Education Department Gets Small Funding Hike

Education Department Gets Small Funding Hike

Education Week logoDespite 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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What You Can Do in the Face of School Segregation

What You Can Do in the Face of School Segregation

Education Week logoBy most analyses, schools across the country are as segregated today as they were during the Civil Rights era. Both racial and economic segregation are growing. And for many young people of color, when the two come together, it usually means less access to great teachers and challenging classes, and a greater likelihood of being held back or suspended. The percentage of public schools where between 75 to 100 percent of students are both poor and Black or Latino has nearly doubled since 2000, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

For district and school leaders, taking on segregation might seem like a daunting, if not impossible, task. After all, school integration efforts in the United States have had a winding and tortuous history. Policies have been tried and failed or abandoned; court mandates have been issued, and undone.

“Students who attend majority high-poverty schools are less likely to go to college and more likely to drop out of high school. I’m living proof of this.”

However, integration must be part of a leader’s plan to address inequities in her schools. Students who attend majority high-poverty schools are less likely to go to college and more likely to drop out of high school. I’m living proof of this. Growing up, I went to schools where almost all my classmates were children of color like me. I dropped out of college, completely unprepared for the academic rigor, and took years to muster the courage to make my way back to the university.

Contrast that with racially and socioeconomically integrated schools, where research has found smaller achievement gaps between students of color and their white classmates compared to similar more segregated schools.

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Betsy DeVos Shifts School Choice, Privacy Offices at Education Department

Betsy DeVos Shifts School Choice, Privacy Offices at Education Department

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team are moving forward with parts of a department-wide reorganization proposal unveiled earlier this year, including elevating the office charged with helping to advocate for the private school community within the federal bureaucracy, and changing the way privacy policy is handled.

The office of nonpublic education, which was previously part of the soon-to-be-defunct office of innovation and improvement, will now report directly to the office of the secretary. DeVos is a longtime advocate for vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and other forms of private school choice.

That move and other reorganization changes were first reported by Politico. Education Week logo

The remainder of the office of innovation and improvement will be moved to the broader office of elementary and secondary education, Education Week reported earlier this year.

DeVos is also planning to move the department’s budget office, which she has reportedly sought to eliminate, into a new office of finance and operations. That office’s other jobs will include finance, accounting, budgets, contract management, personnel, business data analysis and more.

And she will make changes to the way privacy policy is handled within the department. The department will continue to have a chief privacy officer, who will be housed in the office of the chief information officer. The chief privacy officer will be in charge of privacy legislation, privacy safeguards, and information collection and clearance. Subject matter experts in the family policy compliance office will provide student privacy technical assistance, and investigate Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act violations, said Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the agency.

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Minnesota Awards State’s First Alternative Teacher Preparation Grants

Minnesota Awards State’s First Alternative Teacher Preparation Grants

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education announced the five recipients of the State’s first Alternative Teacher Preparation Grant Program:

  • Southwest West Central Service Cooperative
  • Learning Disabilities Association of Minnesota
  • Lakes Country Service Cooperative
  • The New Teacher Project
  • Teach For America

According to Larry Pogemiller, the Commissioner of the Office of Higher Education, “The five chosen programs all demonstrate innovative and promising teacher preparation methods that can help Minnesota schools meet the challenge of finding the teachers they need.”

The grant program was created during the 2017 legislative session and allocated $750,000 for new alternative preparation programs that intended to do one or more of the following:

  • Fill Minnesota’s teacher shortage in licensure areas that the commissioner has identified.
  • Recruit, select, and train teachers who reflect the racial or ethnic diversity of the students in Minnesota.
  • Establish professional development programs for teachers who have obtained teaching licenses through alternative teacher preparation programs.

Importantly, only a “school district, charter school, or nonprofit” were eligible for the grant monies, meaning that institutions of higher education were not. Additionally, in order to be eligible, programs must also have been in operation for three continuous years in Minnesota or any other state, and are working to fill the state’s teacher shortage areas. Finally, the commissioner of Higher Education must give preference to programs that are based in Minnesota.

This post will provide a description of an alternative teacher preparation program, as well as a description of the programs for each of the grant recipients.

What is an Alternative Teacher Preparation Program?

In 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed a law that created the opportunity for alternative teacher preparation programs to be created. According to a 2016 Office of the Legislative Auditor report, school district, charter schools, and nonprofit organizations are eligible to establish an alternative program by partnering with a college or university that had an alternative teacher preparation program. Additionally, school districts and charter schools are also able to establish an alternative program by forming a partnership with certain nonprofit organizations, but only after they had consulted with a college or university with a teacher preparation program.

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#RethinkSchool: Choice Matters for Military-Connected Students

#RethinkSchool: Choice Matters for Military-Connected Students

“There are so many active-duty military families today who are making decisions about how they advance within the military, or where they are going to live… based on educational opportunities for their children,” Secretary DeVos recently said in a conversation with Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation. “I think we have the opportunity to change the dynamic for them.”

Maddie Shick is from one such family – and, despite being a bright student, she faces challenges that accompany a military-connected lifestyle.  A self-proclaimed “professional new girl,” Maddie is now a sophomore at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida.

Her formal education began in Georgia, but she’s learned across the country and around the world – even moving to Germany, where her father was deployed, for a year.

She’s attended a dozen different schools since preschool – and some of them have provided her with strong opportunities to learn and grow. As a middle school student in Columbus, Georgia, Maddie joined the drama club and performed in West Side Story. The school taught an International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Maddie Shick

The following year, the family moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where Maddie had the opportunity to cross-country ski at school. She also joined the wrestling team – and she fell in love with the sport. “Girls can wrestle, too,” Maddie said.

But in Fairbanks, Maddie had to put her love of acting on hold: the school didn’t offer drama, and her family couldn’t find an active children’s theater group in the area.

And when the family next moved to Tampa, Florida, Maddie had to abandon her love of wrestling, too: when she switched schools within the district, she was disqualified from wrestling with her new team.

Maddie took advantage of the opportunity to explore new activities as she moved from school to school – but that also meant giving up ones that she’d once loved.

“There’s good and bad to all these schools,” Maddie said, “But the really bad part is that I don’t ever get to stay long enough to benefit from any one type of school.”

Military-connected students are often required to compromise – on top of the traditional pressures of maintaining good grades, preparing for tests, working, volunteering, and planning for life beyond high school.

Maddie with her family.

“Moving and starting over every two years makes all these pressures worse,” Maddie said. “Now, imagine you have to focus on all these things at three different schools, in three different states, in a four year period. It’s tough.”

Military-connected families deserve the opportunity to attend schools that work for them. They deserve – as the Secretary said – the flexibility to “customize their child’s education.”

That’s why the Secretary has called on all of America to fundamentally rethink school, including asking questions that were once considered “non-negotiable” or too difficult to answer. For example, students like Maddie are often required to fall in line with the pace of a new school – even if she’s ahead of her classmates.

“I was in gifted education for most of elementary school, but when we moved to Alaska I did not qualify for their program,” said Maddie. “Now, I don’t want to even try for gifted programs because I am tired of repeating all the testing every two years and most of the gifted programs are limited anyway.”

Military-connected students and all students should have options – perhaps attending a traditional public school for some classes, and attending an online or charter school for others. Rethinking school means that students, like Maddie, to whom “learning comes easy,” can advance quickly in subject areas that interest them.

“We do live an adventure,” Maddie said. “But some parts are really hard. School is one of them.”

Maddie deserves high-quality opportunities. She deserves the freedom to pursue subjects that interest and challenge her, in an environment that meets her needs.

All students, including those in military-connected families, should be free to learn, grow and thrive.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

CEA Report Card Measures Legislative Candidates’ Support for Public Education

CEA Report Card Measures Legislative Candidates’ Support for Public Education

The Connecticut Education Association today released its first-ever Legislator Report Card that evaluates legislative candidates’ overall support for issues important to students, teachers, and public education. CEA’s new report card recognizes legislators who are committed to giving students more opportunities for success and are working hard to improve public education and the teaching profession in Connecticut.

The report card evaluates legislators’ voting records, as well as their advocacy and efforts to advance CEA priorities over the past two-year legislative cycle. These priorities include funding public education, preserving collective bargaining, enhancing the teaching profession, protecting the pension system, keeping schools safe, upholding teacher certification standards, and supporting sound education policy.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to public education and teachers’ rights, many legislators took actions in the wrong direction and earned less-than-stellar grades,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “This new report card system is transparent and holds candidates accountable. It informs our members of the candidates’ positions on key issues and highlights those who want to help our students and teachers, and those who are doing harm to them.”

“In the aftermath of teacher demonstrations across the country, there has been a renewed interest in the political process and its direct effect on public education, students, and teachers,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “Our members are becoming more active—they are using their voice and their vote to make sure the concerns of teachers and students are heard.”

The candidates for all 187 Connecticut General Assembly seats as well as legislators running for another office, receive a grade based on a number of factors. For incumbents seeking reelection, the report card is based on the following:

Voting record on bills that advance or hurt CEA education priorities, and support for students, local schools, and teacher rights

Co-sponsorship of bills critical to advancing CEA’s identified legislative priorities

Advocacy on behalf of or against CEA positions in public hearings, on the chamber floor, in the press, and among peers in the legislative environment

Responsiveness to requests to meet with CEA members and staff

For all candidates, including those without a state legislative history, answers to candidate questionnaires and interview results were included in the report card.

Additionally, significant emphasis is placed on a candidate’s actions involving the rights of teachers to have a voice in the education of their students, the working and learning conditions of their school, and the ability to bargain for fair wages and benefits.

The Search for Solutions to School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Search for Solutions to School-to-Prison Pipeline

By George Kevin Jordan, Special to the AFRO

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL 24th District) has a mission – pull young Black boys out of the school-to-prison pipeline. She hopes her 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project is the ticket to providing diplomas and degrees instead of prison sentences.

Wilson had big help pushing her project during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest, D.C.

The Rev. Al Sharpton was on the panel, as well as actor and activist Erika Alexander, “America To Me” director Steve James, Dr. Cedric Alexander, national president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and George Ray III, current contestant on the “Grand Hustle” series on BET Networks.

The Excellence project started in Miami-Dade County when Wilson saw the young men her community rushed into the prison system, working in the drug trade or dropping out of school.

On a national level there were 1,506,800 people in prison at the end of 2016, according to the Department of Justice. There were 487,300 Black prisoners, or 41.3 percent. This is in comparison to 39 percent White prisoners.

When it comes to school drop outs, the number of Black boys who drop out between the ages of 16-24 has dropped nationally to 6.2 percent. But that number is still higher that the national average and White students’ 6.1 percent and 5.2 percent respectively, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 1993, when Wilson started her program, it almost immediately caught national attention. Several sitting presidents and vice-presidents, including Barack Obama have supported the project. The initiative provides leadership and mentoring to young Black boys during a critical time in their lives.

The panel dissected many of the issues that impact a child’s trajectory to the school to prison system.  Dr. Alexander spoke about police officers using more discretion and thinking of the larger community when arresting people.

“The law is what the law is,” Dr. Alexander said, who heads up the National Organization of Black law Enforcement Executives. “But what we can ask them  [police officers] to do is use some judgement. Do you really want to hurt someone over an infraction? We as police officers have to have discretion.”

“I think what we are beginning to see as we’re training officers to have better relationships, we find some, not all, but some are mindful of the fact that there is a larger community watching you.”

Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III, who is mayor of Miami Gardens, Florida, said citizens need to be mindful of how much they want police involved with their students at schools.

“We can’t over police our schools,” Gilbert said. “We can’t use police at schools as conduct supervisors. Understand if you ask a police officer to come to our schools and they witness a crime that kid is going to jail.”

Gilbert further cautioned, “We have to be careful of the part we are playing in this narrative.”

For George Ray, III who currently stars on “The Grand Hustle” series, Congresswoman Wilson intervened at the right time in his life. “She’s my fairy godmother,” Ray said to the packed crowd. The business professor spoke of facing 15 years in prison at 15 years old. The congresswoman happened upon his life and “instead of peddling drugs I had someone peddling hope.”

“She took me everywhere with her, she kept me so busy I couldn’t get in trouble if I tried,” Ray said of his relationship with Wilson.

Currently, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project services 105 schools within Miami-Dade County Public Schools (37 Elementary, 35 Middle/K-8, and 33 Senior High), according to the organization.

School District Moves Forward With Aggressive Equity Agenda Despite $17M in Budget Cuts

School District Moves Forward With Aggressive Equity Agenda Despite $17M in Budget Cuts

Tyese Hunter, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair

Tyese Hunter, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair

NASHVILLE, TN — Many school districts across the nation are feeling the squeeze that smaller budgets and higher expectations for achievement are placing on their already challenged learning environments. While there is a constant push to do more with less, committed board members, administrators and teachers continue to fight through those challenges to remain focused on the goal of elevating student achievement. 

This scenario is a strikingly familiar one for Metro Nashville Public Schools, a chronically underfunded district tasked with the expectations of meeting rigorous state and national achievement standards despite scarcity in resources. Out of thousands of school districts across the nation, MNPS stands as the 41st largest educating 86,000 students from diverse communities. Like other large districts, the directive to meet growing educational demands has become a stark reality, even when the funding does not compliment this top priority. 

Tyese Hunter, who represents District 6 and serves as the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair, said although it was a difficult budget process this year, the misperception of all doom-and-gloom is inaccurate. She said while the decrease in funding is significant, the board was diligent in laser-focusing on priorities to have the greatest impact for all students.

“Despite what some have communicated, a lot of progress was made in this budget, even with all its challenges,” Hunter said. “We engaged in some very tough conversations and worked really hard to determine which priorities would be most impactful to students and families.” 

She added, “Leadership is about meeting the tough challenges and not allowing a few vocal voices to get in the way of progress. There were some very brave conversations this year around equity across our district, and I commend my board colleagues for being courageous enough to address this critical issue by voting for a budget that prioritized students who have been underserved for decades.”

In a tight budget year, the district looked at how it could provide its poorest and neediest schools with a boost through how it allocated its Title I funds.  Title I funds are dollars given to school districts by the Federal government to help poor students perform better in schools.  The Board voted 7-2 for a budget that provided equity and access to some of the district’s most vulnerable students, which led to a total of $7.2 million additional dollars being allocated to schools with $5.2 million being given to special education and $2 million for English Language Learners.  Thanks to the Metro Council, an additional $2 million was provided to increase paraeducator pay and to ensure all students can take and earn credit for advanced coursework at the high school level like Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate courses, and dual credit courses through Nashville State Community College, as well as industry certifications – for free.  Over the past two years, the district has allocated an additional $14 million directly to schools. 

These bold moves coupled with the work the Board of Education approved last year providing resources to ensure each elementary and middle school had Encore, which is offered through Gifted and Talented programs, and teachers and qualified literacy experts in every building. New literacy curriculum in all schools will ensure that Metro Nashville Public Schools is serving the needs of all students without taking anything away from all students. 

“We want to make sure all students, regardless of their academic status and background, are not left behind,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of schools. “Our most accelerated learners are not getting short-changed because we are addressing the needs of special education and ELL learners. We believe we can, and we will, provide equitable services across this district that ensures every single child’s educational needs are met.”

Hunter, who represents one of the city’s most diverse school populations, said Metro Schools has made strides over the past two years. Reading and math scores are up, ACT scores are moving in the right direction with more students taking the test, more are taking and passing AP and IB tests, and additional funds toward special education, gifted and talented services, and English Language services are areas that are being addressed. 

“As budget chair this year, we had a hard conversation about equity in this district. We sent more money to our neediest schools and held 10 community budget meetings to ensure we received input and concern from parents and the community,” Hunter said. “This is unprecedented and resulted in nearly every cluster receiving an increase in funding over the previous year.”

Reports from organizations such as the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce link Nashville’s future to its success with education. How the city invests in this key economic driver which is tied directly to job creation and global competitiveness will determine its ability to hold on to the “it-city” persona that has caught fire across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Education, increasing educational attainment by a single grade level boosts lifetime income, is a potent weapon against poverty and illiteracy, shapes active citizens, and builds safer, stronger and healthier communities, among other benefits.

“Education is an investment, and while MNPS did not receive the level of funding we wanted from the city, we expect this district’s administration to ensure the funds we have been provided are put to good use,” Hunter said. “Further, as we move ahead, it is important that we continue to exhibit this type of courage and decision making on the board, and to keep at the forefront what is best for children over politics.”

OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

By Ronald W. Holmes, Ph.D., Special to the Outlook

Parents have the choice to send their children to traditional public schools in their communities as a result of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. However, these schools must offer students a quality education. They must also keep them safe from any potential or dangerous crime. When they do not, parents have the right to choose other alternatives to educate their children. One alternative is homeschooling. This type of schooling is where children obtain all or most of their education at home. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a projected enrollment of homeschooled students ages 5 through 17, exceeds 1.5 million. 

With school shootings becoming a frequent occurrence in America’s public schools, the critical question to be asked is: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?  The answer to this question will be found in my next book to be released in February of 2019. The book will explore the success stories of parents who have homeschooled their children, as well as those who are currently homeschooling their children. 

In addition to a quality education and a safe school environment, there are many other reasons parents homeschooled their children. This book will highlight the program structure, curriculum options, partnerships and other resources afforded to homeschoolers for an enriching educational experience. It will also highlight the extent of technology integrated into the instructional process. 

If you would like to participate in this book project as someone who has successfully homeschooled a child or currently having success in homeschooling a child, please contact Dr. Ronald Holmes at 

I am a former teacher, school administrator, test developer and district superintendent. I am the author of 16 books and publisher of The Holmes Education Post, an education-focused Internet newspaper. These books include How to Eradicate Hazing; How to Eradicate Cyber Bullying; How to Eradicate Schoolyard Bullying; and How to Eradicate Workplace Bullying. These books serve as a reference guide to an online anti-bullying program that provides training for all students, parents, employees, and managers. These books are also equipped with a 24-hour Web-Based Reporting, Tracking, Training and Documentation System that allow individuals to report bullying incidents anonymously from the home, school, work, and community.

Twin-boys shine to become valedictorians in their graduating class, headed to MIT

Twin-boys shine to become valedictorians in their graduating class, headed to MIT

By Victor Ochieng

It is no secret that the Black man in American society must work harder than his counter-parts. And at the height of all the racial discrimination, Black males have lived with fear affecting their academic performance directly. However, during all these, there are those who are rising above the current and are proving to society that “yes we can.” One good example is the story of two Black boys- twins who have been named Valedictorians at their high school graduation.

The two brothers who were born 11 minutes apart, Malik and Miles George, went to Woodbridge High. They both scored excellently on their SATs and were both named valedictorians of their graduating class. Because of their good work, they will both be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on scholarship. They had a choice between scholarships from five prestigious schools, and they chose MIT as their preferred school.

And Thursday at their graduation, they shared the stage, crediting their success to their parents. They also shared their love for science and the fact that they dedicated their time and effort to school work. Speaking to ABC7, Malik said of their parents, “Seeing them always doing their best to care for us has definitely made a good imprint on us,” Malik told the news station. “Whether it’s academics, athletics, some form of art, whatever passion someone has, my best advice would be just to explore it and do your best, and the success will come.”

Miles also talked of their efforts and one of the reasons they excelled so well. He said, “We worked hard, every course, studying, paying attention in class, asking questions is one of the most important things, being an active student in our own education, because that’s what the teachers are there for.”

The two boys have excelled not only in class but also beyond academics. The two have for a long time been science research fans and were also named first doubles tennis partners.  This just goes to show that if you really give it your all, then you can achieve your goals.

The Woodbridge High School principal, Glenn Lottmann, spoke to ABC7, bragging of how wonderful the two boys were. She said, “I don’t know how long this segment is before I talk about what they’ve done right. I don’t think I have enough time… But I could tell you what they’ve done wrong, nothing!”

It is very encouraging to see young boys overcome the adversities that face the African American communities, and aim for their goals without fear. Malik also encouraged others not to fear ideas, he said, “Whether its academics, athletics, some form of art, whatever passion someone has, my best advice would be just to explore it and do your best and the success will come.”

This article originally appeared in the Westside Gazette.