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EDUCATION POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Education Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with school choice, student loans, curriculum reform efforts, teacher unions, students with disabilities, affirmative action, minority students, vocational training and higher education. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Department of Education and state legislatures. Our Principal Analyst is Cindy Stansbury who can be reached at cindy@usresistnews.org.

Latest Education Posts

 

A Broken Student Loan System: Betrayal of the American Dream

Seth Frotman, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s Assistant Director and Student Loan Ombudsman, has resigned after sweeping changes were made in recent months by the Bureau’s new leadership headed by CFPB Director, Mick Mulvaney. Frotman addressed his resignation letter to Mulvaney, who was appointed by President Trump over deputy director Leandra English, stating that the Bureau abandoned the very consumers it was responsible for protecting by: (1) Undercutting enforcement of the law, (2) Undermining the Bureau’s independence, and (3) Shielding bad actors from scrutiny.

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Affirmative Action Challenged in Suit Against Harvard’s Admission Policies

An ongoing lawsuit alleging systematic discrimination against Asian-Americans applicants by Harvard, originally filed by Students For Fair Admissions (SSFA) in November 2014, has a trial date set for October this year. In the original complaint, SSFA claims that Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

read more

DeVos’ Strengthening of School-to-Prison Pipelines

Discriminatory policies that harm and deny students of color equal opportunities for quality instruction time at school violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs that receive federal financial assistance.

read more

Affirmative Action: Rescinding Obama-Era Policies

Trump administration is rescinding seven Obama-era policies which encouraged schools to look at race as one among many factors in admissions. The seven affirmative action policies are among 24 documents rescinded on the Department of Justice’s website. The DOE/DOJ claim that the documents advocate policy preferences beyond the requirements of the Constitution

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Teacher Walkouts Spreading Throughout Red States

Brief # 21 Education Summary Teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona have been participating in walkouts in an effort to raise salary increases for teachers and increase funding for their schools. These protests come in the wake of teacher walkouts in West Virginia...

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Trump Establishes Federal Commission on School Safety

Education Brief #22 Summary In a White House briefing statement issued on March 12, 2018, President Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety chaired by Education Secretary Betsey DeVos. The commission was established to address school safety and “a...

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NRA Propaganda: Sentry Program Using Federal Funds to Arm Teachers with Guns

NRA Propaganda: Sentry Program Using Federal Funds to Arm Teachers with Guns

Brief #27—Education

Policy Summary
Oklahoma, Texas, and other states have proposed using federal funds for states to train and arm school marshals. The proposal is called the “Sentry Program.” More than 90% of House Democrats endorsed a letter to Education Secretary Betsy Devos calling on her to reject the program. Democrat on the House Education Committee, Bobby Scott, stated that the plan “runs counter to Congressional intent, precedent, and common sense” as it would use federal Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG) under Title IV Part A to pay for firearms and train educators, reversing the federal policy prohibiting federal funds from arming teachers. The program also likely violates guidelines about the use of Title IV funding, which does allow funding to be used to quell violence but only for schools free of weapons. LEARN MORE

In May of this year, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey introduced the Sentry Program, claiming that school administrators will be trained by school safety training and compliance programs using the lead of design training program. Under the program, teachers are certified as “sentries” with an annual recertification process, undergoing mental and physical health evaluations. They must also have an updated concealed carry permit issued by their local sheriff. LEARN MORE

Analysis
Today, 25 states spend less on education, and 41 states spend less on higher education than before the 2008 recession. Diverting federal funds to arm schools rather than spending funds on educational materials is unlawful and likely violates federal law. Originally, the funds were used for low-income schools to support summer and after school programs, restorative justice programs, and mental health support. Now, Education Secretary Devos is attempting to use these funds as subsidies for the gun industry. Although in a statement released by Devos, she claimed of having “no intention of taking any action” regarding using funds to subsidize arming teachers, both the Trump administration and Devos have previously made comments on the benefit of having firearms in schools. President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, argued that the proposal not only leads to more serious mental health issues in children but also leads to a dangerous, false sense of security. Guns can easily be lost or accidently discharged under stressful circumstances in schools, leading to a higher likelihood of gun violence as well as fear among the student body and staff. The only parties benefiting from the program are NRA and gun manufacturers.

Resources

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Tina Lee and Sarah Barton. Contact: Tina@usresistnews.org 

Photo by Heather Mount

A Broken Student Loan System: Betrayal of the American Dream

A Broken Student Loan System: Betrayal of the American Dream

Brief #26—Education

Policy Summary
Seth Frotman, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s Assistant Director and Student Loan Ombudsman, has resigned after sweeping changes were made in recent months by the Bureau’s new leadership headed by CFPB Director, Mick Mulvaney. Frotman addressed his resignation letter to Mulvaney, who was appointed by President Trump over deputy director Leandra English, stating that the Bureau abandoned the very consumers it was responsible for protecting by: (1) Undercutting enforcement of the law, (2) Undermining the Bureau’s independence, and (3) Shielding bad actors from scrutiny. He accused the Bureau of failing to enforce laws that protect borrowers and suppressing reports illustrating that the largest banks were ripping off students and saddling them with legally dubious account fees. Frotman further stated that the Bureau repeatedly undermined and censored career staff members who were taking action to secure relief for consumers, undercutting the organization’s own independent authority to oversee the market and bending to political pressure instead. According to Frotman, it was clear that the new political appointees had the primary goal of protecting the Trump administration’s investment in special interests and serving “the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America” at the expense of student borrowers. Frotman’s deputy, Michael Pierce, also resigned on Monday. LEARN MORE

Last year, Navient (the nation’s largest student loan servicer) was involved in lawsuits filed by a federal regulator and two state attorneys general. According to the complaint, Navient has misled and misinformed its 12 million borrowers for years, charging students dubious fees and illegally cheating borrowers out of their rights to lower payments in order to drive up debt. There were routine oversight lapses adding up to systematic failures, similar to the mortgage servicing industry’s bungling of borrower accounts and property foreclosures during the 2008 recession. LEARN MORE

Mulvaney’s personal relationship with Navient remains dubious at best. Earlier this year, Mulvaney announced that Frotman’s office would be dismantled and folded into the financial education unit. The student loan office was created after the 2008 financial crisis and has reimbursed borrowers who suffered from illegal lending practices and servicing failures with $750 million. CFPB was also ending an effort to consider new rules for companies that collect student loan payments. Additionally, the Education Department further cut off information-sharing agreements with CFPB, accusing it of overstepping its authority of overseeing student loans.

Analysis

Today, 42 million student borrowers collectively owe $1.5 trillion dollars. Frotman’s resignation draws enormous attention to the sweeping changes in the Department of Education under the Trump administration. In Paying the Price, education scholar and professor Sara Goldrick-Rab describes the crisis facing millions of students as the “new economics of college.” Although a college degree has now become mandatory in order to access the middle class and to rise out of poverty, Goldrick-Rab points out how the U.S. has repeatedly failed to create a realistic financing system for students to obtain their degrees. In many cases, students straddle the medium where their family income is too high to qualify for federal student loans but too low to pay for the full costs of college tuition, forcing these students to take out private loans with high interest rates from banks instead. Just as the nation values a high school education for everyone, college education should be thought of as a collective responsibility in an increasingly educated workforce.

For-profit industries operate as voucher-driven models, allowing private providers to exploit students with less scrutiny and no public governance. Such providers often recruit students through mass marketing and the media; yet, rarely provide a quality education for students, most of whom lack equitable access to forms of payment other than loans and who are often low-income and/or students of color. Repaying loans is challenging enough without powerful financial servicers adding to the burden with their own incompetence and knowingly insidious practices. Furthermore, unlike other products, student loans are not typically underwritten based on the borrower’s ability to repay at loan origination. Because repayment is based on a quality education which leads to employment, there should be a process to ensure that for-profit programs are of sufficient quality that they do not burden students with enormous debt that cannot be repaid.

In a thorough 2018 study by Goldrick-Rab titled Still Hungry and Homeless in College, data revealed that 1 in 3 students at four year colleges and 40-50% of students at community colleges have gone hungry while enrolled at college. In the wealthiest country in the world, it is outrageous and nonsensical that our students are being forced to choose between receiving an education and their basic sustenance.

Resources

  • Center for Responsible Lending – A nonprofit, non-partisan organization that works to protect homeownership and family wealth by fighting predatory lending practices.
  • Young Invincibles – Research and advocacy organization focused on advancing economic opportunity for young adults
  • Chronicle of Higher Education – Leading source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators.
  • Inside Higher Ed – Leading digital media company serving the higher education space.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Tina Lee. Contact: Tina@usresistnews.org

Photo by Andre Hunter

Affirmative Action Challenged in Suit Against Harvard’s Admission Policies

Affirmative Action Challenged in Suit Against Harvard’s Admission Policies

Brief #25—Education

Read Part 1: The Problem of Reverse Discrimination Cases Against Whites and Affirmative Action Cases

Policy Summary

An ongoing lawsuit alleging systematic discrimination against Asian-Americans applicants by Harvard, originally filed by Students For Fair Admissions (SSFA) in November 2014, has a trial date set for October this year. In the original complaint, SSFA claims that Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After a failed attempt to dismantle affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, SFFA founder Edward Blum is leading the current lawsuit and has actively recruited Asian-American to be plaintiffs. Additionally, many right-wing organizations and political leaders expressed support of the goal to eliminate race-based admission policies.

In an analysis of more than 160,000 records, the plaintiffs contend that Harvard imposes an unlawful quota of “racial balancing” keeping numbers of Asian-American students artificially low while advancing less qualified White, Black, and Hispanic applicants. For instance, Asian-American applicants are rated lower than any other race on subjective traits like “courage, likability and kindness” significantly decreasing applicants’ chances despite the fact that such students scored higher on test scores, grades, and extracurricular activities. In 2013, Harvard’s own researchers found bias against Asian-American applicants in a series of internal reports that were never publicly released. The coalition further noted the failure of affirmative action policies to address the issue of poverty in secondary education, historically benefiting privileged groups of middle-class Black and Hispanic as well as international students over low-income, minority students.  LEARN MORE

John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), sharply cautioned that the strategy led by Edward Blum would overwhelmingly benefit white applicants above any group and stated that “Asian-Americans are not a wedge in this issue.” The organization recently filed a brief, on behalf of a diverse group of students including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in support of race-conscious admissions at Harvard. AAJC has strongly stated that this lawsuit is not about Asian-Americans but about “using Asian-Americans as cover for Edward Blum’s crusade to force every institution of higher education to ignore the reality of systemic racism and segregation that infects every aspect of our lives. Holistic race-conscious admissions is necessary to address that reality and ensure meaningful access and opportunity for all communities.” LEARN MORE

AAJC helped sponsor a 2016 national poll that found 64% of Asian-Americans favored efforts to ensure that people of all races and ethnicities could access higher education. Some students at Harvard have stated that their school has yet to reach the level of diversity necessary to fully realize its benefits and that any supposedly race-neutral alternative decreasing diversity would be devastating to the educational environment and racial climate at Harvard. However, students emphasized that their support of affirmative action does not necessarily mean that they believe Harvard is doing enough to truly increase the diversity of its student body through innovative means. LEARN MORE

Analysis

A study found that “eliminating African American and Latino applicants from the Harvard admissions pool only increases admissions chances of Asian American students by 1%, making it quite unlikely that rejected Asian American applicants would be admitted even under a system that does not consider race.” In fact, discrepancies are largely due to a white advantages – with white women being the greatest benefactors of affirmative action and hidden factors, such as legacies and “Z-list”, conferring advantages to VIP white and wealthy applicants. Affirmative action policies are only one step forward in higher education’s transformative efforts to promote equity and justice. U.S. educational institutions still have a long way to go in improving representation from many unseen and underrepresented groups, such as Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders as well as low-income students. Despite numerous university diversity sessions (few which actually present a challenge to normative worldviews), most students graduate with the same assumptions that they entered with: the widespread belief that dominance of certain groups in college, in leadership and among elite ranks is natural. Most students – not just white students – believe that advancement and opportunity is primarily based on merit, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. LEARN MORE

In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court upheld consideration of race in college admissions but banned racial quotas. In his opinion, Justice Powell Jr. cited Harvard’s program as a model stating that, if Harvard is to continue to offer a first-rate education, minority representation in the student body can no longer be ignored. Furthermore, the Supreme Court unambiguously held that consideration of race can be factored in admissions decisions but it cannot be the only factor. As established in Johnson v. California (2005), facially discriminatory laws based on race or national origin must undergo a “strict scrutiny” test, in which there must be a compelling governmental interest independent of the race classification and the categorization of race must be narrowly tailored to that particular interest. The Court has held that governmental interest is compelling in order to remedy the effects of intentional discrimination and to obtain a diverse student body in higher education.

AAJC President John Yang accurately assessed that an insidious background crusade by SFFA and right-wing organizations to eliminate affirmative action policies by pitting Asian Americans against other racial groups is a “classic divide-and-conquer strategy with echoes of colonial paternalism.” In The New Jim Crow, legal scholar Michelle Alexander describes a deeply embedded racial caste system in our society which has shaped U.S. policies, laws, and statutes. Our racial divide influences where we live, who we interact with, and how we are educated – with our educational institutions often reflecting and maintaining these same racial hierarchies. Yet, democratic education is based on challenging our basic assumptions and fostering critical thinking skills through exposure to novel ideas, perspectives, and life experiences profoundly different from our own. In the 1960-80s, mere rhetoric of diversity was not the goal of student activists who strongly pushed for ethnic studies departments, student centers and increased recruitment and retention efforts focused on racially minoritized students, faculty members and staff members. Prior generations of activists hoped to inspire institutional transformation through the presence of a critical mass of people of color. It seems profoundly necessary and advantageous to put together young individuals who are diverse on many dimensions – including one of the most fundamental aspects of identity – to prepare them for engaged citizenship and leadership roles, to break down harmful stereotypes, and to increase cross-cultural understanding and friendships in an increasingly pluralistic society. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Tina Lee. Contact: Tina@usresistnews.org

Photo by unsplash-logoNicole Honeywill

Devos Invests in the Pockets of For-Profit Colleges at the Expense of Defrauded Students

Devos Invests in the Pockets of For-Profit Colleges at the Expense of Defrauded Students

Brief #24—Education

Policy Summary
For-profit colleges are privately owned, post-secondary schools operated by businesses with the goal of maximizing their profits; most students are enrolled in two-year certificate programs. The schools focus on enrolling a stream of new students with little effort in improving educational programs. Unsurprisingly, most students drop out and are left with crushing student debt. Education Secretary Betsy Devos is proposing new DOE rules that would cut an estimated $13 billion in federal student loan relief for students defrauded by for-profit colleges. The changes eliminate the 2016 Borrower Defense rule, which provided student loan relief in a wide range of cases by the Obama administration after the collapse of ITT Tech and Corinthian College.

Since 2015, DOE has received more than 100,000 claims which are under review. The proposal will only apply to loans after July 1, 2019. Devos stated that DOE lays out clear rules which schools must follow in order to “avoid trouble but also stated that students are obliged to conduct their own research on for-profit schools because “postsecondary students are adults who can be reasonably expected to make informed decisions if they have access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.” Under the plan, students are eligible for loan relief only if they can prove that their school knowingly misled them with statements or actions that directly led them to take out loans or enroll at the school. Some committee members argued that the new proposal will prevent taxpayers from paying for unreasonable claims of fraud. LEARN MORE

DOE officials will also allow schools to defend themselves against claims of fraud because “schools deserve to defend themselves against accusations that could damage their reputations and revenue.” Such changes could strip students of their rights to recourse, making it next to impossible for students who bring claims to receive adequate relief. For instance, for-profit schools have forced students into arbitration agreements – a practice banned under the Obama administration due to the unequal bargaining power between students and schools. While the Obama administration granted full relief for borrowers, the current DOE announced that it will provide only partial relief for borrowers based on income. LEARN MORE

Analysis
Unlike the Borrower Defense rule, which allowed relief in many cases dealing with breach of contract issues, Devos requirement that students must prove that a school knowingly misled them places the burden of proof unreasonably on students who have little to no access to a school’s internal operations or materials that could potentially prove a school’s intent. Eliminating the Borrower Defense rule essentially allows predatory schools to further mislead and defraud students.

Furthermore, companies running alternative schools, such as Camelot Education, have been accused of perpetuating staff-on-student violence. An investigation by The Teacher Project found allegations of abuse in Camelot schools spanning 10 years and three states in Reading; Lancaster; Philadelphia; New Orleans; and Pensacola, Florida. Although students described prison-like conditions in these schools – where they have been taunted, beaten, and isolated in order to maintain obedience and control – no staff member faced discipline or criminal charges.

It is no coincidence that for-profit colleges are more likely to recruit low-income students and underrepresented minorities by sending circulars to housing projects and assuring the availability of loans. DOE’s statement regarding the need to protect students from predatory lenders while simultaneously utilizing a patronizing tone of personal responsibility telling its victimized students to walk a tight line of perfection is deeply disturbing. For-profit schools deceptively funnel their revenues into advertising and enrollment efforts rather than into quality education programs, ensuring that a steady stream of tuition dollars will flow into the pockets of greedy executives and shareholders. Research also shows that community colleges may provide a better education at lower costs but budget pressures often mean that they are unable to meet the demands for higher education. Students unable to get into these programs are left with no option but to attend for-profit schools; the alternative is no postsecondary education – not a particularly viable option in a global economy where having a college degree has become a bare necessity to survive.

Rather than trying to squeeze blood out of stones, perhaps the DOE should focus on tightening regulation at for-profit colleges and decreasing the costs of nonprofit public or private schools, especially for low-income families. Taxpayer investment in student aid should also follow scrutiny on whether students are able to complete their studies and earn enough to justify pay back of their loans. Investing in public education to uplift disadvantaged students rather than well-to-do executives is not such a bad idea considering that a well-educated populace is essential to acountry’s successful social and economic welfare. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources
Higher Ed for Higher Standards – Growing coalition of college presidents, trustees, chancellors, and state system leaders who believe aligned expectations and strong partnerships between K-12 and postsecondary leaders are critical to improving student success.
American Council on Education (ACE) – ACE is the nation’s most visible and influential higher education association, representing presidents of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions, which include two- and four-year colleges, private and public universities, and nonprofit and for-profit entities. ACE convenes representatives from all sectors to collectively tackle the toughest higher education challenges, with a focus on improving access and preparing every student to succeed.American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) A nonprofit organization and leading proponent for community colleges, representing 1,200 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions and more than 13 million students, as well as a growing number of international members.
Association of American Universities (AAU) A nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization of 62 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada. AAU focuses on issues important to research-intensive universities, such as funding for research, research policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Tina Lee. Contact:Tina@usresistnews.org

Photo By: Nathan Dumlao

DeVos’ Strengthening of School-to-Prison Pipelines

DeVos’ Strengthening of School-to-Prison Pipelines

Brief #23—Education

Policy Summary
Discriminatory policies that harm and deny students of color equal opportunities for quality instruction time at school violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs that receive federal financial assistance. According to Civil Rights Data Collection, students of color across the U.S. are disproportionately suspended and expelled for the most minor or subjective offenses, such as “looking disrespectful” or “disrupting class” by burping. Innocuous behaviors like these are often labeled as hostile offenses, placing students at higher risk for suspension and gradually pushing them out of the school system.

The Department of Education (DOE) under Betsy DeVos has been swiftly closing more than 1,200 cases of civil rights violations in school districts and universities across the country. While the 12 regional bureaus under Obama required approval from headquarters to settle or dismiss a case, DeVos has essentially de-centralized the decision-making process and scaled back “compliance review” – a type of civil rights investigation that looks at issues through a systemic lens often prompted by data, news reports or direct complaints by students and parents. While 51% of cases that took more than 180 days culminated in civil rights violations or corrective changes under the Obama administration, that rate has now dropped to 35%. For instance, the DOE closed a 2015 Desoto County School District case regarding the school’s discriminatory disciplinary practices which used corporal punishment on 852 students – more than half of whom were Black. DOE claimed that the Title VI complaint was closed due to insufficient evidence. However, there was ongoing investigation and data revealing that Black students in the county accounted for 55% of suspensions/expulsions and over 60% of referrals to law enforcement by the schools, despite constituting only 35% of district enrollment.

Furthermore, complaints regarding students with limited English language proficiency that were previously upheld under the Obama administration dropped from 70% to 52%; students with disabilities – from 45% to 34%; sexual harassment/violence – from 41% to 31%; racial harassment – from 31% to 21%. Under DeVos, a case processing manual has given investigators greater discretion to dismiss complaints; for example, complaints can be dismissed if they appear to hold “unreasonable” burden. DeVos has also barred complainants from appealing the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) decisions and plans to shrink its staff from 569 to 529, according to its 2019 budget proposal. Under federal law, OCR is responsible for ensuring equal access to education and investigating allegations of discrimination in schools and colleges. Families and students can file complaints with OCR. If violations are substantiated, OCR negotiates a settlement or prescribes corrective changes, which it sometimes oversees. It receives more than 10,000 complaints annually and has a target of resolving 80% of them within six months. LEARN MORE

Fortunately, ProPublica has been analyzing data on more than 40,000 civil rights cases and has made accessible the status of all pending and prior cases within the last three years on its website. To date, it has added 220 cases (most were resolved in a two-week period in December 2017) omitted from the DOE’s recent data. Search results are organized by the type of discrimination issue and provide general details on the status of each complaint. The data is retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act on DOE’s website. LEARN MORE

Analysis
Elizabeth Hill, a DOE spokeswoman, said that the new DeVos approach has “restored the role of OCR investigators as neutral fact-finders,” providing closure for both students and institutions. However, the rapid changes and rising dismissal of complaints without full and rigorous investigations reveal the current DOE’s changing priorities. While OCR previously made systematic and time-consuming investigations under Obama, the Trump administration is concentrating solely on individual complaints that can be quickly resolved and attempting to clear a backlog of potentially expansive cases. This strategy is a large shift away from compliance reviews and the exploration of systemic issues rooted in state-sanctioned segregation that marked schools, such as DeSoto County, for decades after Brown v. Board of Education. The unfortunate reality is that massive resistance strategies to past federal orders of school integration remain today. We see this in the fact that, in DeSoto County, there has never been a Black superintendent or member of the elected school board although Black students constitute over a third of the school district’s population.

School codes of discipline that include zero tolerance policies and vague, subjective, and discretionary language drive these discipline disparities. The lack of clarity and the high rates of disparities between groups suggest that typical, developmental behaviors of Black students are pre-emptively defined as violations while similar behaviors by White students are not. In a society so shaped by race and gender, no one is immune to experiencing the biases of our times. Educators are people, and our perceptions of differences can sometimes be based on involuntary ideas that derive from latent stereotypes about race, gender, sexuality, and other aspects of identity. Unlearning ingrained societal biases and negative perceptions about other groups means a commitment to a lifelong learning process.

Research shows that harsh and exclusionary discipline foster school-to-prison pipelines by increasing the risk that students will fall behind in academics, drop out or become involved in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems. School pushout is particularly gendered and racialized for young Black girls. The stereotype of Black children as unruly, incorrigible or inherently ungovernable has affected society’s conscious and unconscious responses to Black girls who are almost four times more likely to be incarcerated than White girls, and the rate is dangerously increasing today. Once pushed out, Black girls are the most vulnerable to become victims of child sex trafficking. Students with disabilities and other marginalized groups are also disciplined severely at the intersection of their identities (e.g. race and disability). To say the least, the collateral consequences are devastating for affected students, and they ultimately make us less safe and more inequitable as a society.

Engagement Resources

  • National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls – A national coalition of women and girls connecting their criminal justice transformation work and sharing their expertise as directly affected individuals to create meaningful change in public opinion and policy making (#FreeHer).
  • Educators for Justice – White leaders committed to dismantling systems of oppression in schools through reading groups, convenings, personal empowerment, and collective action.
  • Antiracist White Educators Group – Affinity group for white educators seeking a safe space to examine and discuss race and whiteness; to critically reflect on their racial identities, understandings and actions around race; and to support each other in confronting and working to undo racism in our schools, in our lives and the larger world.
  • NAACP School to Prison Pipeline – NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) partners with community organizations to work on groundbreaking programs and advocacy efforts aimed at returning the emphasis to education instead of exclusion and incarceration.
  • ACLU Racial Justice Program – ACLU’s education work centers on disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline through strategic litigation and advocacy campaigns.
  • The National Coalition on School Diversity – Network of national civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to increase support for government initiatives that promote diversity in schools.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Tina Lee. Contact: Tina@usresistnews.org

Affirmative Action: Rescinding Obama-Era Policies

Affirmative Action: Rescinding Obama-Era Policies

Brief #22—Education

Policy Summary
Trump administration is rescinding seven Obama-era policies which encouraged schools to look at race as one among many factors in admissions. The seven affirmative action policies are among 24 documents rescinded on the Department of Justice’s website. The DOE/DOJ claim that the documents advocate policy preferences beyond the requirements of the Constitution, and Title IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Trump administration reposted a previously withdrawn George W. Bush administration document, encouraging the use of race-neutral methods for assigning students to elementary and secondary schools. The race-neutral policy is based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, which held that a race-conscious approach is inconsistent with Title VI which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin by school districts. The Court held that schools must make a good-faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives before implementing a race-conscious approach in accordance with the “strict scrutiny” standard. To be constitutional, a program must look at each applicant as an individual, and not simply as a racial group. However, because socioeconomic status is not subject to a “strict scrutiny” standard, under a race-neutral approach, schools may use socioeconomic status to determine admissions.

A senior Justice Department official denied that these decisions were rolling back protections for students of color but rather hewing the department closer to the letter of the law. In Tuesday’s joint letter issued by the Departments of Education and Justice, officials wrote that “protections from discrimination on the basis of race remain in place.” Officials replaced Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools. In the document, the Departments recognized the compelling interests that K-12 schools have in obtaining benefits from achieving a diverse student body and avoiding racial isolation in an increasingly multicultural world. Consistent with the principles articulated in Supreme Court opinions, the guidance lays out a strategic plan for schools to meet these compelling interests, and when it is more practical to use a race-conscious approach when a race-neutral approach becomes unworkable in achieving a diversity student body. LEARN MORE

Analysis
Previous cases reveals how a race-neutral/colorblind approach to the letter of the law has systematically denied equal protection for people of color. As established in Johnson v. California (2005), facially discriminatory laws based on race or national origin must pass a “strict scrutiny” standard, in which there must be a compelling governmental interest independent of the racial classification and the use of race must be narrowly tailored to that particular interest. The Supreme Court has held that governmental interest is compelling to remedy the effects of intentional discrimination and to obtain a diverse student body in higher education.

Today, schools like University of Michigan want more freedom to consider race and believe that race should be considered among many factors during admissions. This perspective is aligned with the the Supreme Court’s race-conscious approach in Brown v. Board of Education. In Brown, the Court ruled that there was no constitutional violation from using race and discouraged a colorblind approach. During this period, the Court had trouble guiding states on how to remedy inequalities that were fundamentally ingrained in the public consciousness and culture. Although Brown eliminated separate but equal, states remained resistant to desegregation policies even until the 1990s. For instance, Dowell (1991) held that dissolution of the desegregation decree was permissible because federal supervision was not intended to last forever. Civil Rights cases later established that policies “under color of law” (i.e. state’s unwritten policies or customs) were unconstitutional. In other words, although private discrimination by individuals was not unconstitutional because individuals were not considered state actors, it did not mean that such discrimination was constitutionally protected. Because the states’ role is to ensure the equality of civil rights, states have an affirmative obligation to push back on private discrimination when it does arise.

The ratification of the 14th Amendment during the Reconstruction era was a response to the vestiges of slavery – the denial of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Justice Harlan stated that the purpose of the 13th Amendment was to eviscerate all the vestiges of slavery – to not only make former slaves U.S. citizens in form but also in substance through equal participation in civil society. Last year, the Trump administration’s decision to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division towards suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants not only lacks historical basis but only makes sense if whites were once an enslaved group systematically denied their fundamental rights by the federal government. Furthermore, this perspective ignores the reality that the greatest benefactors of affirmative action have historically been white women.

Louis D. Brandeis Center, a human rights organization that champions Jewish causes, filed an amicus brief in 2012, arguing that “race conscious admission standards are unfair to individuals, and unhealthy for society at large.” On the contrary, using a colorblind approach when we are still struggling today to provide equal participation to all citizens and debating civil rights’ extension over public education will only move us further back to the vestiges of slavery. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

  • Chiefs for Change – An education reform nonprofit aimed at facilitating change through policy and advocacy, building a unique community of practice, and cultivating a pipeline of diverse education leaders.
  • Poverty and Race Research Action Council –The Council is a civil rights policy organization aimed at helping to connect advocates with social scientists working on race and poverty issues, and to promote a research-based advocacy strategy on structural inequality issues.
  • The National Coalition on School Diversity – The Coalition is a network of national civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to increase support for government initiatives that promote diversity in schools.

This Brief was prepared by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Tina R Lee: Contact tina@usresistnews.org

Photo by Joanna Kosinska

Teacher Walkouts Spreading Throughout Red States

Brief # 21 Education

Summary

Teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona have been participating in walkouts in an effort to raise salary increases for teachers and increase funding for their schools. These protests come in the wake of teacher walkouts in West Virginia after state legislature approved a 5% raise after nine days of the teacher led movement.

In Oklahoma teachers are asking for a $10,000 raise, a $5,000 raise for support staff and $200 million over three years for funding of schools. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has since signed a bill to fund a $6,000 raise for teachers and $1,250 raise for support staff. The same bill provides only $33 million for textbooks as opposed to the $200 million over three years.

In Kentucky, teachers are protesting education budget cuts, and a change in retirement plans for new teachers that would eliminate pension plans and create a retirement plan similar to a 401(k) which is used in the private sector. The new bill would also limit the amount of sick days teachers are allowed to put towards their retirement.

In Arizona teachers want a 20% raise to increase wages to those of neighboring states like Colorado and New Mexico, and they want increased school funding. They’re asking that the state of Arizona implements no new tax cuts until the per-pupil spending in state matches the national average.

Analysis

West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona are red states, where Republican legislators have consistently passed tax cuts that benefit the businesses and cut funding for public services. These budget cuts have largely impacted classrooms and the students in them. A picture on Facebook posted by an Oklahoma art teacher, Laurissa Kovacs, has gone viral. In the post she says how she has up to 32 students in some of her classes and not enough chairs for all her students to sit in. The chairs they do have are broken and the bottoms are falling out from under kids. Another viral post, a tweet by a parent of an Oklahoma Public School student, shows an image of a textbook that still lists George W. Bush as the current president of the United States.

According to The 74, a nonprofit news site that covers education in the U.S., “When adjusted for inflation, education spending in 29 states (including Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona) was less in 2015 than it was in 2008.”

In light of the walkouts and the response from some legislators, teachers are now planning to run for local offices. One example is Cyndi Ralston, who is running to unseat Republican Representative Kevin McDugle. McDugle has said of the teacher walkouts, “I’m not voting for another stinking measure when they are acting the way they are acting.” In response Ralston announced her campaign by saying, “When my colleagues and I have visited our Republican representatives and senators, we have been brushed off, if not outright lied to. Republican members of the legislature have made it crystal clear that they do not believe they work for us, that our concerns do not matter. . . If Kevin McDugle won’t fight for teachers and students, then I will. If Kevin McDugle won’t back parents over oil companies, I will.” In Kentucky, 40 teachers or other educators have filed to run for office, and Arizona has also seen an increase in educators file to run for office.

Teacher walkouts are expected to continue in the following week in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona.

Engagement Resources

Research—Learn how much your state spends per-pupil and what the average teacher salary is in each state.

Contact your elected officials—Let them know that teacher wages and education spending are important issues to you.

 This brief was compiled by Rebecca Leclerc. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact, rebecca@usresistnews.org.

 

Trump Establishes Federal Commission on School Safety

Education Brief #22

Summary

In a White House briefing statement issued on March 12, 2018, President Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety chaired by Education Secretary Betsey DeVos. The commission was established to address school safety and “a culture of violence”. According to the White House briefing the committee, among other issues, will address:

  • Best practices for school buildings and campus security from Federal Government components, including the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and also from other State, local, and private sector sources.
  • A plan for integration and coordination of Federal resources focused on prevention and mitigation of active shooter incidents at schools.
  • Opportunities to improve access to mental health treatment, including through efforts that raise awareness about mental illness and the effectiveness of treatment, reduce barriers to the recruitment of mental health professionals, and provide training related to violence prevention.
  • Best practices for school-based threat assessment and violence prevention strategies.
  • Existing entertainment rating systems and youth consumption of violent entertainment.
  • Strategies to advance the science and practice of character development in youth and a culture of connectedness.
  • Effects of press coverage of mass shootings.

According to a press-release by the Department of Education, released nine days after the White House briefing, the members of the committee are: Secretary DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

The first meeting of the Commission took place on March 28, 2018. According to another press release by the Department of Education they discussed “staffing, the timeline for future meetings with stakeholders, coordination with State and local partners, the scope of the Commission’s work and how best to incorporate stakeholder input on the issue areas President Donald Trump directed the Commission to study.”

Analysis

Many key stakeholders in the public education community feel that the Commission is leaving out the voices of students, parents, and educators. After the first meeting of the Commission the National Education Association President, Lily Eskelsen García, issued a press release explaining the frustrations. “This commission is meeting just days after hundreds of thousands of students held marches in Washington and across the country to demand meaningful action to prevent gun violence in our schools and communities. Yet, today’s meeting purposefully excludes the voices of students, educators and parents . . . Given the previous actions of DeVos, we’re not surprised that today’s meeting is closed to the media and happening away from the eyes of the public. The commission’s clear purpose is to push an agenda that is focused on a dangerous and misguided plan to put more guns in schools by arming teachers and other school personnel.”

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat representing Washington, and the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, also expressed concerns about the Commission in a statement she released after meeting with DeVos about the Commission. In her statement she specifically called out the NRA’s potential involvement in the Commission. “While Secretary DeVos said she had no interest in meeting with the NRA as a part of this process, she couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me how the NRA would be allowed to influence the commission’s recommendations, or even that they wouldn’t have veto power. She wouldn’t agree to put survivors of gun violence, families of victims, or experts on preventing gun violence on the commission — in fact, she told me that the only people on the commission would be federal officials.”

In response to the concern that there are no students, parents or educators on the committee, DeVos has said, “This is an urgent matter. We want to ensure sure that we are able to move and operate as quickly as possible, without getting bogged down in bureaucracy.”

The committee has not met again and there isn’t a public timeline of when the next meeting will be held.

Engagement Resources

Email the Commission—Let them know your concerns about school safety directly

Take action with the National Education Association—Tell Congress to pass common-sense gun violence laws

Contact your elected officials—Let them know that you want students and educators to have a voice in this process

This brief was compiled by Rebecca Leclerc. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact, rebecca@usresistnews.org.

 

Department of Education Releases Notice to States: Stop Regulating Student Loan Servicers

March 11, 2018

Summary

On Friday, March 9, the U.S. Department of Education released a notice to stop states from regulating federal student loan servicers. The notice states, “Recently, several States have enacted regulatory regimes or applied existing State consumer protection statutes that undermine these goals by imposing new regulatory requirements on the Department’s Direct Loan servicers, including State licensure to service Federal student loans.” The notice also states that the federal government is the only entity that has the authority to provide oversight to their contractors.

The notice specifically names a Massachusetts lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Maura Healey, against the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, commonly known as FedLoan Servicing, as an example of states overstepping federal authority. The federal government intervened on behalf of the loan servicer in this case although it is still ongoing.

Other states that have implemented their own regulations include California, Connecticut and the District of Columbia; they all require federal student loan servicers to obtain a license to operate in the state, meaning the state’s local agencies have the authority to monitor and investigate the loan servicers. New York, New Jersey, and Illinois are in the process of implementing similar practices. 

Analysis

The Department of Education’s federal student loan servicers handle roughly $1 trillion in student loan debt. Between September of 2016 and August of 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received 12,900 complaints about these student loans; over 9,000 of these complaints were directly related to loan servicer issues. These complaints are why states have been implementing their own regulations to monitor federal student loan servicers.

In October of 2017, 25 state attorneys general sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defending their right to protect their residents from the “fraudulent and abusive practices” of student loan servicers. The letter signed by Democrat and Republican attorneys general alike states, “State enforcement agencies have long been at the frontlines in protecting their citizens from fraud, deceptive conduct; and unfair business practices, including by financial service companies, debt collectors, and others. Indeed, such actions reflect fundamental states’ rights and fall squarely within the historic police powers reserved to the states.”

In response to the Department of Education’s new notice, many of the attorney generals that signed the letter spoke out against the notice. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a tweet addressed to Betsy DeVos, “Betsy Devos, with today’s announcement, is attempting to exempt private contractors that service federal student loans from complying with state law. This is suspicious, unprecedented & most importantly, without any legal basis under federal law.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also tweeted about the new notice. “Secretary DeVos can write as many love letters to the student loan industry as she wants, we will not shut down our investigations or stand by while these companies rip off students and families.”

The National Consumer Law Center also released a press release in response to the new notice.  In the press release Persis Yu, a staff attorney and director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, said, “Servicers and collectors who mistreat student loan borrowers and steer them into inappropriate payment plans should not be above the law. . . States have a critical role to play in protecting student loan borrowers. With the Education Department inappropriately siding with servicers over borrowers, the role of states is now more critical than ever.”

Meanwhile, organizations representing student loan servicers, are pleased with the contents of the notice. The Student Loan Servicing Alliance, a non-profit, membership organization of student loan servicers and software providers in the Federal Family Education Loan Program and Federal Direct Loan Program, also released a press release in response to the notice. In the release they say, “The Department’s guidance is not just good law, it is good policy. Clear, uniform student loan servicing guidance from the federal government will help borrowers avoid the frustrations of an inconsistent patchwork of policies from individual states.”

There is currently no law that explicitly states the Department of Education has the authority to stop states from regulating student loan servicers. This notice will likely go to the courts to determine who has legal authority to regulate federal student loan servicers. 

Engagement Resources

  • National Consumer Law Center—A nonprofit that works with other nonprofits, legal services organizations, private attorneys, policymakers, and federal and state government and courts to stop exploitative practices.
  • Student Debt Crisis—A nonprofit dedicated to reforming student debt and higher education loan policies.

This brief was compiled by Rebecca Leclerc. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact, rebecca@usresistnews.org.


 

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