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
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)
By Christina Samuels
The U.S. Department of Education is delaying, by two years, implementation of a rule that would require states to take a closer look at how school districts identify and serve minority students with disabilities.
The “Equity in IDEA” rule, issued by the Obama administration in December 2016, would have gone into effect for the 2018-19 school year. It created a new process for states to follow when they monitor how districts identify minority students for special education, discipline them, or place them in restrictive classroom settings.
The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act requires this monitoring. Districts found to have “significant disproportionality” in one or more of these areas must set aside 15 percent of their federal special education funding to spend on remedies.
States have always been in charge of determining how significant a problem must be before it merits the set-aside. And, just a fraction of the nation’s school districts have ever been identified as having problems severe enough to require federal dollars to remedy. (About 3 percent of districts were identified in the 2015-16 school year.)
Source: Special Education Bias Rule Put on Hold for Two Years by DeVos Team – On Special Education – Education Week
The White House is considering a massive reorganization of the federal government with a particular focus on agencies that deal with food, social services and education. The plan was announced on Thursday. And one part that stood out to us was the proposal to merge the Department of Education with the Labor Department to focus on workforce readiness.
Now President Trump is not the first Republican to hope to abolish the Department of Education, just the latest. We wanted to know more about the history, so we called Alyson Klein of Education Week, and she started by pointing out that many of the Education Department’s programs predate its creation by President Carter in 1980.
Source: A History Of The Department Of Education : NPR
By Cory Turner
Lawmakers have asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about an NPR report about a troubled grant program for public school teachers. Here’s NPR’s Cory Turner.
CORY TURNER, BYLINE: It’s called the TEACH Grant Program, and it’s supposed to give teachers money for college or a master’s degree if they promise to teach a high-need subject like math in a low-income school for four years. But NPR revealed that for years now, potentially thousands of teachers have had their grants converted to loans with interest because of minor paperwork problems. Kaitlyn McCollum, a high school teacher in Columbia, Tenn., will never forget the day she got the letter in the mail.
Source: Education Secretary DeVos Acknowledges Problems With Teacher Grant Program : NPR
The State Board of Education today unanimously approved revisions to California’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan, a document that outlines the use and management of $2.4 billion in federal assistance to the state’s neediest students. California’s revised plan now moves on to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.
Every state that receives funding under ESSA is required to submit a plan to the federal government that meets federal statutory requirements.
California’s ESSA plan has been in development for more than two years with input from thousands of Californians. The revised plan affirms California’s commitment to the state’s broad overhaul of school funding and accountability ushered in by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which provides an extra $10.1 billion annually to districts that serve low-income students, English learners, and foster youth. LCFF also gives local communities the authority to decide for themselves how best to allocate funding to address local needs.
“Because California is on the right track, it was important to work with the federal government to develop an ESSA plan that complements our state system but doesn’t drive it,” said State Board President Michael W. Kirst, a Stanford professor emeritus. “I am pleased that we have achieved that balance.”
Source: SBE Adopts Revised Every Student Succeeds Act Plan – Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education)
By Andrew Ujifusa
The new federal spending levels recently approved by President Donald Trump include a $2.6 billion boost for the U.S. Department of Education. But what’s the story behind that number?
Big programs intended for disadvantaged students, special education, and career and technical education are getting significant boosts. Title IV, a big block grant that can be spent on various initiatives, got a nearly three-fold increase. However, it’s not just that the major line items got increases. Several smaller programs that deal with magnet schools, arts in education, and the Special Olympics got more money too.
In fact, we could only find one K-12 program in the Education Department’s new budget that is getting less money in fiscal 2018 than it did in fiscal 2017.
Source: Meet the Only K-12 Education Program to Get Cut in the Spending Bill Trump Signed – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Mary Emily O’Hara
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at decreasing the role of the federal government in education while giving states and local school districts more power over decision-making.
Trump called the called order, which directs Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study federal overreach in education, “another critical step to restoring local control, which is so important.”
“We know that local communities do it best and know it best,” the president said as he stood flanked by DeVos, Vice President Mike Pence, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and others.
Source: Trump Signs Executive Order Reviewing Federal Role in Education
School districts affected by last year’s wildfire are now able to apply for $2 million in federal assistance.
The wildfires of October 2017 devastated schools in Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sonoma, and Yuba counties.
The federal assistance comes from a School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grant, administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Project SERV funding may be used to reimburse Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) for select expenses incurred as they worked quickly to reopen their respective schools last year.
“Many of these districts suffered widespread school closures, massive displacement of students and staff, and devastating losses from these horrific fires,” said State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. “We are extremely grateful for the U.S. Department of Education’s support. These funds will assist in the ongoing recovery for these schools and help provide a continued sense of safety and security.”
Source: US Dept of Ed Gives Cali $2 Million for Wildfire Relief | CalSchoolNews.org
By Andrew Ujifusa
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is headed back to the Hill.
On Tuesday morning, DeVos will pitch the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 budget plan for the Department of Education to the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal money for K-12. It’s a safe bet that DeVos’ public appearance before lawmakers will draw a crowd, given the hub-bub over her “60 Minutes” interview a week ago.
So what else can we expect besides the hot glare of the spotlight? Be sure to watch these three elements of the hearing:
1) Cuts Have Come Back
What’s changed between last year’s Trump budget request for education and this year’s? Aside from the total amount desired for the Education Department, not a ton. A lot was made last year about the Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 request to cut over $9 billion from the department, or about 13.5 percent. This year, the Trump team wants to cut 5 percent from DeVos’ department.
Source: Betsy DeVos Is About to Defend Her Budget. Keep These Three Things in Mind – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Carolyn Jones
Days after Congress passed a budget that mostly preserves funding for science education, President Donald Trump released a new budget proposal for 2019 that would eliminate many of those same programs.
Trump’s budget proposal, released on Monday, was drawn up before Congress passed its two-year deal last week. Although Congress already approved a budget, Trump’s proposal can offer funding priorities within approved budget caps, and it lays out his overall vision for the country. It calls for a $26 billion increase in defense spending next year, but $5 billion in cuts to non-defense programs, including a 10.5 percent cut to the Department of Education.
Source: Science education funding still in Trump’s crosshairs, despite being saved by Congress | EdSource
By Andrew Ujifusa
President Donald Trump is seeking a roughly 5 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Education’s budget for fiscal 2019 in a proposal that also mirrors his spending plan from last year by seeking to eliminate a major teacher-focused grant and to expand school choice.
Trump’s proposed budget, released Monday, would provide the Education Department with $63.2 billion in discretionary aid, a $3.6 billion cut—or 5.3 percent— from current spending levels, for the budget year starting Oct. 1. That’s actually less of a cut than what the president sought for fiscal 2018, when he proposed slashing $9.2 billion—or 13.5 percent—from the department.
In order to achieve those proposed spending cuts, the president copied two major education cuts he proposed last year: the elimination of Title II teacher grants and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Those two cuts combined would come to about $3.1 billion from current levels. Overall, 39 discretionary programs would be cut, eliminated, or “streamlined.”
Source: Trump Seeks to Cut Education Budget by 5 Percent, Expand School Choice Push – Politics K-12 – Education Week
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