U.S. Department of Education Acts on School Safety Report Recommendation to Improve Understanding of Student Privacy Law

The U.S. Department of Education today released a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on schools’ and districts’ responsibilities under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in the context of school safety.

The Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) released an in-depth report last December, which observed that “substantial misunderstanding remains at the local level among officials and educators concerning (FERPA), and in particular its application to school-based threats.”

This FAQ document, titled, School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), consolidates previously issued guidance and technical assistance into a single resource to help raise schools’ and districts’ awareness of these provisions.

Full story at ed.gov

Educators Endorse Safety Measures – Not Arming Teachers

THE TWO NATIONAL teachers union and a leading gun safety group called on federal and state lawmakers to pass a variety of gun laws to prevent future school shootings as part of a school safety report released Monday.

The report, published by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, comes just days before Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, marks one year since a mass shooting in which a former student killed 17 children and adults.

“It’s been now almost a year since Parkland,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “I know students served as live witness to that tragedy, and their voices helped make 2018 the year of gun safety.

“There’s still a significant amount of work to be done,” he said. “It’s up to us to solve this problem.”

Full story at US News

Teacher Strike On in Denver

EDUCATORS IN DENVER ARE preparing to strike on Monday after newly elected Democratic Gov. Jared Polis declined to intervene in a pay dispute between teacher union officials and school district officials, setting up the first strike in Colorado’s biggest school district in 25 years.

“It is incredibly disappointing that [Denver Public Schools] has not yet taken our discussions at the bargaining table seriously,” Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said in a statement. “Now we will exercise our right to strike for the schools our students deserve.”

Before teachers take to the picket line, the two sides have a last-ditch negotiation effort scheduled for Friday, where they will try to close what Polis characterized as “small, limited differences.”

Full story at US News

One Virginia School District Sues State to Arm School Employees

LEE COUNTY, A POOR, rural community tucked into the southwestern most part of Virginia, is suing the state in an effort to allow its school employees to carry guns to combat a potential future active shooter scenario.

“I was kind of afraid of this,” Lee County schools Superintendent Brian Austin says. “We were not intending to pick a battle in Richmond. We were just trying to do what we thought was best for Lee County.”

But pick a battle it did, filing a lawsuit earlier this month in Lee County Circuit Court challenging Virginia’s refusal to give a special designation to Austin that would allow him to participate in a program approved by the Lee County School Board to allow educators and other school personnel to carry firearms on school property.

Full story at US News

Half of Endowment Spending Supports Financial Aid

AMID A NATIONAL OUTCRY for higher education institutions to do more to increase access for poor students – especially elite schools with billion-dollar endowments – new data show that nearly half of all endowment spending by colleges and universities supports financial aid.

“This was the largest single area of endowment spending,” Susan Whealler Johnston, president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, said this week in a call with reporters. “This clearly demonstrates the deep commitment colleges and universities make to support financial aid and student success.”

The endowment spending data was included for the first time in the annual endowment report, published Thursday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the investment firm TIAA. Colleges and universities reported that 49 percent of their endowment spending went to support student scholarships and other financial aid programs, and 16 percent for academic tutoring and other similar student support programs.

Full story at US News

Secretary DeVos: “Supplement, not Supplant” Proposal Helps Promote Effective Spending, Flexibility

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released proposed non-regulatory guidance to support school districts’ compliance with the requirement that federal funds supplement, and do not supplant, state and local funds, under section 1118 of Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance explains how ESSA changed the longstanding requirement in order to reduce administrative burden, simplify the compliance demonstration and promote effective spending.

While important and well-intentioned, the supplement not supplant requirement had become restrictive and burdensome—to the point that some school districts made ineffective spending choices in an effort to avoid noncompliance. Under ESSA, the supplement not supplant requirement changed to provide more flexibility to school districts while still ensuring that federal dollars are supplemental to state and local funds and cannot be used to replace them.

Full story at ed.gov

Teachers Vote Yes On Deal To End Los Angeles Strike

Union members in Los Angeles voted to approve a deal with the city’s school district on Tuesday, ending a six-day teacher strike. Teachers headed back to class on Wednesday.

According to a Wednesday news release, 81 percent of United Teachers Los Angeles members who cast a ballot voted in favor of the agreement.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be a teacher tonight,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl at a Tuesday news conference in which he announced the preliminary results.

Some teachers expressed frustration, saying the deal didn’t go far enough, while others said they were relieved.

Full story at npr.org

U.S. Department of Education Announces Initiative to Address the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion to Protect Children with Disabilities, Ensure Compliance with Federal Laws

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today that the U.S. Department of Education will launch an initiative to address the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in partnership with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), will oversee this proactive approach which will protect students with disabilities by providing technical assistance and support to schools, districts, and state education agencies, and strengthen enforcement activities.

“This initiative will not only allow us to support children with disabilities, but will also provide technical assistance to help meet the professional learning needs of those within the system serving students,” Secretary DeVos said.  “The only way to ensure the success of all children with disabilities is to meet the needs of each child with a disability. This initiative furthers that important mission.”

The Department’s Initiative to Address the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion will not only include components that help schools and districts understand how federal law applies to the use of restraint and seclusion, but the Department will also support schools seeking resources and information on the appropriate use of interventions and supports to address the behavioral needs of students with disabilities.

Full story at ed.gov

Community College Transfer Students: Underenrolled, Overachieving

SELECTIVE COLLEGES AND universities tend to overlook students seeking to transfer from community college, despite those students graduating at higher rates than other students, a new report shows.

Notably, nearly half – 49 percent – of all students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities begin at a two-year schools. But the report finds that selective schools are less likely to enroll community college students than other institutions. In fact, when it comes to the 100 most selective colleges, 14 percent of students transfer in, but only 5 percent have transferred from a community college.

Community college students who transfer to selective colleges and universities, the study found, have equal to or higher graduation rates as students who enrolled directly from high school or those who transferred from other four-year schools. They also graduate in a reasonable amount of time, earning their degrees within two and a half years, on average.

Full story at US News

Los Angeles Teacher Strike Could Be Days Away

Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest school district, are preparing to go on strike. The district last saw a teacher strike nearly 30 years ago.

If no deal is reached, more than 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles wouldn’t go to work, affecting roughly 480,000 public school students.

The union has been holding out, primarily, for the district to reduce class sizes and hire more nurses, librarians and counselors, all of whom the union also represents. District leaders have resisted, saying they don’t have the money to pay for the level of changes the union wants.

Full story at npr.org