Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Calls on National Education Association to Drop Lawsuit that Puts Financial Aid for Students in Jeopardy

WASHINGTON—U.S.Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called on the National Education Association (NEA) today to drop its politically-motivated lawsuit and stop standing in the way of students working to complete their post secondary education program.

The NEA recently sued the department over its delay in implementing Obama-era rules that govern state standards for online education. The rules require, among other things, that all institutions providing distance education to students in another state document that the state has a process for those students to complain against that institution.

Unfortunately, not all states have the required complaint processes or interstate agreements in place. As a result, the 2016 regulation would deny federal aid to a number of students receiving distance education because their institutions cannot meet the complaint process requirement in one or more states.

Full story at ed.gov

DeVos Wants to Prioritize Education Funding for Opportunity Zones

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION Betsy DeVos wants to prioritize federal education funding for areas of the country that qualify as opportunity zones – a move that if finalized, could shift hundreds of millions of dollars away from some communities and to others.

As part of the 2017 tax law, the Trump administration has certified more than 8,700 opportunity zones, which provide tax incentives to attract investment in business or real estate located within certain economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with the goal of revitalizing those areas. But it’s unclear whether policies like opportunity zones actually benefit distressed communities at all, let alone move the needle on education achievement.

DeVos’ proposal, published Monday in the Federal Register, would give priority to applicants who propose projects in those opportunity zones for more than 80 education grant competitions, which collectively total more than $700 million.

Full story at US News

You 2.0: The Empathy Gym

What books are on your summer reading list?

If you’re reading mostly nonfiction, consider the benefits of adding a novel to the mix.

“There’s a fair amount of evidence now that the more fiction that people read, the more empathetic that they become,” says Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki. “Because fiction is one of the most powerful ways to connect with people who are different from us who we might not have a chance to meet otherwise.”

Zaki argues that empathy is like a muscle — it can be strengthened with exercise and it can atrophy when idle. On this episode of Hidden Brain, we talk about calibrating our empathy so we can interact with others more mindfully.

Full story at npr.org

California Parents Home-School Kids to Bypass Mandatory Vaccination Law

CALIFORNIA PARENTS ARE increasingly exploiting a loophole in the state’s mandatory vaccination law that allows their children to forgo vaccines if they are home-schooled.

In 2016, California implemented one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country, requiring all children be vaccinated, despite personal or religious beliefs, in order to attend school unless a doctor deemed it unsafe because of a medical condition. The legislation also allowed schools to deny admittance to unvaccinated students.

However, parents began enlisting health care professionals to provide medical exemptions that may not have been warranted. The Sacramento Bee reported in April on the surge in exemptions, stating that doctors in the state have broad power to grant exemptions for required vaccines, and some providers give them out in exchange for cash.

Full story at US News

Race and School Discipline

BLACK STUDENTS WITH disabilities are disciplined more often than their white peers, pushing them into the school-to-prison pipeline at higher rates, a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows – just the latest finding to stoke an ongoing debate over the role race plays in school discipline.

“Ignoring the reality that kids can be harmed and that it is our educators’ obligation to ensure that they are not harmed has an obvious impact on students of color in particular and students with disabilities in particular,” Catherine Lhamon, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says. “When we know that turning away from specific harms to specific identity groups will hurt their educational opportunity and their rights in schools, we are taking steps we ought not to take.”

The 224-page report draws on data from the Department of Education and its Office for Civil Rights to argue that students of color don’t commit more offenses than their white peers but receive “substantially more” discipline than them, as well as harder and longer punishments for similar offenses. At the same time, the report underscores, data shows that students with disabilities are about twice as likely to be suspended compared to those without disabilities.

Full story at US News

As Scrutiny Of China Grows, Some U.S. Schools Drop A Language Program

The Defense Department wants more Americans to speak Chinese, and it provides millions of dollars to train students at U.S. universities.

China’s government, through language centers known as Confucius Institutes, has been doing the same thing, for the same reasons, and at some of the same U.S. universities.

But a new law has forced these American universities to choose: They can take money from the Pentagon or from the Confucius Institute — but not both.

“Confucius Institutes expose U.S. universities to espionage, to the threat of theft of intellectual property, which we are seeing far too frequently at colleges and universities,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said in an interview with NPR.

Full story at npr.org

Textbook Giant Pearson Makes Major Shift Away From Print to Digital

CALLING IT A “generational business shift,” textbook publishing giant Pearson announced Tuesday that all future updates to its 1,500 U.S. titles will occur digitally, a move company officials say will push the academic publishing industry into the 21st century and save students money by ending lengthy and expensive print revisions.

“The history of this business is as a college textbook publisher, and really over the last 20 years, like many of the other industries like newspapers and music publishing, we’ve seen a gradual shift from digital where over time digital time has become a more important part of the offering,” John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, says. “We’ve really reached a tipping point.”

London-based Pearson, the $8.5 billion company, is the largest provider of college textbooks in the U.S. It now has more than 10 million digital registrations each year coming from the company’s current offering of about 1,500 titles that cover all major course offerings at colleges and universities.

Full story at US News

Broken Promises: Teachers Sue U.S. Over Student Loans That Weren’t Forgiven

Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

For 10 years, Baker, who was a public school teacher in Tulsa, Okla., checked in with loan servicing companies and was told she was on track.

“I said, ‘I’m qualifying for public service loan forgiveness,’ and they said, ‘OK, great,’ ” she says.

But it turns out that her $76,000 in student loans didn’t get forgiven. Baker was finally told she was in the wrong type of loan. If she’d known that at the beginning, she could have switched loans and ended up qualifying. But she says nobody ever told her.

Full story at npr.org

Secretary DeVos Announces School Safety Grant Opportunities

WASHINGTON — In support of the recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety’s (FCSS) final report, the U.S. Department of Education announced today it is now accepting applications for three fiscal year 2019 grant competitions that support locally tailored approaches to school safety.

PROJECT PREVENT GRANT PROGRAM

This program helps Local Education Agencies (LEAs) enhance their ability to identify, assess and serve students exposed to pervasive violence. Funds from this $10 million grant competition can be used to provide mental health services for trauma or anxiety; support conflict resolution programs; and implement other school—based violence prevention strategies. The deadline to apply is July 15, 2019.

SCHOOL CLIMATE TRANSFORMATION GRANT PROGRAM

This $40 million grant competition provides funds to LEAs to develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for schools implementing strategies to improve learning conditions and promote positive school culture for all students. The deadline to apply is July 22, 2019.

Full story at ed.gov

Supreme Court to Hear School Choice Case

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT agreed to hear oral arguments this fall concerning a decision by Montana’s Supreme Court to halt the operation of a tax credit scholarship program that allowed students to enroll in private schools, including private religious schools.

The announcement Friday breathed new life into the private school choice movement, which has made little to no headway at the federal level despite a tax credit scholarship being the No. 1 agenda item of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, herself a private school choice supporter.

Private school choice advocates cheered the decision by the high court to review Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, saying they’re hopeful the court will provide a definitive answer on the constitutionality of directing public money or aid to private religious schools.

Full story at US News