Music Education Policy Roundup – Nov 14, 2016

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.

Election results and transition

Trump turns to former Bush staffers for education issues during transition

Politico By Kimberly Hefling and Michael Stratford 11/10/2016 04:59 PM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped a cadre of former Bush administration officials to oversee education policy during the transition, POLITICO has learned.

James F. Manning, who was a senior official in George W. Bush’s Education Department, is helping to lead Trump’s education transition team, according to an organizational chart obtained by POLITICO and confirmed by several sources. Manning was chief of staff to Deputy Education Secretary Bill Hansen during the Bush administration and after that was a career official at the Office of Federal Student Aid during the first several years of the Obama administration.

Townsend McNitt, a former Education Department official under the Bush administration, is also working on education issues for the transition, according to documents viewed by POLITICO.

William Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is another former Bush-era official leading education issues for the transition team, as has previously been reported. Evers was a senior adviser to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who served from 2005 to 2009.


Trump – possible Education secretary picks

Politico article (all cabinet positions) –

Trump has made clear the Education Department would play a reduced role in his administration — if it exists at all. He has suggested he may try to do away with it altogether.

The GOP nominee has also offered a few hints about who he would pick to lead the department while it’s still around. Among those who may be on the shortlist is Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who ran against Trump in the primary but later endorsed the Republican presidential candidate. Education Insider, a monthly survey of congressional staff, federal officials and other “insiders,” said in May that Carson was Trump’s most likely pick.

Another possible education secretary under Trump is William Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution who has worked on education matters for the Trump transition team. Evers worked at the Education Department during the Bush administration and served as a senior adviser to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.


Trump might want to scrap the Education Department; how doable is that?

Alyson Klein, Ed Week blog, 11/09/16 –


Some Republicans have been trying to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education since President Ronald Reagan took office, when the agency was only about a year old.

Now, with Republican Donald Trump headed to the White House and a GOP-controlled House and Senate, Republicans have their best chance yet to scrap—or at least seriously scale back—the agency.

Trump talked about eliminating the Education Department on the campaign trail or cutting it “way way down,” but didn’t offer details about how he would do that, or what would happen to key programs if he did downsize.

For now, it looks like this idea remains on the table. Former Florida and Virginia state schools superintendent Gerard Robinson, who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said in an interview Wednesday that he expects that the new president will “streamline, at least” the Education Department. (Robinson is serving on Trump’s transition team but spoke only on his own behalf.)

Slimming down—or getting rid of—the department won’t necessarily be a slam dunk. Past attempts to eliminate it, including one in the early 1980s, when Reagan took office, and another in the mid-1990s, when Congress flipped to Republican control, haven’t gotten very far. Both times though, the administration and Congress were from different parties, which won’t be the case next year.

But even in the current Republican-dominated political landscape, abolishing the department would cost Trump and his allies political capital that they might rather spend elsewhere.

“That’s a heavy lift, and there’s some Republicans that may not be comfortable with that,” said Vic Klatt, a former aide to House Republicans on the education committee who is now a principal at Penn Hill Group, a government relations organization in Washington. He thinks such a proposal could get tripped up in the Senate, which requires a 60-vote threshold to get past procedural hurdles.

And education advocates would likely fight against getting rid of the department. “We would actively oppose it,” said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools in an interview. “And I think there is enough of a coalition on Capitol Hill to make opposition to it a rather bipartisan issue.”

What’s more, Klatt said, the agency itself may not be as paramount as the programs that it operates.

“At the end of the day what matters most is not the structure, it’s the programs. I don’t think the new president has given any indication that he’s likely to get rid of the most important programs,” Klatt said.

Instead of starting with getting rid of the department, Trump and his team may turn first to funneling federal education programs into broad block grants, essentially doubling down on the program consolidation that’s already in the new Every Student Succeeds Act, said Lindsay Burke, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“There are just dozens of niche programs that the department operates,”  she said. “And even though they have not worked well for kids, there is a constituency of adults through the country who really agitate to maintain those programs.” The new administration could start with consolidation and block granting, and then move toward “eliminating a lot of the competitive-grant programs that have accumulated over the years.”

In particular, programs closely associated with President Obama could find themselves on the chopping block early in a Trump administration, such as the Education Innovation and Research program. That’s the successor to the Investing in Innovation program, which helps school districts scale up and test out promising practices. It’s already slated for elimination in a House spending bill.

Other programs that Obama started, such as the Promise Neighborhoods Program, which helps schools pair academics with wraparound services, such as health programs, may also be in danger, despite support from lawmakers.

Burke also suggested the Trump administration could work with Congress to enact something along the lines of the A-Plus Act, which would allow states to opt-out of a slew of federal requirements while still getting federal funds.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. offered the legislation as an amendment when the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015. It didn’t make it through the GOP-controlled House at the time, but the political landscape has shifted now.

And there’s at least one office within the department that could get a makeover under a Trump presidency: The office for civil rights. It has been a hotbed of activity during the Obama administration, launching a series of guidance and investigations aimed at ensuring that school districts meet the needs of children from historically disadvantaged groups.

Robinson said Trump and his team would likely significantly curtail the office’s role when it comes to state and local policies, while ensuring that students rights’ are not “trampled on.”  

If OCR’s role does shift in the Trump administration, local civil rights organizations may need to step up, said Daria Hall, the interim vice-president for government affairs at the Education Trust, a research and advocacy organization.

“The one thing that’s clear is that the work of state and local equity advocates is now even more important,” she said. 

If the department does stay at the cabinet level, who might be Trump’s education secretary? Names floated include Robinson (who told us he’s not interested), and one of Trump’s rivals in the primaries, Dr. Ben Carson. Another possibility: Rep. Luke Messer, an Indiana Republican and a big fan of school choice. 


Trump’s plan to downsize Education Department faces obstacles

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 11/09/2016 04:01 PM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump has placed a bull’s-eye on the Education Department, and promised to dramatically downsize — or even eliminate — the agency. But it won’t be easy.

Previous GOP heavyweights, including Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, tried to axe the department, and the task proved elusive.

Reagan’s opposition to the Education Department — spelled out in his successful 1980 campaign against department creator Jimmy Carter — has inspired droves of current and former GOP politicians to call for an end to the agency. But Reagan couldn’t get it done, and seemingly lost his drive to do so, anyway.

In a twist, Reagan’s own Education secretary, Terrel Bell, commissioned what became the landmark “A Nation at Risk” report that warned of “disturbing inadequacies” in U.S. schools — findings widely credited with fueling the dialogue for more federal intervention.

Although Bell had commissioned the report without the White House’s blessing, Reagan liked it and ultimately signed on, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“‘A Nation at Risk’ clearly contributed to the demand for federal intervention and, at least in the short term, ended the debate over closing the Department,” said Martin West, a Harvard professor who served as an education adviser to 2012 GOP contender Mitt Romney.

West said Reagan’s shift was reflected in his second term, when he appointed William Bennett as Education secretary.

“Bennett was far more conservative than Bell and, with Reagan’s support, used the bully pulpit of his position to push for a wide range of reforms,” West said.

Bennett, who now works as a conservative commentator, didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The issue of closing the Education Department resurfaced other times as well. Then-House Speaker Gingrich pushed to eliminate the agency after his party took control of the House in 1994, but the plan never gained much traction on Capitol Hill, Hess said. GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole also took the same position in his 1996 presidential race.

“The challenge is that states and their congressmen love federal education money, they just don’t like it when strings are attached, when the Feds tell them what to do with it,” said Patrick McGuinn, a professor of political science and education at Drew University. “Also, closing the Education Department can come across as anti-education even when the local control argument is made.”

With a nearly $80 billion annual budget, the department doles out large sums annually in Pell Grants, Title I funds and special education services — programs that are popular with parents and school districts from both red and blue states.

But it’s the enforcement action under President Barack Obama’s administration that’s drawn the ire of this generation’s conservatives. In particular, many don’t like that the department’s Office for Civil Rights has become increasingly active over the last eight years on campus sexual assault enforcement and ensuring bathroom access for transgender students.

Obama’s also been criticized for dangling billions of dollars and other incentives to states that took steps such as adopting the Common Core standards. Backlash against those federal efforts to shape policy helped lead to last year’s passage of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, which hands a lot of control back to states.

What’s not clear yet is how aggressively Trump will act to take steps to close the Education Department — or whether he’ll take any action at all.

In his book “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again,” Trump said of the Education Department, if “we don’t eliminate it completely, we certainly need to cut its power and reach.”

“Education has to be run locally. Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top are all programs that take decisions away from parents and local school boards” and “allow the progressives in the Department of Education to indoctrinate, not educate, our kids,” Trump wrote. “I am totally against these programs and the Department of Education. It’s a disaster.”

Last year, Trump told Fox News he wants to cut spending and “may cut” the Education Department.

In announcing a $20 billion school choice proposal in September, Trump said there “is no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly.”

Trump wasn’t alone in the Republican presidential primary in questioning the need for the Education Department.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were among candidates saying they’d like to abolish the department, and Sen. Marco Rubio questioned the agency’s purpose. But breaking ranks, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another candidate, said Republicans historically have made a mistake in calling for the department to be closed.

“You know what independent voters heard? Oh, so the Republicans want to kill education?” Kasich said. “We’ve got to be careful in the way in which we use our rhetoric.”

Congress would also have to approve closing the department. West, the Harvard professor, said that could be a heavy lift. West noted that in Reagan’s time, even Republican lawmakers were divided on the issue amid pressure to keep the department open from key groups such as teachers unions and the Catholic conference.

“It would certainly be feasible from an administrative perspective to shift functions currently carried out by the Education Department to other agencies,” West said. “Politically, however, I don’t see even a Republican-controlled Congress providing the votes to do this, especially if the Trump administration were not to make it a top priority.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who is considered the leading candidate to chair the House education committee, told POLITICO earlier this fall that she would do “as much as humanly possible to roll back the functions of the federal government in education,” although she acknowledged as a “realist” there are political challenges in doing so.

An aide for HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander — who served as the federal Education secretary under President George H. W. Bush — said Wednesday that a Trump administration “has a prime opportunity to significantly reduce the intrusion of the Education Department into our local schools and classrooms.” The aide said that when Trump enforces the Every Student Succeeds Act passed last year as written, “the size of the Education Department will be necessarily and appropriately diminished.”

Carter signed the law establishing the Education Department in 1979 — after announcing his intention to create the department years earlier before the National Education Association. “The time has passed when the federal government can afford to give second-level, part-time attention to its responsibilities in American education,” Carter said.

Previously, education functions had been handled as part of what was then called the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, so education issues competed with high-profile matters such as Social Security for resources and attention.

Creating the department set the stage years later for President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind school accountability law, signed in 2002, which was widely unpopular but credited with shedding light on the large gaps between the performance of minority and poor students and their peers. Obama took an even more-aggressive stance in crafting education policy.

For Trump, as with Reagan, there’s a challenge in finding people to work in the Education Department who don’t believe it should exist, said AEI’s Hess.

“It’s hard to find people who want to go into government and then abolish the government they’re leading,” Hess said.


Trump expected to downsize Education Department, promote school choice

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/09/2016 05:05 AM EDT

One thing is clear from the few details Donald Trump has offered on education policy: The president-elect will seek to shake up the current education establishment just as aggressively as he plans to disrupt Washington.

On the campaign trail, Trump echoed many longstanding conservative talking points — all largely aimed at minimizing the federal government’s role in education as much as possible. Those ideas range from encouraging school choice through the use of federal block grants to transferring the student loan system back over to private lenders.

Trump will clearly have common ground with congressional Republicans on these proposals. Another area where Trump is in lockstep with the GOP: calling for greater scrutiny of how colleges with massive endowments use those funds.

North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, who may soon be chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, previously told POLITICO that a Trump presidency would be “akin to Heaven on Earth.”

Still, many of Trump’s education proposals have been vague, and at times contradictory. Trump wants to strip down the Education Department and get the federal government out of the student loan business. But he’s also proposed a more liberal loan forgiveness plan than what is in place — a change that would likely be managed by the Education Department. Some of his pitches, like scrapping Common Core and ending political correctness on campus, are clearly outside the bounds of what a president can actually do.

As a result, some in the education world are scratching their heads about what a President Trump will mean to them.

“I don’t know that they’re freaking out. I think they’re thinking exactly what they were a few days before the election, which is, ‘Gee — what will he do?'” said Jason Delisle, a fellow at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “We’ll have a lot of questions.”

Some of Trump’s education plans are rehashed versions of policies that Republicans have been pushing for years. Trump’s school choice proposal, which would create a $20 billion block grant to expand charter and private school options for poor children, is an idea previously championed by conservatives, but which fizzled in Congress. The proposal includes “portability,” a funding mechanism — popular with conservatives — in which the per-pupil spending follows the child to whatever school they attend.

Likewise, Trump’s proposal to use the tax code to put pressure on colleges with the biggest endowments echoes previous calls made by congressional Republicans.

Trump has also said he’d dismantle the Education Department — a decades-old conservative talking point. Still, a complete shutdown of the agency is unlikely to happen. His surrogates have said he’ll at least “downsize” the department to an entity that just allocates funding. For example, they’ve said there’s no need to keep the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which oversees Title IX enforcement and has become increasingly active over the last eight years as the spotlight on campus sexual assault increased.

But eliminating OCR would be “absolutely devastating to survivors and educational access in this country,” said Alyssa Peterson, a policy coordinator at Know Your IX, a group that advocates on behalf of sexual assault victims.

“Without OCR’s enforcement efforts, there would be nothing stopping schools from ignoring reports and abusing survivors with impunity,” Peterson said. “Given that so many students’ educations are threatened by sexual violence, we need more enforcement of Title IX and other civil rights laws, not less.”

Trump’s student-loan forgiveness plan, however, is largely a continuation of Obama administration policy — with some tweaks.

Under Trump’s plan, payments would be capped at 12.5 percent of a student’s income and loans would be forgiven after 15 years of steady payments. The federal government currently offers a loan forgiveness option with a 10 percent income cap, which grants full loan forgiveness after 20 years of payments.

With student debt, politicians of both parties are under pressure to take action.

On the campaign trail, Trump called rising college costs a “crisis” and “very unfair” to students, who he said shouldn’t have “an albatross around their necks for the rest of their lives.”

Trump at times has promised to make colleges’ lives easier — for example, reducing government regulations on universities. But his call for colleges with rich endowments to do more for college affordability showed a willingness to battle the nation’s elite universities.

Trump has also promised to end political correctness on college campuses, which he said “has transformed our institutions of higher education from ones who fostered spirited debate to a place of extreme censorship.” Trump campaigned on a vow to “drain the swamp” in Washington, but his posture suggests he may be gunning for the Ivory Tower too.

“We have a lot of power over the colleges,” Trump said at a speech in Ohio last month.

Because Trump’s campaign released so few policy details before the election, education experts are still trying to get a better handle on what to expect.

“For K-12, it would seem to portend a return of greater state and local control in educational affairs,” said Christopher P. Loss, a Vanderbilt University professor who studies the history of higher education policy. “For higher ed, meanwhile, he has indicated some interest in working on rising costs and figuring out the student loan problem.”

Beyond that, Loss said, things are less clear — and that’s frightening for an academic.

“I don’t know what else Trump might have in store,” Loss said. “Slashed research budgets? Austerity measures? Neither would surprise me. Obviously, Trump’s supporters aren’t found in great numbers inside the academy, and he exhibits little to no interest in the life of the mind, so some kind of retribution — given his well-known penchant for exacting revenge against his opponents — seems likely.”


Trump Ushers in a New Vision for Education Policy
ASCD Capitol Connections – 11/09/16

With Donald Trump’s stunning victory on Tuesday, the education community is asking, “What will a Trump presidency mean for education in the United States?” Perhaps the most accurate answer is: uncertainty. The presidential campaigns largely ignored education, and with no experience in an elective office, Trump has virtually no record on education policy. However, he has voiced opinions on a few issues such as expanding school choice and eliminating the Common Core State Standards (although these are not a federal initiative), and has mentioned support for improving early childhood education programs, albeit with few details. Trump also wants to drastically curtail the U.S. Department of Education (ED), perhaps even do away with it altogether. He will seek to roll back many of the Obama administration’s regulations, including, potentially, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations due next month. Finally, Trump’s transition adviser on education has said the president-elect will offer “a new way of how to deliver public education” that focuses on educational entrepreneurship. Incoming First Lady Melania Trump has stated that she wants to protect children from cyberbullying on social media. Stay tuned to Capitol Connection as the impact of this new administration on education continues to unfold.

On Capitol Hill, the Republicans maintained their majority in both the House and Senate, so we have greater certainty about the education committees next year. Even with the retirement of House education chair John Kline (R-MN), likely incoming chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who has served on the committee for 11 years, should transition fairly easily to this new leadership position. Foxx currently chairs the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. She is an outspoken critic of ED, and stated recently that as chair, she would work to limit the federal role in education. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) will return as the top Democrat on the committee.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is expected to continue to chair the Senate education committee, whose ranking Democrat is likely to remain Sen. Patty Murray (WA). The Alexander-Murray partnership has a strong record of achievement. Indeed, their bipartisan efforts on ESSA have been touted as a shining example of how Washington (used to and) is supposed to work. With the White House and Congress aligned under the GOP banner, we could see Republican-enacted reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and career technical education along with an update of student data privacy laws.


Education experts suggest Trump may end the federal government’s preschool push

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 11/10/2016 01:52 PM EDT

Active promotion by the federal government of universal preschool programs could disappear under President-elect Donald Trump, with the conversation shifting to child care, a bipartisan group of panelists speculated Thursday during an event at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

Katharine Stevens, an AEI scholar focused on early childhood education, said she’s happy that under Trump, the Obama administration’s push to transform public education into a 14 or 15 grade system — serving both 4- and 3-year-olds — is likely coming to a close.

“What this is going to enable us to do is take a step back, remember what problem we’re trying to solve and realize we can’t solve the problem we’re trying to solve through the schools,” Stevens said. “From my point of view, that’s actually a positive development.”

But Stevens said she hopes and expects that Trump will recognize that “early childhood is the foundation of educational opportunity” — even if universal preschool is not the emphasized solution.

“I would expect a Trump administration to be focusing very strongly on families, what families need, empowering families to choose what’s best for them and their kids and in supporting work, promoting child development and advancing parents’ ability to work at the same time,” she said.

Trump’s transition team web site says that the Trump administration will advance policies to support learning-and-earning opportunities at the state and local levels, and that “high-quality early childhood” programs are one means to do that.

Scott Sargrad, managing director of the K-12 education policy team at the progressive Center for American Progress, noted that during Trump’s campaign, Trump “has only talked about childcare and not early childhood education in the same way.”

Sargrad said it’s unknown whether the Trump administration will work as a partner in helping states bolster publicly-funded preschool programs, as Obama has done, or rather work in more of bully pulpit role in which it voices support for early childhood programs, but says “we’re not going to chip in” financially.


After Trump victory, advocacy group urges immigrant students not to apply for deferred status

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/11/2016 12:18 PM EDT

An advocacy group is warning immigrant students not to file new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, as doing so might put them on Homeland Security’s radar for possible deportation when Donald Trump takes office.

“First-time DACA applications are not likely to be processed before the next administration takes office and new applicants may be unnecessarily be exposing themselves to the Department of Homeland Security,” Katharine Gin, the co-founder and executive director of Educators for Fair Consideration, wrote in an email to the group’s members.

The deferred action program allows the children of undocumented immigrants who arrived after 2007 at age 16 or younger to receive two-year work permits and exemption from deportation. The program is likely in Trump’s crosshairs, as the president-elect made mass deportation a cornerstone of his presidential campaign and has repeatedly vowed to repeal Obama’s executive actions that allow for deferred action status.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 1.3 million young adults age 15 and older were eligible for the program as of 2016. Sixty-three percent of this population had applied as of March 2016, and 89 percent of those applications were approved.


American Federation of Teachers issues statement on Clinton defeat

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/09/2016 02:08 PM EDT

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten — a longtime friend and ally of Hillary Clinton — said today that while the election result was heartbreaking, “this was about economic change and a yearning for change, not an undermining of all things we hold dear like public schools.”

“We accept the will of the people, and, as Hillary Clinton said today, we owe President-elect Trump the chance to lead,” Weingarten said. “We will also hold him accountable for the promises he made to restore the sense of greatness and opportunity that too many Americans feel they have lost, while at the same time we will continue the fight for everyone’s liberties.”

AFT and the National Education Association both endorsed Clinton in the Democratic primary and poured millions of dollars and tens of thousands of volunteers into boosting her campaign. Weingarten noted that Election Day wasn’t a total defeat.

“Across the country in local races — from ballot initiatives in Georgia and Massachusetts, to school boards in New Orleans and Corpus Christi, to levies that will support schools in Cincinnati, Cleveland and the San Francisco Community College District, to Proposition 55 in California and much more — voters chose to lift up and protect the institution of public education,” she said.


For-profit college stocks surge after Trump win

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/09/2016 01:00 PM EDT

For-profit college stocks are on the rise after America elected a president who will be in court to defend his own for-profit college before he takes the oath of office.

Career Education Corporation, Strayer Education, Inc., and DeVry Education Group — three major for-profit chains — all saw their stocks jump in early trading today. DeVry stock increased by about 6 percent, Strayer went up by roughly 8 percent, and Career Education stock shot up by nearly 12 percent.

Donald Trump’s ascension could mark the end of the federal government’s for-profit college crackdown. Under the Obama administration, heightened scrutiny of the for-profit sector led to the closure of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech. Many Republicans in Congress have opposed Obama’s tough stance, and now they have a president who is more likely to pursue a hands-off regulatory approach.

Trump currently faces a federal court civil trial over alleged fraud in his Trump University real estate seminar program. The case is set to go to court later this month.

Federal updates

Alexander: Trump win ensures ESSA will be “implemented as written”

Policio By Caitlin Emma 11/11/2016 12:33 PM EDT

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander told a Tennessee radio station this morning that President-elect Donald Trump will ensure that the Every Student Succeeds Act is “implemented as written.”

Alexander also said that the Obama administration’s regulations on the law “will be overturned,” according to a tweet about his radio interview.

Alexander has been the Obama administration’s biggest critic when it comes to regulations for holding schools accountable under the new law, and has accused the Education Department of exceeding its legal authority. The senator has strongly opposed the administration’s regulation on a Title I spending issue known as “supplement, not supplant.”

The Trump administration isn’t expected to support Obama’s rules, and could rescind them once in office.

The Education Department’s draft rules have received support from civil rights groups and congressional Democrats, like Sen. Patty Murray.

Trump has also said he’d like to scrap the Common Core, but ESSA prevents the next education secretary from prescribing or banning any specific set of academic standards. The majority of states voluntarily adopted the Common Core.


Education Department announces grantees for innovation competition funding

Politico By Kaitlyn Burton 11/09/2016 06:10 PM EDT

The U.S. Department of Education today announced the top 15 applications for the Investing in Innovation competition, a program that awards funds for evidence-based practices that help improve student achievement. Potential grantees are required to secure matching private sector funds by December in order to receive federal funding.

Spurwink Services Inc., the National Writing Project and Texas A&M University are among those who made the list.

“Today’s announcement reflects educators’ deep commitment to students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Educators are constantly developing new ideas to better assist their students, and i3 empowers educators to develop these approaches into practices that can benefit schools and districts across the country.”

The DOE launched the first competition in 2010 as part of the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. Since then, the program has doled out more than $1.4 billion.

Projects announced today will be the final cohort, but funding will continue through the Education Innovation and Research program established under the Every Student Succeeds Act.


Legal opinion argues Education Department acted properly with “supplement, not supplant” regs

Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 11/07/2016 11:38 AM EDT

A new legal opinion argues that the Education Department was acting well within its legal authority when it moved in May to regulate the spending of Title I dollars meant to help fund education in poor neighborhoods — despite criticism that the Obama administration went further than the law allows.

At the request of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, attorneys at WilmerHale reviewed the issue, finding “that the Education Department has ‘ample’ legal authority to move forward with its proposal,” The Washington Post reports.

The provision in question, known as “supplement, not supplant,” is a way for the Education Department to determine whether or not Title I schools are receiving adequate state and local funding. The WilmerHale firm found that the Education Department’s position is a means of enforcing “an ambiguous statute.” The legal opinion’s authors argue that the rule is based on empirical data, as well as the department’s extensive experience when it comes to enforcing federal requirements.

The department’s proposal has already received more than 3,000 public comments, with the 60-day comment period set to close today. The Education Department hopes to finalize the rule before President Barack Obama leaves office.


Student debt-relief claims may be delayed by presidential transition

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/07/2016 05:00 AM EDT

The presidential election has created a cloud of uncertainty for tens of thousands of student borrowers seeking loan forgiveness — some of whom have already waited more than a year to find out if they’ll get relief.

The students, most of whom attended for-profit colleges, are asking that their debts be erased because they were misled or deceived by their school.

While the Education Department has finally ramped up a system to handle these debt relief claims — which fall under a federal provision known as “borrower defense to repayment” — a new president could push the process further into limbo. Some experts think that no matter who wins, a delay in processing the claims is inevitable.

If Clinton wins, the political appointee who must sign off on the loan forgiveness applications will likely be replaced, and that process could take months. Should Trump win, some worry the claims won’t be processed at all.

“Someone who has literally owned a for-profit college — the person he would appoint to do this would likely not do anything about it and there would be no way to do anything,” said Luke Herrine, an attorney for the Debt Collective, a group that advocates on behalf of students.

Nearly 82,000 students have asked for loan forgiveness on the grounds that their college was dishonest or didn’t deliver on its promises. Fewer than one-fifth of these students have received an answer.

The debt relief applications fall under a “borrower defense to repayment” provision in federal law meant to protect students who have been defrauded.

Borrower defense takes up only a single sentence in the Higher Education Act, and for decades the provision was largely ignored, with few students asking for loan relief through this method. But the collapse of for-profit Corinthian Colleges last year ushered in a wave of debt-relief requests. The sudden shutdown of ITT Tech in September sparked even more loan forgiveness applications.

Some of these students have been waiting as long as a year and a half, and have still heard nothing from the Education Department. The department last month released detailed “borrower defense” regulations that are supposed to make the process flow more smoothly going forward.

There is also a recently established unit at the department now dedicated to determining who deserves to have their loans forgiven.

The department has picked up the pace at which it has processed the claims in recent months. Students who attended Heald, Everest or WyoTech, all part of the Corinthian Colleges chain, were allowed to apply for expedited relief. As of June, the department had approved less than 4,000 claims from those students. By October, that number had ballooned to more than 15,000. Nearly $250 million in loans have been discharged.

“Our aim is to ensure that every eligible student receives every penny of the debt relief he or she is entitled to as efficiently and easily as possible,” Kelly Leon, a department spokeswoman, said.

Still, the delays can have serious consequences for some students.

“These loans affect my entire life,” said Alyse Zachary, who attended ITT Tech from 2008 to 2010 and owes some $35,000 from that period. Zachary filed a claim with the department in September 2015. Other than an email saying the department received the claim, she hasn’t heard anything.

Zachary said ITT Tech recruiters used dishonest pressure tactics to get her to enroll. Since asking the government for loan forgiveness, the former student said she’s been turned down from jobs and can’t get a loan to buy a house.

“I am very frustrated at the moment,” Zachary said.

The Education Department, meanwhile, is under pressure to speed things up, facing scrutiny from lawmakers such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who issued a scathing letter to the department in September, accusing it of “intentionally” collecting on student loans of Corinthian Colleges borrowers who “it knows may be eligible for discharge.”

“My sense is, from talking to the folks in the enforcement unit who are handling the borrower defense claims, that they are working around the clock,” said Bob Shireman, a former Obama Education Department official who was one of the architects of the federal government’s for-profit college crackdown.

Shireman said he doesn’t expect a slowdown because of the presidential transition. He argues the borrower defense unit can do its work with or without political appointees in place. Robert Kaye, who oversees the unit, is not a political appointee. An Education Department official said the department expects to continue making progress on the student claims even while the under secretary position is vacant.

Others are more skeptical. As of now, the department reviews each individual claim — and each discharge is signed off on by Undersecretary Ted Mitchell, a political appointee. More than 100 positions in the department could turn over, regarldess of who wins on Tuesday.

“I think there is going to be some disruption regardless of what happens,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “We’re going to have a bumpy road for a number of months, I’m sorry to say.”

Consumer advocates have called on the Education Department to approve blanket loan forgiveness for all students who attend schools that the department has known to have taken advantage of students — and to forgive those loans automatically.

“One easy way the department could speed things up is to stop processing Corinthian claims individually and do what many consumer advocates have called upon them to do and just discharge the loans,” said Abby Shafroth, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. “They could just wipe out that whole set. That would take a huge chunk of work off their plate.”

State updates

Montana Republican wins race for state education chief

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/10/2016 01:14 PM EDT

For the first time in nearly 30 years, Montana will have a Republican state superintendent.

Elsie Arntzen, a former elementary school teacher and Republican state lawmaker, has defeated her Democratic opponent Melissa Romano. Romano was a math teacher and a member of the state teacher’s union, MEA-MFT, from which she received an endorsement.

Arntzen replaces Denise Juneau, who was facing a term limit and lost her bid Tuesday for a Democratic seat in Congress.

Arntzen has had reservations about the Common Core and aligned Smarter Balanced test, but hasn’t pushed for replacing them, the Helena Independent Record reports. But this week she said she would review the contract for Montana’s Smarter Balanced test.


New Report on Remediation in Community Colleges in California
A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California finds that the majority of students entering the state’s community colleges are placed in remedial courses and most of them never move on to earn a degree, certificate or transfer. (Inside Higher Ed, Nov. 10)


New York: Zimphrer: SUNY “stands ready to work with the new president”

Politico By Keshia Clukey 11/09/2016 02:23 PM EDT

The State University system “stands ready to work with the next president” SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher said in a statement today.

“Education — what our students, teachers, schools, and colleges need to be successful — is the same today as it was yesterday,” Zimpher said in her statement which did not mention President-elect Donald Trump by name. “We need a champion at the top who will make innovative policy decisions and implement evidence-based programs for teaching and learning that position every student in America for success.”

Zimpher, who in May announced she would be stepping down as chancellor in June 2017, was rumored to be on the list of potential education leaders in a Hillary Clinton cabinet.

Being a champion means “embracing the collective impact approach to education, where everyone with a stake in student success is working toward a shared vision,” she said. “It means a commitment to transforming teacher training, so that our students not only learn from, but are inspired to become, excellent teachers. It means incentivizing college completion, which is the most effective way to minimize student loan debt. And it means delivering quality higher education that prepares every graduate for a rewarding career.”


Virginia Tech President Wants to Double Minority Enrollments
Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands is calling on the university to double its enrollment of underrepresented minority groups over the next six years. The Roanoke Times reports that currently, about 12 percent of Tech’s students are Black, Hispanic or of Pacific Islander descent. (Associated Press, Nov. 8)


Detroit, MI High Schools Will Get Own Academic Focus
The Detroit Public Schools Community District plans to transform the district’s high schools under a plan to create a targeted field of study for each. The so-called “cluster career” schools are part of a new long-term academic turnaround plan unveiled by district officials Friday. (Detroit News, Nov. 4)


CA State Board Approves Science Framework, First in Nation
The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a new science framework that makes California the first state in the nation to produce a framework based on the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 grades. (EdSource, Nov. 3)

Research and other topics of interest

Education Commission of the States released five reports earlier in November digging into federal and state policies on specific student populations: