Federal Flash: The Education Question Betsy DeVos Can’t Answer

Federal Flash: The Education Question Betsy DeVos Can’t Answer

By Rachel Bird Niebling

During a wide-ranging hearing held by the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified on a wide range of Education Department priorities.

Federal Flash covers the controversial exchanges during the hearing, including one question that DeVos struggled to answer.

The House Education and Labor Committee hearing this week examined the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Education. It was the first oversight hearing for Secretary DeVos to testify before the Committee since Democrats regained control of the House. While members asked questions on a variety of topics ranging from student loan debt to affirmative action to the rights of transgender students, many focused on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

In one heated exchange, Representative Jahana Hayes from Connecticut pressed Secretary DeVos about an Education Department memo she obtained citing that the Secretary does have sufficient authority to block states from using ESSA Title IV funds to buy guns for schools. Our viewers may recall that funding for Title IV, or the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, was hotly debated last year when Secretary DeVos said she did not have the power to block states from using Title IV funds to purchase firearms. The memo Representative Hayes presented, however, stated exactly the opposite.

While the exchange between Representative Gregorio Sablan from the Northern Mariana Islands and Secretary DeVos may not have received as much attention, Representative Sablan raised a very important issue regarding the Department’s approval of state ESSA plans that do not consider the performance of historically underserved students…

Read the full article  in Alliance for Excellent Education
The Teachers’ Unions Have a Charter School Dilemma

The Teachers’ Unions Have a Charter School Dilemma

A dispute over pay and class size in Chicago boiled over into the nation’s first charter school strike this month, raising questions about how teachers’ unions, going forward, will reconcile their longheld opposition to charters with their need to pick up more dues-paying members. 

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The historic walkout—and the concessions won by the Chicago Teachers Union on behalf of the striking charter school teachers—was welcome news for unions, which are predicted to potentially shed substantial members and revenue after the fateful U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision earlier this year.

Soon after the strike started, people began asking whether cracks were starting to show in the charter movement, the first viable public alternative—and challenge—to traditional public schools. For so long the charter movement has steadily expanded in many American cities, propelled by some of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists.

The Chicago teachers’ strike has been largely cast in the media as a major symbolic win for teachers’ unions and a warning sign for charter schools and their supporters.

But there are equally fraught—if less examined—questions facing unions as they simultaneously decry charters as the tools of billionaires trying to privatize public education and encourage charter teachers to join their ranks. A growing unionized workforce in the charter sector may very well require changes from teachers’ unions as well as charter schools.

Anti-Charter Policy Pushes

Unions have longed positioned themselves as the defenders of traditional public schools, and have used their considerable political and financial clout to stymie charters. In Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union has called for a moratorium on all new charter schools. Elsewhere, unions have lobbied to block additional state funding for charter schools, backed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of charter schools, campaigned to keep caps on the number of charter schools allowed to open, and called for bans on charter management groups and companies…

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DREDF Rejects Attempt by Trump Administration to Reverse Progress on School Safety

DREDF Rejects Attempt by Trump Administration to Reverse Progress on School Safety

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.

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Four Things to Watch For in the Trump School Safety Report

Four Things to Watch For in the Trump School Safety Report

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. Education Week logo

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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COMMENTARY: Arne Duncan: Betsy DeVos Turns a Blind Eye to Injustice

COMMENTARY: Arne Duncan: Betsy DeVos Turns a Blind Eye to Injustice

Education Week logoBy Arne Duncan
Originally published September 4, 2018

I am deeply troubled by the waves of distressing and insensitive policies emanating from the office I once occupied. Some recent ones even have Republicans shaking their heads.

While the U.S. Department of Education has sent mixed signals, it appears the department would tacitly approve the use of federal education funds by districts to buy guns. That’s a long way from the 1965 law that brought the federal government into the world of education.

The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act was part of a package of civil rights laws aimed at advancing equity and justice in the classroom. It followed a decade after the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision to end legal segregation. It was America at its best, raising our sights and uniting us behind common goals.

Secretary Betsy DeVos’ position on the use of guns is part of a pattern that takes us backwards. In recent days, she has announced plans to roll back guidance we issued on campus sexual assaults. More than 1 in 5 young women and more than 5 percent of men, report being assaulted; yet, she acts more concerned with the rights of the accused than the rights of victims…

The Trump administration also weakened protections for student borrowers and reversed the rules we developed for holding for-profit schools accountable. Our young people are drowning in debt, delaying home purchases, and filing for bankruptcy, but DeVos seems more concerned with protecting for-profit colleges that are ripping them off.

Read the full article here. May require an Education Week subscription.

Betsy DeVos Says There’s a Higher Education ‘Crisis,’ But Experts Dispute Her Explanations

Betsy DeVos Says There’s a Higher Education ‘Crisis,’ But Experts Dispute Her Explanations

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that the country’s higher education system is in “crisis” thanks in part to a “government takeover of the student lending system” put in place by the Obama administration. But her contention was quickly fact-checked by a former GOP Senate staffer and other higher education experts. Education Week logo

“Our higher ed system is the envy of the world, but if we, as a country, do not make important policy changes in the way we distribute, administer, and manage federal student loans, the program on which so many students rely will be in serious jeopardy,” DeVos told the Federal Student Aid Training Conference in Atlanta in prepared remarks on Tuesday “Students are taking out tens of thousands of dollars in debt but many are misinformed or uninformed as to the implications of taking on that debt and their responsibilities to pay it back.”

Student debt, she said, is now 10 percent of national debt. “The student loan program is not only burying students in debt, it is also burying taxpayers and it’s stealing from future generations,” she said.

DeVos offered solutions for ballooning student debt, including giving students the opportunity to pursue the postsecondary path that’s right for them, even if that’s not a four-year college degree. She also called for boosting “innovation.” And she appeared to take a swipe at the free-college movement, whose champions include Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.

“Nothing is free,” DeVos said. “Someone, somewhere ultimately pays the bills.”

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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Names New Members to National Assessment Governing Board

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Names New Members to National Assessment Governing Board

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Five leaders from around the country have been appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board to serve four-year terms, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today.

This year’s Governing Board appointees include four new members and one re-appointed member—the Board’s current Vice Chair Tonya Matthews. The appointees’ terms begin on Oct. 1, 2018, and end on Sept. 30, 2022.

The appointees will help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. NAEP offers to the public and to education policymakers at the national, state and local levels, objective data on student performance in nearly a dozen subjects. The information NAEP provides helps education stakeholders evaluate the progress of American education. The 26-member nonpartisan, independent Governing Board determines the subjects and content of NAEP tests, sets the achievement levels for reporting and publicly releases the results.

“I’m pleased to welcome this diverse group of leaders from across the country to the National Assessment Governing Board,” Secretary DeVos said. “The board plays an important role in assessing student achievement, and I am confident that their collective experience will be a valuable asset as we work to ensure that all students have equal access to a great education that gives them the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.”

The appointees and the roles they represent on the Board are listed below:

  • Paul Gasparini, Secondary School Principal: Gasparini is the principal of Jamesville-DeWitt High School in Dewitt, New York, a position he has held for 17 years. Gasparini chairs the Central New York High School Principals Consortium, and his accolades include being named state high school principal of the year by the School Administrators Association of New York state.
  • Julia Keleher, Chief State School Officer: Keleher was appointed as Puerto Rico’s secretary of education in December 2016. She has more than 20 years of experience in education at the federal, state, district and school levels. Keleher is also an adjunct professor at The George Washington University, where she teaches graduate-level courses in the Business School and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
  • Tonya Matthews, General Public Representative: Matthews joined the Governing Board in 2014. She is the founder of The STEMinista Project—an initiative to engage girls’ interest in science and technology careers. Mostly recently, Matthews served as president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Science Center, a science museum for children and young adults in Detroit.
  • Mark Miller, Eighth-Grade Teacher: Miller is a mathematics teacher and chair of the mathematics department at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Miller has more than 20 years of experience teaching mathematics at the junior-high level. Miller is a National Board Certified Teacher and serves on a standard-setting panel for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. His accolades include being nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science.
  • Nardi Routten, Fourth-Grade Teacher: Routten is a fourth-grade teacher at Chester A. Moore Elementary in Fort Pierce, Florida. She has taught third- and fourth-graders in St. Lucie County for more than 20 years. Routten, a National Board Certified Teacher, has received local and national recognition for her excellence in teaching, including the Milken Educator Award in 2014.

“We are excited to have such a breadth of talent and expertise join the Board and contribute to a group of leaders who are dedicated to maintaining NAEP’s rigor and quality, while making the assessment useful and relevant for the public,” said Lisa Stooksberry, deputy executive director for the Governing Board.

Every year, the Governing Board conducts a nationwide search for Board nominees. After the nominations period ends, the Governing Board narrows the pool of nominees to a list of finalists from which the U.S. Secretary of Education selects Board members.

The Governing Board is now accepting nominations for Board members whose terms will begin Oct. 1, 2019. To learn more about the open Board positions and the nomination process, visit http://bit.ly/JoinTheBoard11. Nominations are due by 5 p.m. EST on Oct. 31, 2018.


The National Assessment Governing Board is an independent, nonpartisan board whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988 to set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. For more information about the Governing Board, visit www.nagb.org.

Federal Flash: Are States Shirking ESSA Responsibilities?

Federal Flash: Are States Shirking ESSA Responsibilities?

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.

Specifically:

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.

Read the full chart and analysis.

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 alliance@all4ed.org.

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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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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