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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

 

The Teacher’s Protests of 2019 Continued

Brief #32—Education Policy Summary The nationwide teacher-led demonstrations continue to materialize with greater  tenacity and vigor. Day after day this week, the streets of major cities across the country drew a similar portrait of streets lined of protesting...

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Betsy DeVos Proposed Title IX Changes

Department of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has released several new policies in regards to how US colleges and universities will treat allegations of sexual harassment and assault. DeVos claims the current system in place has “failed” and is a “shameful” method that has been unfair to the students suspected of alleged crimes.

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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.

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The Teacher’s Protests of 2019 Continued

The Teacher’s Protests of 2019 Continued

Brief #32—Education

Policy Summary
The nationwide teacher-led demonstrations continue to materialize with greater  tenacity and vigor. Day after day this week, the streets of major cities across the country drew a similar portrait of streets lined of protesting teachers, academics and supporters. The groups marched in unison, to support awareness about the qualms plaguing public education. The protestors waved posters and signs declaring their discontent. Educators were focused on brining attention to such qualms such as  low wages forcing educators into second jobs, unfit school buildings, smaller classes, decreases in high-pressure exams, more substantial salaries and more support staff. These marches have appeared in Los Angeles, West Virginia, Richmond, Oklahoma and elsewhere.

Soon after a six-day strike in Los Angeles, teachers in Virginia, Colorado, and elsewhere in California joined in on the fight. Hundreds of Virginia teachers descended on the state Capitol on Monday, following in the footsteps of educators nationwide that have launched a wave of activism highlighting the plight of public education. Virginia Educators United, a grassroots educator group, organized the Richmond march. The protest earned support from teacher’s unions, both on a state level and nation-wide. “We can talk a lot about salaries and resources, but those who face the brunt of the consequence of not having a fully funded public education system are those kids,” said Sarah Pedersen, one of the many educators who marched at the Virginia state Capitol.

Analysis
The teachers’ petitions for increased support occur amidst a significant decrease in funds over the past decade. The Virginia rally is the largest teachers march since nearly 30,000 citizens took to the streets in Los Angeles this January. President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, participated in the Richmond protest on Monday. “Virginia is a pretty rich state, but actually spends about a billion dollars less in education than it did before the recession, which means its priorities need to be reordered”, Weingarten said. In fact,   Although Virginia is the 12th wealthiest state,  educators in the state make much less than the national average. Furthermore, since the 1930’s, state funding for K-12 schools has declined 12% when adjusted for inflation. According to the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, state funding in the 2018-2019 school year was 9.1 percent lower in than it was a decade earlier.

The protest in Richmond cost an estimated $125 million, but thankfully led to several victories for teachers and students. This past month, Gov. Ralph Northam recommended a budget that would incorporate$268.7 million in new funding for K-12 education. The budget proposal would embrace an additional 2% raise for educators, meaning teachers would get a combined 5% raise starting early this summer. The suggested 5% raise is currently working its way through the state Legislature.

Resistance Resources

  • The Virginia Education Association is to unite our members and local communities across the Commonwealth in fulfilling the promise of a high quality public education that successfully prepares every single student to realize his or her full potential.VEA is a statewide community of more than 50,000 teachers and school support professionals working for the betterment of public education in the Commonwealth. You can join the VEA membership here: http://www.veanea.org/home/join-vea.htm
  • United Teachers Los Angeles union (UTLA) sets out to address policy at all levels and is set by members either directly or through elected representatives. Currently the 34,000 members strong, they are always looking for addition support: https://www.utla.net
  • Fairfax County Federation of Teachers represents all non-administrative certified and classified Fairfax County public school employees. We represent the interests of teachers, counselors, librarians, teaching assistants, clerical employees, and other men and women who work so hard to make our schools work. To support them, click here to help teachers and educators have a voice: https://www.fcft.org/about-us
  • Virginia Professional Educators are a non-profit, professional association of teachers. It is a group created by teachers for teachers.

This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Erin Mayer Policy Analyst Name: Contact Author@usresistnews.org

Photo by unsplash-logoTra Nguyen

The Potential Impact of the New Congress on Education Policy

The Potential Impact of the New Congress on Education Policy

Brief #31—Education Policy

Policy Summary
Over the past two years, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has gone out of her way to roll back federal regulations, completely in tow with the Trump administration. Shortly after President Trump took office, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights released a statement to agency investigators. The memo stated that the office would no longer recognize “systemic” bias in regards to individual claims of discrimination in schools, but instead they hoped to roll through individual cases at an even quicker speed than the previous administration. For civil right’s activist it raised red flags, but many were left remotely unconcerned. However, today, we now know this was an indication of the agency’s overall future approach toward issues of racial discrimination and civil rights execution.

Policy Analysis
According to ProPublica’s examination of approximately 40,000 civil rights cases, a mere fifteen months after President Trump took office, the department of education, closed over 1,200 Obama-era, civil rights investigations, lasting at least six months each. The closed investigations ranged from issues from discriminatory punishments to sexual assault. Under Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, the policy changes had allowed the dismissal of over 500 disability rights accusations, by this past April. The changes from one administration to the next were night and day. Under President Obama’s administration nearly 70 percent of cases of discrimination toward students with limited English skills were upheld versus the 52 percent under the current administration. In general, the number of cases confirmed regarding the individualized educational needs of disabled students has dropped from 45 percent under the former administration to 34 percent this year. Sexual harassment and violence cases have also dropped by ten percent each.

Sadly, DeVos may be moving forward without much fuss as only 3% of Americans rank education at the top of their list of concerns our country faces. The silver lining of the year is that Democrats have assumed control of the House of Representatives as the result of this year’s midterm elections, for the first time in eight years. Democrats’ won the House but the Senate and White House  still remain under Republican power. Therefore, it is doubtful that there will be excessive changes in policies carried out by DeVos. Nevertheless, with control of committee chairs, there is much anticipation of House Democrats utilizing their oversight authority to compel DeVos to change direction in the upcoming year. In fact, a number of newly elected chairs have specifically indicated intentions to examine DeVos’ policies, using their oversight authority, giving many Americans hope the new year will welcome changes in how Washington manages education, especially the execution of civil rights for our children country-wide.

Americans can expect much debate over how DeVos has handled civil rights issues, primarily from Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia. Rep. Scott, a former civil rights attorney, has made clear his determination to clearly answer whether the Department of Education is upholding its responsibilities to defend the civil rights of students throughout the United States. Currently, Scott serves as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Previously, Scott has taken great initiative opposing the administration’s decisions on issues of racial bias in schools, overall civil rights and how investigations into systemic bias and discrimination have thus far been handled. Under Scott, the House Education and the Workforce committee is expected to look into  state plans to implement the successor to Every Student Succeeds Act, No Child Left Behind and to make sure any modifications are complicit with the law. Many civil rights groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, have argued that some of the plans implanted by DeVos do not live up to Every Student Succeeds Act’s protections for at-risk children.

There is no doubt DeVos is facing considerable pressure begot from oversight but this does not necessarily mean that DeVos will handle issues of civil rights in our school systems any differently than she has in the past. Thus far the Secretary has kept on the path of her and President Trump’s agenda, regardless of public opinion or setbacks. The president’s very open support of DeVos’ decisions may bolster the Secretary of Education, but the change in the House, especially in respects to Rep. Scott’s mission, will undeniably shake up issues and may cause DeVos to reconsider some of her policy decisions.

This Brief was posted by USRESIST NEWS Education Policy Analyst Erin Mayer Contact: Erin@USResistNews.org

Photo by NeONBRAND

The Trump Administration Uses Minority Protections as an Excuse for More Liberal Gun Restrictions on School Campuses

The Trump Administration Uses Minority Protections as an Excuse for More Liberal Gun Restrictions on School Campuses

Brief #30—Education

Policy Summary
The Trump administration has announced a plan to prevent school shootings that includes arming school personnel and repealing  Obama-era guidance targeted at upholding the treatment and discipline of minority children while combating racial bias.

The president’s Commission on School Safety, created after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, claimed that current  school disciplinary standards  have been too lenient on punishment and  therefore furthered the rising violence in our school systems.

In early 2014, the Obama administration released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on school discipline, focusing on safeguarding students of color and students with disabilities from discrimination via forms of punishment and disciplinary actions. The Dear College Letter, created by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), claimed that school districts rely excessively on suspensions, primarily for African American boys. The letter went on to iterate that African American students are suspended at disproportionately higher averages due to racial bias found on administrative levels and such suspensions actually caused significant long-term harm to students, instead of good. The DCL suggested that schools should limit conventional styles of discipline, such as suspensions, in support of more “restorative” methods, underlining discussion and dialogue over punishment. The Obama-era guidance was born from years of grassroots organizing working against the school-to-prison pipeline, a national development wherein children are guided out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

After the Parkland shooting, President Trump voiced his support for arming trained teachers and other school employees, inciting a public uproar from teachers who stand against the suggestion. During DeVos’ most recent announcement, she stated, there no “one size fits all” solution to prevent school shootings, and no new federal spending is being proposed. However, she also went on to say, “Local problems need local solutions” and that schools and states should “seriously consider the option of partnering with local law enforcement in the training and arming of school personnel.”

Analysis
The Trump administration has targeted repealing multiple Obama-era policies. Many would say they are doing so purposefully or even out of spite, continuing a methodical dismantling of civil rights defenses. This latest policy change from Betsy DeVos is directed at removing the protections of minority students from being unfairly disciplined at school. As previously mentioned, much of the chapter began after the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High. It was Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) who first officially pointed a finger at the Obama-era discipline guidance as a culprit in mass shootings when addressing a letter to Ms. DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Rubio claimed improper guidance permitted shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, to evade law enforcement and eventually commit his heinous crime. For many onlookers this would seem an odd point to find contentious, Mr. Cruz a white student was not escaping school disciplinary procedures, as he was expelled from Stoneman Douglas.

To civil rights organizations, linking a policy to helping minority and disabled students with mass killings laid a huge burden on numerous disadvantaged students nationwide. The Obama-era guidelines  specifically targeted the growing school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out. Students –of-color have been punished for a wide variety of wrongdoings, such as wearing the wrong color hoodie to fighting.As they get expelled or suspended from school they often get shoved into the juvenile and criminal justice system.

Racial minorities and children with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the school-to-prison pipeline. African-American students, for instance, represent 18 percent of students, but they account for 46 percent of those suspended more than once, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The study shows that black boys are four times as likely to be disproportionately disciplined than their white peers. African American boys also represent 36% of all school expulsions. The 2014 Obama Dear College Letter says  that often this racial disparity is not due to actual school infractions, but due to racial bias.

The numbers are just as worrying for students with disabilities. One report found that 8.6 percent of public school children have been labeled as having disabilities that affect their ability to learn. However these students represent 32 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers. The racial discrepancies are even worse for students with disabilities. Nearly 25 percent of African American students with disabilities were suspended at least once, in comparison to 1 in 11 white students, according to an analysis of the government report by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., issued a statement in regards to rescinding of the 2014 DCL guidance, “Yet again, the Trump administration, faced with a domestic crisis, has responded by creating a commission to study an unrelated issue in order to ultimately advance a discriminatory and partisan goal…School shootings are a grave and preventable problem, but rescinding the school discipline guidance is not the answer. Repealing the guidance will not stop the next school shooter, but it will ensure that thousands more students of color are unnecessarily ushered into the school-to-prison pipeline.” NAACP is not alone in chastising the Trump administration’s move. Throughout the country, civil rights groups, liberals and democrats contend that focusing on restricting access to firearms would be a better step towards preventing school shootings than reopening a path for schools to expel minority and disabled students  at higher rates than white students.

Resistance Resources

  • A localized movement, Every Child Valued is a nonprofit with a mission to improve the academic outcomes of Eggerts Crossing Village children. The mission of Every Child Valued is to motivate the young residents of Lawrence Township to reach their highest potential as educated and fulfilled adults, to strengthen families, to combat racial, cultural, and socioeconomic isolation, and to build a sense of community.
  • The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network was established in July 1990, as a non-profit organization in Washington, DC, dedicated to improving education from underrepresented students throughout the nation. QEM claims to be the premier organization for improving the quality of education for minorities, by providing technical assistance to MSIs, funding internship opportunities for underrepresented students, and advocating for college and career readiness in STEM.
  • Minority Access is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to increasing diversity, decreasing disparities and reducing incidences of environmental injustices. Our mission is to assist colleges and universities, the Federal Government and agencies of other governments and corporations of all kinds in implementing programs and providing services to recruit, enhance and retain underserved and underrepresented populations.
  • Black Girls Code is on a mission to increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color, between the ages of 7 to17, to become innovators in STEM fields and leaders in their communities.
  • The mission of The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) is to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 children and adults nationwide with learning and attention issues—by empowering parents and young adults, transforming schools and advocating for equal rights and opportunities.

This Brief was posted by USRESIST NEWS Education Policy Analyst Erin Mayer Contact: Erin@USResistNews.org

Photo by unsplash-logoHeather Mount

Betsy DeVos Proposed Title IX Changes

Betsy DeVos Proposed Title IX Changes

Brief #29—Education

Policy Summary
Department of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has released several new policies in regards to how US colleges and universities will treat allegations of sexual harassment and assault. DeVos claims the current system in place has “failed” and is a “shameful” method that has been unfair to the students suspected of alleged crimes. The proposed changes drastically shift attention to bolstering legal defenses for the accused. Many speculate that these changes echo feelings voiced by President Trump earlier in the year, when he tweeted, “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation” and proposed that many men are unjustly assumed to be guilty. The new standards put in place by DeVos and the Trump administration will take the place of the Obama-era guidelines on how to apply Title IX, the law barring gender discrimination in schools that get federal funding. Title IX, approved as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, provides direct guidance and protocol for all manners of sex discrimination, including sexual assault, that would affect a student’s access to education.

Analysis

Many argue that DeVos’ planned changes not only  reduce educational institution’s legal responsibility in sexual assault cases, but also create a  large barrier between the rights of the accused students and possibly discouraging survivors from reporting any type of sexual assault and harassment.

Sexual assault continues to plague campuses across the nation. Recently polls have concluded that 25 percent of young women and 7 percent of young men say they suffered unwanted sexual incidents in college. Specifically, LGBT of students and female students of color encounter higher rates of sexual assault and harassment than the general student body. Even though a frighteningly high number of students experience some type of sexual harassment or abuse, the US government estimates that nearly 80 percent of student survivors choose not to report their assault, often out of fear of retribution or confidentiality worries. Undermining Title IX defenses may only make it harder for survivors to seek justice.

The Obama administration, defined sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”. Secretary DeVos plans to alter the definition of sexual harassment to now be understood as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.” Many psychologists and victims’ rights advocates groups suggest DeVos’ amendments may deter survivors from reporting happenings, as they wonder what actions are “severe” or “offensive” enough to qualify as sexual harassment.

DeVos’ proposed rule could also give schools permission to discount particular Title IX protections, such as religious exemptions. Presently, universities and schools  are allowed to claim religious exemptions from certain Title IX provisions, such as counseling assistances or admissions of certain students. To do so, an institution must appeal specific exemptions from the U.S. Department of Education via letter or form. DeVos has referred to this procedure as “confusing or burdensome.”  The issue for many is that religious exemptions can be used to oppress LGBT students and to refuse women’s reproductive rights on the basis of religious objections. Therefore, without the U.S. Department of Education’s monitoring of each exemption it may become easier for religious colleges to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

A major issue with the new proposed ruling is how it would permit the educational body itself to decide on the burden of proof required for sexual assault cases. Formerly the burden of proof was decided using the preponderance of evidence standard. The preponderance of evidence standard, used under the Obama administration,  meant that educational institutions were instructed to admonish the accused party if evidence indicated that misconduct was more likely to have occurred than not. This standard is considered to be more in line with previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings related to violations of Title IX. Without using the preponderance of evidence standard, victims will have to go through even more to prove their claim, if the school will decide it is relevant at all.

At the moment, victims can report their sexual assault to anyone, school faculty or advisers. In return once an institution becomes aware of the situation they are required to examine the circumstances surrounding the potential assault. However, with the newly planned changes, a potential victim would have to report their assault directly to faculty “with authority to institute corrective measures”, in order for a school to be held liable for a Title IX violation, forcing victims to report to a limited number of individuals not of their choosing or with whom they may have no prior communication.

DeVos’s proposition also suggests that assaulted students and the accused students would be cross-examined, by advisers on behalf of the other individual. Cross-examination of this fashion is incredibly challenging and riddled with complications. The prospects of being cross-examined by an accused’s representative will likely silence many young assault victims. The situation is only made worse by the prospect of affluent students paying for available legal counsel or advocates while lower income students may not have such resources available to them.

Resistance Resources

The Department of Education under Secretary DeVos is making historic moves on Title IX protections. However there are a number of options still available to help halt the damage.

  • Congress can also proceed in passing theCampus Accountability and Safety Act, a bipartisan effort that develops the requirements on reporting sexual harassment, sexual assault, and related crimes on university or college property. The Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) protect students and streamlines the response to and reporting of sexual assault. To join in on the fight to protect sexually assaulted or harassed students, click here: http://endrapeoncampus.org/passcasact/
  • SurvJustice is a national not-for-profit organization that increases the prospect of justice for all survivors of sexual violence through effective legal assistance, policy advocacy, and institutional training. Furthermore, SurvJustice wants CASA (above) changed so it adds an amendment to Section 202 of the Department of Education Organization Act, which would give the education secretary to have the power to fine schools for any violation pertaining to sexual violence. Donate here: http://www.survjustice.org
  • NOW Legal Defense works to enforce girls’ equal access to education. Their work in this area focuses on how sexual harassment in schools operates as a barrier to equal education. Find out more: https://www.legalmomentum.org
  • Take action on issues impacting women and girls by joining The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Action Network. As a Two-Minute Activist, you will receive urgent email notices when your advocacy is needed most. AAUWs provide all the tools you need to call or send messages to your members of Congress, write letters to the editor for your local newspapers, contact your state legislators about pressing issues, and more. https://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/public-policy/two-minute-activist/

This Brief was posted by USRRESIST NEWS Analyst Erin Mayer: Contact: erin@usresistnews.org

Photo by NeONBRAND

Federal Judge Upholds For Profit Colleges Student Loan Forgiveness Program

Federal Judge Upholds For Profit Colleges Student Loan Forgiveness Program

Brief #28—Education

Summary
This past Tuesday, students rejoiced, nationwide, as the courts cleared the way for an Obama-era policy making it easier for individuals who have been scammed by for-profit universities and colleges to have student loans forgiven. The parameter, known as borrower defense, was designed to help student-loan debtors. It has been subject to numerous delays by the Trump Administration and conservatives, through years of litigation.

Now, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is required to implement a regulation, which she has fought to rescind, as she believes it unnecessarily allows students to free themselves of what have become insurmountable educational loans. She has gone on to say, the regulation was unfair to taxpayers as it made releasing loans too forgiving for the borrower.

The statute was originally expected to come into effect on July 2017, but DeVos suspended the deadline, while she attempted to develop an opposing regulation. However, last month, US District Judge Randolph Moss declared that DeVos’ postponement was unlawful. Judge Moss also turned down an appeal submitted by an organization representing for-profit colleges in California, to continue to delay the rule, therefore allowing student borrower defenses to come into play. On Friday, the Department of Education said it would not pursue further delays.

Analysis
With the Obama-era regulation at hand, a more obtainable path has been laid whereby defrauded students can have their federal student loans annulled. Students who feel they have been duped by false advertisements, such as employment rates following graduation statistics will have a legal voice. Furthermore students whose educational institutions have shut their doors while still enrolled will be entitled to an immediate release of their debt. Additionally, higher colleges and universities that accept federal funding can no longer force students to waive class actions lawsuits or manipulate them into arbitration.

DeVos has been rightfully criticized far and wide by both consumer organizations and democrats for choosing to put students in the back seat over for-profit universities. The ruling also symbolizes a noteworthy stumble for DeVos, who has made decontrolling for-profit colleges a weighty precedence. This is alarming, considering the federal government nearly has a monopoly over the annual $100 billion student loan market. The future regulations and rules in regards to how the Trump administration will handle fraud and other debacles, for example, hang in the balance now. Particularly since thus far over 160,000 individuals have petitioned that their college defrauded them. A large majority of these complaints originated from the nearly 7,000 for-profit institutions found coast-to-coast. As many have contended, this issue hits close to home since it was just this past April a judge finalized a $25 million settlement for students who claimed they were defrauded by Trump University, issuing an overall 90% tuition refund.

US District Judge Randolph Moss’ recent decision means that the borrower defense rule would come into effect around July of 2020, leaving many liberals and pro-higher education organizations with a feeling of accomplishment for now but whether the current administration will retaliate or implement this ruling continues to leave us with a feeling of unrest.

Resistance Resources

  • Student Debt Crisis is a people-powered advocacy organization committed to making education free and saving families from the crushing burden of student debt: https://www.studentdebtcrisis.org/
  • RISE is a group of student advocates fighting for free college in California. Public colleges and universities were free in California for more than 100 years. Join us in working to restore that promise. https://www.carise.org/
  • The Project on Predatory Student Lending was formed in 2012 to combat the massive fraud that was being perpetrated against students and taxpayers by for-profit colleges. They represent thousands of former students across the country and litigate landmark cases against the predatory for-profit college industry. http://www.legalservicescenter.org
  • Higher Ed, Not Debt is a multiyear campaign of dozens of organizations dedicated to tackling the crippling and ever-growing issue of student loan debt in America. Higher Ed, Not Debt provides support to borrowers currently paying off the existing $1.4 trillion of debt. They also address the causes of declining affordability and quality, including changes to state funding and financial aid policies. https://www.higherednotdebt.org/
  • The U.S. PIRG Higher Education Project is working to keep loans affordable, increase grant aid to students, such as the Pell Grants, and to make textbooks more affordable. You can donate to the project here: https://www.uspirg.org/issues/usp/make-higher-education-affordable

This Brief was posted by USRRESIST NEWS Analyst Erin Mayer: Contact: erin@usresistnews.org

Photo by Good Free Photos

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

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