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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

 

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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Increase in Racial Harassment Complaints to the Department of Education

The civil rights division of the US Department of Education has seen a substantial increase in the number of racial harassment complaints they’ve received during 2017. Over the last nine years the Department’s civil rights division has never seen more than 600 racial harassment complaints in a year, until 2017 when 675 were filed. This is….

read more

Department of Education Prepares to Pilot FSA Payment Card Program

The Department of Education released a Pre-Solicitation Notice in January that gives details on a new payment card program for federal student loan excess fund disbursements. Starting this spring a pilot program with approximately 100,000 students will test this new system. Under the pilot program, federal student aid (FSA) would…

read more

PROSPER Act Passes Committee, Under Review in the House

Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, introduced the Higher Education Act reauthorization legislation known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and…

read more

DeVos Rescinds Special Education Guidances

Stating that the move would in no way impact the services currently received by disabled students, DeVos rescinded 72 special education guidance documents that her department referred to as “outdated, unnecessary or ineffective.” Many of the documents, including those titled “Implementing Community-based Educational Programs…

read more

DeVos Signals Change in Sexual Assault Policies

Signaling that she will be revising the previous administration’s sexual assault policies, Education Sect. Betsy DeVos has left the public wondering how the Trump Administration will interpret the protections entitled by Title IX, the 1972 civil rights policy which among other things, protects victims of sexual violence at…

read more

Student Protections from For-Profit Universities Postponed

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has postponed the implementation of two Obama era guidances aimed at protecting students from predatory for-profit colleges. The rules that were set to go into effect on July 1, called the “borrower defense to repayment” and “gainful employment” regulations, are stricter versions of protections…

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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 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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Increase in Racial Harassment Complaints to the Department of Education

March 4, 2018 

Summary

The civil rights division of the US Department of Education has seen a substantial increase in the number of racial harassment complaints they’ve received during 2017. Over the last nine years the Department’s civil rights division has never seen more than 600 racial harassment complaints in a year, until 2017 when 675 were filed. This is an almost 25% increase over 2016 and is the biggest climb in reported racial harassments since 2009. The data was released after a Huffington Post inquiry. This new data comes at a time when the Department of Education has announced they will be scaling back investigations into civil rights violations in public schools and universities. 

Analysis

A Southern Poverty Law Center report released in November of 2016 after the presidential election, surveyed over 10,000 teachers, school counselors and administrators on the impact the election had on students. The study reported that 8 in 10 respondents saw heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students. It was also reported that 4 in 10 respondents heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.

In another report, titled the Year in Hate and Extremism, released by the Southern Poverty Law Center on February 21, 2018, a rise in black nationalist hate groups was reported. In 2016 there was 183 chapters of black nationalist hate groups growing to 233 chapters in 2017. They also saw neo-Nazi groups grow from 99 groups in 2016 to 121 in 2017. As Catherine Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights told the Huffington Post, “Our schools are places that encapsulate and reflect the national climate as well. It is distressingly unsurprising that there might be an uptick in racial harassment complaints coming to OCR.” 

Engagement Resources

  • Southern Poverty Law Center—A nonprofit that fights hate and bigotry, and seeks justice for the most vulnerable members of society.
  • ACLU—A nonprofit that works to preserve and extend constitutionally guaranteed rights to people that have historically been denied these rights because of their race.
  • YWCA—A nonprofit organization that works to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

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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Department of Education Prepares to Pilot FSA Payment Card Program

February 8, 2018

Summary

The Department of Education released a Pre-Solicitation Notice in January that gives details on a new payment card program for federal student loan excess fund disbursements. Starting this spring a pilot program with approximately 100,000 students will test this new system. Under the pilot program, federal student aid (FSA) would be directly disbursed to the college or university, as it is now, but instead of student receiving their refunds via direct deposit or check, the funds would be placed onto the FSA Payment Card. A. Wayne Johnson, the former Chief Operation Officer of Federal Student Aid, said the payment cards would give the government control over “when and where and how much” federal loan money was spent. “It will have real-time coaching for people in terms of, ‘you’re about to spend this money on this particular matter — it’s going to have this effect on your student loans.’”

The FSA cards are part of Education Secretary Betsey DeVos’ plan to modernize and streamline the student financial aid system. FSA serves 40 million people, has more than $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans, and processes 50 million disbursements that total more than $125 billion. The idea behind the FSA prepaid card is to offer a cost-efficient way to give students access to a bank-like product. Employers and family members would also be able to load money onto the card. 

Analysis

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote a letter to then COO of Federal Student Aid, A. Wayne Johnson,  asking 19 questions about the FSA Payment Cards. They raised concerns about the program stating, “While we support efforts to improve the financial aid distribution process, we have serious concerns about your proposal given the poor track record of such cards in the past. History shows that in the absence of strict oversight and safeguards, these card programs can leave students and taxpayers vulnerable to exploitation.” In 2012 the U.S. Public Interest Research Group released a report showing that financial institutions that issued student IDs or prepaid cards to students through contracts with colleges were taking advantage of their access to student data. The report found that after a few years of aggressive marketing to the students using the prepaid cards and student IDs 70-80% of students were using their financial services. The cards also had per-swipe fees, inactivity fees, overdraft fees, ATM fees, and fees to reload the cards which means students were paying fees to access their financial aid. The colleges received monetary benefits from these institutions based on students using campus debit and prepaid cards.

In 2015, the Department of Education released new regulations to protect students from being exploited by campus debit and prepaid card programs. These regulations required that education institutions give students choices about how to receive their financial aid, ensured that students were not charged excessive fees when accessing payments of their federal student aid, and prohibited schools from requiring students or parents from open specific accounts to access their federal financial aid. The regulations also limited the sharing of student information and data with third-party servicers. With the new FSA payment cards, the financial services companies would own student data including spending patterns.

There is concern that similar predatory behavior from financial institutions could exploit students like they did prior to the 2015 regulations. Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center said of the new program and pre-solicitation notice that, “It could be that there are companies that would find this attractive, not so much for the card itself but for the opportunity to pitch other products or try to develop brand loyalty from customers.”

Engagement Resources

  • Student Debt Crisis—A nonprofit dedicated to reforming student debt and higher education loan policies.
  • 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.
  • Inside Higher ED—A leading digital media company serving the higher education space that prides itself on speaking as an independent voice.

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.


 

PROSPER Act Passes Committee, Under Review in the House

February 5, 2018

Summary

Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, introduced the Higher Education Act reauthorization legislation known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act or the PROSPER Act. It passed out of committee on a party line vote of 23 to 17 in December and is currently under review in the House. The timing of the PROSPER Act comes as the Higher Education Act, first passed in 1965, is up for renewal. The bill addresses a number of higher education issues including financial aid, religious freedom of institutions, Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), protections for sexual assault survivors, and regulations of for-profit colleges.

The PROSPER Act introduces a new income-based repayment plan for student loans to replace the current PAYE and REPAYE plans. The new plan increases the percentage a borrower must pay of their discretionary adjusted gross income from 10% to 15%. For borrowers on an income-based repayment plan, the PROSPER Act removes loan forgiveness after 20-25 years of repayment. The bill also cuts back on the amount of federal loans graduate students can take, and while it does expand funding for the work study program, it eliminates graduate students from the program. The bill would also eliminate Federal Direct Loans which are low-interest loans for students and parents, and replace all federal loans with Federal ONE Loans, a loan that would be limited to a standard 10-year repayment, barring all future loan borrows from qualifying for Public Student Loan Forgiveness under the current requirements. Under the PROSPER Act regulations for for-profit colleges would also change. The PROSPER Act would remove the 90/10 rule, which currently states that for-profit colleges can’t receive more than 90% of its revenue from Title IV federal financial aid. The gainful employment rule is supposed to incentivize for-profit colleges to remain competitive with non-profit institutions. The idea is that if they are offering high-quality education they will not only be funded by federal money, but also that students will see the value in paying for the programs out of their own pockets.

The PROSPER Act would also eliminate the gainful employment rule for for-profit colleges. This rule sets a minimum debt-to-income ratio for graduates of for-profit colleges, and if the college falls below this minimum they lose all federal funding.

The PROSPER Act also allows for discrimination of LGBTQ students at religious colleges and universities. The government would not be allowed to take action against colleges for policies related to their religious mission, including those that forbid “homosexual behavior”. In some cases, colleges enforcing discriminatory policies related to their religious mission could lose accreditation, but under the PROSPER Act they would be able to appeal to the education secretary to maintain their eligibility. The bill would also change the regulations for how colleges and universities handle claims of sexual harassment and assault. Under the PROSPER Act schools could indefinitely suspend investigations into sexual harassment and assault claims if the claims are also being investigated by law enforcement. This means colleges don’t need to support students with protective measures such as no-contact orders, or changing campus living situations, as is common practice when colleges conduct their own investigation.

Analysis

The PROSPER Act seems aimed at limiting access to higher education for low-income students and allowing for discriminatory practices against LGBTQ students. The Association of American Universities raised concerns about the effect the PROSPER Act would have on the affordability of higher education for millions of students, “As drafted, the House plan is seriously flawed. It seeks to eliminate subsidized loans, on which nearly six million undergraduate students depend each year . . . Perhaps most alarming, this plan would get rid of student loan programs that put graduate and professional studies within reach for many, conflicting with our country’s long-term interest of producing highly-skilled and educated talent, particularly in areas of national need.”

The National Consumer Law Center issued a letter to members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce raising concerns about the effect the PROSPER Act would have on low-income students and their families, “HB 4508, would make it more expensive for low-income students to get a higher education while simultaneously eliminating the programs that make student loan repayment for low-income students possible. Low-income students would bear the brunt of the changes to federal aid. It would also demolish safeguards that prevent low-quality schools from using abusive and predatory tactics to line their pockets with taxpayer dollars at the expense of students who are working to build a better life for their families.”

The Human Rights Campaign released a statement that raised numerous concerns about what the bill would mean for LGBTQ students and sexual assault survivors. In regards to cases of sexual harassment and assault, “the PROSPER Act would allow schools to choose what standard of evidence they use, and many could use a strict standard that makes it harder for survivors to get justice, tipping the scales in favor of rapists. It also contains a provision that would allow schools to considerably delay investigations into a case of sexual assault if there is also a separate law enforcement investigation. Meanwhile, the sexual assault survivor could be forced to continue interactions with their abusers in their dorms or classes.” As for the effect the PROSPER Act would have on LGBTQ students, “[the bill] could undermine federal, state, and local non-discrimination protections by allowing colleges and universities to ignore these non-discrimination laws simply because they have a religious mission.”

Other organizations opposed to the PROSPER Act due to the implications it will have on affordability and access to higher education include the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, The Education Trust, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities. While the PROSPER Act is expected to pass in the House, it is expected that the bill will be more difficult to pass in the Senate.

Engagement Resources

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.


 

DeVos Rescinds Special Education Guidances

Policy Change
Announced on October 2, 2017 

Summary

Stating that the move would in no way impact the services currently received by disabled students, DeVos rescinded 72 special education guidance documents that her department referred to as “outdated, unnecessary or ineffective.” Many of the documents, including those titled “Implementing Community-based Educational Programs for Students with Disabilities, “ and“Procedural Safeguards and Due Process Procedures for Parents and Children with Disabilities,” clarified and explained the parameters of the  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act. LEARN MORE 

Analysis

While it may be true that the removal of these documents has no real policy implications, some remain wary. Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, explained that many of these memos focused on “critical clarifications of the regulations required to meet the needs of students with disabilities.” During her initial confirmation hearings, it was revealed that DeVos wasn’t even aware that IDEA, the act that many of these rescinded documents explain, was federal law, causing many to view this current move to rescind many explanatory documents as rushed or not well thought out. Despite the confusion around what the decision actually means, many democrats have still begun stepping forward to reaffirm their support for the country’s disabled students. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) expressed her support via tweet stating, “This administration’s campaign against students with disabilities continues. We should be doing more, not less, to help them.”  LEARN MORE 

Engagement Resources

  • National Center for Learning Disabilities -Working to create a society in which every person has the academic, social and emotional skills needed to succeed, the NCLD works to transform schools and advocate for equal rights for students and adults with learning and attention issues.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America– Support the LDA, the association that led the push for passage of the first federal legislation mandating a free, appropriate, public education for students with disabilities
  • ACLU– An organization who works for an America free of discrimination against people with disabilities, come explore the many ways to support the ACLU.

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


 

DeVos Signals Change in Sexual Assault Policies

Education Policy Shift
Announced on July 13, 2017 

Policy Summary

Signaling that she will be revising the previous administration’s sexual assault policies, Education Sect. Betsy DeVos has left the public wondering how the Trump Administration will interpret the protections entitled by Title IX, the 1972 civil rights policy which among other things, protects victims of sexual violence at colleges and universities. In 2011 President Barak Obama issued additional guidances strengthening the protections of policy which included the loss of federal funding for colleges and universities who do not take a tough stance on rape. In addition, he asked that colleges adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard—essentially a lower bar for evidence than the “clear and convincing” standard that many schools had previously required. Prior to her announcement, three groups met with DeVos to advise her on the issue— one meeting was with sexual assault survivors, one with college university officials and one with members of men’s rights groups. LEARN MORE

Analysis

One in five women and LGBTQ students are sexually assaulted during their time in school. The Obama administration’s guidances, while not perfect, were aimed at forcefully addressing the issue. Based upon the flippant manner in which her staff has addressed the issue thus far, many fear the DeVos’s potential “alterations” would make the process of reporting a sexual assault more of a burden for the victim. In the past months, DeVos has already had to apologize for comments made by her civil rights chief Candace Jackson, who said that “90 percent of [college rapes] — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk.” Noting that these remarks made her fearful of this administrations “ engagement with the facts,”  Fatima Goss Graves, CEO and president of the National Women’s Law Center, also expressed concern that DeVos had slotted equal time to hear from victims when being advised on the issue of sexual assault as she did for “extreme men’s rights advocates.” LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

  • National Women’s Law Center Through research, analysis, advocacy and public education, the NWLC works to achieve policy changes that improve the lives of women and families, including those who have become victims of sexual violence on college campuses
  • End Rape on campus- Join the EROC’s Dear Betsy Campaign and send a video to Betsy Devos explaining why you value your Title IX protections.
  • Feminist Campus – A project of the feminist majority foundation, Feminist Campus and its staff of National Campus Organizers works with students on college campuses across the country to effect change at the grassroots, national, and global levels

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


 

Student Protections from For-Profit Universities Postponed

Rollback of Guidances
Announced on Jule 14, 2017

Policy Summary

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has postponed the implementation of two Obama era guidances aimed at protecting students from predatory for-profit colleges. The rules that were set to go into effect on July 1, called the “borrower defense to repayment” and “gainful employment” regulations, are stricter versions of protections that were passed in the 90’s meant to address fraud in the higher education system. If they were to be allowed to continue, the rules were aimed at expediting and growing the system for erasing the federal loan debt of students who were impacted by fraudulent colleges. Furthermore, if it was found that the graduates of these colleges did not earn enough money to pay off their student debt, the rules state that the loans to these schools would be cut off. According to DeVos, instead of immediately implementing the guidances, committees will be created to evaluate and improve upon the rules that she said “—missed an opportunity to get it right.” LEARN MORE

Analysis

Meant to protect students like Neisha Wright, 40, who accumulated $25,000 in loan debt obtaining what she calls “useless credits” courtesy of the allegedly fraudulent and now defunct ITT Tech, these rules gave hope for the victims of other predatory universities that at the very least the debt could be forgiven and some justice could be achieved. Now in the midst of a lawsuit against DeVos for rolling back the protections, Wright, has described DeVos’ decision to postpone these regulations as “devastating.” Maura Healey, a Massachusetts attorney general and leader of an 18 state coalition who just days before Wright also filed a lawsuit against DeVos and her department, sees the rollback as a “betrayal” of the students and their families. The lawsuit argues that the department did not have the authority to simply remove the regulations that had already gone through the lawmaking process. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

  • Americans for Financial Reform – A nonpartisan and nonprofit coalition of more than 200 civil rights, consumer, labor, business, investor, faith-based, and civic and community groups, AFR sets out to lay the foundation for a strong, stable, and ethical financial system
  • Contact your state legislators – Call your representatives and let them know that protections for students are important to you!
  • Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project – A project of the National Consumer Law Center, the SLBAP is a resource for borrowers, their families, and advocates representing student loan borrowers.

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


 

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Religious Pre-school

Supreme Court Ruling
Announced on June 26, 2017

Policy Summary

On the grounds of free exercise of religion, the Supreme ruled in favor of a Missouri church this week who had been denied state funding to refurbish their playground surface. The case Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, arose after the state of Missouri would not allow state funds to be given to the church’s preschool to resurface the playground with tire chips, citing the state Constitution’s Blaine Amendments. These  amendments forbid the state from financially supporting “any church, sector or denomination of religion.” In a 7 to 2 ruling, it was decided by the justices that the original decision violated the federal constitution because it “expressly discriminates against otherwise eligible recipients by disqualifying them from a public benefit solely because of their religious character.”LEARN MORE

Analysis

Though this case appears to be purely about a playground, to many it has much broader implications. School choice advocates have already heralded the ruling as a victory as they believe that it opens the door for state funding in the form of education vouchers to be used at any school, including religious ones. However on the opposite end, many see the ruling as a potential threat to the rights guaranteed by the separation of church and state. Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU, expressed disappointment in the decision, stating that “religious freedom should protect unwilling taxpayers from funding church property, not force them to foot the bill.” However, Mach also acknowledged that the ruling is specific to playground resurfacing grants, thus not giving the government “unlimited authority to fund religious activity.” Still, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor see the long-term implications of the decision, calling it a “radical mistake.”  LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

  • American Civil Liberties Union Fight for the separation of church and state and the right to say no to your federal dollars being sent to religious institutions with the ACLU, an organization fighting to protect civil liberties for almost 100 years.
  • Learn more about vouchers with the National Coalition for Public Education. The NCPE has declared that if action is taken to implement a voucher program, they will not be silent. The group’s mission is to defend the public school system.
  • Click here to learn how to contact your state legislators! Speak to them about your feelings in regards to voucher programs.

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


 

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