Capitol Hill’s budget arm says that among the many options federal lawmakers have for cutting the budget deficit, they could consider eliminating Head Start and federally supported school meal programs.
The Congressional Budget Office’s “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028” is the latest in a series of reports the office releases to help lawmakers consider options for reducing the federal deficit, which in fiscal 2018 stood at $778 billion, or 3.8 percent of gross domestic product. There are a total of 121 possibilities the CBO lists for reducing the deficit, and there are a few programs listed that education policy advocates and observers might be interested in. The report also explores changes to Pell Grants and certain loan forgiveness programs available to teachers.
Keep in mind that this report from the CBO doesn’t require or place any burden on Congress to do anything—the office is just listing options for lawmakers to consider. Also: The CBO isn’t explicitly endorsing any of these options.
Child Nutrition Programs
Instead of the current funding and structure provided to school meal programs, the CBO outlines an approach familiar to many who deal with education policy and politics: block grants.
“This option would convert SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps] and the child nutrition programs to separate, smaller block grants to the states beginning in October 2019. The block grants would provide a set amount of funding to states each year, and states would be allowed to make significant changes to the structure of the programs,” the report states.
The budget analysts say this approach would reduce total spending on child nutrition programs by $88 billion, while savings for SNAP would be $160 million over the same time period. Spending on child nutrition programs like school lunch totaled $23 billion in fiscal 2018…
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Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, expressed concerns about the virtual charters’ student-teacher ratios, students’ performance compared to their peers in traditional public schools, and their transparency when it comes to issues like executive pay and advertising.
“Accountability models, funding formulas, and attendance policies were created for brick-and-mortar schools, and yet, state funding and accountability policies have not kept pace with the growth of virtual charter schools,” Brown and Murray wrote to the agency.
Virtual charters have been going through a very difficult stretch. There’s intense skepticism about their performance and management practices. In Brown’s own state of Ohio, for example, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow disintegrated after a lengthy court battle over its claims about student enrollment. (Brown and Murray mentioned the ECOT fallout in their letter). Cyber charters in states like Georgia and New Mexico have also struggled to stay open.
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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.
The final straw broke in November when Aimy Steele got a call from the central office asking her to find space for five more classrooms.
Steele, the principal of Beverly Hills STEM Elementary School in Concord, N.C., about 25 miles from Charlotte, had already moved an English-as-a-second-language class into the library and an after-school program from a portable unit into the cafeteria to comply with a state law mandating lower class sizes in elementary grades.
The mandate, which she said did not come with extra money for new teachers or classrooms—school construction is funded at the county-level—came after financially-strapped districts had shed hundreds of teaching assistants.
“That was kind of the last moment, where I said, ‘this is absolutely ridiculous,’” said Steele, who filed paperwork to run on the Democratic ticket in North Carolina’s 82nd district just a few weeks later. She will face Republican Linda P. Johnson, a nine-term incumbent and chairwoman of the House K-12 education and appropriations committees, in November.
Steele, 39, is among a handful of current and former school leaders—including principals and assistant principals—who are running for local and state offices this year. Their numbers are dwarfed by teacher-candidates, who, fed up with low salaries and cuts to general education funding, marched on state capitols in the spring. (An Education Week analysis found at least 156 teachers had filed to run for state offices this year, with 25 so far winning their party primaries and 42 advancing without a primary challenge.)
Principals Want Bigger Voice in Education Policy
But the small number of principals who are running hope their experience running schools will give them a bigger voice in state education policy and other policy areas that affect education. The school leaders argue that many of the hot-button issues that legislators are wrestling with are school-connected—whether it’s the opioid crisis, the economy, transportation, infrastructure, or healthcare.
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July 26, 2018 — During today’s meeting of the Federal Commission on School Safety, NSBA’s Chief Legal Officer, Francisco Negron, Jr. shared our insight on how information-sharing and accountability supports school officials’ commitment to eliminate disruptive behavior and violence and ensure that our schools are safe learning environments. School boards set rigorous standards for student conduct and through these policies set disciplinary practices and procedures to maximize the opportunities for all students and provide them with safe and successful in-school experiences. While decisions in matters of student discipline, particularly as they relate to instances of individual behavior, are best left in the hands of local education experts, there is a significant role for the federal government. Greater and sustained federal resources are vital to helping support and sustain school resource officers, school counseling, emergency preparedness and response training and locally determined programs that expand access to mental health services and support comprehensive “wraparound” services. Collaboration and communication with local law enforcement agencies is an essential part of prevention, preparedness, mitigation and emergency response and recovery plans. The removal of barriers that get in the way of the collaboration of such agencies will greatly benefit local education leaders and the children they serve.
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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A trendy product that has stirred concern among many child health advocates went undetected in many school hallways, bathrooms, and even classrooms when students first started using it.
The tiny device, called a Juul, looks more like a USB drive than what it actually is, a form of e-cigarette that allows students to inhale flavored nicotine vapor, often without detection by adults.
Here’s what educators need to know about “juuling” (and vaping in general).
‘Juuling’ can be really difficult for teachers and principals to detect.
Students have become really crafty about concealing their vaping habits, principals told Education Week.
The device’s flavor cartridges come in kid-friendly varieties like mango, creme brulee, and gummi bear. And the scents they give off are not always immediately recognizable to unfamiliar adults, principals say…
There’s also a whole juuling culture online, where students share YouTube videos of how to hollow out highlighters to conceal the compact devices, and how to slide them up shirt sleeves. There are even covert videos of students taking quick puffs in the back of their high school classrooms. And some companies now market specially designed apparel that allow vapers to use their device while it is concealed in the drawstring of a hoodie or the strap of a backpack.
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It seems pretty likely that the Trump administration will revise or rescind an Obama-era directive intended to address racial disparities in school disciplinary actions. The “Dear Colleague” letter in question, issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in 2014, has been the subject of much debate of late. It stated that school districts could be investigated and found guilty of violating students’ civil rights when doling out punishments, even if the discipline policies were race-neutral and implemented in even-handed ways (in other words, even if there was no evidence of discriminatory treatment of students).
Yet, the latest federal discipline data, released earlier this month, show that African-American students continue to be disciplined at higher rates than white students. While U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held roundtable meetings with lawmakers in April to hear debates about the guidance from both sides, there is no timeline for the administration’s final decision.
But school discipline reform did not begin with President Barack Obama, and it won’t end with President Donald Trump. Efforts for change have been gaining steam for years, which legislatures and school boards have increasingly codified into laws and practices at state and local levels.
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Educators are doing something right inside our public school buildings. While it’s not often reported, indicators of disciplinary problems have been showing steady declines in recent decades, including for such serious infractions as gang activity, physical threats of violence, and weapons carried on school property. But it’s too early to start high-fiving. A new study further reveals that the overall picture is hiding disturbing and persistent inequities in how discipline is administered.
First, let’s look at what’s moving in the right direction:
Between 2000 and 2016, the percentage of public schools reporting at least weekly incidents of bullying fell from 29.3 to 11.9%. Over the same time period, schools also saw declines in student verbal abuse of teachers (12.5 to 4.8%); student to student sexual harassment (4.0 to 1.0%); and gang activity (18.7 to 10.4%).
Since 1993, the percentage of high school students who reported being in a physical fight at school decreased by half (16 to 8%); students who said they had carried a weapon (defined as a gun, knife or club) in school fell from 12 to 4%.
Schools are reporting fewer “serious disciplinary actions“ against students for fighting, insubordination, and possession or distribution of illegal drugs or weapons. In 2005-06, nearly half — 48.1% — of public schools had on at least one occasion removed a student for five days or more. That percentage dropped to 37.2% in 2015-16.
The number of students who have been subject to such disciplinary actions has fallen even more dramatically, from 3.9 million in 2005-06 to about 600,000 in 2015-16.
Unfortunately, not all students were equal beneficiaries of these improvements. The non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office examined how school discipline practices affect black students, boys, and students with disabilities compared to their classmates. Its report was developed at the request of Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and was released in March of this year.
The authors analyzed the most recent data (2013-14) from the Office of Civil Rights in order to compare the proportion of disciplinary actions received by different student groups compared to their representation in the overall student population. Here’s what they found: