Music Education Policy Roundup – Mar 20, 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

Revised ESSA State Plan Template and available Music and Arts Education Opportunities is now available here on the NAfME website.


Blog outlining the difference between the Revised Template and original Template available here.


Federal Updates

Release of Trump’s “Skinny Budget” – cuts to education

Politico 03/16/17

President Donald Trump today released a proposed $1.1 trillion budget for fiscal year 2018 that would add $54 billion in military spending while cutting domestic programs including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The document is here.

Can DeVos sell school choice to America?
Politico By Kimberly Hefling and Benjamin Wermund 03/17/2017 05:01 AM EDT

This is the moment Betsy DeVos has been waiting for.

With the president’s proposed budget calling for a major investment in charters and private schools, DeVos faces a test that could define her tenure as Education Secretary — selling school choice to America.

Donald Trump’s budget blueprint seeks to redirect tens of millions from student financial aid and teacher training, among other programs, to charter schools and private school tuition vouchers, including a $1 billion boost in Title 1 funds that for the first time would follow students to the public schools of their choice.

While only a down payment on Trump’s campaign promise to plow $20 billion into school choice, the budget plan represents a radical departure for education policy. DeVos’ reputation will hinge on her ability to convince not just lawmakers but the American public that large pots of taxpayer money should go to educational options besides traditional public schools, including helping working class families with private school tuition.

“The budget places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children by investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs,” DeVos said in a statement Thursday.

The reality is that DeVos — a billionaire who long fought for school choice causes before taking office — may have a hard time persuading even some members of her own party, who have previously rejected many of these ideas and who are sure to balk at cuts to other programs viewed as essential by educators and parents in their districts.

Still, with Republicans controlling all branches of government and school choice a priority for party leaders who see it as a way to help low-income, urban children while enlisting the support of their parents, nobody is writing off her chances.

“Are they going to raise holy hell?” asked Sandy Kress, education adviser to former President George W. Bush. “Yes. Will they continue to beat her up? She expects it. They expect it, there’s no question about it.”

“Coming out of the chutes, this is going to be a heavy lift,” said George Miller, the former Democratic ranking member of the House education committee.

Still, despite what Miller referred to as DeVos’ “credibility gap” with many Democrats, he said an expanded investment in school choice “may be the easiest program for her to prosecute.”

“She’s familiar with it, she’s supported it,” Miller said.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees K-12 education and a strong supporter of school choice, calls DeVos as “the best spokeswoman out there are on these ideas.”

He described her as professional, articulate and strong. “Certainly in the House of Representatives, where she hasn’t been yet, I think she’ll be very well received,” Rokita said.

“We have a partner in the president and his first down payment on that promise was Betsy DeVos, and he continues making good payment on that promise and this budget request is the next visible sign of that,” Rokita said. “A lot of folks in this town don’t understand still there’s a new guy calling the tune.”

The “new guy” — Trump — took DeVos with him recently to a private Catholic school in Florida with a large percentage of students whose tuition is paid by a state tuition scholarship program that many believe could be a model for the federal government. It was Trump’s first visit to a school as president.

DeVos goes back to Capitol Hill Wednesday to answer questions about the administration’s budget proposals from the House Appropriations Committee — her first public appearance since the contentious confirmation process that transformed her into a punching bag for the left.

Making her task more difficult, DeVos is coming out of a rocky first month in which a series of unforced errors did little to allay critics’ concerns about her commitment to public schools, her expertise or for that matter, her savvy. Now, she’ll also have to justify the administration’s 13-percent hit overall to the Education Department — including to many of its popular programs designed to boost public schools in areas such as after-school programming and teacher training.

Signaling the fight ahead, a broad swath of the education world blasted Trump’s budget proposal on Thursday.

“Either we support public schools or we undermine them, the children that attend them and the nation,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association. “That is the choice before us.”

But DeVos has long prided herself on standing up to the educational establishment and she has the confidence of the president, Kress said.

“Do the choice advocates think she’s in any way impaired to make that message or deliver it?” Kress asked. “I don’t think so at all. I think they’ll just sort of say, ‘this is why we picked her.’”

In fact, Greg McNeilly, a longtime political adviser to DeVos, said not only is DeVos “impervious” to such criticism, she thrives on it.

“I think she’s more uncomfortable if she isn’t being criticized,” McNeilly said. “She takes the criticism as a sign she must be doing something right. She has such a firm conviction that the education establishment has gotten a lot of things wrong. If they’re completely OK, then I think she would be uncomfortable.”

A proposed 50 percent boost in charter school funding could find more of a receptive audience among both Republicans and Democrats, since charter schools have long had more bipartisan support than programs that use public funds to cover private school tuition.

Other parts of Trump’s proposal that would allow working class families to use public funds for private school tuition might to a tougher sell. Republican senators such as Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine were so concerned about channeling public funds to private school tuition they sought assurances from DeVos during her confirmation that she wouldn’t impose such programs on their home states.

The issue of making Title I dollars portable has also been a hot-button issue, with some Republicans opposing the idea during the fight over overhauling the No Child Left Behind law. Making the change would also likely require lawmakers to go back into the law that replaced it, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which many would be reluctant to do.

A more palatable way to support these ideas expected to be rolled out later by the administration is a tax credit scholarship proposal, which would provide tax incentives connected to donations to a third-party organization that helps low-income students pay for private school tuition.

Rokita said the effort is based on a bill he’s introduced in the House, which he “absolutely” expects to get traction.

“I would be astonished if that bill wouldn’t move. We’re working hard on it,” Rokita said.

Kress contends a tax proposal has a good chance of passing — in part because it could be wrapped into a larger tax plan through the budget reconciliation process, which wouldn’t require 60 votes in the Senate.

A spokesman for DeVos said she wasn’t available to discuss her strategy on selling the budget proposal to Congress. But he emphasized she’s been working hard to build bridges with a variety of groups — including making a phone call to Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking member of the Senate education committee.

Despite those efforts, there are few signs that DeVos has succeeded in mending fences with many of her opponents. She missed no opportunity to talk about choice — one particularly inflammatory misstep was her statement calling the nation’s historically black colleges and universities “pioneers” in school choice.

DeVos also angered teachers at a D.C. public school she visited when she told a conservative news outlet that they were “waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child.”

The comment spawned a torrent of social media criticisms from D.C. teachers and others.

“Sorry lady. Tried to give you the benefit of the doubt,” Kaya Henderson, the former head of D.C. Public Schools, tweeted. “But this is so amateur and unprofessional that it’s astounding. We deserve better.”

Then, DeVos told college students at the Conservative Action Political Conference that professors tell them “what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think” — minutes before she shuffled across Washington to meet with a dozen public university presidents.

The proposed budget on Thursday is already creating new strain.

“As recently as yesterday, Secretary DeVos indicated an interest in supporting state and local education agencies, and ‘to returning power to the states whenever and wherever possible,’” Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of the superintendents organization AASA, said.

“The idea that this administration thinks that schools can do this work — and the administration claim they support this work — without supporting teachers and teacher leaders, and their professional development, is a deeply disconcerting position,” Domenech said.


‘School choice’ support in Trump budget comes at a cost
Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/16/2017 09:06 AM EDT Updated 03/16/2017 03:38 PM EDT

President Donald Trump proposes an unprecedented federal investment in school choice, but that comes at the expense of programs with bipartisan backing that have helped students pay for college, provided professional development for teachers and funded after-school programs.

Trump’s budget blueprint makes a down payment on the $20 billion plan that he pitched on the campaign trail to expand public and private school options. He has called on Congress to pass legislation expanding school choice options, calling it a civil rights issue. At the same time, he would cut $9.2 billion from the Education Department’s $68 billion budget, a 13-percent reduction as the administration looks to trim domestic programs and hike defense spending.

His budget would boost Charter Schools Program grants, which support the expansion of charter schools, by 50 percent from their current $333 million allocation. And it proposes a new $250 million private school choice program, which is expected to allow working class families to use public funds to help pay tuition for private schools.

Trump’s budget would also increase a $15 billion allocation of Title I funds for poor students by $1 billion to encourage “districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables federal, state and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.”

Title I funds are distributed by formula to school districts based on the number of poor students they serve. Democrats and moderate Republicans have blocked past efforts to make Title I funds “portable,” allowing federal funds to follow students to the school of their choice.

Without more details, it’s unclear how Trump’s proposal would work. It’s possible that just the new funds would be portable, distributed only where states can demonstrate they have set up student-based budgeting and public school choice programs. The Trump administration could use such a proposal to open the door for overall Title I portability down the road.

“Creating a pathway for Title I dollars to follow students in states and communities where public school choice is an option, or stimulating states to make it such, begins to make funding more equitable and more directly supportive of its intended beneficiaries — students, not districts,” said Jeanne Allen, president and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, an advocacy group that supports the expansion of charter schools and private school vouchers.

Trump’s proposal could be helped by a new pilot program created by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015. That pilot would initially allow up to 50 school districts to try out weighted student funding formulas, consolidating federal, state and local funding into one pot that would be allocated based on students’ needs.

Jason Botel, the new senior White House adviser for education, said earlier this month that the administration is “excited” about the pilot. Some have interpreted Botel’s comments to mean the Trump administration plans to push the pilot as one way to incentivize school choice, if Title I portability is off the table. An unlimited number of districts would be able to participate in the pilot by 2019-20.

Some advocates think the pilot could be a “boon” for school choice. Matthew Joseph, director of education funding reform for the advocacy group, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, wrote last year that “If all goes well, the pilots will demonstrate that weighted student funding enables the most money to follow students down to the school level and provides incentives for schools to compete for students — particularly those with higher needs. It will show that portability of federal funding is possible and beneficial.”

While the president’s budget doesn’t touch tax policy, it’s also possible that the Trump administration is considering a federal tax credit scholarship proposal to expand school choice as part of a tax reform package.

Advocates of charter schools and private school options applauded Trump’s budget outline. Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said the extra funding for charter schools is critical for the “two million students whose parents would enroll them in charter schools if they could.”

“This funding will allow more high-quality charter schools to open, expand, and replicate — and will help finance facilities for charter schools — so that more students have access to the great education they deserve,” she said.

But former Education Secretary John B. King Jr., now president of the advocacy group The Education Trust, said the Title I boost tied to school choice is “an ill-advised (and previously rejected) scheme to divert resources from our highest need schools” that “would move our country backward. They would hurt low-income students trying to pay for college and prepare themselves for the workforce, educators seeking to improve their skills to better serve our nation’s young people, and the very schools responsible for educating our nation’s most vulnerable students.”

The Council of the Great City Schools, which represents the nation’s large, urban public school systems, said school districts need the extra Title I funding — without any portability strings attached.

That’s because the Every Student Succeeds Act folded the School Improvement Grants program — which funded efforts to turn around low-performing schools — into Title I. ESSA also raised the percentage of Title I funds that states could set aside for school improvement from 4 percent to 7 percent. To make federal funding for poor students and school turnaround efforts meaningful, district leaders say they need more funding.

Traditional public school advocates, like teachers unions and school superintendents, were also strongly critical, describing the proposal as a dangerous investment in vouchers, which send public funds to private, often religious schools.

“Sadly, the Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos scheme to take taxpayer dollars from public schools to fund private school vouchers is misguided and would harm our students,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

“More to the point, the Trump-DeVos budget would take an ax to important education programs for students, including eliminating after-school programs, and other student enrichment programs,” she said. “In real life, these cuts mean students are robbed of the tools and supports they need to get ahead.”

School district superintendents and state superintendents also panned the budget.

“AASA is deeply concerned that the first budget proposal from the new administration doesn’t prioritize investment in the key federal programs that support our nation’s public schools, which educate more than 90% of our nation’s students,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA: The School Superintendents Association, which represents local school district superintendents nationwide.

“While we would normally applaud a proposal that increases funding for Title I by $1 billion, we cannot support a proposal that prioritizes privatization and steers critical federal funding into policies and programs that are ineffective and flawed education policy. The research on vouchers and portability has consistently demonstrated that they do not improve educational opportunity and leave many students, including low-income students, student with disabilities, and students in rural communities underserved.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers — the group representing the nation’s state education chiefs — is “deeply concerned” that the budget “prioritizes specific new policies over serving all kids in our states,” said Executive Director Chris Minnich.

Trump’s budget also nixes $2.4 billion in Title II, Part A funding, which helps schools and districts improve teacher and principal quality along with providing professional development. And it slashes more than $1.2 billion in funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, often a critical source of funding for after-school programs.

It also proposes deep cuts to some student aid programs, slashing a Pell grant surplus by $3.9 billion and eliminating entirely the $733 million Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which provides grants to help low-income students attend college. It also cuts the TRIO and Gear Up programs, which help low-income students prepare for college, by $200 million.

Trump’s budget “eliminates or reduces over 20 categorical programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are more appropriately supported with state, local, or private funds,” according to the budget blueprint. That includes $66 million in Impact Aid. Some school districts that sit on federal land see those funds as critical to make up for lost tax revenue.

But the budget leaves untouched nearly $13 billion for federal special education grants — the second largest source of federal funding, next to Title I.

The steep education cuts come at a critical time for states and school districts, which are designing and implementing new plans under ESSA.

Trump’s budget doesn’t say whether it will fund Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, a large block grant created by that law. ESSA authorized the program at $1.5 billion and the money could be used for a variety of things to help states and districts better serve disadvantaged students, like dropout prevention programs or improving technology, for example. Some advocates last year were outraged when Obama proposed funding the program at $500 million.


Charter school advocates divide on Trump’s education budget
Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/16/2017 12:13 PM EDT Updated 03/16/2017 07:57 PM EDT

Advocates of expanding charter schools split today on President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint.

The president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, which advocates for effective charter school policies nationwide, lauded the $168 million increase for charter schools. But Greg Richmond said he was “deeply concerned about proposed cuts to other important education programs, as charter schools are part of — not a substitute for — a strong public education system.”

“Charter schools cannot succeed without strong teachers and a seamless, affordable path to college for their graduates,” Richmond said. “Unfortunately, this proposed budget harms programs that are important for students, teachers, and public education.”

Robert Enlow, president of the advocacy group EdChoice, said he’s “encouraged by this administration’s support for parental empowerment and local control.” Republican Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana said he’s still reviewing the budget, “but I’m excited by the unprecedented commitment to expanding educational opportunity for America’s kids.”

It was also praised by Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


DeVos: Budget blueprint invests in “programs that work”

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/16/2017 04:29 PM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said today that President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint “is the first step in investing in education programs that work.”

“Taxpayers deserve to know their dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively,” she said.

Trump’s budget proposes an unprecedented federal investment in school choice while making deep cuts to programs with bipartisan backing that have helped students pay for college, provided professional development for teachers and funded after-school programs.

“Today’s Budget Blueprint keeps with President Trump’s promise to focus the U.S. Department of Education on its mission to serve students,” DeVos said. “The budget places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children by investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs.”

“It continues support for the nation’s most vulnerable populations, such as students with disabilities, while streamlining and simplifying funding for college and continuing to help make college education more affordable,” DeVos added.


Statement from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu
Thursday, March 17 2017 – National Endowment for the Arts

Today we learned that the President’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.

We understand that the President’s budget request is a first step in a very long budget process; as part of that process we are working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare information they have requested. At this time, the NEA continues to operate as usual and will do so until a new budget is enacted by Congress.

We expect this news to be an active topic of discussion among individuals and organizations that advocate for the arts. As a federal government agency, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue our practice of educating about the NEA’s vital role in serving our nation’s communities.


House GOP appropriators appear skeptical of cuts to early childhood learning

Politico By Michael Stratford 03/16/2017 01:41 PM EDT

House Republicans overseeing education appropriations appeared skeptical today of the Trump administration’s proposals to cut early childhood education and to gut some campus-based aid programs that help low-income students.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House subcommittee overseeing education funding, touted the importance of early childhood education programs at a hearing today featuring actress Jennifer Gardner, who works with the advocacy group Save the Children.

“High-quality early childhood programs are the starting point to closing the achievement gap,” Cole said. “These critical programs, combined with high performing K-12 schools and college preparation programs like TRIO and GEAR UP can provide the foundation for students to become the successful leaders of the next generation.”

Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 10-percent cut to federal TRIO Programs, which aim to help low-income students attend and complete college. The administration also called for a nearly one-third reduction in funding to GEAR UP, which provides money to states and other organizations to help students from disadvantaged schools attend college.

“I’m not going to try to defend it,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said of Trump’s budget, noting that it’s “a recommendation only.”

Simpson said Congress successfully rejected the George W. Bush administration’s proposed cuts to TRIO programs. Instead of cutting, he said, Congress “reinvested in the TRIO program, and it’s more robust today than it was then and it’s doing a great job.”

The administration’s budget document did not specifically address funding for the Head Start program. But advocates are bracing for deep cuts since Trump called for slashing the agency that houses Head Start, the Department of Health and Human Services, by nearly 18 percent overall.

Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, called Cole’s hearing on funding for early childhood education today “a positive step forward in the midst of the disconcerting news being generated by the release of the administration fiscal year 2018 spending priorities.”


Elite universities: Trump’s budget will “cripple” innovation and economic growth
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 03/16/2017 12:34 PM EDT

A group of America’s most elite universities blasted President Donald Trump’s budget proposal today, saying it would “cripple American innovation and economic growth.”

Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the Association of American Universities, condemned the president’s proposed cuts to “vital scientific research” at the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA and other agencies. Coleman called cuts to programs that help low-income students pay for college “shortsighted,” saying they would be “a major setback.”

Trump’s “America First” budget actually threatens America’s top-dog standing in the world of higher education, she said.

“This proposal would lead to a U.S. innovation deficit, as it comes at a time when China and other economic competitors continue their investment surge in research and higher education,” Coleman said. “For decades, federal investments in these areas have paid enormous dividends in medical advancements, new technologies, and enhanced national security, and helped to produce high-wage American jobs and the most talented workforce in the world.”

In a message to Congress included in the budget proposal, Trump called his cuts “sensible and rational.”

“Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people,” he wrote.

Trump ally Barletta challenges after-school budget cuts

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 03/17/2017 12:31 PM EDT

Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta — a GOP ally of President Donald Trump — says he will “fight like hell” against the administration’s proposed cuts to after-school funding.

Barletta said today that he disagrees with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s argument Thursday that “no demonstrable evidence” shows that after-school programs help students. Trump’s budget outline seeks to eliminate $1.2 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, a driver of funding for the programs.

As mayor of Hazleton, Pa., Barletta said he became involved with the Schools and Homes in Education after-school program when he looked for ways to keep students out of gangs. Barletta said the program, which engages students in activities such as robotics and the arts, has a track record that shows participating students improve academically and with attendance. Nearly half its funding comes from the federal government.

In Pennsylvania — a crucial state for Trump’s victory — this type of program gives people “hope again,” Barletta said in an interview. And he said it will be “very hard for someone like myself” to justify the cuts to the roughly 1,000 students who participate.

If needed, Barletta said, he will invite Mulvaney, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos or Trump to see the program.

“Here is a program that is working. They need to pay attention to that and see that,” he said. He added: “What happens to these thousand kids now that changed the direction of their lives and can’t wait to get to school?”

Mulaney: “No demonstrable evidence” that after-school programs help kids

Politico By Caitlin Emma  03/16/2017 04:24 PM EDT Updated 03/16/2017 09:09 PM EDT

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said today “there’s no demonstrable evidence” that after-school programs help students.

Mulvaney made his comments during a White House budget briefing when asked to justify the elimination of $1.2 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which helps pay for after-school programs.

“Let’s talk about after school programs, generally,” he said. “They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? I mean that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school.”

“Guess what?” he continued. “There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence that they’re actually helping kids do better in school, which is what, when we took your money from you … the way we justified it was these programs are going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs. And we can’t prove that that’s happening.”

“I don’t believe we cut the funding for all of those types of things,” Mulvaney added.

The nonprofit advocacy group Afterschool Alliance called the cuts “a betrayal of the millions of students and parents who depend on after-school and summer learning programs” that would “devastate working families.”

One in five children in the U.S. are left unsupervised when the school day ends, the organization noted. The Afterschool Alliance also says research has shown that after-school programs help narrow achievement gaps, improve behavior and reduce absences.


DeVos: Trump administration “committed” to returning power to the states
Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/15/2017 12:08 PM EDT

The Trump administration is committed to “returning power to the states whenever and wherever possible” — especially in education, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said today.

“Federalism isn’t an antiquated idea,” she said at a gathering of the National Lieutenant Governors Association. “Our nation’s founders reserved most powers, including education, to the states.”

DeVos this week released a new state guide for crafting plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Democrats, advocates and governors criticized the guide for eliminating a requirement that states reach out to a number of groups and individuals in designing their plans. But the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education chiefs across the country, said state outreach has been happening for a year and will continue to happen even without the requirement.

DeVos said she expects each state plan “to be quite different. And they should be.” She added that states should “compete with each other and every other country in the world” when it comes to doing what’s best for students.

DeVos also stressed the importance of expanding school choice options for families.

On Tuesday, she met with with the Center for Education Reform, a group that advocates for the expansion of charter schools and private school options nationwide.

DeVos also met with charter school leaders and Stuart Udell, the chief executive officer of of K12 Inc., the largest for-profit online charter school operator in the country. Last summer, K12 reached a $168.5 million settlement with then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris over allegations that the online charter school operator violated the state’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws. The company admitted no wrongdoing.


On state ESSA plans, DeVos says she’ll get “out of the way”
Politico By Michael Stratford 03/13/2017 02:11 PM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos vowed today to get her agency “out of the way” of state and local education officials — the latest indication that she’ll take a hands-off approach to approving states’ education plans.

Congress last week passed GOP-driven legislation overturning the Obama administration’s regulations for holding schools accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The White House has said President Donald Trump will sign the measure.

The plans, which address issues such as improving failing schools and testing, are due to the department this spring.

Earlier today, DeVos rolled out new guidelines for how states should move forward with plans to the department without the Obama-era accountability rule. She said the new information will help reduce the federal government’s involvement in education decisions.

“This streamlined template asks states to provide the department only what’s absolutely necessary under the statute with an eye toward reducing rules, burdensome and unnecessary regulation and red tape,” DeVos told leaders from urban school districts gathered at the legislative conference of the Council of the Great City Schools.

DeVos suggested that her department’s oversight of state plans would be limited, blasting previous administrations for federal overreach.

“Too often the Department of Education has gone outside of its established authority and created roadblocks wittingly or unwittingly, for parents and educators alike,” she said. “This isn’t right nor is it acceptable. Under this Administration, we will break this habit.”

Instead, DeVos called for states and local districts to have “flexibility, the freedom from overreaching mandates from Washington.”

“Once your state has developed a plan to provide a quality education in an environment that’s safe and nurturing for all children you — together with state chiefs, governors and other state leaders — should be free to educate your students,” she said.

DeVos scraps outreach requirements for ESSA plans

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/13/2017 04:19 PM EDT

A new state guide for crafting plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act eliminates a requirement that states must reach out to a wide variety of groups and individuals, like teachers, parents and policymakers.

But that doesn’t mean states won’t continue to do the outreach, said Carissa Miller, deputy executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers — the group representing state education leaders nationwide. CCSSO and the National Governors Association will work closely with states on their plans.

The Trump administration’s new guide says states have the option of submitting additional information to the agency about their outreach efforts. The Obama administration’s guide, released last November, included a long list of groups and individuals states must consult that “reflect the geographic diversity of the state.”

“Eliminating the requirement for public input is the perfect illustration of the Trump administration’s attempt to shutter transparency and remove the public from policy making,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in a statement.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said states can submit their plans to the Education Department for review and approval on April 3 or September 18. Governors must have 30 days to look over state plans before they’re submitted.

Miller said about 18 states may submit plans next month and they’ve done aggressive outreach for the past year.

DeVos is giving early states a little more time, since there are new guidelines. Early states can send their plans to governors by April 3 and submit their plans to the Education Department no later than May 3.

Politico, Benjamin Wermund, 03/15/17

Allan Hubbard’s $10,000 donation last year to an anti-Trump super PAC may have something to do with why he hasn’t been announced as President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as Education Department deputy secretary. That’s according to several sources familiar with the issue who asked to remain anonymous. Hubbard has been considered a frontrunner for the department’s second most-powerful post for months. But the White House has been deeply involved in hiring decisions — and Trump’s advisers have sometimes rejected candidates who’ve criticized the president, even when they boast top-notch credentials, POLITICO reported last month. Hubbard’s donation to the Our Principles PAC could be part of the holdup, but it’s not clear if his expected nomination is in jeopardy.

The Education Department’s lack of top staff could threaten timely rollout of Trump’s education priorities and hamper critical work, like helping states as they design new plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Hubbard declined to comment, and the Education Department didn’t respond to a request for comment. When asked about the donation and whether it was holding up an announcement that Trump intends to nominate Hubbard, a White House spokeswoman told Morning Education: “I don’t have any information for you at this time.”

Hubbard was an economic adviser during both Bush administrations. He’s a board member of the Lumina Foundation, a private entity focused on increasing access to education beyond high school. And he’s also co-founder of E&A Industries Inc., a private equity firm. In 2015, he donated $100,000 to Right to Rise USA, the PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s run for president. Advocates on the far right have fumed over some of the Trump administration’s education hires and their connections to the former Florida governor, who embraced the Common Core. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who didn’t initially support Trump’s run for president, is a longtime friend and ally to Bush. And several individuals who’ve worked for Bush or his education advocacy group, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, have joined the Education Department’s beachhead team.

Trump vowed to repeal the Common Core on the campaign trail, and now his administration may be considering support for the academic standards when it comes to hiring, sources tell Morning Education. POLITICO reported late last year that New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera was under consideration for a top post at the Education Department. But Skandera also has ties to Bush, and it was not clear whether her support for the Common Core would be disqualifying, even though decisions about academic standards are made at the state-level.


Senators up pressure on Pai to protect school internet funding
Politico By Margaret Harding McGill 03/17/2017 12:09 PM EDT

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to protect a federal program that provides funding to schools and libraries for internet access.

In a letter today, the senators say the E-rate program, established as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, has been a “huge success.” The money from the nearly $4 billion program comes from fees on telephone customer bills.

“The E-Rate ensures that students from working-class and rural neighborhoods can connect to and be afforded all of the opportunities given to students from more affluent communities,” they write. “With technology expanding into nearly every facet of our lives, we need to ensure all Americans — whether urban or rural, rich or poor — remain connected and competitive in this global economy by continuing to support this essential program that millions of kids rely on across the nation.”

Supporters of the program have been on edge since the FCC in February rescinded a report, issued under former Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler, that detailed the progress of reforms to the program.

The E-rate report was one of several items the FCC retracted or rescinded on Feb. 3, with Pai describing them as “last-minute” Wheeler actions that “did not enjoy the support of the majority of commissioners at the time they were taken” and “should not bind us going forward.”


Trump touts German apprenticeship programs
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 03/17/2017 02:05 PM EDT

President Donald Trump touted German apprenticeship programs today during a roundtable meeting at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and business leaders from both countries.

“That’s a word I like: Apprentice,” Trump said. The line was an apparent reference to the “Apprentice” TV show he used to host.

The president then echoed what has become one of his administration’s few higher education talking points: That too many people spend four years at college when their time might be better spent in career and technical training programs.

“So many people go to college four years — they don’t like it, they’re not necessarily good at it, but they’re good at things like fixing engines and building things,” Trump said. “I see it all the time and I’ve seen it when I went to school I saw it. I sat next to people that weren’t necessarily good students but they could take an engine apart blindfolded.”

Trump said the U.S. “must embrace new and effective job training approaches, including online courses, high school curriculums, and private sector investment that prepare people for trade, manufacturing, technology, and other really well-paying jobs and careers.”


Senate Democrats want probe of Trump’s delay of gainful employment rule for Higher Ed
Politico By Michael Stratford 03/14/2017 03:43 PM EDT

A group of Senate Democrats is calling for an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision earlier this month to delay implementation of the Education Department’s “gainful employment” rule.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a letter today asking the department’s Inspector General to investigative how the administration decided to delay the gainful employment rule, a regulation for-profit colleges have lobbied against heavily.

“To ensure that delay is not part of a politically driven attempt to permanently delay implementation of GE rules, we ask that you investigate the department’s decision to delay these rules,” the lawmakers write.

Separately, a group of 11 Senate Democrats along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter today to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to express “serious concerns” over the delay. The letter asks DeVos to provide more information about how the department plans to handle the Obama-era regulation.

An Education Department spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

The department’s official notice delaying the regulation last week said only that the postponement was needed “to permit the department’s further review of the GE regulations and their implementation.”

A department spokesman previously told POLITICO that the delay was motivated by a concern for the privacy of student data. “There’s a question about whether schools can provide data to a third party” as part of the process for appealing department data, the spokesman said.


Lhamon encourages continued support for transgender students

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 03/13/2017 09:51 AM EDT Updated 03/13/2017 11:44 AM EDT

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairman Catherine Lhamon urged school districts today to support transgender students even “when you don’t have the back of the federal government behind you.”

Lhamon, who ran the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration, said it’s “beautiful” and “incredibly meaningful” in the lives of transgender students when they are backed by their schools.

“When you don’t, you send a message you don’t care,” Lhamon said during the legislative conference of the Council of the Great City Schools. “You don’t want to be on that side of the street.”

Last month, the Trump administration scrapped an Obama directive aimed at protecting the rights of transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to the sex of their choosing. It said the policy caused lawsuits nationwide and needed to be reconsidered.

Afterward, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement that the department’s Office for Civil Rights remained committed to investigating claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment.

But, Lhamon also told attendees she was dismayed by recent comments DeVos made to Axios when she said she “can’t think” of any remaining issues in which the federal government should intervene.

“Now more than ever you are what stands between your students and harm,” Lhamon said.

DeVos is scheduled to address the conference this afternoon.


State Updates

ID – Voters Approve $695 Million for Schools
From a $172.5 million bond issue in Boise to a $90,000 supplemental levy in West Side, Tuesday was almost a clean sweep for Idaho schools. (Idaho Education News, March 15)


NC – Bill Would Create New Teaching Fellows Program with STEM Focus
After ending a previous teacher scholarship program, state lawmakers on Thursday proposed a new version that would provide forgivable loans for new teachers who agree to teach in North Carolina in certain subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as special education. (News & Observer, March 9)


Exemption will allow teachers to be hired at Defense Department schools

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 03/13/2017 12:00 PM EDT

The agency that oversees schools for military kids worldwide has been granted an exemption to the federal hiring freeze so that it can begin hiring teachers, including substitutes and aides.

The Department of Defense Education Activity — known as DoDEA — will also be allowed to hire principals, psychologists, nurses and “above school level education personnel” such as research specialists, said Elaine Kanellis, an agency spokeswoman, in an e-mail to POLITICO.

Kanellis said the exemption was approved on Friday and that human resources “will immediately resume processing recruitment and hiring actions for teachers.”

Kanellis said she did not have immediately available the number of vacancies affected.

The system has more than 73,000 students at more than 160 schools around the globe.

President Donald Trump ordered the hiring freeze in January shortly after taking office. Military personnel were already exempted from the hiring freeze, but the military’s civilian workforce was affected in many areas.


MN – Looking to Give High Schoolers Better Access to Vocational Training, Legislators Propose Credit-For-Apprenticeships Program
As high schools, especially those in Greater Minnesota, struggle to offer vocational training for in-demand career fields like healthcare, manufacturing and construction, legislators are looking to make student access to what’s known as career and technical education (CTE) a little easier. (MinnPost, March 8)


Superintendent Elsie Arntzen Pulling Back MO’s ESSA Plan
Montana’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act has been pulled back for review. Superintendent Elsie Arntzen announced Monday that she will be pulling back the state’s ESSA plan, which was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in December. (Billings Gazette, March 3)


MI – Panel Formed by Snyder Calls for Free Preschool, Community College
Michigan should make community college free for all and give merit-based scholarships to high school graduates who attend the state’s public universities, says a commission formed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The 21st Century Education Commission released a report today that calls for getting rid of grade levels and instead advancing students only once they master content. (Detroit Free Press, March 10)

Indiana delays financial aid deadline due to shutdown of federal FAFSA
Politico By Michael Stratford 03/16/2017 02:32 PM EDT Updated 03/16/2017 03:06 PM EDT

Indiana education officials announced today that they had extended the state’s deadline for financial aid because of the federal government’s shutdown of an online tool to help students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said the state’s March 10 financial aid filing deadline would be extended to April 15.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Hoosiers who missed last Friday’s deadline to complete the FAFSA and qualify for financial aid that makes college more affordable,” Lubbers said in a statement. “All prospective college students — whether they’re a high school senior, a current college student or a returning adult — should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible.”

The IRS and Education Department earlier this month suspended the online data retrieval tool that allows students to automatically input their tax information onto the FAFSA. The agencies said the tool would be unavailable for “several weeks” over concerns about the security of student data.

More than 358,000 students from Indiana filed the financial aid application in the last school year, according to federal data.

Indiana’s decision comes after Texas officials instructed colleges in that state that they could extend a March 15 statewide “priority deadline” for financial aid in response to the shutdown of the data tool.


NM Legislature Curbs Physical Restraint of Students
The New Mexico Legislature has approved a bill that sets new limits and guidelines for physically restraining school students or placing them in seclusion. (Associated Press, March 14)


New York: UFT escalates dispute with KIPP over representation
Politico By Eliza Shapiro 03/15/2017 02:33 PM EDT

KIPP Academy, one of the first charter schools to open in New York City, has escalated its feud with the United Federation of Teachers over whether the powerful union can represent the school’s teachers.

KIPP filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York this week, claiming that the union is forcing KIPP to arbitrate disputes with its teachers under the union’s contract, which KIPP argues does not cover the school.

“We are continuing to argue that KIPP Academy always has had, and wants to maintain the right to solve problems together — without outside interference,” Jim Manly, KIPP’s superintendent, wrote in a letter to staff on Wednesday.

But the union is countering that the law demonstrates that KIPP is in fact covered by the contract. “State law is clear: This school is covered by the contract between the UFT and the Department of Education,” Adam Ross, the UFT’s general counsel, said in a statement. “Rather than litigation, KIPP would be better served by working with the union to address the very real concerns of their teachers and staff.”

The dispute began in June, after a teacher at the school filed a complaint with the union over conditions at the school. Several months later, in October, the UFT filed a grievance against KIPP Academy. KIPP officials say it was the first complaint ever filed against the school.

In January, the UFT filed a complaint against KIPP with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the school violated labor laws by encouraging its teachers to vote to formally leave the union. KIPP’s complaint claims that the UFT issued the complaint only after learning that KIPP teachers had filed a petition with the NLRB to vote on whether the school should be represented by the union.

While it may take months for the suit to work its way through federal court, the case is likely to reignite a simmering debate about how the city’s large and growing group of charter teachers should be represented. Charters were created in part to function outside of union rules that charter leaders find burdensome. But long hours and intensive pressure have led to high staff turnover at some charters, leaving the sector in limbo about how to best support teachers without adhering to strict union rules that can interfere with teaching. Many charters, including established networks like KIPP, have increased teacher pay and professional development to make the schools more enticing for instructors.

An eventual decision could redefine the landscape for how New York charters’ relationship with the union.

KIPP Academy’s particular situation is unique. The school was converted from a traditional district school to a charter school over two decades ago, before the state’s charter law was formally approved. It is considered a “conversion school,” meaning it technically retained the district school’s UFT representation.

But KIPP’s leadership is arguing that the union had virtually no role in supporting the school until the complaint was filed last summer. Manly wrote that the KIPP staff has never voted to be represented by the UFT, and that grievances are worked through according to KIPP’s own guidelines.

“Other than collecting union dues from KIPP teachers and staff, the UFT never carried out any representative functions in relation to them,” the complaint reads. “The UFT never negotiated on their behalf, it never chose union stewards, and it never objected to any of the myriad actions taken by KIPP Academy over the more than 20 years since establishment of the Knowledge is Power Program.”


Input Sought in Effort to Review WY Math Standards
The Wyoming Department of Education has put out a call to residents as it looks to build a committee that will review the state’s math standards. Parents, teachers, school board members and others are all invited to apply to join the review committee. (Casper Star-Tribune, March 13)


Utah aims to stem growing teacher shortage

More than 56% of teachers in Utah who entered the profession in 2008 were gone by 2015, a report finds. Lawmakers recently passed measures to create incentives for teachers in high-poverty areas and agreed to pay for state licenses to alleviate financial burdens. Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


Should CA Teachers Have to Pay State Income Tax?
Senate Bill 807, introduced by Democratic Sens. Henry Stern of Los Angeles and Cathleen Galgiani of Stockton, offers an incentive for teachers to remain in the classroom. After teaching for five years, California educators would be exempt from paying a state income tax. (Sacramento Bee, March 13)


Texas says colleges can extend financial aid deadline due to shutdown

Politico By Michael Stratford 03/13/2017 05:19 PM EDT

A top Texas higher education official today instructed the state’s colleges and universities that they may extend a statewide deadline for financial aid in light of the federal government’s surprise shutdown of a key online tool that helps students apply for aid.

Raymund A. Paredes, the state’s commissioner of higher education, wrote in a memo that individual institutions have the flexibility to grant priority status to applicants for financial aid even if they miss the state’s March 15 deadline.

Paredes said that state officials are “aware of the challenges that many students are facing due to their inability to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid.”

The IRS and Education Department confirmed last week that earlier this month they suspended the online data retrieval tool that allows students to automatically input their tax information onto the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid. The agencies said the tool would be unavailable for “several weeks” over concerns about the security of student data.

Texas is the largest state with an upcoming financial aid deadline. More than 1.4 million students across the state filed a FAFSA last year, according to federal data.

“Given the challenges being faced by students due to the problems with the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, we encourage institutions to determine a course of action that is in the best interest of their students,” Paredes said in the memo. He is expected to testify about the issue later this week before the state House and Senate education committees.


Research and other articles of interest

50-State Comparison: Vouchers 
This comprehensive resource, 50-State Comparison: Vouchers, explores voucher programs and policies in all states and examines how individual states approach items such as assessment requirements, enrollment limits and student eligibility, among others.


This resource, 2017 ArtScan at a Glance: Connecting the States and Arts Education Policy, summarizes arts education state policies for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia (D.C). Complete results from this review are available in an online searchable database on the Arts Education Partnership website