Music Education Policy Roundup – March 11, 2018

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





Sen. Lamar Alexander Backs Changes to ESSA to Improve School Safety

The chairman of the Senate education committee wants to change the main federal education law to allow schools to hire more counselors, make infrastructure improvements, and fund violence-prevention programs.   Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced Tuesday that he would introduce the School Safety and Mental Health Service Improvement Act at some point this week. Among other things, it would change Title IV, which gets $400 billion in the fiscal 2018 federal budget, in order to let schools pay for new safety technology, “physical security,” and training school personnel to help them recognize and defuse threats of violence. And his proposal would also change Title II to make it easier for the $2 billion program for educator professional development to fund school counselors. Both Title II and Title IV are part of the Every Student Succeeds Act—Title IV was created when ESSA became law in 2015.


DeVos criticizes state education leaders over ESSA plans

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday confronted a roomful of state education chiefs for turning in education plans that she said appear to do only the bare minimum for students.  In surprisingly extensive and critical remarks before the Council of Chief State School Officers, DeVos said the Every Student Succeeds Act gave states new “flexibility and opportunity to address your state’s unique challenges.”  “The trouble is, I don’t see much evidence that you’ve yet seized it,” she said. “At least not in the ESSA plans I’ve thus far approved. Some have said that they didn’t write their plans ‘to win an ESSA competition.’ Other plans look as though they were just written to get good grades from D.C. interest groups. Still other plans seem like they were written only for one purpose: compliance.”


Top aide to DeVos delivers second round of criticism on state education plans

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ top aide reviewing state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act on Tuesday echoed her concerns that too many of them appear to be written for compliance.  For too long, state and local education leaders have focused on compliance and that’s partly the federal government’s fault, Jason Botel told the National Association of State Boards of Education’s legislative conference.  Botel, the acting assistant secretary in the Education Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, said he’s worried that some state systems for holding schools accountable will prove confusing for parents and that systems for rating schools in some states “aren’t driven very much by academic measures.”


Wisconsin education chief slams DeVos for ‘political stunt’

Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said Tuesday that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ surprising rebuke of states Monday was a “political stunt.”  “She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Evers, a Democratic candidate for governor, told POLITICO. “It was received horribly by her audience.”  DeVos on Monday addressed a gathering of state education chiefs in D.C. — and shocked many of them when she said they blew an opportunity to be innovative in drafting plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act.  State education leaders, in turn, have said DeVos is sending mixed messages. While she rebuked states for their lack of ambition, she has also signaled that federal officials wouldn’t be overly critical of state plans.


Scott: DeVos dropped the ball on ESSA guidance


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ agency has done little to help states understand the Every Student Succeeds Act and their responsibilities under the law, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said this morning.  That’s despite her concerns over what she said on Monday is a lack of ambition in state plans developed under the law, Scott, the top Democrat on the House education committee, noted.  States “haven’t been given adequate guidance from the Education Department,” Scott told the National Association of State Boards of Education’s legislative conference.  The Trump administration “has done little to empower you to be aware of the law’s requirements,” said Scott. “It’s the federal government’s responsibility to help states comply with the law and I don’t think the Education Department has met that responsibility.”  Kristen Amundson, president of NASBE, said DeVos has sent conflicting messages about state education plans.  The Trump administration signaled to states from the outset that federal officials wouldn’t be overly critical of those plans. And while DeVos has signed off on more than 30 states — and has said she’ll continue to do so as long as they comply with the law — she said on Monday that too many of them appear to be written with just compliance in mind.  “To say that there have been mixed messages about the plans would be true because at one point the secretary said she’ll sign anything that you send,” Amundson told her members.


DeVos rewrites rules for school civil rights probes

The Trump administration has overhauled the rules for investigating discrimination in the nation’s schools in a way that the Education Department says will boost efficiency but advocates fear will weaken enforcement of civil rights.  The new guidelines are the latest in a series of actions under the direction of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that have led civil rights groups and Democrats to blast the Trump administration for “diminishing” civil rights enforcement — a major focus of former President Barack Obama’s Education Department. The administration has rescinded protections for transgender students, is changing rules for campuses handling allegations of sexual assault and has closed civil rights complaints at twice the rate of its predecessor.


Senate HELP Committee sets vote on 2 Trump education nominees


Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander has scheduled a vote next week on two of President Donald Trump’s nominees for roles at the Education Department.  The panel will vote March 7 on the nomination of Frank Brogan to be assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. Brogan is a former chancellor of two state higher education systems and served as lieutenant governor of Florida alongside former Gov. Jeb Bush.  Brogan is currently working at the department, performing the duties of assistant secretary of postsecondary education in a temporary capacity.

In addition, the committee will consider the nomination of Mark Schneider to be director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the department’s statistics, evaluation and research arm. Schneider previously served as the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics during the George W. Bush administration.  The committee has not yet scheduled a time or location for the votes.


Pearson to ditch U.S. curriculum business


Education giant Pearson is planning to part with its K-12 curriculum business in the U.S. and is already in talks with potential buyers, the company announced.

Pearson has long created and sold textbooks and digital curriculum in the U.S., but decided to ditch the business as part of a “strategic review” launched in May of last year. The move also follows a restructuring that led the company to cut 3,000 jobs worldwide in August.

The London-based company made the announcement Friday, after telling investors that it saw revenue declines in the “high single digits” from its K-12 curriculum business in 2017. Pearson said that while states like Texas, Indiana and South Carolina adopted some of its products statewide in 2017, the company saw “sharp declines” in textbook adoptions in states where local districts or schools select their own textbooks.

Pearson also reported revenue losses for its K-12 assessments business, as well as for its higher education business, which the company chalked up to overall college enrollment declines across the U.S.

Meanwhile, the company’s virtual school business grew in 2017. The company reportedly served 78,000 students last year, up 6 percent from the year before, and obtained contracts with two, new statewide virtual schools.


Trump sees veterans as the perfect armed teachers, but they’re divided

President Donald Trump has held up veterans as the ideal armed teachers who could ward off school shooters. But the reality is very few of today’s educators served in the military, and those who did may reject the idea of carrying a gun to class.  Even with the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans entering the workforce, just 2.1 percent of U.S. teachers in 2016 were veterans, according to federal data. In 1960, during the post-World War II era when Trump was a teen, 59 percent of male teachers had military service.  While some veterans among the nation’s teaching corps back Trump’s idea and see it as a calling to use their skills, others interviewed by POLITICO said they are adamantly opposed — even if they have the weapons familiarity that comes with military service. They said they worry about accidental discharges and that their skills are no longer fresh.


Foxx says funding for student services should be ‘top priority’ after shooting


Rep. Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said today that funding grants to states for student support services should be a “top priority” after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.  Foxx (R-N.C.) said in a letter to Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel, that she planned to urge congressional appropriators to prioritize funding for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. She invited Scott to join her on the effort.

The program, Foxx wrote, “provides grants to school districts to support a variety of needs, including student mental health services and professional development for school personnel in crisis management and school-based violence prevention strategies.”

Foxx’s letter to Scott did not address Democrats’ request to hold a committee hearing on school shootings. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has also called on Congress to hold hearings on the matter.

“As your committee prepares funding legislation for the remainder of FY 2018, we ask that you make funding SSAEG as authorized in ESSA,” Foxx’s letter to appropriators says.

The block-grant program, which was created by consolidating dozens of federal programs in the Every Student Succeeds Act, is authorized at $1.6 billion.

House appropriators last summer approved a funding bill that would provide $500 million for the program, while Senate appropriators would set aside $450 million. President Donald Trump’s 2018 and 2019 budget requests called for defunding the program.



West Virginia lawmakers reach deal to give striking teachers pay raise

Charleston, West Virginia (CNN)West Virginia lawmakers reached a deal Tuesday that gives a 5% pay raise to all state employees, including striking teachers and school staff.  The deal is intended to end a teachers’ strike that has canceled nine consecutive school days across the state. Teachers’ union representative Christine Campbell told CNN she anticipates school will back in session Wednesday if the bill is passes.  Both the House of Delegates and Senate unanimously approved the bill later Tuesday, and it is expected to be signed by Gov. Jim Justice.  “It took a lot of pulling for everyone to get there,” Justice told crowds of cheering educators at the state Capitol in Charleston. “But we’re there.”


Florida higher-education overhaul headed to Gov. Scott

TALLAHASSEE- Bright Futures merit scholarships would be permanently expanded under a bill sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.  The Senate voted 33-5 for the measure (SB 4), which was originally approved by the Senate in the first week of the session and is a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.  The House earlier on Monday voted 84-28 for the bill, called the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act.”  The bill will cover 100 percent of the tuition and fees for some 45,000 top-performing Bright Futures students, who are known as “academic scholars.”  It also includes $300 per semester for textbooks and allows the scholarships to be used for summer classes.  Another 48,000 students, known as “medallion” scholars, will see their Bright Futures scholarships, which now cover about half the cost of tuition and fees, rise to 75 percent, or about $159 of the average $200 per credit hour charge for university courses. It will also cover summer classes.


Trying Again, de Blasio Names a New Schools Chancellor

There were two finalists in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s search for a new schools chancellor, and on Monday, just days after being spurned by his first choice, the mayor said the job would go to the runner-up, Richard A. Carranza, the superintendent of the Houston schools.  And this time, the mayor was taking no chances.  When he named his first choice, Alberto M. Carvalho, the Miami-Dade superintendent, to the post last week, Mr. Carvalho stayed home in Florida, where he appeared in a dramatic televised emergency school board meeting and turned the offer down.  On Monday, not only was Mr. Carranza, 51, in City Hall’s Blue Room for the announcement and a news conference, but so was his wife, Monique Garcia Carranza, along with the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, who regularly influences hiring decisions, and Carmen Fariña, the departing chancellor.


Oklahoma teachers consider statewide walkout over education cuts

TULSA, Okla.- Teachers across the state of Oklahoma are rallying together to send a message to legislators.  By Sunday, a Facebook page called ”Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now” garnered more than 34,000 members, set up just days before.

The group’s organizer, Alberto Morejon, said the page was created to give teachers and parents a forum to discuss their issues regarding state budget cuts in education and to organize.  He said their goal is to gain the support of superintendents and school boards across the state to initiate a suspension of school, but a walkout is a last resort.  The suspension of school would allegedly last until state legislators pass a bill to increase teacher pay by at least $5,000.


Sewickley Valley parents form group focused on special education networking (Pennsylvania)

Tina Bower remembers what it felt like when her son Ty was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  “I was lost as to what I was supposed to do with the next step in the process,” the Sewickley mom said. “For me personally, I was devastated. I think of the future. If you have no one you think you can talk to, it’s terrible. It’s sad to say, but you have that stigma.”  It was through a connection with other moms in the Sewickley Valley going through the same thing that she found answers and support through her journey.


Portland Commissioner Eudaly blasts Portland Public Schools for ousting special education program

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly weighed in over the weekend on a Portland Public Schools plan that’s been generating opposition for months: oust a program for special education students from its building in favor of a larger program for gifted students.

Since the announcement of the change in November, parents and staff from the special education program, Pioneer, have regularly protested at school board meetings and even shown up at board members’ workplaces to protest. The optics have been awkward for the district from the beginning. Officials botched announcement of the change by accidentally telling families in the gifted program before Pioneer families about the move.


One Texas Board Of Education Primary Result Could Spell A Return To Culture Wars

Over her 16 years on the State Board of Education, Pat Hardy has rallied for her share of socially conservative measures. She’s endorsed keeping “pro-American” values in history textbooks. She’s backed emphasizing “states’ rights” instead of slavery as the cause of the Civil War. And she’s supported teaching “both sides” of arguments around climate change.  But her Republican challengers in the March 6 primaries — Feyi Obamehinti and Cheryl Surber— are telling voters that they’re even further to the right. (Surber’s campaign Facebook page even refers to her as the “Donald Trump of the Texas State Board of Education” candidate.)  “It’s probably true!” Hardy said. “Which is funny because I’m very conservative. But they are to the right of me.”


Missouri Senate approves changes to education board amid fight with governor

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. • Missouri senators have approved changes to the governor’s role in picking State Board of Education members after a fight with Gov. Eric Greitens. Senators last week voted 22-10 to send a bill to the House to require at least five members of the eight-member board to have Senate confirmation before the board could act.  The proposal comes after Greitens stacked the board with his appointees to oust the former education commission.



Simplifying grants for college students: Who wins and who loses?

Making federal student aid programs simpler and easier for students to navigate is a key goal of efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), the federal law that governs these programs. Program consolidation is a key component of simplification, and moving to “one grant, one loan” was included in House Republicans’ HEA reauthorization bill and has also received support from Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate committee responsible for HEA.[1]

Proposals to move to one grant and one loan have the potential to attract bipartisan support, especially if funds from eliminated programs are kept within the federal aid programs rather than used for other purposes such as deficit reduction. But the small programs that would be consolidated have their own constituencies, such as the colleges that benefit, which are likely to oppose such efforts.


Governors’ Top Education Priorities in 2018 State of the State Addresses

A signature product, this Education Trends report is the result of tracking, analyzing and identifying trends in education policy proposals featured in governors’ State of the State addresses. Check out the six education priorities identified across the states in 2018, as well as state highlights for each priority area.