Four States Now Require Schools to Teach LGBT History

Starting next school year, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history will be part of the curriculum in Illinois public schools.

Democratic Governor J. B. Pritzker signed House Bill 246 into law Aug. 9, making Illinois the fourth state to mandate teaching LGBT history, after California, New Jersey, and Colorado. The Illinois legislation takes effect in July 2020.

The law mandates that history classes in public schools “include a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State.” Any textbooks bought with state funding must cover “the roles and contributions” of LGBT people, and can’t include content that is discriminatory to any particular gender or sexual orientation.

Nationwide, LGBT history often doesn’t make it into the curriculum. Just under a quarter of students say that they have learned about LGBT-related topics in their classes, according to 2016 research from GLSEN, a national advocacy group for LGBTQ students.

Full story at Education Week

900 New York City Classrooms Test Positive for Lead

MORE THAN 900 classrooms in New York City public schools tested positive for lead in recent months, according to data released by the city’s Department of Education.

The presence of lead-based paint and visible deterioration was found in 938 classrooms, according to the inspection by the city of more than 5,400 classrooms in nearly 800 schools built before 1985. Officials found deteriorating lead paint in 302 of the schools and deteriorating paint in 2,245 classrooms.

The findings were the result of typical end-of-year wear and tear, according to department officials, and will be fixed by the start of the school year. The inspections follow a local news investigation that found dangerous levels of lead in four schools.

“These inspections were done at the end of the year when classrooms have been used all year and are transitioning out and teachers are taking down posters,” says Miranda Barbot, the first deputy press secretary for the New York City Department of Education. “It wouldn’t be uncommon for there to be this type of wear and tear in the classroom.”

Full story at US News

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

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

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

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

International Survey: U.S. Teachers Are Overworked, Feel Underappreciated

TEACHERS IN THE U.S. work longer hours and spend more time during the school day teaching than teachers in other parts of the world. And while the majority are satisfied with their jobs, only a fraction believes American society values their profession.

The topline findings of the Teaching and Learning International Survey, an international study published Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics, showcase the grievances at the heart of the wave of educator unrest that’s prompted strikes, protests and walkouts in nearly a dozen states and school districts across the U.S.

“They are working a lot of hours, relatively speaking,” Peggy Carr, associate commissioner for assessment at NCES, the Department of Education’s data arm, said. “They do spend a lot of hours teaching. I think we need to think about that and what that means. Teachers love their jobs all across the globe, but our teachers, not unlike teachers elsewhere, feel as though we don’t value their profession. There’s a message there I think we need to think about.”

Full story at US News

Schools’ Racial Makeup Can Sway Disability Diagnoses

Are black and Hispanic students identified for special education too often, or not often enough?

For several years, that question has been the focus of a simmering policy debate. Federal regulations require districts to guard against greatly overidentifying minority students with disabilities—also known as “significant disproportionality” in the regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Nationally, 14 percent of white students ages 3-21 are in special education; for black students it is 16 percent and for Hispanic students, 13 percent.

In recent years, however, other research has shown that black and Hispanic students are actually less likely to be placed in special education than white peers who have similar academic and behavioral backgrounds. That could potentially leave them at risk of not getting the help they may need to succeed.

Full story at edweek.org