Music Education Policy Roundup – Nov 28, 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

NAfME blog on Devos: Chris Woodside pulled together information on Betsy Devos, President-Elect Trump’s choice for U.S. Secretary of Education, including her connection to arts/arts education in a NAfME blog posted here:

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT DEVOS’ RECORD (Politico, 11/28/16): President-elect Trump’s choice for Education secretary is best known for her longtime advocacy for and funding of efforts to promote school choice, charter schools and school voucher programs. To be sure, the selection of Betsy DeVos is a sign that Trump plans to pursue his campaign pledge to enact sweeping school choice, including spending $20 billion on block grants to expand charter and private school options for low-income children. But on a range of other issues beyond school choice, DeVos’ record is less developed. Here are some indications of where she may land on key issues:

— On Common Core: DeVos has aligned herself with several organizations that have been supportive of the Common Core standards. On the campaign trail Trump railed against the Common Core — and the topic came up during Trump’s meeting with DeVos earlier this month. DeVos said in a Q&A-style statement last week that she is “not a supporter — period.” She added: “Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position.”

— On for-profit education: DeVos’ organizations, such as the American Federation for Children, have been affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has sought to ease regulation of for-profit colleges across the country. In addition, DeVos and her husband held an “investment interest” in K12 Inc. before the for-profit virtual charter school company went public, according to a disclosure made by her husband’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign in Michigan. It’s not clear if the couple has continued to invest in the company.

On Title IX issues: Tax records show that The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has made at least two donations in recent years, each for $5,000, to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an advocacy group that has brought a legal challenge to the Obama administration’s 2011 Title IX guidance regarding campus sexual violence. FIRE argues that the administration’s directives have trampled the due process rights of accused students. Robert Shibley, the group’s executive director, confirmed to POLITICO his organization had received money from the DeVos family. “Because of our respect for the privacy of all of our donors, FIRE doesn’t have any further comment,” he said in an email.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR ON HIGHER ED: It’s hard to glean from DeVos’ selection much about what the Trump administration is planning on higher education, given her sparse record on postsecondary issues. That’s not unusual — most recent presidents have selected to run the Education Department someone whose experience was mostly in K-12 education. But it means that over the coming weeks, higher ed observers will be watching carefully to see who Trump taps for other senior posts at the Education Department and in the White House Domestic Policy Council.

— At the department, the undersecretary of education in recent years has overseen higher education matters. But that’s not set in stone. Trump, who has pledged to eliminate the department altogether, could reshuffle how agency officials oversee various policy areas.

— Those are some of the issues likely to come up as Trump’s transition team lands at the Education Department as early as this week. The team is being led by Jim Manning, a former department official who worked in the weeds of the agency’s bureaucracy during multiple administrations.

DEVOS PICK HAS CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS CONCERNED: Civil rights groups say they’re “deeply concerned” that the extension of civil rights protections to gay and transgender students by President Barack Obama’s Education Department will be dismantled by Betsy DeVos. They note the DeVos family has a history of supporting anti-gay causes — including donating hundreds of thousands to groups that push “conversion therapy” — raising questions about how, if at all, she would address discrimination against gay and transgender students.

— “The DeVos family has a long, well-documented history of funding organizations dedicated to undermining and restricting the rights of LGBTQ people,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a group that advocates for LGBT rights.

— But a top official from Equality Michigan, a gay rights group from DeVos’ home state, believes her personal views aren’t accurately reflected by her family’s past donations. Stephanie White, the group’s executive director, said she’ll be watching DeVos’ actions but expressed hope that as secretary DeVos will protect LGBT kids. “She doesn’t have to break new ground, just follow the principle that children deserve a quality education,” White said. Read more from Benjamin Wermund and Kimberly Hefling.

DEVOS HAS GOP ESTABLISHMENT CRED: As Trump’s transition team navigates an internal divide between Trump loyalists and more traditional Republicans, DeVos’ selection was seen as a nod to the GOP establishment. DeVos twice led the Michigan GOP and was floated as a possible Republican National Committee chief during the 1990s. She and her family have donated millions of dollars to back Republican candidates and causes over the years.

— Many of Trump’s most prominent GOP critics during the campaign were effusive in their praise of DeVos last week. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said DeVos was “great news for those of us who care about educational freedom, local control for parents and more opportunity for all.” And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called DeVos, who serves on the board of an education advocacy group he founded, an “outstanding pick.”

— Yet Trump’s choice of DeVos was criticized by some conservative groups like the American Principles Project, which opposes Common Core and was critical of her association with organizations that support the standards. Breitbart blasted DeVos as “pro-Common Core,” as did conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.

WHAT’S THE OUTLOOK FOR DEVOS’ CONFIRMATION? Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate HELP Committee, which will oversee DeVos’ confirmation process during the 115th Congress next year, was quick to praise Trump’s pick. Alexander called DeVos an “excellent choice” and pledged to “move swiftly in January to consider her nomination.” Another senior Republican on the panel, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), also lauded DeVos.

— Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the committee’s top Democrat, called for a “robust vetting and hearing process” for DeVos. Murray suggested she’ll want DeVos to address some of the “troubling statements” Trump made during the campaign “on a range of issues that a future secretary of Education will be charged with implementing and enforcing — from education policy, to civil rights and equality of opportunity, to his personal views on sexual assault and harassment, and more.”


Diane Ravitch’s group vows to fight against DeVos appointment

Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 11/28/2016 09:40 AM EDT

The Network for Public Education — a nonprofit headed by education historian Diane Ravitch — will campaign to stop the approval of Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, the group announced today.

“Betsy DeVos’ hostility to public schools makes her unfit to be secretary of Education,” Ravitch said in a statement. “She has a long record of supporting private and religious schools, not public schools. Those of us who believe that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good, must resist her nomination.”

NPE board member and Pennsylvania School Board Association president-elect Mark Miller also expressed concern about DeVos’ nomination. Miller said DeVos would have the power as secretary to privatize schools with federal support, and doing so could “push school districts like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem and Erie over the brink, while endangering others for financial ruin.”

Last week, the organization urged individuals to reach out to their senators and ask them to vote against DeVos’ confirmation. According to NPE, over 70,000 supporters have already sent letters.

“The enormous initial response to our campaign reinforced what we at NPE have always believed — Americans love their community public schools,” Executive Director Carol Burris said.

The group plans to grow its efforts in December and January, and team up with other pro-public education organizations.


Murray calls for “robust vetting” of Betsy DeVos

Politico By Michael Stratford 11/23/2016 05:07 PM EDT

Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, today called for a “robust vetting and hearing process” for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department.

Murray said she looked forward to meeting with DeVos but pledged to “scrutinize her record closely and ask her important questions about her qualifications and experience, values and priorities, work and financial history, and plans for the department.”

“President-elect Trump has made a number of troubling statements over the course of his campaign on a range of issues that a future Secretary of Education will be charged with implementing and enforcing — from education policy, to civil rights and equality of opportunity, to his personal views on sexual assault and harassment, and more,” Murray said in a statement, adding that she will focus on how DeVos “will ensure the safety and respect of all students, of all backgrounds, all across this country.”

In addition, Murray said she wanted to make sure that the next Education secretary would implement the Every Student Succeeds Act in a way that maintains “the strong federal guardrails that make sure that our most vulnerable students don’t get left behind.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the House education committee, said in a statement that he was “optimistic” he could “find common ground” with DeVos.

“I hope to work with her to ensure all students have access to safe, diverse, high-quality public schools,” Scott said. “The department has a legacy of protecting and promoting the civil rights of students, and I will work diligently to ensure that the department continues this legacy.”


Reformers applaud DeVos on choice, but worry about accountability

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/23/2016 04:59 PM EDT

Democratic education reform advocates say they’re pleased with Betsy DeVos’ support for charter schools, but worry that a strong federal role in holding all schools accountable might get lost.

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped DeVos, a Michigan school choice activist and Republican megadonor, as his nominee for Education secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, DeVos would be charged with approving state plans for holding schools accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Some worry that might amount to rubber-stamping plans without strong oversight.

Peter Cunningham, a top aide to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan during President Barack Obama’s first term, said he hopes DeVos makes strong accountability just as big a priority as the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs.

Cunningham said Michigan’s charter school sector has a mixed record on accountability, with an “emphasis on for-profit charters that aren’t getting great results.”

The Michigan-based advocacy group, Education Trust—Midwest, estimates that 80 percent of charter schools in the state are run by for-profit entities. The group has said there’s room for improvement when it comes to student achievement and charter school authorizing.

Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jeffries said he applauds DeVos’ commitment to school choice, but remains “deeply concerned” about Trump’s education agenda, which could eliminate the federal role in accountability.

“Trump’s bigoted and offensive rhetoric has assaulted the identities of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, causing millions of American children to perceive that they are less than full members of our communities,” he said. “We hope Mrs. DeVos will push the President-elect to disavow such rhetoric and to reconsider proposals that harm our children, both within the schoolhouse and the families and communities in which our children live.”


Jeb Bush lauds Trump’s Education secretary pick

Politico By Michael Stratford 11/23/2016 02:31 PM EDT

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush applauded President-elect Donald Trump’s selection today of Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, calling her an “outstanding pick” for the job.

Bush didn’t mention Trump by name in a Facebook post but he heaped praise on DeVos, who is on the board of an education advocacy group Bush founded. The group, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, has promoted the adoption of the Common Core standards, which Trump railed against on the campaign trail.

Bush said that DeVos “has a long and distinguished history championing the right of all parents to choose schools that best ensure their children’s success.” He said he could not “think of more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision, one in which students, rather than adults and bureaucracies, become the priority in our nation’s classrooms.”


Alexander praises Trump’s pick for Education secretary

Politico By Michael Stratford 11/23/2016 02:04 PM EDT

Sen. Lamar Alexander said today that President-elect Donald Trump made an “excellent choice” in tapping Betsy DeVos as Education secretary.

Alexander, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he would “move swiftly in January to consider her nomination.”

“Betsy has worked for years to improve educational opportunities for all children,” Alexander said in a statement. “As secretary, she will be able to implement the new law fixing No Child Left Behind just as Congress wrote it, reversing the trend to a national school board and restoring to states, governors, school boards, teachers and parents greater responsibility for improving education in their local communities.”

Alexander also said that he would look forward to working with DeVos “on the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, giving us an opportunity to clear out the jungle of red tape that makes it more difficult for students to obtain financial aid and for administrators to manage America’s 6,000 colleges and universities.”


Politico, by Benjamin Wermund, 11/23/2016

The fate of undocumented college students has emerged as the first post-election rallying cry in academia, as university leaders brace for potential clashes with President-elect Donald Trump over issues that include diversity, “political correctness” and immigration policies.

Leaders at more than 200 colleges and universities have signed a pledge urging Trump not to scrap Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals , a policy that allows some children of undocumented immigrants to receive two-year work permits and exemption from deportation. Advocates estimate there could be as many as 1.4 million people in the U.S. who could be covered by the program, which applies to children of undocumented immigrants who arrived after 2007 at age 16 or younger. As of June, the federal government had approved more than 840,000 DACA applications. Undocumented students attend some of the nation’s top universities and in many states are allowed to pay cheaper in-state tuition.

Trump repeatedly vowed to repeal DACA and other executive actions while on the campaign trail. In a 2015 interview with Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump said he would deport undocumented immigrants — even if it meant splitting up families. “They have to go,” Trump said. Trump has softened his stance since then, saying he will focus his deportation efforts on those with criminal backgrounds — at least initially. North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx , who is a strong candidate to chair the House education committee in the next Congress, says any talk of deporting college students is premature. “Yeah, we eventually have to deal with them, but that ought not to be the first priority,” Foxx said.

Immigration is expected to be only one of several potential culture clashes between the Trump administration and college leaders, who are vowing to “double down” on values such as inclusiveness. While Trump has said little about his plans for higher education, the president-elect has taken an antagonistic tone toward elite colleges and universities, saying he’ll end “political correctness” and that the government has “a lot of power over the colleges.”

“We have to double down as an exemplar for the future of the country,” said Howard Gillman, the chancellor of the University of California-Irvine and one of the college leaders who signed the DACA pledge. “The job of a university is to educate a democracy. That’s one of the reasons why every authoritarian or totalitarian that gains power, the first two places they go are the media and universities. Those are the two places that try to tell it like it is and that are incubators of independent thought … We need to continue to tell it like it is.” Read more.

Manning to lead Trump’s education landing team, former Kaplan CEO joins Sociel Security transition

Politico By Benjamin Wermund and Michael Stratford 11/21/2016 12:01 PM EDT

James F. Manning — who worked in the Education Department during both the Bush and Obama administrations — will lead Trump’s education landing team. which is set to meet with the department this week.

Manning, who is now retired, was a senior official in George W. Bush’s Education Department and stayed on after Obama took office. Manning has helped lead Trump’s education transition team as well.

The landing team, which will include other yet-to-be-named members, is expected to touch down in the Education Department early this week.

Trump also announced today that former Kaplan, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tom Leppert will be part of the transition team visiting the Social Security Administration. Leppert, a former Republican mayor of Dallas, was head of the for-profit education company from 2013 to 2015. Like the leaders of other companies that run for-profit colleges, he strongly opposed the Obama administration’s “gainful employment” regulation” during that time.


Federal Updates

Education Department issues final accountability rules

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/28/2016 08:45 AM EDT

The Education Department’s much-anticipated final rule for holding schools accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act includes a few changes — but it’s unclear if they’re enough to help the regulation survive the threat of an incoming Trump administration.

The final rule, published Monday, gives states and school districts more time to implement their plans and start identifying the lowest-performing schools for extra support, for example. That could alleviate a major concern voiced by state education chiefs and district superintendents across the country.

But it wasn’t immediately clear if critics, like Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, are satisfied with the final rule. Alexander has made it known that he and the Trump administration will ensure that ESSA is implemented as written. That includes potentially doing away with Obama administration regulations that Republicans see as federal overreach — even if civil rights advocates see those same regulations as maintaining key equity protections for students.

One of those doomed regulations could be “supplement, not supplant” — a Title I spending rule that aims to ensure poor and minority students are getting their fair share of state and local education funding, in addition to federal assistance. Republicans have accused the Education Department of overstepping its bounds with this rule. A final version could come before January, but if it doesn’t look substantially different from the draft version, it’s almost certainly dead on arrival. The draft has earned praise from some key Democrats, like Sen. Patty Murray.

The Education Department received more than 20,000 comments on the draft accountability rule, which published in May. Advocates, teachers unions, state education leaders and others have singled out a number of problems since then. But some have speculated that the Education Department might still be able to issue a final accountability rule that could pass muster with critics.

Some of the biggest changes to the Education Department’s final accountability rule include:

Lengthening the timeline. The Education Department’s draft accountability rule said states must have their systems for holding schools accountable in place by next school year. It required them to identify low-performing schools for “comprehensive or targeted support and improvement” in that year, except for schools with consistently under-performing groups of students, which would’ve started in 2018-19.

Some worried that it would be hard for states to use data from this school year to identify low-performing schools for next school year, because states will be planning and finishing their accountability systems in addition to collecting the most recent data available.

In the final rule, the Education Department is giving states until the 2018-19 school year to identify low-performing schools. States would get even more time — until the 2019-20 school year — to identify schools in which certain groups of students are consistently underperforming. States can decide to take action earlier if they want, however.

The draft rule also gave states two opportunities for handing in their “consolidated state plans,” which include how they’ll hold schools and districts accountable. States could choose to send their plans to federal officials for review and approval in March or July. Those submission periods have now been pushed back to April or September.

It’s unclear how incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will handle state plans, which her agency will review and approve. Some civil rights advocates worry the Trump administration will essentially rubber stamp plans without strong federal oversight. But Republicans say Trump’s administration will ensure states get the flexibility intended by the law.

On “consistently underperforming”: The draft rule defined the term as poor performance by any group of students for two or more years — giving states wiggle room to define what underperformance means. In the final rule, states can ask for an even-longer time frame “if they can show that the additional time will better support low-performing subgroups in making significant academic progress and closing statewide proficiency and graduation rate gaps,” an Education Department fact sheet says.

Sticking to summative ratings: The draft rule required states to come up with a “summative” rating for schools — an overall score or evaluation — rather than a “dashboard” of data on schools, which states such as California wanted. Critics worried that requirement would box states in and prompt many to just assign A-F letter grades to schools. But others have said a dashboard could be a confusing hodgepodge of data for parents.

ESSA doesn’t explicitly say that states have to come up with summative ratings. And in its final rule, the Education Department doesn’t do away with this controversial requirement — which might be enough to upset critics.

The agency makes clear, however, that states have a number of options. They can rate schools using categories that are already outlined by ESSA to show how badly they’re in need of improvement, for example. But regardless of what states use, they have to explain to parents what they’re using and why. That might look like a dashboard of data, the department notes.

Flexibility for the “fifth indicator.” ESSA requires states to hold schools accountable using a number of “academic” measures, like growth in student test scores or high school graduation rates. But states can also include one new measure of school quality or student success.

The Education Department’s draft rule said that new measure has to be backed by research showing it can boost student achievement or graduation rates. Critics worried that would hamstring states and limit their options, forcing them to choose a measure like chronic absenteeism rather than experimenting with a measure that could show how engaged teachers feel on the job, for example.

In the fact sheet, the Education Department broadens its language, saying the new measure must “be supported by research that it helps increase student learning, such as grade point average, credit accumulation, or performance in advanced coursework, or for high schools, graduation rates, postsecondary enrollment, persistence, or completion, or career success.”

It’s unclear if critics will be satisfied with this wider range of options.

On “n-sizes”: The draft rule didn’t prescribe a certain “n-size” for states — a term used for the minimum size of a student subgroup that would be counted for accountability purposes. But the Education Department did say that states would have to justify n-sizes higher than 30.

Advocacy groups have said that if states use high n-sizes, they might be neglecting the academic needs of minority students, low-income students, students with disabilities and English-language learners. Dozens of civil rights groups asked the department to cap it at no more than 10 students.

The Education Department doesn’t do that in the final rule, and instead maintains its original proposal, asking for data in state justifications to help parents understand the implications of picking a larger n-size. Most states now use n-sizes smaller than 30, the department notes.

And when it comes to opting out: ESSA requires that states test at least 95 percent of students annually, but allows states to determine what happens when they fail to meet that threshold. ESSA even lets states pass laws allowing parents to opt their children out of tests.

The Education Department’s draft rule gave states a few options to address high opt out numbers. Or, the department said states can develop a plan that is “equally rigorous,” with the goal of increasing participation in state tests. Critics like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten felt that was too prescriptive.

In its final rule, the department changes “equally rigorous” to “sufficiently rigorous.”

“This will allow states the flexibility to take into account nuances related to low participation rates, such as the extent to which a school missed the 95 percent requirement,” the department says in its fact sheet. “Under the final regulations, districts must still develop plans with these schools to improve participation rates in the future.”

But again, it’s unclear if that tweak to the language will be enough to satisfy critics. Weingarten said she appreciated some of the Education Department’s other changes, such as lengthening the timeline. But when it comes to opting out, she said “it’s hard to fathom that the department insists on punishing schools that do not test at least 95 percent of students. Punishing schools when students [or their parents] opt out of testing is a throwback to No Child Left Behind.”


Alexander says he’ll “carefully review” final accountability rule

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/28/2016 09:23 AM EDT

Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander issued a measured statement this morning in response to the Education Department’s final rule for holding schools accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“This regulation goes to the heart of the new law fixing No Child Left Behind, which reversed the trend toward a national school board and restored to states, communities and classroom teachers responsibility for the education of our children,” he said.

“I would have moved to overturn the earlier version of this regulation because it was not authorized by the new law, and included provisions specifically prohibited by the new law. I will carefully review this final version before deciding what action is appropriate,” he said.


Groups urge Supreme Court to protect the rights of special education students

Politico By Caitlin Emma 11/22/2016 11:08 AM EDT

Several advocacy groups have filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to “safeguard” the right of students with disabilities to benefit from special education services and supports.

The brief was filed by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.

The case raises questions about the “level of educational benefit” school districts must provide to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In the original petition asking the high court to take up the case, the parents of the student, identified as Endrew, note that federal law requires public schools to provide disabled children with a “free appropriate public education.”

But courts are split on what that means. Some courts have ruled that an individualized education program, or IEP, satisfies the requirement “if it provides a child with a just-above-trivial educational benefit, while others hold that the act requires a heightened educational benefit,” the parents’ petition says.

COPAA Board Chair Michele Kule-Korgood said the groups are proposing “that the court establish a standard that will safeguard a child’s right to benefit from instruction by assuring special education services and supports target all areas of educational need so as to ensure the child’s achievement is consistent with their non-disabled peers in the general education curriculum.”

“Anything less will undermine and undo significant intervening legal, policy, and educational developments made over the past 40 years,” she said.


Congressional Democrats weigh in on students with disabilities Supreme Court case

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 11/21/2016 05:38 PM EDT

Congress clearly intended that schools provide “meaningful” and “material” benefits to children with disabilities, according to more than 100 current and former Democratic lawmakers who filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court today.

The brief was filed in a case involving a Colorado student with autism, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The case is tackling the question of what services school districts must provide to students with disabilities in order to meet the requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Act that the students receive a “free appropriate public education.”

The brief was led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott, (D-Va.) — each the ranking Democrat on their respective chamber’s education committee.

The lawmakers say that upholding a lower court ruling in the case that the law only requires a “slightly more than de minimus educational benefit” would “negate the clear meaning of IDEA, diminish the statute to a paperwork formality, and could turn back years of progress made by students with disabilities.”

The school district has argued that the boy, Endrew, made some progress under his Individualized Education Program, or IEP — the goals of which were broad and continued to change as he improved. The district says that means it was meeting the requirements under IDEA.



Politico, By Michael Stratford | 11/22/2016 05:45 AM EDT
With help from Benjamin Wermund and Kimberly Hefling

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. is sending a letter today to state leaders urging them to ban corporal punishment, which King said during a press call “has no place in the public schools of our modern nation.” Fifteen states, mostly in the south, have laws on the books that expressly permit corporal punishment and another seven states don’t have any laws addressing the matter — effectively making it legal in nearly half of the United States, according to the Education Department. In his letter, King cites data showing that corporal punishment is disproportionately used against minorities and students with disabilities and actually leads children to do worse in school and can create substance abuse and mental health issues later in life. “These data shock the conscience,” King said.

More than 110,000 students were subject to corporal punishment during the 2013-14 school year, according to the most recent available data from the department’s Civil Rights Data Collection. The department today also released a new map showing where corporal punishment is still used. Corporal punishment is used nearly twice as frequently on African American boys as their white peers, and nearly three times as frequently on African American girls as their white peers, according to department data.

“These types of severe discipline policies don’t work,” said Fatima Goss Graves, senior vice president for program at the National Women’s Law Center. “The consequences are severe in terms of academic performance and beyond.” Research shows that students who are punished physically actually exhibit more aggressive and defiant behavior, King argues in his letter.

King’s letter follows one sent earlier this week by 80 advocacy organizations, including the National Women’s Law Center, the American Federation of Teachers, the National PTA and the ACLU. That joint letter urges states to ban corporal punishment. AFT President Randi Weingarten told reporters Monday that the effort goes beyond the Obama administration. “It doesn’t matter who the Secretary of Education is or what people’s views about the election are,” Weingarten said. “This is a moral matter.”


State Updates

Florida: State PTA drops out of lawsuit challenging voucher-like scholarships

Politico By Jessica Bakeman 11/21/2016 05:27 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s statewide teachers union is losing an ally in its quest to eradicate a voucher-like scholarship program that lets children from low-income families attend private schools.

The Florida PTA is dropping out of the Florida Education Association’s lawsuit over the 15-year-old program, in which corporations save on their tax bills by funding the scholarships.

The PTA joined the FEA, as well as the state’s chapter of the NAACP and others, in challenging the constitutionality of the policy. But, under a new president and board of directors, the advocacy group representing parents and teachers has decided not to participate going forward.

Cindy Gerhardt, an Escambia County parent and grandparent who was elected PTA president in July, said the group remains opposed to the scholarships but has decided to focus its efforts elsewhere. The group’s seven-member executive committee voted last month to drop out of the lawsuit, a change that has not yet been reflected in court documents.

The PTA’s departure follows that of the Florida School Boards Association, which left the lawsuit last year and has faced retaliation from state legislators related to its initial involvement.

State trial and appeals courts have ruled the plaintiffs don’t have standing to sue over the scholarships. Led by the FEA, the groups have appealed to the state Supreme Court, hoping the highest court will allow them to argue the case on its merits. They have argued that the program diverts funds that would otherwise support public schools to pay for education in private schools that aren’t regulated by the state.

Meanwhile, advocates for the program have pressured FEA and the other plaintiffs to drop the lawsuit.

National black and Hispanic education reform advocacy groups, as well as Florida-based coalitions of minority clergy, have argued that the scholarships provide opportunities for high-quality education to predominantly minority children who wouldn’t get it otherwise. Some of the religious leaders themselves run faith-based schools that benefit from the scholarships.

Gerhardt said the group will continue to fight against tax-credit scholarships in legislative advocacy, because the group believes all schools that operate using public funding should be held to the same accountability standards.

Regarding accountability, it’s worth noting state funding doesn’t flow directly to private schools under the program. Rather, through tax credits, the state forfeits revenue it would otherwise collect from corporations, which instead donate the money for the scholarships. This distinction is why the courts have ruled that FEA and its partners don’t have standing, and why legal challenges to tax-credit scholarship programs around the country have been largely unsuccessful.

“They’re not having the same assessments. They’re not having to have [certified] teachers. So those are those pockets where we insist that there be consistent accountability,” Gerhardt said.

“That’s a battle we can still fight,” she said. “I think we can fight it in another way. We will still have this discussion with our legislators.”

Gerhardt said her chief priority for her two-year presidency is to help homeless students and those in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. That’s where she plans to focus.

FEA President Joanne McCall said in a statement that the union was surprised by but respects the PTA’s decision and will continue to work with the group on this and other legislative issues.

“This doesn’t change the FEA’s resolve to have the merits of this case heard in a fair and open court,” McCall said.

Scholarship advocates celebrated the PTA’s decision.

“We thank the Florida PTA for putting the needs of low-income children first and dropping from this misguided lawsuit,” Bishop Victor Curry, who leads New Birth Baptist Church in Miami and chairs a coalition of religious leaders who support the scholarships, said in a statement. “We urge the other plaintiffs to do the same.”


Ousted North Carolina state superintendent “shocked” by her defeat

Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 11/21/2016 11:18 AM EDT

After more than a decade as North Carolina’s state superintendent, June Atkinson will leave office and Republican Mark Johnson, the second-youngest statewide-elected official in the country at 33 years old, will take her place.

“I was really very saddened and shocked that I lost the election,” Atkinson told WRAL.

Johnson, a lawyer and school board member in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, won the race with 50.6 percent of the vote.

Atkinson had spent nearly 40 years with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and was both the first woman in the state to hold the position as well as the longest-serving state superintendent in the U.S.

“I mean, he has taught two years,” Atkinson said, promising a smooth transition to the new administration in January. “He’s never run an organization that has almost 900 people. He has never traveled to the 100 counties. He doesn’t have a background. So, it’s like, how do I teach or how do I help a person who is an infant in public education to become an adult overnight to be able to help public education in this state?”

Johnson argues that his experience, although not as extensive as Atkinson’s, will still help him in his new position. Johnson says that he has plenty of fresh ideas for the Department, which will help every child have the “opportunity to work hard.”

“Even though I’m only 33 years old, I know how much work we have to do in order to get there in my lifetime,” he said. “And I’m ready to devote my life to that.”


SD – Board Holds First Public Hearing on Proposed CTE Standards
The South Dakota Board of Education held the first of four public hearings on proposed career and technical education standards in six career clusters last week. Proposed standards include Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Arts, Audio-Video Technology and Communications; Finance; Health Science; Human Services; and Manufacturing. (Rapid City Journal, Nov. 22)


OK – State Posts Draft of New Education Plan
Less of an emphasis on standardized tests, tackling chronic absenteeism and better identifying the academic struggles of overlooked student subgroups are some of the goals outlined in the state’s first draft of a new public schools accountability plan to comply with new federal guidelines. (Oklahoman, Nov. 22)


New WY Science Standards Finalized
The Wyoming Science Content and Performance Standards process began in the spring of 2015 with a review committee. The State Board of Education unanimously approved the draft set of standards Sept. 23. (Jackson Hole News & Guide, Nov. 21) NOTE: WY finalized new Arts standards in September, including music standards.


Oakland schools superintendent expected to be nominated for D.C. chancellor job

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 11/22/2016 07:01 AM EDT

Washington Mayor Muriel Muriel E. Bowser is expected today to nominate Antwan Wilson, the superintendent of schools in Oakland, Calif., as chancellor, according to local news reports.

Wilson supports charter schools and is considered an education reformer, with views similar to former Chancellors Kaya Henderson and Michelle Rhee, the Washington Post reported.

NBC4 first reported late Monday night that Wilson was chosen at least in part by Bowser because he had raised test scores, and the announcement is expected at 10:30 a.m. today. Both the news station and the Washington Post cited unnamed sources.

The nomination must be approved by the city’s council to be official.

Henderson announced in June she was stepping down after five years leading the district. Henderson’s tenure saw an increase in test scores and the rollout of the Common Core standards, and her approach was much less combative than Rhee’s. But earlier this month, Henderson was 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.

Rhee in recent days met with President-elect Donald Trump and is considered a possible Education secretary pick.


OR Governor’s Council Recommends Overhaul of Teacher Improvement Efforts
A council appointed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recommends major changes to how the state trains and supports teachers. Research shows that the quality of teachers is the most important part of a child’s education. (Jefferson Public Radio, Nov. 20)


UT – Bill Proposes Reimbursing Schools When Students Graduate Early
Utah legislators are considering “reimbursing” schools for students who graduate early through a program known as competency-based education. Under a competency-based education model, a student who demonstrates mastery of a subject can advance rather than waiting to finish out the academic year or grade level. (KSL, Nov. 19)


Research and other articles of interest

Why the Gap Between Minority and White College Graduates Is Growing
The share of Americans of all races obtaining bachelor’s degrees has increased since the 1960s, but the gap in attainment between white students and black and Hispanic students has also grown during that time, according to a report released by the Department of Education Friday. (Market Watch, Nov. 20)