Music Education Policy Roundup – Nov 21, 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.


Federal transitions

Tooshar Swain in the NAfME Policy Shop wrote a blog detailing the election results at the federal level, as well as a high level analysis of state results.


Trump transition team likely to start working with Education Department next (meaning this!) week

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/17/2016 11:51 AM EDT

The members of Trump’s transition team tasked with working with the Education Department will probably make contact with the department early next week, a spokesman said today.

The “landing teams” — the people tasked with working with federal agencies on the transition — are being launched in three waves, beginning today, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said during a press call.

The Education Department — along with other domestic agencies such as the Department of Labor and the EPA — is part of the third wave, and likely to start early next week, Spicer said. The first wave is focused on national security.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said today that his agency had not yet made contact with the Trump transition team.

“When we do, we will provide the landing team with a comprehensive picture of the work of the last eight years and the work underway,” King told reporters. “The president’s been very clear that we want to ensure a smooth transition.”

King said that the Obama administration was appreciative of the help they received during the hand-off from the Bush administration and said he “intended to ensure that we provide a similarly high level of support to the incoming team.”

Michael Stratford contributed to this report.


From Committee for Education Funding (NAfME is a member) – 11/22/16. Education Secretary rumors of this week:

A new week brings new rumors of who might be the education secretary in the Trump Administration.  Last week’s additions of Michelle Rhee, Tony Zeiss, and Mitch Daniels are now joined by Lisa Graham Keegan, a former Arizona state superintendent of education and current executive director of A is for Arizona.  Meanwhile, the transition team that will be working with the Department of Education on policy includes Gerard Robinson, former education chief in Florida and Secretary of Education in Virginia, and three former Department of Education officials under the second Bush Administration: James Manning; Bill Evers, who opposes the Common Core State Standards; and Townsend McNitt, who was also previously chief of staff of the Senate HELP Committee.


Trump to meet with education reform leaders Rhee, DeVos

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 11/18/2016 11:28 AM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump will speak with education reform activists Michelle Rhee and Betsy DeVos in separate meetings on Saturday.

Both Rhee and DeVos are thought to be in the mix as possible picks for education secretary, though a spokesman for the transition would not confirm whether they were being vetted for the top post, saying they “may just be offering advice.”

“Everybody coming forward are people who will be highly qualified and well-suited to share their top-level expertise,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said.

Rhee, who sources close to Trump’s transition previously called a long-shot candidate, is an education reform activist who previously served as the chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools.

Betsy DeVos is the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group.

Trump also met with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. on Thursday. Falwell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that they talked about the Education Department, and Falwell would not rule out whether he was being vetted to run the agency.

“I will definitely play a role, and we’re still discussing exactly what that role will be,” Falwell told the paper.


Sessions pick could jeopardize Obama’s civil rights work in education

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/18/2016 10:05 AM EDT

Much of the student civil rights work to come out of the Obama administration’s Justice Department could be rescinded if Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump’s attorney general.

Trump is expected to announce later today that he has offered Sessions the job. The Education and Justice Departments have teamed up many times in recent years to issue strong guidance on civil rights issues, which Republicans have sometimes criticized as federal overreach.

That joint guidance has affirmed the civil rights of transgender students under Title IX, has said schools can’t shut out children who are undocumented immigrants, and has warned schools against bias in school discipline.

Thirty years ago, Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship after allegations that he had made racist remarks while working as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. Sessions denied the allegations at the time, but the Senate Judiciary Committee nevertheless voted 10-8 against Sessions’ bid to become a judge.

If the Trump administration scales back the Education Department and the agency’s Office for Civil Rights sees drastic cuts or is eliminated — as one Trump surrogate has suggested — then much of the Obama-era guidance could be rescinded or rendered meaningless.


POLITICO New York: Ivanka Trump to tour a Success Academy charter school

11/18/2016 10:14 AM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, plans to tour a Success Academy charter school in Harlem Friday, several sources with knowledge of the visit told POLITICO New York.

The visit comes just one day after Success CEO Eva Moskowitz said she would not serve as Trump’s Education secretary, ending days of speculation over whether the longtime Democrat and avowed Hillary Clinton supporter would join a Trump administration. Moskowitz met with Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday.

Moskowitz did not say this week whether she was formally offered the position, just that she would not serve under Trump. But, over the last 24 hours, she has praised Trump and vowed to work with him.

During Thursday’s press conference, she said “there are many positive signs that president Trump will be different than candidate Trump.” She also criticized The New York Times for what she called “pot-shots” against the president-elect and praised Trump’s apparent interest in education reform.

In an appearance on NY1 on Thursday evening, Moskowitz — a former Democratic New York City councilwoman who frequently does combat with the Bill de Blasio administration and his allies in the teachers’ unions — declared that Trump had not only won the election, but “won very big.”

Sources said Ivanka will tour Success Academy Harlem 1, the first school in a network that has grown to 41 schools across four boroughs. Harlem 1 is the school most frequently toured by celebrities and financiers interested in the Success model.

Hedge fund manager Dan Loeb will also join the visit; Loeb is the chair of Success’s board. Moskowitz has at least indirect ties to the president-elect through the network of financiers that have supported both Success and Trump. Hedge fund manager John Paulson, for example, has given significant donations to both the Success schools and Trump’s campaign.

Ivanka has played a key role in her father’s campaign over the last year and a half. Her husband, Jared Kushner, is also considered one of Trump’s closest advisers.

Trump has vowed to keep his children in charge of his real estate company through a blind trust. But it’s unclear how he would avoid potential conflict of interest violations; Ivanka was criticized for joining a meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday.

Spokespeople for Success did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Ivanka’s visit.


Pence and his Indiana allies bring voucher crusade to Washington

Politico By Caitlin Emma and Kimberly Hefling 11/18/2016 05:26 AM EDT

George W. Bush once brought Texas-style accountability to the Education Department. President Barack Obama tapped Chicago basketball buddy Arne Duncan to run the agency. And in a variation, Donald Trump’s education policies are expected to reflect the Indiana imprint of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Pence, an evangelical Christian, used his platform as governor to promote “school choice,” aggressively expanding a voucher program that allows taxpayer money to flow to religious private schools. Pence also pushed for more charter schools, and choice has now become a defining element of Trump’s vision for education. Indiana’s voucher program allows nearly 33,000 students to go to private school at public expense — making it the single largest voucher program of any state in the country.

While charter schools overall have enjoyed some bipartisan support, voucher programs are much more controversial because they pay for private school on the public’s dime. Critics say vouchers undermine public schools, and may even promote segregation.

Now the same players who sparked Indiana’s intense education battles — and transformed its schools — are poised to enact those policies on a national stage. And history shows that Pence and his allies are willing to push aggressively for what they want. Research, however, suggests that the academic success of both charter schools and vouchers in the state has been mixed.

“Indiana has just about the largest school choice program in America. School choice is where it’s at, folks,” Trump said in July, as he introduced Pence as his running mate.

Already, three Hoosiers key in shaping Indiana’s school choice path are considered contenders to serve as Trump’s education secretary: Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University; former Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett; and Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), a former state representative who served as executive director for School Choice Indiana when the state’s 2011 school choice law was passed under Daniels’ watch.

“I don’t know if I’m being considered, but I certainly would be open to the possibility of serving,” Messer told POLITICO in an interview. “I’m excited by Mr. Trump’s bold education proposals and would love to do whatever we can to make sure those proposals become a reality.”

Daniels declined to be interviewed for the story, and Bennett didn’t respond to requests for comment. The Trump transition team could not immediately be reached for comment.

Indiana ties also played a role in Trump’s selection of the campaign staffer who helped him craft his $20 billion school choice plan that encourages vouchers and charter schools: Robert Goad, an aide on loan from Messer.

Then, there’s Pence, who is leading Trump’s transition effort, and has a keen interest in school policy.

Pence touted his support for vouchers on the campaign trail, including in Utah, a state where voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea of vouchers in the past.

“Donald Trump and I both believe that every parent in America should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income and regardless of their area code, and public, private and parochial and faith-based schools on the list,” Pence said at Sen. Mike Lee‘s Utah Solutions Summit in September.

As governor of Indiana, Pence fought bitterly with the elected state schools superintendent, Glenda Ritz. Ritz, a Democrat, clashed with Pence over voucher expansion, testing, academic standards and more. Pence actively tried to undercut Ritz’s authority and strip her of her power — at one point creating what critics called a shadow state education agency that overlapped with Ritz’s Department of Education. That shadow agency was eventually dissolved.

Ritz lost her reelection bid for state superintendent this month. She didn’t respond to an interview request.

Indiana State Rep. Terri Austin, a Democrat on the House Education Committee and an educator for decades, noted that Pence was one of just 25 Republicans who voted against No Child Left Behind in 2000 — Pence opposed the law because he objected to federal intrusion in schools.

“But if you look at what’s happened in Indiana, it’s been heavy-handed intervention from the state,” Austin said.

The state’s previous governor, Daniels, oversaw passage of the 2011 law that created Indiana’s school voucher program. Pence later fought aggressively to expand it.

Nearly 4,000 students participated during the first year of the program. But after Pence took office, student enrollment soared into the tens of thousands, with the state legislature adding more ways for students to get vouchers. Pence also won a victory in 2013 when the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of school vouchers. Teachers, school officers and parents sued over the program because public dollars could be used to pay for religious private schools.

Pence “comes into the office, not only just knowing everyone in the education reform movement, but has the unique experience of fighting this at the state level and winning,” said Robert Enlow, president of the Indianapolis-based nonprofit EdChoice, which supports school vouchers.

But the voucher program has cost the state. Research from Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy has found that while the program saved taxpayers money in the first two years, it’s become increasingly costly, with the state forking out an extra $50 million this year to support it. Molly Stewart, an IU researcher, says more than half of the students participating in the voucher program weren’t previously in public schools — raising the question of whether taxpayers are subsidizing students who would have attended a private school anyway.

Evidence that vouchers actually improve outcomes for students is “still fairly mixed and quite uneven,” said Luis Huerta, an associate professor of education and public policy at Teachers College Columbia University.

Huerta recently spoke about Trump’s school choice plans at a post-election event hosted by the American Federation of Teachers.

“There isn’t any experiment that shows kids who take up vouchers for private schools are doing better,” he said.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame and University of Kentucky found in one study that Indiana students who used vouchers to transfer to private schools performed worse in math. And in a review of research on vouchers, the Center on Education Policy found that voucher students perform similarly to their public school peers, but students in programs in D.C. and Milwaukee are graduating at higher rates than students attending public schools.

John Jacobson, dean of Teachers College at Ball State University, said the state’s voucher program hasn’t been around long enough to fully understand the long-term impact. Because of that, Jacobson said, “I would hope they are cautious at the national level.”

Has Indiana’s voucher program been a positive change for families?

“If you were to ask a parent who received a voucher to a school of their choice, they would say yes,”Jacobson said. “For the general public, I think it’s been difficult for the public to accept, taking public dollars and allocating that to private entities.”

Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said the nation shouldn’t be drawing inspiration from Indiana’s school choice policies. “As a matter of fact, we should be slowing down” in Indiana, Meredith said.

Caution and incremental steps weren’t Pence’s style in Indiana, and so far, both the president-elect and vice president-elect are promising a bold expansion of school choice, including vouchers.

Trump has said his $20 billion school choice plan would come from existing federal funds. Education experts believe that could mean taking at least $15 billion in Title I funding, which is allocated for schools teaching high concentrations of poor students. Under such a scenario, the money would instead follow students to the public or private school of their choice. This notion of “Title I portability” has come up in Congress many times and failed.

Messer, the Indiana congressman now in the running for education secretary, is one of the champions of “portability” on Capitol Hill.

The Trump administration could start smaller with school vouchers by proposing investments in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally-funded private school voucher program in the country. The program was adamantly opposed by the Obama administration.

When it comes to charter schools, Trump could also ask for a significant boost in federal funding. Since 1995, about $3 billion in federal funding has been spent through the Charter Schools Program to support the growth of high-quality charter schools.

Messer said the school choice fight in Indiana provided some valuable lessons in winning over public opinion.

“We learned more than anything else if you want to bring reform to education, you have to be ready to sell it, you have to be ready to help explain to people how you’re going to make their life better, both parents, students and teachers.”

“First you got to listen,” he said. “And then you got to sell.”


Education reform group to Democrats: Don’t join Trump administration

Politico By Michael Stratford 11/17/2016 02:23 PM EDT

Democrats for Education Reform, a progressive advocacy group, has a message for the Democrats whose names are being floated as possible picks to be Donald Trump’s education secretary: Don’t do it.

Shavar Jeffries, the group’s president, said in a statement today that “no Democrat should accept appointment as Secretary of Education, unless and until President-elect Trump disavows his prior statements and commits to educating the whole child and supporting the communities and families they depend on.”

Jeffries said that while it is “generally speaking, an honor for any person of any political persuasion to be asked by the President of the United States to consider a Cabinet-level appointment,” Trump is an exception. Jeffries said that Trump’s education secretary “would become an agent for an agenda that both contradicts progressive values and threatens grave harm to our nation’s most vulnerable kids.”

Eva Moskowitz, a Democrat who founded the Success Academy Charter Schools, fueled speculation that she was a top contender for education Wednesday when she met with Trump in New York. But Moskowitz said today that she would not take the job.

Another Democrat, Michelle Rhee, is also in the running to be education secretary, Trump spokesman Jason Miller suggested this week. Rhee is a prominent education reform activist and former chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools.


Homeschoolers see opportunity with President-elect Donald Trump

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 11/14/2016 11:39 AM EDT

Homeschoolers have a “friend” in President-elect Donald Trump, and last week’s election results have given new life to the idea of closing the Education Department, a homeschooling lobbyist tells POLITICO.

“We’re dusting off plans, talking with our friends in Congress and, hopefully soon, the new administration to urge them to shut down the federal Department of Education,” said William Estrada, the director for federal relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Trump has said he wants to downsize or eliminate the Education Department — a conservative talking point that dates to President Ronald Reagan. And Estrada said the Obama administration’s actions, which encouraged testing and the adoption of the Common Core standards through Race to the Top grants, helped fuel the current anti-Education Department environment.

“When you factor in the huge frustration across the nation about the Common Core, about high-stakes testing, about testing for teachers and testing for kids, it’s not just a right-wing position any more,” Estrada said.

Estrada said Trump made comments during the campaign in support of homeschooling, and that Vice President-elect Mike Pence has a strong record in Congress and as governor of Indiana in support of their community.

The number of U.S. students learning at home has continued to rise, with about 3.4 percent school kids homeschooled in 2012.


COMMON CORE CRITICS PUSH TRUMP (Politico, 11/16/16): Anti-Common Core advocates aren’t happy with the slate of names that have been floated for Education secretary so far. Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz (who said Thursday she didn’t want the job), former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, former Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett and others have been Common Core supporters. President-elect Donald Trump vowed on the campaign to “repeal” the standards, which were voluntarily adopted by most states and never required by the federal government. Some of the rumored names have prompted parents and advocates to pen an open letter urging Trump to follow through on his campaign promise to end “Common Core support at the federal level.”


Trump moves to settle Trump University cases for $25 million

Politico By Colby Hamilton and Josh Gerstein 11/18/2016 12:30 PM EDT Updated 11/18/2016 06:39 PM EDT

Donald Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle fraud lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University real estate seminar program, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Friday.

The proposed settlement — hammered out in negotiations among Trump lawyers, attorneys pressing federal class-action suits and Schneiderman — was announced just minutes before a federal judge was set to open a hearing on whether to proceed with a jury trial in one of the cases just 10 days from now.

“Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “I am pleased that under the terms of this settlement, every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws. The victims of Trump University have waited years for today’s result and I am pleased that their patience — and persistence — will be rewarded by this $25 million settlement.”

Most of the money would go to former Trump University students who paid about $1,500 for a three-day seminar or as much as $35,000 for an in-person mentorship. In addition to the money going to New York state, some of the fund will also pay costs incurred by the lawyers who filed the suits using professional resources from for this purpose.

The proposed settlement would likely lower the profile of the Trump University controversy by scuttling a jury trial set to open later this month in federal court in San Diego. However, the deal itself would lead to further court hearings and litigation likely to drag on for months or even years.

Earlier this year, Trump repeatedly ruled out a settlement in the Trump University disputes.

“Trump University has a 98% approval rating. I could have settled but won’t out of principle,” the GOP presidential candidate said on Twitter in February.

“I won’t settle because it’s an easy case to win in court,” Trump told MSNBC a few days later.

Lawyers for Trump and for the disgruntled students pursuing the federal suits did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Despite Trump’s vow to take the case to trial, settlement talks intensified in the past week as Trump’s team began to focus on the daunting load of transition-related duties the president-elect faces. U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who’s presiding over the federal suits in San Diego, also prodded the two sides in those cases to meet with another judge to try to work out a settlement.

Another factor accelerating the talks: one of the federal suits is set to go to a trial on the Monday after Thanksgiving, beginning with jury selection. Trump’s side has asked that the trial be delayed, but Curiel has seemed intent to keep the trial in the 6-year-old case on track.

A hearing the judge scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Pacific time on Friday on the delay request appeared to have spurred the sides to try to wrap up the deal.

The agreement announced Friday is only a proposal for settling the case. Under federal law, notices of the settlement would be sent to former Trump University students, who could object to the deal or opt out of it.

While the proposed settlement will likely do away with the pending trial, more court hearings would follow, including an initial court session to discuss the settlement and give it a preliminary OK. Curiel would likely entertain objections to the deal at yet another public hearing and ultimately have to rule on whether the settlement was fair. Then, any class members who objected could pursue appeals, delaying implementation of the settlement.

The lawsuits claim that the marketing of Trump University misled students by claiming that the instructors were handpicked by Trump and that the school promised to teach his investing “secrets.” In fact, Trump has acknowledged he did not know most of the instructors. In addition, many of the techniques seem to have been publicly available in his books, which could be purchased for a fraction of the program’s tuition or even taken out of a library for free.

The suits also allege that Trump University was promoted as an accredited university even though it was not. In 2005, New York education officials sent the school a letter warning that it couldn’t call itself a university without having accreditation. Trump officials promised to stop programs in New York, but later resumed them — still using the Trump University name.


Educators and Advocates Brace for Harsher Stance on Immigration Under Trump

Edweek By Corey Mitchell November 17, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on promises to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and repeal a program that grants temporary protection to young immigrants who were illegally brought to the United States as children.

With Trump now set to take office in mid-January, immigration advocates and school officials across the nation are bracing for the prospect that he may keep his word, and undertake one of the most aggressive immigration enforcement operations in modern American history.

“Most analysts don’t doubt that [Trump] will follow through in implementing a number of the harsher proposals that he’s put forth,” said Margie McHugh, the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

For the millions of K-12 students who are the children of undocumented immigrants, or who are undocumented themselves, the effects of the Trump administration’s policies could be widespread, advocates say: disrupted home lives, separation of families, revoked deportation reprieves, and a rolling back of civil rights enforcement that has over the years exposed practices in some school districts that made it difficult for immigrants to enroll.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, commonly known as DACA, could be an initial target of the Trump administration, advocates say.

President Barack Obama ordered DACA in 2012, establishing that undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children could receive a temporary work authorization and protection from deportation. The policy offers a two-year stay to young unauthorized immigrants who can prove they meet a number of criteria, including that they came to the U.S. before age 16, have lived here for at least five years continuously, attend or graduated from high school or college, and have no criminal convictions.

Because the program was created through executive authority, the incoming president could alter or end DACA as part of his plan to crack down on illegal immigration.

Since his Nov. 8 election upset, Trump has walked back talk of immediately deporting all of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. In recent days, he’s vowed to first round up immigrants with criminal records as his first order of business.

That would seem to offer some breathing room for so-called “Dreamers,” the main beneficiaries of DACA.

“Of all the populations that one may take action against, this is the population usually thought to be at the bottom of the priority list,” said McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute.

Nonetheless, civil rights organizations and immigrant advocacy groups are bracing for battles on that front and others.

“We’ve seen that providing education for all individuals regardless of immigration status, is something that builds our country, our communities and our economy,” said Nicholas Espíritu, a Los-Angeles-based lawyer with the National Immigration Law Center. “It’s essential that we continue to protect this fundamental right.”

Obama has urged Trump and the incoming administration “to think long and hard before they are endangering that status of what for all practical purposes are American kids.”

“They’ve gone to school. They have pledged allegiance to the flag. Some of them have joined the military. They’ve enrolled in school,” Obama said at White House news conference after the election. “By definition, if they’re part of this program, they are solid, wonderful young people of good character.”

In the days after the election, activist Mariela Gabriela “Gaby” Pacheco, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador, took to social media to encourage people to share their stories and why the president-elect should re-consider his stance on deportation. Pacheco is the program director at The Dream.US, a philanthropic organization that funds scholarships for Dreamers.

“We know and understand the anxieties that the immigrant community, and specifically the students, have,” Pacheco said.

U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat, is asking the Obama administration to shield the identities of “Dreamers.”

During the application process, DACA recipients must submit sensitive information to the federal government, including relatives’ home addresses. The information has been handed over with the good-faith understanding that it would not be used against them or family members, she wrote in a letter to the president.

Future administrations could abandon that agreement and use the information to carry out deportations, Chu warned.

“When we asked immigrants to come out of the shadows, we never imagined the election of a candidate who ran on a policy of mass deportation,” Chu said in a statement.

Three Democratic members of Congress—U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois—have asked Obama to issue pardons to DACA recipients for entering the country illegally or overstaying visas; a pardon would protect them from deportation, not change their immigrant status. Legal experts remain split on whether the president has the authority to do so.

Immigration is policy that hits home in Chu’s district and across her home state. Of the 740,000-plus people across the country protected under DACA, about 1 in 3 are estimated to live in California.

Officials there stand ready to defy the Trump administration if it pursues an aggressive effort to deport unauthorized immigrants.

The Los Angeles Unified school board voted the week after the election to reaffirm its district policy that bars federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from school campuses without approval from the superintendent and the district’s lawyers.

Amid increasing reports of post-election harassment and violence in schools, districts across the country, from New Mexico to New York state, are taking similar steps to ensure families are aware of their rights and to make them feel safe in school.

To address common questions posed by immigrant students and their families, the Denver public schools produced a fact sheet and letter recommending, among other things, that students who’ve already received reprieve through DACA contact immigration lawyers immediately.

As of 2014, about 3.9 million students in U.S. public and private schools, roughly 7 percent of all K-12 students, are the children of undocumented immigrants, the Washington-based Pew Research Center estimates.

Any enforcement action taken against these parents would upend any semblance of stability for their children, both at home and school, researchers have found. A 2015 study from the Urban Institute and Migration Policy Institute found that children with deported or detained immigrant parents face difficulty accessing early education, health care, and social services.

The threat of exposing the immigration status of a family member could also discourage some students from enrolling in school, advocates say.

The U.S. departments of Justice and Education have issued very clear guidance on this topic, reminding school districts to refrain from using policies and practices that discourage students from enrolling in school because they, or their parents, may not have legal immigration status. Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, declared that children are entitled to receive a free public K-12 education in the United States regardless of their immigration status.

That hasn’t stopped some districts from trying in more recent years, especially as unaccompanied minors, many of them fleeing poverty and violence in Central American countries, surged into some communities.

In New York state, a joint investigation in 2015 by the attorney general’s office and education department found a pattern of illegal enrollment requirements, including schools that made students or their guardians present Social Security cards, across at least 20 districts. That happened despite repeated warnings from federal and state agencies.

Defiance of state and federal statutes could happen more frequently during the Trump administration, said Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

McHugh, with the Migration Policy Institute, said more school districts could look to read the “body language” of the president-elect’s administration, gauging their willingness to monitor violations.

The Education Department often issues guidance as an implicit threat to intervene on civil rights violations. How and if that happens during the Trump administration remains unclear.

“I don’t know whether we can expect that from the incoming administration,” Saenz said.

Muslim Ban?

Civil rights leaders and advocates are also deeply concerned about how members of certain religious groups will be treated in a Trump administration, particularly Muslims whom the president-elect said during the campaign should be subjected to “extreme vetting” or banned outright from entering the U.S. At least one member of his presidential transition team has floated the idea of reinstating a registry system set up after the Sept. 11 terror attacks for immigrants from countries where terrorists are active. That talk has been widely condemned and called out for echoing the racist and xenophobic policies that led to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

This comes following a year in which hate crimes against Muslim Americans and others reached historic highs. Anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 67 percent, according to the latest numbers released in the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report.

While there are no firm estimates showing how many students in U.S. schools are Muslim, the numbers are growing. Arabic and Somali—languages commonly spoken by Muslim students—are among the top three languages for English-learners in the nation’s schools.

“Our concerns range from the apocalyptic to the benign,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

“We have students out there wondering if their families are going to be deported,” Hooper said. “They want reassurance. We just don’t know the answer to that right now.”


Federal updates

From the Committee for Education Funding (NAfME is a member) 11.17.16 update:     View from Senate HELP Committee – David Cleary, chief of staff for HELP Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), said this week that rewriting the Higher Education Act is one of the Chairman’s top priorities.  He also expects the next Congress to repeal some of the education regulations created under the Obama Administration, including the Title IX guidance, federal funding limits on for-profit colleges, and the teacher preparation regulations still being finalized.


Murray to remain as ranking member of Senate education committee

Politico By Michael Stratford 11/16/2016 12:15 PM EDT

Sen. Patty Murray will remain the top Democrat on the Senate education committee in the new Congress, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced today.

Murray will continue in her role as ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee — in addition to serving as assistant Democratic leader.

“I am honored that my colleagues have put their trust in me to take on this expanded role as their Assistant Democratic Leader in our unified Democratic leadership team,” Murray said in a statement.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had also been reportedly eyeing the top spot on the Senate education committee. Sanders was also named to a leadership post today.


ESSA Would Handcuff a Trump Education Secretary on Common Core and More
The law specifically bars the education secretary, any education secretary, from monkeying around with states’ standards. The law says, very explicitly and in a bunch of different places, that the secretary can’t tell states they must adopt—or steer clear of—a particular set of standards, including the common core. (Education Week, Nov. 11)


Obama administration releases graduate earnings data at for-profit college programs

Politico By Michael Stratford 11/17/2016 09:32 AM EDT

The Obama administration is releasing a trove of new information Thursday about how much students earn after completing programs at for-profit colleges and some other schools.

The data shows, the department said, that average earnings of graduates of public undergraduate certificate programs are nearly $9,000 higher than their those of their peers who attended for-profit certificate programs. In addition, the average earnings of nearly a third of graduates from for-profit certificate programs is less than the federal minimum wage of $14,500.

“For far too long, some career colleges have made dubious promises about the employment prospects of their graduates, promising high salaries that rarely live up to the hype,” Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said in a statement. “Americans who are working hard to get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the growing economy deserve better, accurate information.”

The data includes only those programs that are covered by the gainful employment regulation, which applies to all programs offered by for-profit colleges and some programs at public and non-profit schools.

The most popular certificate program covered by the gainful employment rule is medical assistant, for which the average gradate earns $17,501. The second largest certificate program is cosmetology, for which the average graduate earns $14,130. For-profit schools enroll more than 90 percent of students from both of those programs.

The earnings data will soon be compared with the student loan debt of graduates at each program. Programs that have large debt-to-earnings ratios, which the department says will be released in January, will eventually be cut off from federal student aid.

The department also said that it planned to publish program-level earnings data in the “coming weeks and months” for federal aid recipients at all types of institutions on the College Scorecard. The consumer tool currently features only aggregate earnings information at a school without distinguishing, for instance, between English majors and engineering graduates.

However, the expanded data, and indeed the entire College Scorecard, could be easily scrapped by the incoming Trump administration.

Read the department’s press release here and analysis of the data here.


GAO: Pentagon providing service members with inaccurate student loan information

Politico By Michael Stratford 11/18/2016 01:43 PM EDT

The Department of Defense has been providing servicemembers with inaccurate information about their eligibility for a federal program that caps the interest rate on their student loans, congressional investigators have found.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report today that Pentagon outreach materials about benefits under the Civil Servicemembers Relief Act “contained significant inaccuracies.” That law outlines financial protections for deployed troops, including a cap on the interest rates of certain loans at 6 percent.

The GAO said it identified two Defense Department documents that incorrectly tell servicemembers that the interest rate cap does not apply to student loans. And a military website for servicemembers also incorrectly stated that the interest rate cap doesn’t apply to older federally-guaranteed loans, the GAO said.

The Defense Department disputed the GAO’s findings in its written response to the report. The Pentagon insists that it “is already providing accurate information” to servicemembers and “is satisfied the Military Departments are, in fact, training correctly on the SCRA.” The department wrote that it could not verify that some of the inaccurate information the GAO cited was still on its website.

The GAO report also says that the number of servicemembers who are receiving the benefit has “greatly increased” since the Education Department instructed federal student loan servicers to begin automatically checking to see which of their borrowers were eligible. Private lenders and servicers, however, aren’t required to make such automatic checks. And the GAO said that federal regulators need to do a better job of coordinating their oversight of such lenders


State updates

The Education Commission of the States is out with a breakdown of state education leadership now that the 2016 elections are over. Republicans continue to control seats in the majority of state legislatures across the country, picking up three new legislative chambers with the Kentucky House, Iowa Senate and Minnesota Senate. More.


TEXAS REJECTS CONTROVERSIAL TEXTBOOK: The Texas State Board of Education unanimously voted not to adopt a controversial Mexican-American studies textbook that had been lambasted as racist and riddled with errors, the Houston Chronicle reports. The vote ends the latest in a long line of textbook controversies in the Lone Star State, where education officials have sought to create standards that downplay the role of slavery in the Civil War, question evolution and emphasize Christianity over all other religions. A September report by state educators said, among other things, that the proposed textbook called Mexicans “cultural and political threats to society.”


Former D.C. Schools chancellor censured by ethics board

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/16/2016 05:18 PM EDT

Former D.C. schools chancellor Kaya Henderson has been censured by the city’s ethics board for asking a food service contractor doing business with the school system for a six-figure donation to a gala honoring teachers.

The Associated Press reports that Henderson accepted the censure, which amounts to a symbolic reprimand since she left office earlier this year.

Henderson’s request for a donation from the company doing business with the city violates ethics rules that are meant to block contractors from receiving preferential treatment in exchange for gifts or campaign contributions. According to a settlement agreement reached last week, Henderson told the city’s ethics board that she didn’t realize her request was prohibited.

Henderson left office as a national figure in the education reform movement, with advocates hoping that she’d be a possible contender for education secretary if Hillary Clinton were elected president.


Measure 99 Passes, Dedicates Funding for OR Outdoor School
Oregon voters approved Measure 99, the ballot measure that takes a portion of the state’s lottery money to create the Outdoor School Education Fund. The program will help preserve the nearly half-century old tradition of sending fifth and sixth-grade students to camps across the state to learn about Oregon’s natural wonders. (KATU, Nov. 8)


SC – Gov. Nikki Haley Asks Lawmakers to Make Education Superintendent a Cabinet Position
Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman called on lawmakers Monday to support upcoming bills that would make the top education job part of the governor’s cabinet instead of being popularly elected. (Post and Courier, Nov. 14)


CA – Districts Pass $23 Billion in Construction Bonds, Most Parcel Taxes
Not only did voters approve the state’s borrowing of $9 billion for school construction, but they also added on $23 billion in local bonds. Voters in 184 K-12 and community college districts throughout California considered local school bonds worth more than $25 billion – and approved $23 billion of them. (EdSource, Nov. 10)


Indiana Supreme Court rules that private university policy records can remain secret

Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 11/17/2016 10:57 AM EDT

Private universities are allowed to maintain campus police forces that are not subject to the state’s open records law, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

“Private educational institutions have been granted statutory authority to appoint police officers to protect their campuses,” the court said, according to the Indy Star. “These police officers are vested with general police powers, including the power to arrest. However, they are also uniquely entrusted to enforce the rules and regulations of their appointing educational institution.”

The decision is the result of a 2015 lawsuit in which ESPN sued the University of Notre Dame after an ESPN reporter was denied access to the school’s police records. Of the 10 schools the reporter was investigating for criminal accusations against male athletes, Notre Dame was the only private university.

Notre Dame argued that, as a private institution, its police forces should not be considered a public entity under Indiana’s laws.

The issue could be revisited in the next session of the General Assembly, when Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb takes office. While Gov. Mike Pence last year vetoed legislation that would have protected private universities from releasing more than what is currently required under federal statutes, Pence later signed a law concerning policy body cameras, which defines private police forces as public agencies.

Private universities are expected to push Holcomb to reconsider the bill that Pence had originally vetoed, which would give them a stronger defense against these records requests.


New York: State tests to remain the same for 2017 and 2018

Politico By Keshia Clukey 11/14/2016 01:41 PM EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. — Changes will not be made to New York’s 2017 standardized tests, the state Education Department and Board of Regents announced Monday, in a decision that could impact the number of test refusals this spring.

Keeping the controversial Common Core-aligned third- through eighth-grade math and English language arts exams the same would allow the state to use 2016 test data as a baseline for the next two years to show student growth, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said at the Regents meeting.

The Regents board is currently reviewing the state’s learning standards, which they plan approve in early 2017, and the tests are then expected to be aligned to the revised standards for the 2019-20 school year, she said.

“I guarantee that we will have moved to a new design that will be reflective of those new standards with extensive teacher involvement, with opportunities to look at the length of the tests, length of the questions, as we move forward with a state assessment,” Elia told the board.

The state Education Department made changes to the 2016 tests as part of its efforts to quell a growing test refusal movement that grew from public concern over the rollout of the Common Core, exams aligned to the standards and teacher evaluations increasingly based on students’ scores on those exams.

The changes to the 2016 exams — which were made based on feedback the department received from advocates, educators and parents — included shortening the exams by several questions, having more input from teachers in their creation and eliminating time constraints for students who need it.

Some parents felt that the changes were not enough. The number of test refusals grew from 20 percent of the approximately 1.1 million eligible students in spring 2015 to 21 percent in spring 2016.

And because the changes were made, the test results could not be compared with the previous year’s.

The Regents and department, on recommendation from its assessment Technical Advisory Committee, will maintain the tests as they are for the next two testing cycles, with for more substantive changes in 2019. Tests will remain three-days in length this spring.

“Maintaining the current testing for now will allow us to measure student development over time in these areas,” Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said in a news release. “While we will consider moving to two-day tests for 2019, we will also examine the possibility of adding multiple measures of student achievement into the assessments.”

The department also plans to increase dialogue with parents, providing further explanation on test result reports, with the ability to elaborate on what the growth actually means, Regent Judith Chin said.

Regents board member Roger Tilles expressed concern over the possible growth of the opt out movement as a result of not changing the exams.

There needs to be a “major [public relations campaign] and our stakeholders need to be involved in this,” he said.

Elia and other Regents board members stressed the importance of being able to have year-over-year testing data, which would not occur if the tests continue to change each spring.

“While we closely examined shortening the testing days based on this feedback, our expert analysis determined it would not be feasible to do that and still be able to have meaningful growth comparisons for students, schools or statewide,” Elia said in a release. “We will reexamine shortening the testing days as part of designing the tests for the state’s new learning standards.”


New Jersey: NJEA seeks to intervene in court case challenging teacher seniority

POLITICO By Linh Tat 11/15/2016 07:07 PM EDT

The New Jersey Education Association has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the state’s teacher seniority law, the union announced Tuesday.

The lawsuit challenging the state’s “last in, first out” rule was pushed by a New York-based education reform group and filed on behalf of six Newark families earlier this month. The suit seeks to invalidate a law that says districts that reduce staff for budgetary reasons must lay off teachers in the reverse order of when they were hired and not take into consideration the instructors’ performance.

The plaintiffs argue LIFO allows ineffective teachers with seniority to remain in the classroom while newer, more effective teachers are let go.

But NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer called the suit “a blatant political attack on the women and men who have dedicated their lives to educating New Jersey’s students” and accused those behind it of pushing an “anti-public education agenda.”

The NJEA is seeking to be named a defendant in the case to protect its members, the union said.

“We refuse to let an out-of-state special interest group undermine the laws that protect educators, students and New Jersey’s public schools from political interference,” Steinhauer said in a news release. “We also refuse to leave our members’ rights to be defended by either the Newark School district or the Christie administration, both of which are hostile to our members and very unlikely to offer any real defense.”

The case had named as defendants the state’s acting education commissioner, state Board of Education, and the Newark school district and its superintendent. It is backed by Partnership for Educational Justice, a New York-based advocacy group founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown that had a similar lawsuit dismissed in Minnesota. Its other case, in New York, is ongoing.

Ralia Polechronis, executive director for Partnership for Educational Justice, said in a statement Tuesday that the NJEA had it “completely wrong.”

“Newark parents filed HG v. Harrington on behalf of their kids because they know the incredible value of strong teachers and they don’t want an outdated law to prevent students from having the most effective teachers,” she stated. “The union’s position on this issue is misguided and ultimately hurts not only students, but public school teachers as well.”

To avoid firing effective teachers, the Newark district has kept ineffective teachers on the payroll and not assigned them to full-time teaching positions, at a cost of millions of dollars per year, according to the plaintiffs.

During comments at this month’s state Board of Education meeting, Christopher Cerf, Newark’s state-appointed superintendent, also called the LIFO law a “serious problem” for the district.

“There is no moral justification for this,” he said at the time. “This is an act of political cowardice and giving in to interest groups.”

Education reform groups have sought to overturn teacher tenure laws nationwide in recent years. They suffered a major defeat over the summer when the California Supreme Court upheld state laws governing the hiring and firing of teachers in the Vergara case.


Research and other articles of interest

50-State Policy Database on State Financial Aid
This 50-state policy database on state financial aid provides a comprehensive look at the 100 largest state-funded financial aid programs across the country. This resource is intended to inform discussions surrounding current program design, innovative models already in practice in the states and assist states in identifying peer programs. The 50-state financial aid data also reveals opportunities for states to rethink aid programs in light of contemporary students.


State school boards across the country are set to see significant changes as states ramp up their work to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, the National Association of State Boards of Education says in a new brief.


The percentage of children living in families with two parents dropped from 88 to 69 over the last five decades, according to new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.