment of its members.   Over 300 hundred NAfME members participated including a record number of 119 collegiates.  Please read our Hill Day recap!

This past June 29, 2017, the North Carolina Music Educators Association(NCMEA), a federated music education association (MEA) of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), received the 2017 Excellence in Advocacy Award for their work in advocating for music education in North Carolina. Read about their outstanding work over the past year.  



In D.C. rally, hundreds protest Trump’s planned cuts to education

As people began trickling onto the Mall in Washington on Saturday morning, Massachusetts teacher Jeff Maxwell looked around and told those nearby that he felt like the day would be history in the making.

Nolan, his 10-year-old son, had bragged to his friends when his mom attended the Women’s March after President Trump’s inauguration, and then he had asked his dad when he could go to a march, too.

So the family of four drove down Friday night to join those seeking to be heard at the “March for Public Education,” a rally and protest of the Trump administration’s efforts to cut federal education funding and expand private-school vouchers.


DeVos: Civil rights office will return to being a ‘neutral’ agency

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she is “returning” the Office for Civil Rights “to its role as a neutral, impartial, investigative agency.”  In a July 11 letter to Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, DeVos asserted that the department’s civil rights arm under the Obama administration “had descended into a pattern of overreaching, of setting out to punish and embarrass institutions rather than work with them to correct civil rights violations and of ignoring public input prior to issuing new rules.”  As part of the changes she is implementing, the civil rights office would no longer issue “new regulations via administrative fiat,” as the Obama administration did, she wrote.

DeVos’ letter, which lays out a far less activist philosophy for the civil rights office, came in response to a letter sent late last month by 34 Senate Democrats, who blasted her for a series of actions they said had “diminished” civil rights enforcement. The lawmakers asked DeVos for a host of information by July 11, including a list of civil rights investigations that have been closed or dismissed since the Trump administration began. DeVos didn’t provide any of the information in her response.


DeVos vows changes on campus sexual assault policy

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos signaled Thursday that she plans to overhaul controversial Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assault, telling reporters “this is an issue we’re not getting right.”

But she offered few clues about what those changes would be, when they might happen or how she would balance the rights of victims against those of the accused.  The far-reaching 2011 guidance told college and university officials they must combat sexual harassment, including sexual violence, under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination, and threatened a loss of federal funding to institutions that failed to do so. Among other things, the guidance pushed a lower standard of proof in campus disciplinary hearings than is used in criminal trials.


Obama Under Secretary Is ACE’s Next President

The next leader of the American Council on Education will be Ted Mitchell, who in January wrapped up an eventful and influential stint as the top higher education official in the Obama administration’s Education Department.  The industry’s chief lobbying organization said this weekthat Mitchell will replace Molly Broad, ACE’s first woman leader, who will retire in October after a nine-year tenure.

Mitchell’s hire is sure to turn heads, and not just because he’s a former Obama official who takes the reins at a time when Republicans dominate both Washington and state capitols.

Many in higher education and beyond view Mitchell as an accessible and pragmatic straight shooter. But his career has been more wide-ranging than that of his predecessors at ACE, who tend to have left prominent college presidencies shortly before taking the job. 


House Republicans at odds with Trump’s proposed higher education cuts

House Republicans issued a 2018 budget bill Tuesday afternoon that rejects several higher education cuts proposed by President Trump but upholds plans to pull billions of dollars in reserves out of the Pell Grant program for needy college students.  Ahead of a markup slated for Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released the full funding report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies that provides money for programs placed on the chopping block in the White House budget.  [Trump and DeVos plan to reshape higher education finance. Here’s what it might mean for you.


On Education, The States Ask: Now What?

The new federal education law is supposed to return to the states greater control over their public schools.  But judging from the mood recently at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States, the states are anything but optimistic about the future, or about the new law.  The apprehension reminded me of the 1989 education summit convened by President George H.W. Bush. Back then the goal was to persuade governors to adopt a set of national education goals. All but a couple of states bought into the idea of “systemic change” with support from the federal government.


Transgender Students Turn to Courts as Government Support Erodes

Transgender students once found an ally in the Department of Education, which under the Obama administration robustly investigated alleged violations of their civil rights and argued that federal laws against sex discrimination ensured their access to public school bathrooms and changing facilities.  But that has changed in the months since President Trump took office. Since February, the department and its Office of Civil Rights have reversed their position on bathroom access and rescinded the findings of at least one civil rights investigation. Advocacy groups say the two have also made confusing statements about discrimination against gay and transgender students.



Where’s the music? Parents, teachers question lack of arts in K-12 plan (South Dakota)

Name a band instrument, and odds are Blake Wieseler can play it.  Wieseler, 16, started in the band as a fifth-grader playing trumpet in Yankton. Now, the incoming junior plays a number of instruments and is preparing for a career as a music teacher.  He’s also among the nearly 60 people who wrote to the South Dakota Department of Education last month asking it to include music education in the state’s plan to implement the new federal K-12 education law. 


Florida’s education system — the one Betsy DeVos cites as a model — is in chaos

The K-12 education system in Florida — the one that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos likes to praise as a model for the nation — is in chaos.  Traditional public school districts are trying to absorb the loss of millions of dollars for the new school year that starts within weeks. That money, which comes from local property taxes, is used for capital funding but now must be shared with charter schools as a result of a widely criticized $419 million K-12 public education bill crafted by Republican legislative leaders in secret and recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott — at a Catholic school.


Texas teachers rally to support public education

Hundreds of teachers in red shirts looked to the sky Monday afternoon as an airplane circled high above the Texas Capitol trailing a banner in support of a public education rally.  Current and retired teachers, parents and students rallied on the south steps of the Capitol to show their support for public education and denounce standardized testing, school vouchers, lack of public education funding and unfunded teacher pay raises. Many of the teachers present were also members of different major teacher associations, like Texans for Public Education, the organization that coordinated the rally.


Officials Want More Of Georgia’s Lottery’s Record Profits To Fund Education

The Georgia Lottery hit the jackpot with record profits this fiscal year, so it’s transferring a record $1.1 billion to state education programs.  The state lottery was set up in 1993 to provide “as nearly as practical” of 35 percent of its proceeds for HOPE scholarships and pre-K programs.  Though it’s the largest transfer in the lottery’s history, a state audit found it’s been falling short of the goal and could be doing more.  During a press conference in January, Republican State Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert announced he would work to increase the amount the lottery provides towards education.


Florida to Seek Waiver From Key ESSA Provisions

Florida plans to seek a waiver from several fundamental portions of the Every Student Succeeds Act that dictate how schools handle some of the country’s most historically underperforming and disadvantaged students.  But the draft request, which seeks to mostly keep intact a state school accountability system that predates the new federal K-12 law, already has inflamed civil rights advocates, and could prove an early test of how the U.S. Department of Education intends to weigh states’ bids for flexibility in the ESSA plans being submitted for approval.


Ruling could expand special education services to more Iowa students

A legal judgment could force Iowa schools to change how they determine which students qualify for special education, potentially allowing thousands of more children to qualify for services, advocates say.  Administrative Law Judge Christie J. Scase issued a ruling that requires the Iowa Department of Education to reimburse an Urbandale family for private tutoring costs incurred after their child was denied access to special education programming at school. 


Newton Green rally supports public school education (New Jersey)

Demonstrators rallied on the Newton Green Saturday in support of public education, saying they were showing solidarity with parents, teachers and advocates gathered for a similar march in Washington, D.C.  “Public education is a national issue, it’s a state issue and it’s a local issue. That’s why we’re out here today,” said Gina Trish, a Democratic candidate for state Assembly from the 24th District, speaking from the green.  “It is our job as a community to make sure that our public schools are properly funded and that their interests are well-protected in Trenton.”


Downtown rally focuses on value of public education, concerns about equity (Kentucky)

Equity and concerns about charter schools coming to Kentucky were hot topics Saturday at a downtown rally in support of public education.  “The school privatization movement is here, and it’s moving quickly,” said Lucy Waterbury of Save Our Schools Kentucky. “Unless we understand what is at risk, we can’t protect our kids.”  About 50 people, including state Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, and state Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, attended the March for Public Education in front of the Fayette County courthouses.



Some schools much better than others at closing achievement gaps between their advantaged and disadvantaged students

Recent research demonstrates that the test score gap between relatively advantaged and relatively disadvantaged students is much higher in some school districts than it is in other districts. But measured school quality often varies dramatically within a school district, and therefore it is important to know whether individual schools differ in the relative success of advantaged and disadvantaged students. We make use of detailed, linked birth and school records in Florida to investigate the degree to which this is true.