By John Fensterwald
During a presentation earlier this month on how to choose the roughly 300 lowest-performing schools that must get intensive help under federal law, a number struck some members of the State Board of Education like a brick from the sky: 3,003.
That’s the total number of schools in the state — not 300 but nine or 10 times that many — that staff estimate would require at least some form of help based on the school selection criteria that the board was considering.
That massive number is slightly under half of all schools in California receiving federal aid for low-income schools. It underscored the challenge, if not a larger threat, that the Every Student Succeeds Act could pose for the state board by diverting attention and resources from the different strategy of reform that the board is putting into place. That number is why the board called a time out and stripped any reference to the method it will use to select schools needing help — a key element of the state plan for complying with the law — from the revision it sent to the U.S. Department of Education last week.
Source: Federal, state visions for improving schools collide in California | EdSource
By Anya Kamenetz
An online charter school is closing midyear
One of the largest online charter schools in the country closed this week amid a financial and legal dispute with the state of Ohio. Parents, many of whom have children with special needs, are scrambling to find new placements, according to news reports. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow had earlier been asked to return $60 million in what the state says are overpayments due to disputes over enrollment. The school has claimed up to 15,000 students. However, the state says it’s more like 9,000 who log in regularly.
Source: DeVos: ‘Common Core Is Dead’; A Large Online Charter School Is Shut Down : NPR Ed : NPR
By Andrew Ujifusa
The top Democrat on education issues in the Senate says Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has approved state education plans that don’t comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In a Tuesday hearing before the Senate education committee about federal financial aid for college, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., took the opportunity in her opening remarks to say that not every state’s ESSA plan meets the law’s requirements for schools with struggling student subgroups.
Addressing Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman, DeVos said, “If the department is today ignoring the agreement we made in the law and just choosing to implement whatever it feels like—which I believe they are in their approval of state plans so far—then this committee needs to hear from the secretary directly about how she intends to follow the laws that Congress agrees to.”
Source: DeVos Has Approved ESSA Plans That Flout Federal Law, Top Democrat Says – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Andrew Ujifusa
Over the last week or so, we’ve highlighted several provisions of the two GOP-backed tax reform proposals in Congress that could specifically impact education. But there’s one question we haven’t really dealt with yet: Would the tax bills lead to funding cuts at the U.S. Department of Education?
As they are currently written, the tax cuts in the House and Senate proposals would be financed with about $1.4 trillion in deficit spending over the next decade. In other words, they’re not “deficit neutral” as that term is traditionally understood, and would add to the national debt, although Republicans argue that this leaves out “dynamic scoring” of the budget, in which tax cuts spur economic growth and ultimately boost tax revenue. However, if those tax cuts become law and they do increase the national debt, it could factor into long-running from Republicans in Congress that the national debt must be reined in. (There’s a separate argument to be had about whether approving tax cuts that add to the debt and then cutting spending to reduce the debt is sound policy, but let’s leave that aside.)
If spending is reined in, that means budget cuts, and the odds are that Republicans would advocate cuts to discretionary spending, the kind that funds the Education Department.
Source: Tax Bills’ Potential Impact on Federal Education Funding: Big Cuts, or Meh? – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Richard Bammer
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson assailed U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for repealing guidance letters under Title IX that made it easier to protect the rights of victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment.
“Victims of sexual assault and harassment must know that they will have a fair chance at justice when they come forward with serious accusations,” he said in a press released issued Monday. “California has changed our laws to make our system more just and to make certain victims are heard. The actions by the federal government take us backward.”
As state schools chief, Torlakson, who is also a University of California regent and a California State University trustee, vowed to fight for the rights of victims while protecting the rights of the accused.
Source: Torlakson assails DOE changes to federal sex harassment, assault guidelines
By Andrew Ujifusa
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held a roundtable for advocates for children with dyslexia. Also at the meeting was Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a long-time advocate for dyslexia issues. We called up Cassidy, who’s a member of the Senate education committee, to discuss how the meeting went and what approach he sees DeVos taking on dyslexia and other issues.
This week, our colleague Christina Samuels published a story about the anxiety many special education advocates have felt about DeVos’ leadership. When we asked Cassidy about whether he shared those concerns before or after the meeting, he said he was focused on dyslexia specifically and praised DeVos’ willingness to hear out different ideas.
“I think the fact that she convened the meeting and was so attentive throughout told us volumes,” Cassidy said. “It told us that she cares about the issue, that she wants to democratize, if you will, the opportunities for children with dyslexia. She’s going to listen.”
Source: How’s DeVos Handling a Big Special Education Issue? See Bill Cassidy’s Answer – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Christina Samuels
As a part of its regulatory reform efforts, the U.S. Department of Education is considering delaying a rule that would require states to use a standard method to determine if their districts have wide disparities in how they identify, place in segregated settings, or discipline minority students with disabilities.
As first reported by Politico, a draft Federal Register notice is seeking public comment on putting the rule off for two years. If nothing changes, the rule issued under the Obama administration is set to go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.
Districts already must use 15 percent of their special education funding to address widespread disparities in identification, placement, or discipline of such students. That funding requirement has been in place since the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but only a fraction of districts around the country have been identified as having problems big enough to require the spending shift.
Source: Ed. Dept. Scrutinizing Rule on Minority Representation in Special Education – On Special Education – Education Week
By Christina Samuels
One of the Trump administration’s first executive orders was directing federal agencies to search for—and eliminate, if possible— regulations considered to be burdensome to the American public.
On Friday, the federal office for special education and rehabilitative services took its first crack at clearing the book of “outdated, unnecessary or ineffective regulations.” In all, 63 pieces of guidance from the office for special education programs were identified for elimination, along with 9 documents fro the Rehabilitation Services Administration, for 72 documents in all.
That sounds like a lot. But it appears that many of the special education guidance documents were targeted because they’re just very old. For example, 50 of the guidance documents from OSEP marked for elimination predate the most recent reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was passed in November 2004. One memo, which does not have a link available, is a 35-year-old letter to state chiefs about data collection for fiscal year 1983.
Source: Ed. Dept. Sweeps Away Old Special Education Guidance and Regulations – On Special Education – Education Week
The State Board of Education today approved a plan for using federal assistance that upholds California’s commitment to the ground-breaking educational reforms of the Local Control Funding Formula.
Every state that receives federal funding to support low-income students and English language learners is required to submit an Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the U.S. Department of Education. Several states submitted their plans earlier this year, while California and more than 30 other states will be submitting their plans on September 18.
The plan—essentially a grant application—allows each state to make a case for how it will utilize and manage federal dollars.California’s ESSA plan meets federal requirements while ensuring the state retains maximum flexibility to continue its shift away from top-down decision-making and toward local control that allows local school districts to better meet local needs. The plan was developed over 18 months with input from thousands of Californians.
“With the ESSA plan, we believe we have achieved the right balance between meeting federal requirements and focusing on our state priorities that will help prepare all students for college and careers,” said State Board President Michael W. Kirst, a Stanford University professor emeritus. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education as our application moves through their process.”
Source: State Board of Education Approves ESSA Plan – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)
By Alyson Klein
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants teachers and school leaders to move past the blackboards-and-desks model of schooling, with an eye toward better serving individual kids.
Schools, she said, have looked pretty much the same over the past five decades or so.
“For far too many kids, this year’s first day back to school looks and feels a lot like last year’s first day back to school. And the year before that. And the generation before that. And the generation before that! That means your parent’s parent’s parents!” she told students at Woods Learning Center in Casper, Wyo., according to prepared remarks. “Most students are starting a new school year that is all too familiar. … They follow the same schedule, the same routine—just waiting to be saved by the bell.
“That’s not helping keep kids engaged, she added: “It’s a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons, and denies futures.”
Source: Betsy DeVos Wants to Rethink ‘Mundane Malaise’ of Traditional Schools – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Evie Blad
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Thursday plans to revise Obama-era civil rights guidance on Title IX and sexual assault, a move that could affect elementary and secondary schools.
While discussions on that directive largely focused on its effects on college and universities, advocates for sexual assault victims said it helped clarify the responsibilities of educational institutions at all levels. That clarity benefited K-12 schools, which have often lagged in their responsibilities to investigate assaults, to appoint Title IX coordinators, and to ensure that survivors of such incidents are free from fear and harassment from perpetrators, said Neena Chaudhry, the director of education for the National Women’s Law Center, which supported the guidance.
Source: DeVos’ Actions on Title IX and Sexual Assault Could Affect K-12 Schools, Too – Rules for Engagement – Education Week
By Andrew Ujifusa
The U.S. Department of Education has issued new requirements for how school improvement strategies under the Every Student Succeeds Act must rely on various levels of evidence.
As our colleague Sarah D. Sparks reported Sunday, the department laid out the rules that apply to school improvement and other activities under ESSA. Among other key provisions, the rules would require evidence linked to various strategies to be “relevant” to the students or groups of students identified for additional support—in other words, that the strategy has been shown to help them.
In addition, a state or district would need to show that the strategy it’s using to improve a school matches the parameters of a study showing that strategy’s benefits.
Source: DeVos Team Clarifies Rules for Evidence in ESSA School Turnaround Plans – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Alyson Klein
When Betsy DeVos was tapped as U.S. Education Secretary, educators and advocates were terrified the longtime voucher fan would try to “privatize” the nation’s schools. But DeVos has now been in office for going on six months, and she’s been way more active on higher education than she has on K-12.
We’re still waiting around for the details of a big, new school choice plan. Meanwhile, DeVos and company have been slowly scaling back, pausing, or moving to overhaul Obama-era student financial aid regulations.
Recently, for instance, the department started gathering information to begin reworking two Obama rules. One, gainful employment, seeks to hold schools accountable for whether or not their graduates are able to find jobs that allow them to repay their student loans. The other, “borrower defense,” deals with how students who have been defrauded by lenders can seek loan forgiveness. (Great explainer from U.S. News here.) Supporters say those regulations were designed to protect borrowers, but detractors say they are overly punitive and unnecessarily hurt schools and lenders.
Source: Betsy DeVos Is a K-12 Advocate. So Why All the Action in Higher Ed? – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By John Fensterwald
After much talk and testimony at a nine-hour meeting, the State Board of Education made modest changes last week to its draft of the state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Board members are confident the plan will soon be ready to pass along to the federal government for approval. Members of a coalition of two dozen civil rights and student advocacy organizations said the changes will do little to improve a plan that’s still vague and weak.
“After months of feedback and engagement, the current plan still doesn’t address the core issues that we know are absolutely essential to support high-need students,” Samantha Tran, senior director of education programming for the nonprofit Children Now, wrote in an email. “The state seems to be abdicating an essential civil rights role, and it’s disheartening.”
Source: State board, advocacy groups fundamentally disagree over plan for complying with federal education law | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
With only two meetings left before a mid-September deadline, the State Board of Education is feeling the heat to make progress on the state plan for the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Two of the unsettled issues the board will delve into this week are the criteria for choosing the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools needing assistance and a framework for a coherent system of oversight and assistance in a state with nearly 1,000 school districts and more than 10,000 schools.
In lengthy letters, civil rights and advocacy groups in particular criticized the school selection methodology as seriously flawed. They also called for more details on how assistance would work, who’d provide it and for clearer expectations and benchmarks of progress. A lot of changes are needed in the next 60 days, before submission to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to make a credible plan, they said.
Source: State board faces deadline, tough decisions on new federal law for improving schools | EdSource
By Richard Bammer
Democratic attorneys general from 18 states, including California, and the District of Columbia sued U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Thursday over her decision to suspend rules that were meant to protect students from abuse by for-profit colleges.
Filed in federal court in Washington, the lawsuit says DeVos violated rule-making laws when she announced a June 14 decision to delay so-called “borrower defense to repayment” rules, which were finalized under President Barack Obama and scheduled to take effect July 1.
In her announcement saying the rules would be delayed and rewritten, DeVos said they created “a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools.”
Source: 18 states sue DeVos for delaying for-profit college rules
By Freddie Allen
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to make misleading statements about Common Core State Standards, muddying the waters for school districts working to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law on December 10, 2015, reauthorizing the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). According to the U.S. Department of Education, ESSA includes provisions designed to advance equity in education by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students; requires that all students in America be to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers; helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators; ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards; and sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool.
Source: Trump Administration Takes on Obama’s Education Law – New America Media
By Mikhail Zinshteyn
Programs run by the U.S. Department of Education, which distributes funding for numerous programs to all states, would be cut by $9 billion under the Trump administration’s proposed federal budget for the fiscal year beginning in October.
California’s K-12 federal allocation would shrink from the 2016-17 level of approximately $4 billion to $3.64 billion in 2017-18.
Presidential budgets typically serve as wish lists, and it is far from clear what parts of the document released Tuesday will be enacted by Congress. But the document provides important insights into President Donald Trump’s education agenda, and where his priorities lie.
Source: California would lose $400 million in federal K-12 education funding under Trump budget | EdSource
By Andrew Ujifusa
Although he’s made headlines recently for controversial comments not directly about schools, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa has also made waves for introducing a bill that would dramatically reshape K-12 and education policy. That’s House Resolution 610, and it would create federally backed vouchers for students.
We wrote about the bill earlier this year. The Choices in Education Act of 2017, the in-plain-English name of the bill, would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main K-12 law, of which the Every Student Succeeds Act is the latest version. It would create vouchers funded by Washington for parents to use at private schools if they chose to do so, or to use for home schooling their child. Under King’s legislation, the federal government would fund those vouchers through creating block grants for states.
“As the spouse of a former Iowa teacher, I understand that it’s the right thing for our children to take their education decision[s] out of the hands of the federal government and put it back in the hands of parents who know how best to meet the educational needs of their students,” King said in a statement last year about a similar bill he introduced in 2016.
Source: Here’s What You Should Know About That Voucher Bill From Rep. Steve King – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Andrew Ujifusa
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for education could lead to significant cuts to staff and various programs, sources have told us. But it’s not the only action on the president’s agenda that could shrink the U.S. Department of Education.
On Monday, Trump released a new executive order that directs each agency leader to submit “recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions” to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. The recommendations, which agency head must submit to Mulvaney within 180 days, must consider the following factors, according to the text of the order:
Source: New Trump Executive Order Could Lead to a Smaller Education Department – Politics K-12 – Education Week