Betsy DeVos Reroutes Coronavirus Aid Money To Private School Students : NPR

By Cory Turner

On Wednesday, congressional Democrats accused U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of trying to reroute hundreds-of-millions of dollars in coronavirus aid money to K-12 private school students. The coronavirus rescue package, known as the CARES Act, included more than $13 billion to help public schools cover pandemic-related costs.

In a letter co-signed by Rep. Bobby Scott, chairman of the House education committee, Sen. Patty Murray, ranking member of the Senate education committee, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the lawmakers say DeVos’ efforts run “in contravention of both the plain reading of the statute and the intent of Congress.”

Source: Betsy DeVos Reroutes Coronavirus Aid Money To Private School Students : Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

DeVos Appoints New Director for English-Learner Office – Education Week

By Corey Mitchell

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has appointed Lorena Orozco McElwain to lead the federal office for English-language-learner education, shaking up a long-standing tradition of selecting candidates with significant experience in bilingual or federal education policy.

While she once worked as a bilingual education teacher, McElwain, unlike her predecessors, made her mark as a high-ranking civil servant in several agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Library of Congress, and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Since 2018, she had served as a political appointee in the Agriculture Department.

McElwain succeeds José Viana, who left the post in December. Dating back to 2001, previous directors, including Viana, have come to the office directly from jobs tied to K-12 schools, academia, education advocacy, or within the federal Education Department.

Source: DeVos Appoints New Director for English-Learner Office – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Special Education Teachers a New Focus for Betsy DeVos Voucher Push – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

After years of frustration in her attempts to expand education choice, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is picking up steam.

Fresh evidence that DeVos is continuing her push to prioritize choice with federal funds can be found in the April 24 edition of the Federal Register. That’s where the U.S. Department of Education announced a new proposed grant priority for its Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The priority would affect State Personnel Development Grants that help train those working in special education.

Source: Special Education Teachers a New Focus for Betsy DeVos Voucher Push – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Betsy DeVos Releases Billions More in Coronavirus Education Aid – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has officially announced that $13.5 billion in emergency coronavirus funding for K-12 schools is now available.

The billions in additional aid was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law by President Donald Trump last month. The money will initially go to states, but at least 90 percent ultimately must be passed along to school districts via the Title I formula designed to help schools with large shares of students from low-income households.

Schools can use this pot of CARES Act money for a variety of purposes to help them deal with the fallout of the virus, which has forced dozens of states to shut down in-person classes for the rest of the school year. For example, educators can use it to provide access to the internet for students struggling to learn remotely, mental health supports, and support for special populations of students such as those who are homeless.

Source: Betsy DeVos Releases Billions More in Coronavirus Education Aid – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Amid COVID-19 outbreak, CA college, K–12 systems issue joint statement – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the state college and K–12 systems on Thursday issued a joint statement on college admissions and placement agreements, including distance learning, strategies for flexible grading and guides for “adjustments” of local graduation requirements.

In a press release, university, college and K-12 officials advised that the new accommodations marked a historic collaboration among California’s education leaders, including the California State Board of Education, California Department of Education, California State University, University of California, California community colleges, and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.

“California’s K–12 and higher education communities are committed to helping high school and community college students overcome university admissions and placement challenges due to the suspension of in-person classroom teaching” caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, a CDE spokeswoman, Janet Weeks, said in the prepared statement.

Source: Coronavirus: Amid COVID-19 outbreak, CA college, K–12 systems issue joint statement on college admissions, placement agreements – The Reporter

Senate Passes Coronavirus Bill With $13.5 Billion for Schools, DeVos Waiver Power – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

Senators have passed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that includes $13.5 billion in dedicated funding to shore up K-12 education budgets, as well as additional aid for student nutrition and child-care services. It also gives U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos new waiver power to grant states and schools flexibility under the main federal K-12 law.

The $13.5 billion earmarked for K-12 schools is included in the bill’s Education Stabilization Fund, which also contains $14.25 billion for higher education, and $3 billion for governors to use at their discretion to assist K-12 and higher education as they deal with the fallout from the virus. The legislation also states that any state or school district getting money from the stabilization fund “shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus.”

Source: Senate Passes Coronavirus Bill With $13.5 Billion for Schools, DeVos Waiver Power – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Special Education Guidance for COVID-19 – Health Services & School Nursing (CA Dept of Education)

The United States is currently experiencing a pandemic emergency due to the threat of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 13, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-26-20 ensuring State funding for Local Educational Agencies (LEA) in the event of physical closure due to the threat of COVID-19. The Executive Order requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to issue guidance on several topics, including ensuring students with disabilities (SWD) receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with their individualized education program (IEP) and meeting other procedural requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and California law.

At this time, the federal government has not waived the federal requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). To review guidance from the USDOE titled “Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak,” visit the USDOE website at https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/qa-covid-19-03-12-2020.pdf. The CDE and the California State Board of Education (SBE) are working with the United States Department of Education (USDOE) to determine what flexibilities or waivers may be issued in light of the extraordinary circumstances. Until and unless USDOE ultimately provides flexibilities under federal law, LEAs should do their best in adhering to IDEA requirements, including federally mandated timelines, to the maximum extent possible. LEAs are encouraged to consider ways to use distance technology to meet these obligations. However, the CDE acknowledges the complex, unprecedented challenges LEAs are experiencing from the threat of COVID-19. As such, the CDE is committed to a reasonable approach to compliance monitoring that accounts for the exceptional circumstances facing the state.

Source: Special Education Guidance for COVID-19 – Health Services & School Nursing (CA Dept of Education)

Trump’s proposed 2021 budget: ESSA overhaul, Title I cuts, CTE emphasis | Education Dive

By Naaz Modan

President Donald Trump announced his proposed 2021 fiscal year budget Monday afternoon, once more suggesting cuts to the Department of Education and its notable K-12 programs.

Overall, the budget allocates $66.6 billion for the Department of Education, 7.8% or $5.6 billion less than the previous year.

Among proposed changes is a push to restructure the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into a block grant of $19.4 billion, which would consolidate major programs into its fold, including the Every Student Succeeds Act’s Title I and Title II, and amount to $4.8 billion less than what Congress approved for 2020.

Source: Trump’s proposed 2021 budget: ESSA overhaul, Title I cuts, CTE emphasis | Education Dive

Congress Mostly Snubs DeVos Agenda in Deal Increasing Education Spending – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

Federal lawmakers have struck a spending deal that would boost funding for the U.S. Department of Education to $72.8 billion in discretionary aid, a $1.3 billion increase that would include hundreds of millions of dollars more for big-ticket programs for public schools such as Title I and special education grants.

The fiscal 2020 appropriations bill, which must still be approved by the House and Senate before heading to President Donald Trump, also includes a $550 million increase for Head Start and a $25 million increase for Preschool Development Grants. Other programs to get more money under the deal include Title IV grants for academic enrichment and student supports, English-language acquisition, and after-school programs.

Source: Congress Mostly Snubs DeVos Agenda in Deal Increasing Education Spending – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Ed Dept allots $71.6M to boost proactive school safety measures | Education Dive

By Shawna De La Rosa

These grants reflect the shift to prevent violence in schools through proactive means like improved mental health services and school climate, rather than hardening schools. Last year, the federal School Safety Commission urged states to take action to physically protect schools, such as removing firearms from at-risk individuals, as well as make it easier for law enforcement and schools to better communicate about potential threats.

Armed school personnel and more metal detectors were among measures discussed at the time, but civil rights advocates countered such measures would only strengthen the school-to-prison pipeline — especially for students of color.

Source: Ed Dept allots $71.6M to boost proactive school safety measures | Education Dive

Ed Dept unveils proposed accreditation rules | Education Dive

By Natalie Schwartz

The proposal resulted from a negotiated rulemaking session earlier this year that covered wide-ranging issues in higher education, including accreditation, online education and faith-based schools. Although negotiators reached consensus, some say the Ed Department failed to give consumer protection advocates a seat at the table.

The department’s 400-plus pages of proposed regulations would make it easier for colleges to get program approval, give accreditors more leeway over taking action against institutions, and ease federal review of accrediting bodies.

Source: Ed Dept unveils proposed accreditation rules | Education Dive

Ed. Dept. Reverts to Original Timeline for Rules on Racial Bias in Special Education – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

An Obama-era Education Department policy relating to racial bias in special education was on, then off, and now is back on again.

The rule was supposed to have gone into effect for the 2018-19 school year but was delayed for two years by the department until a court blocked that move.

The implementation whipsaw is expected to cause problems for states that had relied on the delay of the policy, which relates to disproportional representation of minorities in special education. And these new rules could affect how millions of dollars in federal special education funds are spent at the district level.

Source: Ed. Dept. Reverts to Original Timeline for Rules on Racial Bias in Special Education – On Special Education – Education Week

Education Department to Appeal Decision on Special Education Bias Rule – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

The U.S. Department of Education will appeal a judge’s ruling that could affect how school districts across the country spend millions of dollars in federal special education money.

The department has wanted to delay the implementation of a rule related to how states monitor their school districts’ identification of minority students for special education, in addition to their discipline or placement in restrictive settings. Districts found to have “significant disproportionality” of minority students in one or more of these areas, compared to white students, must set aside 15 percent of their federal special education funding to spend on remedies.

Source: Education Department to Appeal Decision on Special Education Bias Rule – On Special Education – Education Week

What Special Education Cuts Are Really Proposed in the Trump Budget? – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

There’s been more than 24 hours of social media furor over the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the federal government’s $18 million contribution to Special Olympics.

But at least some anger also has been directed at a cut that doesn’t really exist, amplified by media outlets who repeated a congressman’s misreading of a budget table. When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited a House education subcommittee on Tuesday, she was pressed on the budget by Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin. After sparring over Special Olympics, Pocan interrupted DeVos to talk about other programs.

Source: What Special Education Cuts Are Really Proposed in the Trump Budget? – On Special Education – Education Week

What Does a Shrinking Education Department Mean for States and Vulnerable Students? – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came into office saying she wanted to slim down the federal role on K-12. By at least one metric, she’s delivered: The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education has lost about 14 percent of its staff since the start of the Trump administration.

So how much does that actually matter to the department’s “customers” (states) and what does it mean for the federal role in protecting vulnerable groups of students?

It depends on who you ask. Some state officials say they often have to wait weeks or months for answers to simple questions, and aren’t getting enough guidance on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In the past, “You’d reach out to a program officer and you’d get timely responses to inquiries,” said one state official who, like five others interviewed for this article, requested anonymity to speak candidly about interactions with the department. “Now what we’re seeing in some instances is that responses are going unanswered for months at a time.”

Source: What Does a Shrinking Education Department Mean for States and Vulnerable Students? – Politics K-12 – Education Week

School Safety and Student Privacy: Betsy DeVos Seeks to Clarify Law – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

The U.S. Department of Education Tuesday sought to clear up confusion about how school privacy laws should be interpreted in the context of school safety with the release of a new frequently-asked-questions document that puts previous guidance and technical help on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act all in one place.

The new, comprehensive document, School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), builds on conclusions from the Federal School Safety Commission, which found that school districts seeking to bolster their safety efforts were confused about when and how they could share student information without violating FERPA. President Donald Trump established the school safety commission in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., last February.

Source: School Safety and Student Privacy: Betsy DeVos Seeks to Clarify Law – Politics K-12 – Education Week

House Democrats take aim at DeVos’ Education Department | Education Dive

By Hallie Busta

DeVos continued her department’s deregulation of the for-profit sector last week, when she permanently reinstated federal recognition for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The accreditor oversaw the for-profit chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, whose collapses were spurred by the Education Department’s crackdown on the sector under the Obama administration and led to ACICS being stripped of federal recognition in December 2016. Federal recognition gives the accreditor’s colleges access to Title IV funding, which lets it offer students federal financial aid.

Source: House Democrats take aim at DeVos’ Education Department | Education Dive

DeVos Reopens Application Process for ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

States: Were you worried you missed the window to apply to the Every Student Succeeds Act’s innovative assessment pilot?

Then, some good news for you: The U.S. Department of Education is inviting more state applications for the testing leeway, which allows states to try out new types of tests in a handful of districts before taking them statewide.

States are being asked to let the department know if they are interested in applying by Oct. 17. Applications are due Dec. 17. More in this notice, published in the Federal Register Monday.

Source: Betsy DeVos Reopens Application Process for ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Students Seeking Equal Access To Education May Find Federal Help Harder To Come By : NPR Ed

By Alexis Arnold

During their daughter’s freshman year of high school, Paul and Joy Orton spent afternoons describing biology diagrams and illustrations to her. She is blind, and the materials given to her in class were not in a format she could read.

Their daughter had no trouble understanding the material, but she was dependent on her parents. She wanted to learn on her own, like her classmates did.

Her parents successfully lobbied their northern Alabama district for a Braille biology textbook.

“She put her hands on the diagram and said, ‘Oh! I get it now,’ ” Joy Orton says. “It was a really powerful moment that the diagram was helpful to her, but only if it’s tactile or accessible.”

Source: Students Seeking Equal Access To Education May Find Federal Help Harder To Come By : NPR Ed : NPR

State ESSA Plan Approved – Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education)

California State Board of Education President Michael W. Kirst and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has approved California’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.

“Given the differences between federal and state law, the plan approved by Secretary DeVos today represents the best possible outcome of our discussions with U.S. Department of Education staff,” Kirst said. “California is a national leader in supporting students with extra needs, providing local control over spending, encouraging community participation in schools, and releasing critical information on measures that indicate student success. Our ESSA plan allows that work to continue.”

Torlakson agreed: “California has the most ambitious plan in the nation to give additional resources to students with the greatest needs as we prepare all students for college and 21st century careers. The ESSA plan approved today will support those efforts.”

Signed by President Obama in 2015, ESSA requires every state that receives federal money for low-income students and English learners to submit and receive approval of a plan for managing and using the funds.

Source: State ESSA Plan Approved – Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education)