U.S. Mathematician Becomes First Woman To Win Abel Prize, ‘Math’s Nobel’

“I find that I am bored with anything I understand,” Karen Uhlenbeck once said – and that sense of curiosity is part of why she won the prestigious Abel Prize, from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

Uhlenbeck, an influential mathematician who was for decades a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and who has sought to encourage women to study mathematics, has become the first woman to win the Abel Prize — often called the Nobel Prize of math.

Uhlenbeck’s complex and wide-ranging work includes analyzing the “minimal surfaces” of soap bubbles and finding ways to unite geometry and physics through new mathematical approaches. She’s widely respected for her work on esoteric topics, such as partial differential equations and the calculus of variations.

Full story at NPR

Secretary DeVos Issues Statement on Higher Education Act Reform Principles Introduced During National Council for the American Worker Meeting

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement on the Administration’s Higher Education Act reform principles released during today’s meeting of the National Council for the American Worker:

“To meet the needs of our nation’s students and our growing economy, we must rethink higher education. Right now, there are 7.3 million unfilled jobs in the United States, yet too many Americans remain out of the workforce because they lack the skills necessary to seize these opportunities. We must do better for our students and workers. There should be multiple educational pathways to a successful career, and the federal government shouldn’t pick winners and losers amongst them. At the same time, higher education should be more affordable, nimble and relevant. Institutions of higher education need to be freed-up to implement new ideas that could fill the many gaps between education and the economy. The Department of Education is currently leading that effort through ambitious negotiated rule making which seeks to break down the barriers to innovation in higher education and encourage new approaches and new partnerships.

Full story at ed.gov

White Privilege and the College Admissions Scandal

“WHAT WE DO IS WE HELP the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school.”

William Rick Singer, a Newport Beach, California-based college admissions expert, wasted no time cutting to the chase in a conversation with a parent, which the FBI recorded last June.

“They want guarantees, they want this thing done. They don’t want to be messing around with this thing. And so they want in at certain schools. So I did 761 what I would call, ‘side doors.'”

He elaborated: “There is a front door which means you get in on your own. The back door is through institutional advancement, which is ten times as much money. And I’ve created this side door in.”

Full story at US News

U.S. Department of Education Finds ESEA Restriction on Religious Organizations Unconstitutional, Will No Longer Enforce

WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today at the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) State Directors Annual Meeting that the Department will no longer enforce a restriction barring religious organizations from serving as contract providers of equitable services solely due to their religious affiliation.

The U.S. Department of Education, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice, determined the statutory provisions in Section 1117(d)(2)(B) and 8501(d)(2)(B) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that require an equitable services provider to “be independent of … any religious organization” are unconstitutional because they categorically exclude religious organizations based solely on their religious identity.

These provisions run counter to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017) that, under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, otherwise eligible recipients cannot be disqualified from a public benefit solely because of their religious character.

Full story at ed.gov

In Oregon, a Lawsuit Aimed at Supporting Disabled Students

A FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND lawsuit charging that the state of Oregon has failed to provide full school days to students with mental, emotional and behavioral disabilities could create a model for other states to stop the practice of shortening school days.

The class action lawsuit – filed Jan. 22 in U.S. district court by Disability Rights Oregon and other groups – says Oregon violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by the “unnecessary segregation” of children with disabilities. The lawsuit alleges that schools in Oregon, mainly in rural areas, send students home on a regular, sometimes daily basis, for all or parts of the school day, citing behavior issues or safety concerns stemming from behavioral, mental and emotional disorders such as autism.

Joel Greenberg, a Disability Rights Oregon attorney, says the practice often makes disabled students feel “that they don’t belong in school.”

Full story at US News

Teachers Union Launches National Education-Funding Campaign

THE AMERICAN FEDERATION of Teachers, the 1.7 million-member teachers union, announced a major education initiative Monday aimed at pressing lawmakers in state capitals and Congress to increase funding for public schools and universities.

The move, which includes a six-figure advertising campaign, further catapults to the national stage the educator unrest that’s unfurled across the country as teachers take to the picket lines to protest underfunded school systems, low pay, overcrowded classes and lack of resources for special education and support staff, including nurses, librarians and school counselors.

“You’ve seen a growing frustration of parents and students and educators sweeping the nation,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said Monday. “While those have been very inspiring sparks, we are having funding fights in virtually every state capital and in Washington, D.C. And the root cause of every single one of those teacher walkouts that have been roiling the country is the lack of appropriate investments.”

Full story at US News

DeVos Makes $5 Billion School Choice Pitch

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION Betsy DeVos announced a $5 billion school choice proposal Thursday, pitching a national tax credit scholarship program that would allow parents to send their children to the public – or private – K-12 school of their choice.

But the proposal faces a steep uphill battle in Congress, where Democrats now control the House of Representatives and even the more moderate Republicans in the Senate, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have been wary of school choice policies that originate at the federal level.

“What we’re talking about is a new federal tax credit,” a senior Department of Education official said Wednesday evening. “This is an opportunity for states to take advantage of scholarship money that would be made available for them for programs they design.”

Full story at US News

White Students Get More K-12 Funding Than Students of Color: Report

SCHOOL DISTRICTS WHERE the majority of students enrolled are students of color receive $23 billion less in education funding than predominantly white school districts, despite serving the same number of students – a dramatic discrepancy that underscores the depth of K-12 funding inequities in the U.S.

The top-line finding included in a new report from EdBuild, a nonprofit that focuses on education funding, calls into question the ways state and local dollars are used to prop up some children at the expense of others and exposes a similarly startling funding discrepancy even when comparing poor white and poor nonwhite school districts.

“What we wanted to determine was, in a country where we are so fractured by race, geographically, how does that play out and how much money on the whole do kids who are nonwhite receive versus kids who are white,” Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of EdBuild, says.

Full story at US News

‘Any talks of striking?’: How a West Virginia teacher’s Facebook post started a national movement

The coal miner’s son had studied his county’s rough-and-tumble labor history, written his dissertation on it, taught his high school students about it.

Now Eric Starr, who knew history never repeats itself, felt history doing just that. And he was part of it.

Standing at a secret meeting like those held by striking miners a century ago, dressed in black except for a red bandana like the ones those miners wore, he exhorted his fellow public school teachers to defy the governor and their own unions and stay out on strike.

“I’m not going back,’’ he said. “We’ve been sold out!’’

Full story at USA Today

Federal Watchdog Issues Scathing Report On Ed Department’s Handling Of Student Loans

A critical new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General finds the department’s student loan unit failed to adequately supervise the companies it pays to manage the nation’s trillion-dollar portfolio of federal student loans. The report also rebukes the department’s office of Federal Student Aid for rarely penalizing companies that failed to follow the rules.

Instead of safeguarding borrowers’ interests, the report says, FSA’s inconsistent oversight allowed these companies, known as loan servicers, to potentially hurt borrowers and pocket government dollars that should have been refunded because servicers weren’t meeting federal requirements.

“By not holding servicers accountable,” the report says, “FSA could give its servicers the impression that it is not concerned with servicer noncompliance with Federal loan servicing requirements, including protecting borrowers’ rights.”

Full story at npr.org