2020 Dems Go Big on Public Education

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT and 2020 contender Joe Biden stood alongside American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Tuesday evening in Houston and outlined the first major policy platform of his campaign – supercharging the federal investment in the country’s public schools in order to level the playing for poor students, students of color and those with disabilities and boost teacher pay, among many other things.

“It’s past time we treat and compensate our educators as the professionals they are, and that we make a commitment that no child’s future will be determined by zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability,” he said.

Biden is in good company with his grand gesture to K-12 education.

Full story at US News

Teachers in Florida Can Carry a Firearm in School

FLORIDA GOV. RON DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law Wednesday a measure that will allow teachers to carry a firearm in school.

The contentious move comes one day after a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Douglas County, Colorado, where one student died and eight others were injured. According to Education Week’s school shooting tracker, it was the 12th school shooting this year that resulted in a death or injury.

As it stands, Florida law already requires schools to have at least one armed person on site, which is often a school law enforcement officer. The measure signed by DeSantis expands the eligibility of a so-called guardian program put in place a month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 students and staff were killed.

Full story at US News

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

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

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

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

How Schools Can Reduce Sexual Violence

No one ever shows up at brunch and says, “Oh my gosh, I was so sober last night!”

Risky behavior draws attention. As a result, people tend to assume that everyone else is doing it more than they really are.

But, over the last two decades, research on college campuses has shown that giving students the real facts about their peers reduces unsafe drinking. This approach is called positive social norms. It works because of a basic truth of human nature: People want to do what others are doing.

Now, that research is starting to be applied to a novel area: preventing sexual assault and harassment. From an unwanted comment on the street to groping in the hallways at school, surveys suggest more than half of young women and almost half of young men have experienced sexual harassment before age 18.

Full story at npr.org

How a Tax Regulation Could Cripple School Vouchers

THE IRS HAS PROPOSED limiting the federal deduction of contributions made to charitable organizations. The move is an attempt by the White House to target a handful of states – most of them wealthy and Democratic – seeking a way around the limits on state and local tax deductions included the new tax overhaul.

But in doing so, the Trump administration would undercut its own education agenda by crippling private school choice programs in dozens of states that rely on charitable donations.

The conflict was on display Monday at a public IRS hearing, where advocates of tax credit scholarships pleaded for a carve-out to avoid collateral damage, while critics of such programs applauded what they see as a long-overdue change to the way charitable deductions are administered.

Full story at US News