Music Education Policy Roundup – Mar 5, 2017

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

Federal Updates

Portman expected to oppose GOP effort to scrap Obama accountability rule

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/04/2017 09:59 AM EDT

Republican. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is expected to come out against a GOP effort to scrap Obama accountability regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act, sources tell POLITICO.

Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander filed a measure this week to get rid of the rule. Nine other senators signed on, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Republicans who’ve long cried federal overreach are using the Congressional Review Act to scrap the Obama accountability rule. Their effort doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy, although it’s unclear when the Senate will take up the measure. The House passed its resolution last month and the White House has already said President Donald Trump will sign it.

Portman — considered a moderate — was the only Republican in 2015 to vote in favor of an amendment aimed at strengthening accountability measures during negotiations to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. Portman also pushed for the inclusion of a measure in the final bill that encouraged states to track career readiness in holding schools accountable.

Portman’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Senate Republicans including Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — who opposed Betsy DeVos’ nomination for education secretary — are also facing pressure to vote no.

Collins previously expressed concerns about Obama’s draft accountability regulations under the law. Last year, she joined a group of Republicans and Democrats in a letter to Obama stressing the burden that the rule could place on states.


Push to toss out ESSA accountability regulations gains traction in Senate

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 03/02/2017 02:12 PM EDT

An effort to scrap Obama-era accountability regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act is drawing support in the Senate.

Ten Republicans have signed onto the measure, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Education committee, is leading the effort.

“The goal of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act is to send power back to parents, teachers, schools and states, rather than Washington bureaucrats,” McConnell said in a statement. “I’m gravely concerned by an Obama Administration accountability regulation that flies in the face of this bipartisan legislation that overwhelmingly passed Congress.”

The other senators supporting the effort are: Tom Cotton (R-Ariz.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

In contrast, Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education committee, said in a statement that states and districts need stability and clarity as they implement the law.

“Rolling back the strong federal guardrails would be a devastating blow to students across the country and would throw state and district planning into chaos at the very moment when they had started to settle into the new law,” Murray said.

The House voted last month mostly along party lines to get rid of the regulations and the White House has said that President Donald Trump will sign the measure.


Republicans file bill to scrap Obama teacher preparation rule

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/03/2017 09:37 AM EDT

Ten Senate Republicans led by Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska have filed a measure to scrap Obama regulations aimed at strengthening teacher preparation in the U.S.

The House last month passed a measure to do the same.

Republicans and a number of advocates have decried the rule as a major burden to states, while the Obama administration believed it crucial for improving program outcomes. The rule would have eventually punished low-performing teacher preparation programs by cutting off their access to federal TEACH grants that help students pay for teacher training.

Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act to get rid of the teacher preparation regulations and Obama accountability regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act. If successful, the Education Department would then be prohibited from writing “substantially similar” rules to replace the overturned ones.

President Donald Trump has already pledged to sign the measures. The Senate is expected to consider them, too, but the timing remains unclear.

Republican senators signing onto the teacher prep measure include Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in addition to James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas, David Perdue of Georgia, Mike Lee of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.


Lawmakers urge Trump to reconsider scrapping Obama transgender directive

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/02/2017 02:20 PM EDT

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and more than 100 members of Congress sent President Donald Trump a letter today, urging him to reconsider his recent decision to scrap an Obama directive aimed at protecting transgender students.

That directive, sent to schools last May, said transgender-student rights are protected under Title IX, including their right to use bathrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identity.

“Title IX provides transgender students the right to equal treatment in accordance with their gender identity,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, rescinding this guidance only serves to confuse school administrators and take away a vital tool for students and their families who want to be treated with dignity and respect.”

“Further, this action sends the wrong message — a very dangerous message — to transgender youth and their peers,” the lawmakers added. “For these reasons, we urge you to reverse your decision and reinstate the Title IX guidance.”

Only one Republican — Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who has a transgender son — signed onto the letter.

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus also said today it’s re-launching a Transgender Equality Task Force, to be chaired by Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.). The task force plans to support and advocate for the transgender community.


Nearly 200 lawmakers back Grimm in fight over transgender student rights

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

Nearly 200 congressional Democrats filed a brief today supporting a Virginia transgender high school senior in his Supreme Court fight over transgender student rights.

“We firmly believe that Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination already prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats signing onto the brief include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. They said they have an “inherent interest” in the “proper interpretation” of enacted laws.

“Different interpretations of Title IX have led to uncertainty for public school children and their families and left LGBT children underprotected from discrimination despite applicable federal law,” they wrote.

Briefs supporting Gavin Grimm in his case, G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, are due today. The case is scheduled for oral arguments on March 28.

At issue in the case is whether Title IX protects against gender identity discrimination.

Both parties told the court Wednesday that they want the court to move forward with their case even after the President Donald Trump administration rescinded a President Barack Obama directive aimed at protecting transgender student rights. Trump’s action could cause the case to be kicked down to a lower court, however.

A host of labor and education advocacy organizations have also filed briefs in support of Grimm, including the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National PTA and GLSEN.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Grimm in the case. It is posting the briefs as they’re filed here.


Trump praises private Catholic school during Florida visit

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/03/2017 04:20 PM EDT

President Donald Trump today praised a private Catholic school in Florida for enriching “both the mind and the soul. That’s a good education.”

Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited a fourth grade class at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando for a “school choice” listening session. Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.), Gov. Rick Scott, Trump’s son-in-law an adviser Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka also joined.

By visiting a private school and focusing on issues of school choice, Trump sent a signal about his vision for K-12 policy. But he didn’t get into specifics about his education plans.

Trump quoted Martin Luther King Jr. as saying that he “hoped that inferior education would become a thing of the past.” And he repeated a line from his Tuesday night speech before Congress, saying education is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

“Betsy’s going to lead the charge, right?” Trump said.

“You bet,” DeVos answered.

During the visit, a teacher, Jane Jones, asked the class what their goals were.

“College and heaven,” the students responded.

As he was leaving the school, Trump saw an African American girl with braided hair, and said: “Oh that hair is beautiful. I love that hair, right?” When he saw another African American girl with long braids, Trump said, “I love her hair!”


Politico By Benjamin Wermund | 03/03/2017 05:52 AM EST With help from Caitlin Emma, Kimberly Hefling, Jessica Bakeman and Jason Huffman

If President Donald Trump’s selection of “school choice” champion Betsy DeVos for Education secretary didn’t send a strong signal about what he plans for the nation’s schools, his visit today to St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla., “should make it crystal clear,” said Jack Schneider, an education historian at the College of the Holy Cross. Trump plans to attend a “listening session on school choice” at the school this afternoon. Florida has one of the largest tax credit scholarship programs in the nation, so picking a private school in the state as his first stop is “highly symbolic,” Schneider said.

Schools have long been meaningful backdrops for presidents, said Ethan Hutt, an education professor at the University of Maryland. “Whether Trump is the first president to make his first visit to a Catholic school or not, he’s clearly selected it in order to send a message.” George W. Bush’s first school visit as president was to Townsend Elementary School in Tennessee, where he talked about accountability and even dropped the phrase “no child left behind.” Barack Obama’s first school visit was to Capital City Public Charter School in D.C., where he talked about closing the achievement gap. “Each of these visits indicated the president’s priorities with regard to education,” Schneider said. “Bush was laying the groundwork for his signature legislation, No Child Left Behind. Obama was using the bully pulpit to draw attention to the achievement gap, and throwing his hat in with charter proponents.”

The Florida program Trump is set to highlight is also one of the state’s most controversial “school choice” policies. Under the program, corporations get 100 percent tax credits for donations that fund private school scholarships for poor children. The amount of tax credits the state will offer this fiscal year is capped at about $560 million, and nearly 98,000 students currently attend private schools using the scholarships. The program, however, has been beset by legal challenges led by traditional public education advocates. Affiliated national groups say they will fight any proposals to introduce such plans on the federal level. Jessica Bakeman has more on that here.

Trump gave a shout-out to an alumna of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, Denisha Merriweather, in his address to a joint session of Congress this week. Merriweather attended private school and went on to become the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. During the speech , he urged Congress “to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth,” but didn’t offer details on how such legislation might look. The Trump administration is considering a first-of-its-kind federal tax credit scholarship program that could be capped as high as $20 billion, POLITICO has reported.

“This is him following through on his stated agenda,” said Christopher P. Loss, an education historian at Vanderbilt University. “Privatization is the watchword, and he’s kicking things off with a visit to a private school. This isn’t the normal course for a president to skip over ‘PS 109’ for a visit to a private school, true, but this isn’t like other administrations.”


DeVos on HBCUs: ‘We must follow their lead’

Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/02/2017 04:56 PM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos writes in an op-ed for USA Today that the K-12 education system must follow the lead of historically black colleges and universities.

HBCUs were “born not out of mere choice but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War,” she writes. “HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had been unjustly closed to so many.”

“We must follow their lead and apply that same thinking to our K-12 system because the same reality exists: Too many students live without access to quality schools,” she writes. “These children and teenagers are assigned to failing schools based solely on the ZIP code in which they live. If they don’t have the means to move to a better school district, then they’re trapped.”

DeVos’ editorial comes after she released a statement this week on HBCUs that sparked widespread backlash for equating the history of the schools, founded in an era of racial segregation, to “school choice” policies.

DeVos also writes that President Donald Trump is “delivering on his promises for education.” And, “throwing money” at education “like administrations past” is no longer the answer, she says.

DeVos says the Obama administration’s “Student Improvement Grants” program — actually known as the School Improvement Grants program or SIG — poured $7 billion into low-performing schools and “had zero impact in improving test scores, graduation rates or college preparedness.”


Trump signs women in STEM bills into law

Politico By Li Zhou 02/28/2017 03:54 PM EDT

President Donald Trump today signed two bills focused on bolstering women in science, technology, engineering and math. The measures call for gender diversity in these fields but provide no new funding for advancing that goal.

The INSPIRE Women Act (H.R. 321) sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock, directs NASA to provide a report to House and Senate committees about how current and former astronauts and other staff can promote STEM in schools. The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act ( H.R. 255) introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, authorizes the National Science Foundation to expand its educational and professional programs for women into the commercial sector.


Speaker Ryan backs year-round Pell grants

Politico By Michael Stratford 02/28/2017 02:45 PM EDT

House Speaker Paul Ryan said today that he supports expanding Pell Grant eligibility to low-income students attending classes all year.

“I like year-round Pell,” Ryan told a group of Historically Black Colleges and Universities leaders gathered at a summit on Capitol Hill. “I think that makes a lot of sense.”

Senate Democrats and Republicans last summer struck a deal to revive year-round Pell eligibility, often called “summer Pell.” But Republican appropriators in the House opposed restoring the benefit citing the cost.

In 2011, Congress and President Barack Obama cut the benefit to shore up the costs of the Pell Grant program. But the program now is expected to have a budget surplus.

Speaking to HBCU leaders, Ryan also said that he wanted to scale back regulations and bureaucracy as part of the upcoming Higher Education Act reauthorization. He said he wanted to explore “metrics that measure outcomes, so that we’re funding success and not just the status quo.”


Trump stops short of giving HBCUs everything they asked for in executive order
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 02/28/2017 04:57 PM EDT

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that moves an initiative aimed at helping historically black colleges and universities to the White House — a decision the schools hope will give them better access to the president.

But the order does not include another key request from leaders of historically black colleges: To add an “aspirational” funding goal that would have set a figure on how much the administration wants to see spent on the schools through government contracts and grants.

“Good first step, but there’s still a lot that has to be done,” Walter Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans, told CNN.

“We’re still waiting for the substance,” Kimbrough said.

Read the full executive order here.

At the signing, Trump called the schools “a grand and enduring symbol of America at its absolute best.”

The order also makes Omarosa Manigault, the former “Apprentice” star turned White House aide, the “chief advocate and voice inside the White House” for historically black colleges, according to a statement from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which represents the nation’s 47 public and publicly funded historically black colleges and universities.

“We look forward to working with the executive branch and the Legislative branch to ensure the president’s funding requests and the subsequent budget approved by Congress put the necessary resources into black colleges so they can continue doing the important work America needs them to do,” Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., TMCF president and CEO, said in a statement.

The order comes after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos set off a firestorm when she compared historically black schools, which were founded in an era of racial segregation, to school choice policies in a statement on Monday night. She later acknowledged racism as an important factor in the history of historically black colleges in an address to the school leaders on Tuesday.


Secretary DeVos clarifies statement on history of HBCU’s amid controversy

Politico By Michael Stratford 02/28/2017 02:08 PM EDT

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos today addressed historically black college leaders as she faced criticism for her statement describing the schools as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

DeVos said the legacy of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities is one of bucking the status quo and “providing an alternative option to students denied the right to attend a quality school,” according to prepared remarks provided by the Education Department.

The speech was closed to the press.

DeVos said the history of HBCUs “was born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War.”

“HBCUs are such an important piece of the fabric of American history — one that encompasses some of our nation’s greatest leaders, talented artists, gifted athletes and patriotic citizens,” DeVos said.

DeVos spoke to roughly 90 presidents of HBCUs who were gathered at the Library of Congress for a summit with members of Congress.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who organized the event and is close ally of DeVos, said before DeVos’ speech that he thought her initial statement on black colleges could have been worded better.

“Is there a better way to word things? Yes,” he said. “At the end of the day my only response is that clarity in your statements is always important.”


Politico By Benjamin Wermund | 03/02/2017 05:50 AM EST With help from Caitlin Emma, Kimberly Hefling, Theodoric Meyer and Eli Stokols

House lawmakers tasked with writing a bill to fund education, labor and health programs are bracing for President Donald Trump’s budget to call for massive cuts. The lawmakers revealed Wednesday that those proposed cuts could run as high as $20 billion — a roughly 12-percent drop from the $161.6 billion that the panel tasked with funding those programs proposed in the still-unpassed bill for fiscal year 2017. “That just would be truly devastating,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees those areas. “We couldn’t sustain the needs of the programs that are under our jurisdiction.” More on the possible budget hit here.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the subcommittee, said it’s still too early to know just how much the panel will have to trim, but the cuts “would affect everybody if they’re going to be that large.” Earlier this week, the Trump administration sent guidance to agencies that calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding reductions to most non-security agencies. But few specifics about where the White House would like cuts to be made have been released, and Cole predicted many newly confirmed agency heads will not want to “entertain cuts to the magnitude that’s possible.”

Cole’s panel is still waiting for the Budget committee to tell them how much they’ll have to work with. “We’ll live within a number and we’ll be happy with it — well maybe not happy, but we’ll live within the number,” Cole told Morning Education. “There’s no good decisions to be made if there’s a cut that bad — it’s going to be tough.”

It’s unclear how Trump’s effort to expand “school choice” policies, like charter schools and vouchers, fits into the budget picture. Trump’s budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, said earlier this week that “school choice” will be a budget priority for the administration. Trump called on Congress “to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth,” but he’s offered no details on how such a measure would be written. POLITICO reported last month that the Trump administration is considering a first-of-its-kind federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions of dollars to working-class families to enable their children to attend private schools, including religious schools. That plan likely wouldn’t increase the federal budget.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the New York Post there isn’t a specific policy proposal yet, but she’s “sure” she “will be working on that with him and the administration in the coming the days.”

The subcommittee heard from several members of Congress who urged them to maintain funding for Title I, Head Start and special education programs , during a hearing Wednesday. Cole acknowledged that may be difficult. “It’s going to be tough for us to do what I know people would like to do for, say, historically black colleges, or what people would like to do for early childhood education or what people want to do in biomedical research,” Cole said. “There’s only so much money to go around.” Dozens of leaders from historically black colleges and universities were in D.C. earlier this week to ask the Trump administration and Hill Republicans for $25 billion in infrastructure and other investments, funding for year-round Pell Grants and for lawmakers to at least maintain current funding for Title III, which goes to schools that serve low-income students and is intended to improve academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability.

One sunny spot: Year-round Pell is not off the table, Cole said. “I’m not ruling it out, I’m not taking a hard stand,” he said. “I just want to close out the ’17 bill, and it will be like a box of candy — you won’t know what you’ll get, but I’m telling you it will be good stuff.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that he also supports expanding Pell Grant eligibility to low-income students attending classes all year. “I like year-round Pell,” Ryan told leaders of historically black colleges and universities who gathered at a summit on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. “I think that makes a lot of sense.”

Speaking of funding, the Committee for Education Funding is launching a new advocacy campaign today focused on increasing the share of the federal budget that’s invested in education. Dubbed “5 Cents Makes Sense,” the campaign will focus on increasing investments in education to 5 percent of the federal budget. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is addressing a Capitol Hill reception this morning at 8:30 a.m. hosted by the nonpartisan coalition in 562 Dirksen.


TRUMP’S PATH TO EXPANDING ‘SCHOOL CHOICE’ Education and “school choice” played a supporting role in President Donald Trump’s first speech before Congress on Tuesday night, marking a departure from the dark rhetoric of his Inauguration Day address. Instead, Trump played to Americans’ hopes and dreams. He called on Congress “to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth.” But he offered no details on how that bill might look — and the chances of one making it through Congress will depend heavily on how it’s packaged and structured. “These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them,” Trump said.

A politically palatable option? POLITICO reported earlier this month that the Trump administration is considering a federal tax credit scholarship program to expand so-called school choice, among other ideas. That program could be capped at a level as high as $20 billion and help send low-income children to private, religious schools. It could be part of a larger tax reform bill and pass through the budget reconciliation process with only 51 votes in the Senate. Some experts think it would be more politically palatable than the $20 billion school voucher plan that Trump pitched on the campaign trail. But the idea already has critics on the left and the right — public school advocates say it’s a voucher program in disguise and conservatives worry about increasing the federal role in education and pressuring states to standardize state tax credit programs. More.

The American Federation for Children is on board. In a statement after the speech, the advocacy group urged “school choice advocates to work with Congress and the administration to pass a federal tax credit to encourage charitable giving to state non-profits who will provide scholarships for eligible children to attend the school of their parents’ choice.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stepped down as AFC’s chair last fall when she was named as one of Trump’s Cabinet picks.

A common refrain: Trump also said Tuesday night that “education is the civil rights issue of our time” — a line used by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and others. The Washington Post has more.

Trump didn’t mention DACA, but he did say, “I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible.”

Quick praise: DeVos, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, quickly put out statements praising the speech. “For far too long, Washington has resisted calls by parents, students and teachers to enact meaningful reforms,” DeVos said . “Tonight’s speech marked a dramatic shift toward a future that puts the needs of our nation’s students first.” Foxx said Trump’s speech “highlighted the need for bold solutions to help solve our nation’s toughest challenges,” like ensuring all students have access to “an excellent education.” Messer said he was “particularly excited” by Trump’s education comments.

Speaking of Messer: Sources tell Morning Education that Robert Goad, a former aide to Messer who worked on Trump’s campaign and was tapped by the White House Domestic Policy Council to work on education, has moved over to the Education Department to help DeVos. The department has yet to fill a number of politically appointed leadership positions. Goad did not respond to requests for comment.


Civil rights groups ask DeVos to carefully choose OCR leader

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 02/27/2017 10:35 AM EDT

Civil rights groups today asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to select someone to lead the department’s Office for Civil Rights who believes every student should be “treated with dignity without the burden of discrimination.”

“You and the president have the opportunity in this decision to demonstrate a commitment to core American values of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and diversity as well as a respect for the rule of law. We hope that you will make a decision guided by those values,” 60 civil rights groups wrote in a letter to DeVos.

The letter, organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, didn’t recommend anyone for the job.

Under former President Barack Obama, the office was aggressive in areas such as bathroom access for transgender students, campus sexual assault and school discipline. These same civil rights groups have been watching closely to see how the office handles these issues and other civil rights matters in the new Trump administration.

Many of the same groups expressed frustration after the Trump administration recently said it was scrapping an Obama directive focused on protecting transgender students. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has said the president believes the issue is one that should be handled at the state and local level.

The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Politico  By Michael Stratford | 02/28/2017 05:46 AM EST With help from Benjamin Wermund, Kimberly Hefling and Caitlin Emma

House lawmakers are making a new push to jumpstart efforts to reauthorize the main federal law governing career and technical education during this Congress. After years of talk about rewriting the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the House last summer passed an overhaul on a 405-8 vote. But the bill hit a snag in the Senate as Democrats and Republicans disagreed over provisions that would have curtailed the Education secretary’s authority over how states spend money under the law.

— Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.), the main Republican sponsor of the bill, tells Morning Education that he plans to re-introduce the legislation in the coming week and hopes to have it before the House education committee “sometime in March.” Thompson said he’s open to some tweaks to the bill, but noted it was “really universally accepted” in the House just months ago.

— President Donald Trump talked on the campaign trail about expanding vocational and technical education. And Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week told a group of community college leaders that she was looking forward to working with them on reauthorizing Perkins.

— The House education committee is getting ‘dirty.’ It’s bringing some star power to the Hill to highlight career and technical education with a subcommittee hearing today that will feature Mike Rowe, host of the TV show “Dirty Jobs.” Watch the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee’s hearing live here, starting at 10 a.m.


SNA doubles down against block grants, for relaxing regulations

Politico By Helena Bottemiller Evich 03/02/2017 12:15 PM EDT

The School Nutrition Association is making it crystal clear it’ll fight back against any attempt to block grant school meal programs, but it still wants some of the Obama administration’s nutrition standards for sodium and whole grains relaxed.

“Any block grant proposal would break our country’s long-standing promise that ensures students do not go hungry during the school day,” said SNA President Becky Domokos-Bays today in conjunction with the release of the group’s 2017 position paper, which outlines the 57,000-member organization’s lobbying priorities. The paper comes as SNA faces a GOP-controlled government that favors rolling back regulations, but also has a desire to explore block grants.

“Fixed-sum block grants for school meals could shut out America’s most vulnerable children, hindering access to free and reduced price meals for eligible families,” Domokos-Bays said. “This decimation of federal programs could financially cripple local school nutrition operations and abolish all federal nutrition standards.”

SNA’s position paper goes further than the bipartisan compromise struck in the Senate last year on school nutrition standards. The group wants to keep sodium limits at Target 1, where they are now, instead of advancing to stricter limits, and it wants the whole grain-rich requirement to go back to 50 percent.

In a twist, the group appears to have dropped its long-running fight against a mandate to serve half a cup of fruits or vegetables with lunches — a position that pit it against the public health community, which notes that the science is clear that children need to eat more produce.

SNA is also calling on Congress to fund “an independent study of the federal child nutrition programs to identify steps to reduce regulatory and administrative complexities.”


Study: Trump’s tax incentives for child care would mostly help higher earners

Politico By Bernie Becker 02/28/2017 02:27 PM EDT

Families making at least six figures per year would get the vast majority of the benefits from President Donald Trump’s proposed tax incentives for child care costs, according to a new report.

The nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center found that families making at least $100,000 a year would get 70 percent of the help from Trump’s proposals, which include a deduction for child care expenses, a refundable tax credit for certain lower-income families without a parent staying at home and more robust child care savings accounts.

Around a quarter of the benefits, the study found, would go to families with more than $200,000 in annual income.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, has largely spearheaded the administration’s efforts to implement more tax breaks for parents, and is pushing for those incentives to make the cut in any tax reform deal.

The total cost of the Trump administration’s child care incentives would be around $115 billion over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center study, which was written by Lily Batchelder, Elaine Maag, Chye-Ching Huang and Emily Horton. Batchelder was a senior aide to both former President Barack Obama and Senate Finance Committee Democrats.

The authors said the proposed tax deduction, which would be more valuable to taxpayers that pay higher rates, is the main reason most of the benefits go to wealthier families. The refundable credit for lower-income families “is worth much less per dollar of child care expense than the deduction,” they wrote.


State Updates

ID – Lawmakers Call for 6.3 Percent Increase in Public School Funding
The Legislature’s budget committee approved new raises for teachers Monday, as part of a plan to increase public school funding by 6.3 percent in 2017-18. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved a $100.6 million increase. (Idaho Education News, Feb. 27)


“School choice” the focus of Florida governor’s meeting with DeVos

Politico By Caitlin Emma 02/27/2017 03:51 PM EDT

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos discussed ways to bolster school choice measures today in Washington.

“I want kids to get a good education, whether that’s a traditional public school, a charter school, a tax-supported school — I want them to get a good education and that’s where she is,” Scott told reporters during a Hill media briefing after meeting with DeVos.

Before becoming education secretary, DeVos was an advocate supporting school choice measures such as charter schools and publicly-funded private school tuition vouchers.

“She has spent her time making sure that kids have choices, because you might need a different school than somebody else,” Scott said. “If you have plenty of money, you have all the school choice you want. Shouldn’t all children have school choice?”

DeVos has upheld Florida’s tax credit scholarship program as a model for expanding options for low-income students. Florida’s program serves more than 97,000 students and more than 80 percent use the scholarships to attend private school.

POLITICO reported last week that the Trump administration is considering a federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions of dollars to working-class families to help pay for private schools, including religious schools. It’s one of several ideas under review to expand school choice and it could pass as part of a broader tax reform bill.

Scott said they didn’t discuss Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, but he said “I think it could be a model” for the nation.


UT – House Panel Oks Requiring Teachers to Pass a Skills Test
Sponsored by Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, SB78 would require graduates of a university education program to pass a test of pedagogical skills — such as lesson planning and classroom management — prior to obtaining a teaching license. (Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 27)


Virgnia governor: DHS secretary says DACA is safe

Politico By Caitlin Emma 02/27/2017 01:40 PM EDT

Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said today that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told him the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is safe from repeal.

After meeting with Kelly, McAuliffe said Kelly “reiterated” the Trump administration’s “support for the DREAMers here in this country” and said it’s “a policy that will continue.”

The program, started by President Barack Obama, provides protections for young, undocumented immigrants.

McAuliffe, speaking during a National Governors Association briefing on the Hill, also said that based on his conversation with Kelly the program is “absolutely not” in danger of being repealed.

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump vowed to repeal the program, but has since said it’s one of the most difficult issues he’s faced since coming into office. Trump has promised to handle it with “a lot of heart.”


CT – State’s School Rating System Includes Student Growth for First Time
For the first time, the state released school and district accountability figures Tuesday that include a measure of how much students have grown academically on the state’s standardized test from year to year. (Hartford Courant, Feb. 28)


DE – Department of Education Releases Final ESSA Plan for Public Comment
The Delaware Department of Education released the final draft of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan Feb. 28. Delaware’s final draft plan was submitted to Gov. John Carney and is open for a 30-day public comment period, ending March 30. (Smyrna-Clayton Sun-Times, Feb. 28)


Kansas Supreme Court rules for schools challenging funding formula

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 03/02/2017 01:15 PM EDT

School funding in Kansas is inadequate and unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled today, according to published reports.

The ruling is the latest in a years-long dispute over funding for public schools in the Midwestern state.

The court gave state lawmakers until June 30 to come up with what it would deem a constitutional funding system.

In their ruling, the justices sided with school districts that said Gov. Sam Brownback’s “block grant” funding system for schools was unconstitutional, the Wichita Eagle reported.

“In effect, it is merely a fund created by freezing school districts’ funding for 2 school years at a prior year’s level,” the court said. “It also is only minimally responsive to financially important changing conditions such as increased enrollment.”


NM – Cobre Schools Will Move to Four-Day Schedule Next School Year
The Cobre Consolidated School Board has approved moving all schools from five days a week to four days a week beginning in August. Superintendent Robert Mendoza said switching to four days a week has been a discussed for the past two years. (Sliver City Sun-News, March 1)


MD House Oks Bill Limiting School Testing
The Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill Tuesday that would limit the amount of time school districts can spend on testing. The Less Testing, More Learning Act sailed through with minimal debate on a 139-0 vote. (Baltimore Sun, Feb. 28)


OR – Voters to Consider $790 Million Portland Public Schools Bond Measure
Portland voters will have a chance to decide whether to invest another $790 million in the city’s largest public school district. On Tuesday, the Portland Public Schools board approved placing a major bond measure on the May 16, 2017, ballot. (KGW, March 1)


13 states, DOJ reach settlement in litigation over transgender student rights
Politico By Caitlin Emma 03/02/2017 06:43 PM EDT

The state of Texas and the Justice Department appear to have reached a settlement of a multi-state federal lawsuit over transgender student rights, according to a new filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Thirteen states, led by Texas, are expected to drop a suit they filed against the Obama administration last year after it released a directive saying that Title IX — a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs — protects against gender-identity discrimination. Former President Barack Obama’s Education and Justice departments told schools they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities, and threatened withdrawal of education funds for those that did not comply with the non-binding guidance. The directive prompted nearly half of the states to sue.

A Texas judge last year placed a nationwide ban on the Obama directive, halting enforcement and prompting Obama’s Justice Department to ask for the ban to be limited to just the 13 states involved in the lawsuit. But President Donald Trump’s Justice Department recently dropped the Obama request to limit the ban, suggesting that a settlement was in the works.

And last week the Trump administration moved to rescind Obama’s directive entirely — and without it, the states and DOJ have nothing to fight about. In the filing Thursday, the Justice Department said it’s withdrawing the appeal of the nationwide ban, and the states indicated they’ll soon withdraw their suit.

But the settlement does not affect other litigation related to transgender student rights, such as a case that is due for oral arguments before the Supreme Court later this month involving Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia student who is suing his school district to be able to use a bathroom consistent with his gender identity. It also would not affect a federal lawsuit in North Carolina over that state’s so-called bathroom bill.

DOJ declined to comment beyond today’s filing. The Texas attorney general’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.


CA Examines How and Why to Improve Its Measures of School Climate
The mission of the work group is to provide recommendations to the board about the research behind ways of measuring school climate, what measures school staff, parents and students feel are important and whether findings from surveys, focus groups or observations are statistically valid. (Ed Source, Feb. 21)


Research and other articles of interest

Governors’ Top Education Priorities from State of the State Addresses – 2017
Education Commission of the States

This Education Trends report highlights the top seven education priorities identified by 42 governors in their 2017 State of the State addresses and provides examples of how states plan to approach these priority areas. For a complete list of summaries of each governor’s education policy priorities to date, please visit the ECS interactive database.