On December 18, the Trump Administration’s Federal Commission on School Safety released its recommendation to remove 2014 guidance issued by the Education Department and the Department of Justice to eliminate disparities in school discipline. This guidance came about after a comprehensive review and study and talking extensively to all stakeholders seeking to interrupt the disgraceful and disproportionate suspension of students of color and disabled students from school.
For more information on Breaking the School To Prison Pipeline, read the report DREDF authored for the National Council on Disability.
The guidance the Administration seeks to withdraw created minimum standards and basic protections for children with disabilities and other at-risk students from discriminatory practices that feed the school-to-prison pipeline. Withdrawl not only harms students, but also families, communities, and our nation. Data shows, and DREDF sees firsthand, that often students of color, foster kids and children with disabilities—many students fit into all of these categories—are subjected to the most punitive and exclusionary discipline. The administration’s regressive recommendations would reverse hard fought improvements to correct these established, irrefutable disparities.
A federal panel led by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that’s charged with making policy recommendations on school shootings in the wake of the massacre at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School last Valentine’s Day promised to have its report out by the end of the year. That means we will see the commission’s report any day now.
So what do we already know about what may be in it? And what should we be watching for? Here’s your quick preview.
The report will almost certainly call for scrapping the Obama administration’s 2014 guidance dealing with discipline disparities. So what happens next?
Almost every advocate watching the commission believes it will recommend ditching Obama guidance, jointly issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. (The Washington Post reported that this is a for-sure thing last week.) The directive put schools on notice that they may be found in violation of federal civil rights laws if they enforce intentionally discriminatory rules or if their policies lead to disproportionately higher rates of discipline for students in one racial group, even if those policies were written without discriminatory intent. You can read about the arguments for and against the guidance here.
The big question will be, how do school districts react to the change? How many will decide to keep using the practices they set up to respond to the guidance, which supporters say has helped school districts revise their discipline policies to benefit of all kids? And how many will decide to make changes, in part because some educators say the guidance has hamstrung local decision-making on discipline? And will Democrats in Congress, who will control the House as of January, move to somehow formalize the guidance in law? It’s unlikely that would pass a Republican-controlled Senate, but it would send a message and keep the debate going in Washington.
What does the report say about arming teachers and about guns in general?
President Donald Trump said that the massacre at Stoneman Douglas might not have been as bad if educators had been armed. “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened,” Trump said, referring to Nikolas Cruz, the former student who is accused of the slayings.
Since this is Trump’s commission, after all, it’s hard to imagine the report would come out against arming teachers. But it’s an open question how strong the language will be on this topic. Will the report encourage districts to arm educators, and point out that, under the department’s interpretation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, federal funds can be used to arm educators? (Democrats who helped write the law have a different take.)…
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When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. — Leviticus 19:33-34
Every third weekend of October, many thousands of people of faith come together all across America for the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebrations launched by the Children’s Defense Fund to unite congregations across religious traditions to respond to the divine mandate to nurture, protect and advocate for all children.
This year, congregations will focus on faithful sustained action to end child poverty, protect children from gun violence and end the heartless separation of children from their families.
Those who talk about our nation’s cruel treatment of immigrant families will likely lift up the mandate in all great faiths to welcome and care for the foreigner and the stranger. But as people of faith across our country call for us to treat immigrants with compassion, the Trump administration is doing just the opposite. Last week the administration published a proposed change to the federal “public charge” rule that has the potential to plunge millions of children and their immigrant families into poverty, hunger and homelessness.
When individuals apply for lawful permanent residency or entry into the United States, immigration officials consider whether that person is, or is likely to become, reliant on the government — in other words, a “public charge.” The current longstanding federal policy is to consider whether an individual will rely on the government for more than half of their income by examining whether he or she receives cash assistance or will need long-term care benefits. But the unprecedented change proposed by the Trump administration would allow immigration officials to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use public benefits from an expanded list of programs including non-emergency Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance and the Medicare Part D low income subsidy. This proposal threatens millions of children and their families.
With this change, the administration threatens to shut down legal paths to citizenship for families that use these safety net programs they depend on — and are legally entitled to — to feed their children, put a roof over their heads and keep them healthy. Even people who haven’t used these programs in the past can be denied a green card or visa if there is a suspected risk they are “likely” to use them in the future.
Nearly one in four children in America has at least one immigrant parent, and nearly 90 percent of those children are citizens. By making legal use of safety net programs a “heavily weighted” factor in determining whether an individual qualifies as a public charge, millions of immigrants will be subject to this expanded definition of public charge, which is likely to cause both immigrants and their children to forego crucial benefits such as food assistance, health coverage and safe housing for fear of the consequences.
This is profoundly unjust, immoral, un-American and downright shameful. America is a nation of immigrants (including the first lady and her parents). The words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty call on us to welcome those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But the cruel immigration policies of the Trump administration force families into the shadows, suffocating them with harsh measures meant to punish them for daring to dream of a better life for their children in America.
Foreigners to our land deserve to be treated as our neighbors. Their children deserve to breathe free. But these cruel Trump policies meant to punish adults and deter immigration end up doing huge harm to children. Is this who we are called to be as a nation? We must stand together and in a unified voice reject this radical change to the public charge rule and demand an end to the cruel immigration policies of this administration which continue to victimize children each and every day.
There are three things you can do today to take a stand against this attack on immigrant families and children. First, go to https://protectingimmigrantfamilies.org and submit a comment against the proposed change to the public charge rule. The administration is required by law to review these public comments so now is the time to make your voice heard.
Second, participate in this year’s National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebration. There are resources available for leading discussions with children and adults alike about welcoming immigrant families.
Third, look around your own community and take part in local efforts to support immigrant and refugee families who need your help now more than ever. Together we can resist unjust policies and deliver on our nation’s commitment to those who come here seeking a better life.
And those of us who profess Christianity as our faith should remember that baby Jesus was an immigrant in a foreign land. Let us welcome Him in our land today.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Are states shirking their responsibilities around two of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) most important provisions for historically underserved groups of students? A new analysis says yes.Federal Flash delves into the findings, plus a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation and the latest on the bill funding the U.S. Department of Education.
A new Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) analysis finds that many states are not fully implementing the letter–or the spirit–of the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA. All4Ed released the analysis ahead of a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation, which we’ll cover later in this post.
All4Ed previously created “ESSA Equity Dashboards” for most state ESSA plans. These dashboards assess states on fourteen equity-focused policies in the law. In terms of actual outcomes for kids, however, not all of our indicators are created equal. That’s why our new analysis summarizes the two most important equity policies from the dashboards: (1) inclusion of subgroups in school ratings and (2) definitions of “consistently underperforming” subgroup used to identify schools for targeted support.
Unfortunately, the results are mixed, with many states at risk of masking the performance of historically underserved students. In other words, a school could receive an A rating, but have a graduation rate for African American or Latino students of only 60 percent – which is hardly an A. And in many states, low-performing students may not receive the assistance they need to excel because their schools are not identified for support.
12 states are red because they don’t include subgroups of students in all school ratings. Another 23 states get a yellow because they don’t include all of ESSA’s subgroups in ratings or are at risk of obscuring subgroup performance on school report cards. Just 17 states get a green rating for including all ESSA subgroups in all school ratings.
On the second indicator, 16 states are red because they are at risk for under-identifying schools for targeted support. 30 states earn a yellow because students will likely need to fail across multiple indicators before the school is identified for support. In other words, it won’t be enough for a subgroup to simply be below grade level in reading. Students would need to struggle in reading, math, and other areas before being identified. Only 6 states get a green for using a definition of consistently underperforming where subgroups receive support if students are struggling on a few key measures – like achievement and/or growth.
These two issues – school ratings and school identification – were major concerns raised by senate democrats in this week’s committee hearing.
But ESSA accountability wasn’t the only issue raised. Democratic senators called on Secretary Betsy DeVos to use her authority to prevent states from using federal funds for guns. Republican chairman Lamar Alexander, while he dislikes the idea of arming teachers, said states have the flexibility to use funds under Title IV of ESSA as they see fit.
Finally, the fiscal year 2019 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Education and several other agencies passed both chambers of Congress this week and President Trump has said he will sign it.
This is the first time since 1996 that the bill funding for the Department of Education has been signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year. This is notable because it allows states, districts, and schools to know what funding they will have for certain education programs prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.
This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the September 28 episode of Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s five-minute (or less!) video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. The video version is embedded below. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite past pledges to shrink or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, the spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law provides a small boost to the department’s budget for this fiscal year.
The increase of $581 million for fiscal 2019 brings the Education Department budget to roughly $71.5 billion. It’s the second year in a row Trump has agreed to boost federal education spending—last March, Trump approved spending levels that increased the budget by $2.6 billion for fiscal 2018.
The spending deal for fiscal 2019, signed late last month, includes relatively small increases for Title I (the main federal education program for disadvantaged students), special education, charter schools, career and technical education, and other programs. Although fiscal 2019 began on Oct. 1, the agreement mostly impacts the 2019-20 school year.
In addition to Education Department programs, funding for Head Start—which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services—now stands at $10.1 billion, a $240 million increase from fiscal 2018. And Preschool Development Grants, also run by HHS, are level-funded at $250 million.
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After years of being blamed for the problems in schools, teachers are now being held up as victims of a broken system. How did the pendulum swing so quickly?
For years, teachers continually heard the message that they were the root of problems in schools. But in a matter of months, the public narrative has shifted: The nation is increasingly concerned about teachers’ low salaries and challenging working conditions.
Teachers, it seems, are no longer bad actors ruining schools—they’re victims of an unfair system, and the only hope for saving kids.
Before, “there seemed to be a lot of teacher blaming going on,” said David Labaree, a professor emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. “You now see a surprising degree of growing sympathy for teachers.”
Educators’ fear of overstepping federal student privacy laws can make it tougher for law enforcement and schools to share information that could prevent a potential school shooting, advocates told President Donald Trump’s School Safety Commission at the panel’s latest hearing, held in Washington on Thursday.
Clarence Cox III, the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officers, told the commission that fear of overstepping privacy laws can be impediment to information sharing.
“For law enforcement, this is one of the greatest hindrances facing intelligence gathering,” he said.
And Francisco Negrón, the chief legal officer at the National School Boards Association, argued that local districts would benefit from being able to use their discretion in deciding when to share information.
“Collaboration and communication with local law enforcement agencies is an essential part of these efforts. That is why school boards would benefit from eliminating barriers that hinder the collaboration of agencies providing services to children,” Negrón said.
He added that: “Local educators know and care about their students and their school communities. They know the school climate, community concerns, the history of student interactions, and their needs. They are in a unique position to share information when necessary to maintain a safe school environment.”
The panel has heard in the past from student privacy rights experts, but none spoke at Thursday’s hearing.
The commission, chaired by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, was created in response to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. thursday’s hearing was one of the rare meetings that involved all four members of the commission: DeVos; Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services; Kirstjen M. Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security; and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. This hearing, which focused on “proactively protecting students,” was organized by the Justice Department.
Sessions seemed sympathetic to the idea that the feds could tweak—or at least clarify—the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act—so that educators and law enforcement don’t have to worry about collaborating to head off a possible violent incident. Sessions said the 2004 approval of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act gave more discretion to educators in helping students in special education. He thinks that might the right strategy for FERPA.
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The creation of a Department of Education and the Workforce, which the administration proposed June 21, aims to help the nation’s schools catch up to counterparts in other countries that handle both issues in one agency, including some that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited on a recent swing through Europe.
“I saw such approaches during my first international trip as the U.S. secretary of education to schools in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom,” DeVos wrote in an Education Week commentary that appears in this issue. “Each country takes a holistic approach to education to prepare students for career and life success…”
But congressional Democrats overwhelmingly panned the proposal, which would almost certainly need their votes to pass. Republicans said the idea is worthy of consideration but haven’t introduced legislation to make it a reality.
First, some background: The House vote last week dealt with a $15 billion “rescissions” package proposed earlier this year by President Donald Trump. The Trump team is seeking to slash the government’s bottom line—even though Trump signed a big spending increase into law for fiscal 2018. Most of the cuts would come from unspent federal funds.
Nearly half of that rescissions package, part of a bill that the House passed 210-206, comes from CHIP, which provides health care to kids from low-income families. As we reported earlier this year, $5.1 billion of the rescission would come out of a part of CHIP that reimburses states for certain expenses. Roughly $2 billion would be cut from CHIP reserves, which help states deal with higher-than-expected enrollment in the program. The Trump team has argued this unspent money is no longer needed. The rescissions would not impact current payments to states.
But when the Republican-controlled House moved to approve the rescission package, including the CHIP cut, opponents of the Trump administration’s move re-upped their previous criticisms of the proposal.
The rescission package included a $1.9 billion, or 80 percent, raid on the CHIP Child Enrollment Contingency Fund, while in the middle of the fiscal year. Again, the CHIP contingency fund is part of a fragile financing mechanism that protects the health coverage of children. (16)
Representatives of President Donald Trump’s school safety commission, which is charged with making recommendations to combat school violence in the wake of February’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other tragedies, spent the morning at Hebron Harman Elementary School here learning about positive behavioral supports and interventions, a widely-used system to help improve school climate and student behavior.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who chairs the commission, and others heard plenty of discussion of restorative behavior practices in which students resolve conflicts through conversation, common expectations for behavior, and community building circles.
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