Federal Data Show Decreasing Rates of Bullying and Violence in Schools

BULLYING, VIOLENCE, crime and drug use in schools continue to decrease, as they have for much of the last two decades, despite public perception that schools have become less safe over the past 20 years.

New federal data published Wednesday by the Departments of Education and Justice show that 20% of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school during the 2016-17 school year, the lowest since the federal government began collecting the information in 2005. The percentage of public schools that reported that student bullying occurred at least once a week also decreased, from 29% in the 1999-2000 school year to 12% in the 2015-16 school year.

Moreover, the percentage of students in grades nine through 12 who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property during the previous 12 months decreased from 9% in the 2000-01 school year to 6% in 2016-17 school year.

Full story at US News

Confused By Your College Financial Aid Letter? You’re Not Alone

This time last year, McKenna Hensley had a big question on her mind: Where would she go to college? The answer — sort of — was somewhere in her pile of 10 financial aid offers. Each school she’d been admitted to had its own individualized letter, terms and calculations.

“It was very confusing,” the now college freshman remembers.

One letter sticks out in her mind: The school had bolded about $76,000 in the upper-right corner of its offer. She remembers smiling really big and thinking, “I got a lot of money!” But when she looked a little closer, she saw that the big number included loans. Hensley was determined not to borrow. She took the letter and added up all the costs of attending, then subtracted the grants and scholarships and found she was still about $30,000 short.

Full story at npr.org

Education Department Memo Says DeVos Can Guide States on Arming Teachers

AN INTERNAL MEMO between high-ranking officials within the Department of Education says Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has the authority to tell states and school districts whether or not they can use federal funds to arm teachers – an authority she has repeatedly denied having.

The memo, presented Wednesday during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing, where the secretary was testifying on the administration’s education agenda, outlines allowable uses of federal funding for school safety measures and specifically assesses the potential use of funds for firearms and firearms training.

“The Department’s Office of the General Counsel has advised that the Secretary has discretion to interpret the broad language of the statute as to its permissiveness regarding the purchase of firearms and training on the use of firearms,” the memo reads.

Full story at US News

13 Parents, 1 Coach to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal

THIRTEEN PARENTS AND A former college tennis coach have agreed to plead guilty for their part in the college admissions cheating scandal that rocked higher education last month, federal authorities said Monday.

The group includes “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, whom authorities say paid a consultant to increase her daughter’s SAT score.

The parents each agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud, according to reports.

Several dozen people, including more than 30 parents, were charged in what is the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by federal authorities. Prosecutors say that some wealthy parents paid a consultant, Rick Singer, to rig their children’s standardized test scores while others bribed athletic coaches in a bid to guarantee their children spots at prestigious schools.

Full story at US News

Secretary DeVos Applauds Consensus on Higher Education Reforms

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos welcomed news today that the committee debating her proposed “Accreditation and Innovation” higher education reforms reached consensus on the text of the draft rules. The package of higher education regulations is aimed at rethinking higher education to improve outcomes and accountability for students, institutions and taxpayers. The draft regulations, which will next be published for public comment, come after months of negotiated rulemaking that engaged a wide variety of higher education stakeholders.

“Today’s historic action proves just how much can be accomplished on behalf of students when we put their needs above all else,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “Rethinking higher education required each person at the negotiating table to challenge assumptions and examine past practice in order to better serve students. I commend them for doing just that.

“The committee recognized that higher education has changed in many ways since the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, including in the use of innovative technologies. These changes will allow students to work at their own pace to earn a college degree, obtain credit for proving what they already know and earn a credential aligned with employers’ job requirements.  The new policies and procedures will also work against unnecessary credential inflation that drives up cost and reduces the opportunity for low-income students to prepare for certain jobs.

Full story at ed.gov

Study: Public Universities Prioritize Out-of-State, Wealthy, White Students

SOME PUBLIC universities disproportionately direct their recruiting efforts on out-of-state students from affluent, white communities and private schools, a new study shows, adding fuel to an increasingly fiery debate about inequity within higher education that colleges and universities have been trying to sidestep for years.

“In contrast to rhetoric from university leaders, our findings suggest strong socioeconomic and racial biases in the enrollment priorities of many public research universities,” researchers wrote.

“A small number of universities exhibit recruiting patterns broadly consistent with the historical mission of social mobility for meritorious state residents,” they said. “However, most universities concentrated recruiting visits in wealthy, out-of-state communities while also privileging affluent schools in in-state visits.”

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

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

‘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