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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.

Latest Education Posts

 

Coronavirus Hits Higher Education

Brief #40—Education
By Ivan A Moore
As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, universities have experienced unprecedented disruptions. Over the past few weeks, they’ve emptied classrooms and dorms, with most opting to finish the semester online. A few have cancelled courses altogether. Though extreme, these measures will protect students and staff from the rapid spread that would occur via stadium-like lecture halls, busy cafeterias, and crowded dorms. It was the only safe option, but the fallout will reverberate through America’s higher education system for years to come.

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Coronavirus Hits Higher Education

Coronavirus Hits Higher Education

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, universities have experienced unprecedented disruptions.

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, universities have experienced unprecedented disruptions. Over the past few weeks, they’ve emptied classrooms and dorms, with most opting to finish the semester online. A few have cancelled courses altogether. Though extreme, these measures will protect students and staff from the rapid spread that would occur via stadium-like lecture halls, busy cafeterias, and crowded dorms. It was the only safe option, but the fallout will reverberate through America’s higher education system for years to come.

In previous generations, when college was reserved for the well-to-do, campus closures were a frustrating inconvenience. Today, there are literally millions of low-income college students in the US, and these unexpected changes have left them reeling. They’ve been forced to make costly trips home or rent apartments on short notice. These effects are compounded by surging unemployment rates, particularly in the service sector. While some institutions are offering full or partial refunds, it won’t be enough for many low-income students to balance the unforeseen expenses. For those that can’t rely on their family’s coffers, dropping out may become the only option.

Additionally, the transition to online instruction has put financial strain on the universities themselves. Roughly a third of schools were already operating at a deficit due to plateauing enrollment and declining government funds; now they’ll struggle with losses during and after the crisis. After sending out tuition refunds, universities will likely see a marked decline in enrollment. How schools will navigate these dire straits remains unclear; for the hardest hit, it will become an existential threat.

In response to the crisis, American Council on Education (ACE) released a memo asking for federal support. Among their requests were emergency financial aid for students and schools, zero-interest loans for universities, and support in implementing remote instruction.

Analysis

The pandemic has laid bare the already untenable state of American higher education. Soaring tuition and poor job prospects have already led younger generations to question the value of a degree, and these concerns are more salient than ever as online curriculums are rolled out with limited preparation.

In addition, the crisis in higher education has cast yet another spotlight on America’s chasmic wealth gap. Despite our society’s insistence to the contrary, a college degree is a hard-earned privilege, and now thousands — perhaps millions — of low-income students will be unable to afford it.

As ACE’s memo points out, these are the same students that rely on universities for food, housing, transportation, and medical care. Particularly in large public institutions, these basic needs are heavily subsidized. Many students would be unable to access reliable transportation without their school’s shuttle or bus passes, and the university healthcare system provides the only medical care they can afford.

Yet schools were never intended to provide these services on such a massive scale. Colleges have come to offer so much more than knowledge and professional credentials; increasingly, they are the scaffolding upon which poor students build their lives. For too long they have been covering for our government, providing for students’ basic needs when no other institution will. In the aftermath of this crisis, untold numbers of young adults will be facing an economic void that a $1,200 check won’t fill.

Our higher education system deserves all the federal aid it can get, but ultimately it faces deep flaws that our society as a whole must address.

Photo by Anshu A

Proposed Student Debt Overhaul Ignores Loan Servicer Mismanagement Policy

Proposed Student Debt Overhaul Ignores Loan Servicer Mismanagement Policy

Among the propositions in Donald Trump’s budget for the fiscal year of 2021 is slashing $5.6 billion dollars from the Education Department. This includes an overhaul of current student loan forgiveness programs.

The plan for doing this includes canceling Public Service Loan Forgiveness, established by Congress under the Bush administration in 2007, to reward federal student loan borrowers for entering a public service career by forgiving their debt after ten years of monthly payments, or 120 consecutive payments.

The justifications for this, according to Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is to save money that would be lost by forgiving these federal loans. Instead, the White House has proposed a simplified federal loan forgiveness program that, in theory, should allow student loan borrowers to pay them off five years sooner than the current income-based forgiveness program.

Analysis:

With this proposed rule change, the Trump administration is trying to distract from the mishandling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by Fed Loan Servicing, a branch of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).The handling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness by FedLoan Servicing has come under scrutiny in recent years. According to NPR, 99% of applicants to the PSLF program were rejected.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) cited the reasons those with student debt are having issues with the program include  borrowers not having the right loans, unqualified employers, being enrolled in the wrong payment plan, not being eligible in the first place, or being “yet to make any qualifying loan payments.”

When the program was launched in 2007, initial instructions to loan servicers managing this program were vague at best. However, the repeated pattern of mismanagement by FedLoan Servicing indicates a deliberate pattern of misbehavior.

Given the government’s current relationship with  PHEAA, any accountability from the PHEAA seems unlikely. Trump’s former campaign manager for the state of Pennsylvania is a lobbyist for the PHEAA, so in exchange for helping Trump on the campaign trail, one is likely to expect tit for tat.

Also, while the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does have the authority to provide oversight of Federal loans, it has abandoned that responsibility completely. This is largely thanks to the installation of the CFPB’s current ombudsman, Robert Cameron, the PHEAA’s former “deputy chief counsel and vice president of enterprise compliance.” Under Cameron, the CFPB’s responsibilities to oversee Federal Service Loans has been abandoned.

Given this context, it is likely that canceling the very program that the PHEAA has been recklessly mismanaging for years is just another way to protect its interests, instead of holding it accountable for extorting money from thousands of students.

RESISTANCE RESOURCES:

  • Democracy Forward: “In 2017, we founded Democracy Forward to help expose the rampant corruption in the Executive Branch and fight it in court on behalf of the people it hurts.”
  • Student Borrower Protection Center: “The Student Borrower Protection Center is a nonprofit organization solely focused on alleviating the burden of student debt for millions of Americans. The SBPC engages in advocacy, policymaking, and litigation strategy to rein in industry abuses, protect borrowers’ rights, and advance economic opportunity for the next generation of students.
  • Student Debt Crisis: “Student Debt Crisis is a non-profit (501c4) organization dedicated to fundamentally reforming student debt and higher education loan policies. Student Debt Crisis (SDC) takes a personal approach to member needs—working directly with borrowers to understand their challenges and fears, repayment obstacles and frustrations. SDC tackles the challenges of loan refinancing and consumer protection policies with media and legislators, as well as educating borrowers and higher education experts with lectures, webinars and special events.”
Betsy DeVos Proposes New Title IX Definitions

Betsy DeVos Proposes New Title IX Definitions

Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed new rules for Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally-funded educational institutions. The regulations outline definitions for domestic violence, stalking, and dating violence, putting them all under Title IX’s purview. Now schools will be able to investigate and resolve these cases internally, theoretically allowing victims to avoid a lengthy and thorny process in the court system. In the past, such misconduct fell in a regulatory grey area; some schools chose to handle it based on the rules for sexual assault and harassment, while others claimed it did not qualify for Title IX investigations.

The confusion created a frustrating, dangerous legal landscape for victims. In one highly-publicized case, Lauren McCluskey, a student at the University of Utah, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend after filing over 20 reports of abuse. Despite numerous instances of stalking, domestic violence, and harassment. the university refused to investigate. McCluskey’s parents even petitioned University President Ruth V. Watkins repeatedly, all to no avail. The student’s death, and others like it, were cited as a motivation for the new rules.

Analysis

The proposed regulations are a positive development in DeVos’ otherwise controversial tenure; a major blindspot in Title IX has now been covered. However, this does not negate the clear harm DeVos has done by rolling back other Title IX protections. Last year, the Department of Education released several amendments favoring the rights of the accused. Supposedly an effort to encourage “due process,” the changes would require both parties to be cross-examined in person. These proceedings could re-traumatize victims, and would dissuade many from ever reporting a crime. Additionally, the DOE narrowed the definition of sexual harassment and made it more difficult to hold institutions legally accountable for failing to address discrimination.

The new rules are a paltry gesture in the context of this larger picture. Most of DeVos’ updates to Title IX read as pointed attempts to dissuade victims from reporting. Since the majority of gender-based violence goes unreported, cries of “due process for the accused” are myopic at best. Adding these new definitions does very little if victims can’t feel safe coming forward.

That said, defining domestic violence, stalking, and dating violence creates a good legal framework. In the future, a more sympathetic iteration of the DOE can utilize them in a stronger version of Title IX. Unfortunately, these increasingly toothless regulations offer little support to students today.

Resources

 

Student Loan Debt Soars with No Clear End in Sight

Student Loan Debt Soars with No Clear End in Sight

Student loan debt has reached unprecedented levels in the United States. In just 15 years, the amount of debt has tripled to over $1.5 trillion, surpassing credit card and auto debt. The burden is shared between roughly 44 million Americans. Moreover, according to the Pew Research Center, roughly a third of borrowers age 25 to 39 with a Bachelor’s believe that the cost of their degree outweighs its benefits.

The crisis has become a top issue for voters, and many presidential candidates have plans to address it. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have advocated for forgiving all or some debt, respectively. Meanwhile, this week President Trump made another call to end a popular student loan forgiveness program.

In Congress, several bills have been introduced to combat the issue. HR 3448 and S 1947, introduced by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) respectively, would both cancel all student debt. On the Republican side, S 2339 offers more modest reform; in addition to changing the accreditation system, it would require educational institutions to publish data on student loans and educational outcomes. However, none of these three bills have advanced since their introductions, all in the summer of 2019.

Analysis
With stagnating wages and almost 30% of loan holders in delinquency or default, more aggressive loan forgiveness legislation will likely become a necessity. It’s apparent that an increasing number of loans will never be repaid, and keeping borrowers beholden to them harms our entire country. According to CNBC, it is becoming more common for people to postpone marriage, buying homes, and starting businesses — all activities that produce and signal a strong economy.

However, debt cancellation alone wouldn’t address the web of systematic flaws that perpetuate that debt. As enrollment has grown, state funding has deflated, leaving universities little choice but to pass on higher operating costs to students. After Congress expanded federal student loan programs in the 1970s, it became possible for families to foot the rising bill, which took pressure off states and schools to budget more effectively. Meanwhile, colleges have expanded non-instructional spending on services like counseling and healthcare. Though expensive, these services can be literally life-saving for the growing number of low-income students, who may not have access to care otherwise — demonstrating a bizarre dovetail connecting our healthcare crisis and our student loan crisis.

Ultimately, an issue this complex and urgent demands innovative policy. Sen. Sanders’ call to cancel debt and subsidize university education offers the most direct solution. Although it’s highly unlikely to gain congressional support in the near future, readers should remember that our government spends over half of its discretionary budget on the military every year (almost $700 billion in FY 2019). Our government has the resources to address this issue, and it has a moral obligation to do so.

Resources

Trump supports free speech on college campuses, when it is conservative free speech

Trump supports free speech on college campuses, when it is conservative free speech

Policy Summary:
On March 21st, 2019, Donald Trump signed an executive order at the White House meant to, according to its text, “encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including thorough compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions.” In attendance were Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Turning Point USA leader Charles Kirk, and several college students from across the country who claimed to have been marginalized by staff for advocating for conservative values.

This order will be enforced through the withholding of “Federal Research and Education Grants” from campuses deemed to not to promote “free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.”

The executive order will not impact, according to the text, “funding associated with Federal student aid programs that cover tuition, fees, or stipends.”

Analysis:
This Executive Order, on the surface, is about protecting students’ rights to free speech, but put into context, it stands to benefit right-wing ideologies on College campuses more than anything else. Several studies indicate that the need for the White House to step in and create this legislation is exaggerated. While a Gallup-Knight Foundation Survey in March of 2018 does indicate that College students’ confidence in their right to free speech has declined since 2016, the number of cases where Colleges attempted to disinvite guest speakers has also dropped. Also, in 2018, the number of faculty dismissals for expressing conservative opinions versus liberal opinions were virtually the same.

The vague language in the actual text of the Executive Order also makes it difficult to determine whose free speech will be protected, and what constitutes a violation of this free speech. The terms “open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate” does not include any specific examples, as well as does not make any exceptions for cases of language regarding racist language or anti-Semitism. The language of the policy also does not specify what this disruption actually entails.

It is also worth noting that one of the primary driving forces behind the creation of this executive  order was Turning Point USA, whose self-proclaimed mission is “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” The organization has been known, according to Vox, to engage in such activities as “dressing students in diapers to protest safe spaces [and bringing] intentionally inflammatory speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos to provoke their left-wing opponents.” The organization’s leader, Charles Kirk, was present in the audience at the signing of the Executive Order, as well as Kaitlyn Mullan, a University of Nebraska student, whom Trump claimed “was approached by staff and a graduate instructor, and was berated and cursed at” for staffing a table for Turning Point USA. Kirk himself said is the Order was the “culmination of Turning Point USA’s tireless work to break the left’s stranglehold on campus, a grip that has suffocated the free exchange of ideas and helped indoctrinate an entire generation to hate America, the freest, most prosperous, decent and generous country ever to exist.” The fact that a heavily right-leaning organization backed the bill is a red flag for the bill’s true intentions.

Resistance Resources:

  • Association of Public and Land Grant Universities – “The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  The association’s membership consists of 242 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations. “
  • Foundation for Individual Rights in Education -”FIRE protects the rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of liberty for every American. FIRE defends those whose rights are denied on campus, regardless of identity or viewpoint, and we educate those on and off campus about these rights and their importance.”

Photo by unsplash-logoAmanda Lins

Educational Policies of 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates

Educational Policies of 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates

Policy Summary

In the past, Bernie Sanders has sponsored bills to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, as well as to drastically reduce interest rates on student loan debt. Sanders’ is a proponent of tuition free public colleges and universities. Sanders’ also believes students shouldn’t have to reapply for financial aid every single year, and the use of work-study programs should be utilized at a higher rate. In regards to K-12 education, the Senator fights for higher-quality, affordable early childhood education and that No Child Left Behind should be seriously overhauled. When it comes to educators, the Senator believes colleges and universities should hire more faculty and increase their percentage of tenured and tenure-track professors. As for DREAMers, Sanders’ supports the position that children brought into America undocumented at a young age need to be given a fair and attainable opportunity to remain in the U.S., get an education, and contribute to the economy.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a fan of the No Child Left Behind Act in its early days who later turned away from the landmark federal education law, is the latest candidate to announce his running for the 2020 presidential election. Biden has not made education policy one of his signature issues during time in DC. However, serving as Delaware’s senator for 36 years and throughout his tenure in President Barack Obama’s White House, he had a K-12 record that touches on several issues. Biden was one of the first Democrats in recent history to support  free public education for community colleges and four year public institutions. In 2016, the former Vice-President called for 16 years of free public education, including community college and four-year public colleges. Biden also backed universal pre-Kindergarten, paid for by closing some loopholes in the tax code. On May 7th, Biden publicly clarified his positions on multiple educational issues during a speech in Las Vegas valley. Biden touched briefly on how he believes teachers need more pay, smaller class sizes, and more classroom resource in order to succeed. The former Vice President has been quite outspoken on President Trump’s take on immigration, saying it’s “betrayal” to DREAMers. In 2017, he wrote on social media, “…roughly 800,000 people known as DREAMers  arehere in America today. These children didn’t choose to come here, but now many of them are grown with families of their own. They’re paying taxes. They’ve joined the workforce. They went to college. Some of them joined the military. Now, they’ll be sent to countries they don’t even remember. These people are all Americans. So let’s be clear: throwing them out is cruel. It is inhumane. And it is not America.”  Though Biden has only supported a path to citizenship for DREAMers he has yet to lay out a specific path to do so.

Kamala Harris, a 54-year-old senator and former prosecutor, continues to blaze a strong trail throughout the United States. The native Californian has voiced concern over gun violence in schools and the consequences of racial profiling by administrators  During a speech in Oakland, California this past January the Senator said, “I am running to declare education is a fundamental right, and we will guarantee that right with universal pre-K and debt-free college”. In March, she took her position on education a step further when she addressed teacher’s pay. Harris has focused on the educator unrest sweeping the country due to issues of low pay, crowded classrooms and education funding levels, etc. “We are not paying our teachers their value,” she said at a rally at Texas Southern University in Houston. Harris has even vowed to close the teacher pay gap by the end of her first term if elected president. The California Senator’s 10-year plan to increase teachers’ salaries amounts to an average of $13,500 or a 23% increase in salary per educator. The federal government would pay the first 10%, of the overall projected total of $315 billion, to states to fill the teacher pay gap, and then invest $3 for every $1 the states contribute. The plan Harris has created would also invest billions in evidence-based programs to boost teacher development, with half of the funds going to historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions. Harris’ plan would obtain the finances to do so via an increase in the estate tax for the top 1% of US taxpayers. In April, Harris promoted legislation allowing Dreamers to become eligible to work as staffers or interns in Congress..

Senator of Massachusetts,  Elizabeth Warren, introduced a $1.25 trillion initiative to assist higher education by ending a majority of student loan debt and eliminating tuition at every public college. Warren would eliminate up to $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with a household income of less than $100,000; borrowers who earn above $100,000 and less than $250,000 would have part of their debt eliminated. Warren plans to expand federal grants to help students with non-tuition expenses and create a $50 billion fund to support historically African-American educational institutions. Warren, a member of the Senate education committee, has been very outspoken on how U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is not fit for the position she resides in. Warren has even created “DeVos Watch” on her website, detailing current oversights made by the Department of  Education. The Senator was also one of just three Democrats who voted against the earlier version of the Every Student Succeeds Act as she thought it didn’t reach far enough on accountability. However, later in time, Warren agreed with all Senate Democrats in voting for the final version of the law. Warren has also been adamantly outspoken on her support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In 2017, the Senator wrote, “Dreamers are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. They are part of the diverse and beautiful fabric of our nation…President Trump’s decision to subject Dreamers to mass deportation is part of the bigoted and anti-immigrant policies that have been a cornerstone of his administration. Turning our backs on Dreamers makes us weaker, makes us less safe, and betrays our values.”

Pete Buttigieg has not had a significant amount of experience in education policy and politics. However, as a a Rhodes Scholar and Afghanistan veteran, he’s also looking to become the first openly gay president of the United States. The 37-year-old mayor has publicly rejected the idea of Free College, riding against the currents of the popular national movement. He also called for reviewing student loan refinancing and “robust ways to have debt forgiven” specifically for graduates who decide to go into public service. At his campaign rally celebration, Buttigieg made a point of voicing his support for the nation’s educators, “Empowering teachers means freedom, because you are not free in your own classroom if your ability to do your job is reduced to a number on a page.” He also says charter schools “have a place” as “a laboratory for techniques that can be replicated.” Buttigieg openly supports providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. He proposed extending amnesty and TPS status for Dreamers and other illegals in the country, as well as reforms for legal immigration and border security. However he has been criticized for being vague and not releasing particulars for any type of immigration policy proposals.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, is offering an image of a practical Midwesterner who will promote liberal policies to primary voters. The three-term Senator has cautiously attuned her positions on many progressive platforms, voicing her support without fully backing the issues or elaborating. On free four-year college, Klobuchar has been outspokenly opposed the idea since announcing a presidential run.  Klobuchar answered a question from a young voter at at a CNN town hall forum, responding that she would not support the plan espoused by Senator Bernie Sanders for tuition-free college as she found the plan too expensive. She went on to say, “No, I am not for four-year college for all. If I was a magic genie, and could give that for everyone, and we could afford it, I would.” Instead, Klobuchar went on to explain that she would support easing restrictions on refinancing student loans, as well as expanding Pell Grants program. However, many feel as though the Senator is being timid in the face of special interests and Wall Street. Klobuchar has openly supported the DREAM Act. Posting messages on social media, such as, “…the Republican congress can’t allow 800,000 kids to be deported.  Pass the Dream Act now.” Klobuchar supported Senator Harris’ proposal to allow DREAMers to work in Congress.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is running for President and has a extensive record on education. In January, Booker vowed to run “the boldest pro-public school teacher campaign there is. However, many teachers unions and public school advocates are skeptical of such promises as in the past the Senator has often gone astray from more typical Democratic stances, such as promoting  merit pay for teachers. In 2002, he supported policies such as school choice, including privately managed charter schools, accountability for low-performing institutions and assessments for educators based on student test scores. Booker has been a vocal critic of teachers unions, something that could be problematic as he tries to run a pro-teacher campaign. Consequently, in 2010, the Newark teachers’ union openly opposed his mayoral re-election bid. Booker’s close ties to Betsy DeVos may also allow for criticism throughout the campaign trail. He has supported school vouchers with the Education Secretary, an issue many Democrats and Progressives oppose and has also served on the board of directors of the Alliance for School Choice (now known as the American Federation for Children Growth Fund) with DeVos. Booker has openly stated that children of lower-income families and children of color need ways to abandon struggling public schools in their neighborhoods. Booker said, children are “by law  locked into schools that fail their genius.” However, the Senator did not support DeVos’ nomination, saying his vote pertained to issues outside of school choice, that the answers she gave in her confirmation hearing about special education and student’s civil rights concerned him. Since then he has continued to publicly distance himself from the Education Secretary. Along with Senator Harris, Booker introduced the American Dream Employment Act,  legislation that would rescind the current prohibition on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from working or participating in paid internships in Congress. Booker commented on his support for the Act, saying, “For DREAMers, the United States is their home. They are our neighbors, classmates, community leaders, service members, teachers—DREAMers love this country…It’s time we show these DREAMers this country loves them back and allow them to work and contribute to this country in any way they choose, including working for the United States Congress. This legislation recognizes the dignity of these young people and the value they would bring to Congress as employees. When we lift up those around us, we all benefit.”

The former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke is seeking the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. The native Texan is known for  his charismatic speeches, locally-minded take on politics and his genuine manner on social media. O’Rourke does not support tuition-free public college. However, when asked to clarify he said he supported free community college  the idea of debt-free, as opposed to tuition-free, four-year public college. At a town hall forum in Carroll, Iowa, this past April, O’Rourke went on to say, “I mention debt-free higher education if it’s a publicly financed, public-serving educational institution. And then for those who have accrued the debt, that $1.5 trillion, at a minimum, let’s refinance more of that at lower rates. And then let’s increase the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.” This came as a relief for many of O’Rourke’s supporters as O’Rourke did not sign on as a co-sponsor when debt-free college legislation was introduced in the House in 2018. On his first day in Iowa as a Democratic presidential candidate, O’Rourke addressed the issue of teacher’s pay across the United States, using Texas as an example of changes needed for the future. In March he said, “Nearly half of public school teachers in Texas are working a second or a third job, not for kicks, not for extra spending cash, but just to make ends meet. To put food on the table, to buy that medication with a $444 co-pay, just to exist. And at the same time, and the gentlemen said this in his question, out of their own pocket, they are buying supplies for their classroom, supplies for the students in them.” He has openly supported issues such as increasing the salaries of our nation’s educators and implementing universal pre-kindergarten, as well as his aversion to standardized testing.O’Rourke also has garnered much attention on the subject of charter schools. His wife, Amy O’Rourke started a charter school in El Paso 13 years ago,  andnow works for an organization that backs the expansion of charter schools in the region and previously worked as a teacher in a private school. However O’Rourke has yet to speak out directly on the issue. Meanwhile, he has been outspoken in his support for providing a path for citizenship for DREAMers, recently releasing a 10-point plan that promotes citizenship for both “Dreamers” and their parents, as well as for “millions more” who now live in the U.S. illegally.

Analysis

When it comes to education, there’s consensus among 2020 Democratic candidates on some basic platforms, like increasing teacher pay. However there seems to be significant divergence when it comes to issues such as lessening the burden of higher education costs, how to solve the steeply-rising student debt crisis, and ways to repair our public school system. Although  college-age millennials are a core part of the party’s base, education has not seemed to be a key issues in voter platforms. The 2020 election may be the time to change this, making education stances a more important issue for voters. Nominees like Sanders and Warren have much less of an uphill battle on the education front than nominees, such as Booker, who have supported issues such as charter schools or continuing to allow  high-cost college tuitions. Candidates like Klobuchar and Buttigieg who have not supported free four year colleges, will face harsh criticisms from democrats, educators and teachers unions. However, only time will tell how crucial the American public finds these platforms and only voter interest can show candidates how seriously we taking their opinions, endorsements and promises.

Engagement Resources:

  • The Stand Up 4 Public Schools campaign provides the public with a more accurate and thorough perspective of public education by capturing the ordinary, yet extraordinary activities and the dauntless and bold actions of educators – teachers, administrators, superintendents, and school board members – that help prepare students for the future.
  • Pearson unequivocally supports the provision of free, high-quality, government-funded education led by well-qualified, well-trained teachers, for every child around the world.
  •  The Teacher Salary Project is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness around the impact of our national policy of underpaying and under-valuing educators.
  • dreamactivist.org was launched in 2008 by five undocumented youth as a site where we could share our stories of struggle and come together to develop strategies for self-defense in a country that considers them “illegal.”
  • United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led community in the country, creating a welcoming space for young people, regardless of immigration status.

Photo by unsplash-logoKimberly Farmer

Trump Roll Backs on School Lunches Leads to Lawsuit

Trump Roll Backs on School Lunches Leads to Lawsuit

Policy Summary
The Trump administration has altered the way children are eating lunch, nationwide. The State of New York claims today’s school lunches contain fewer whole grains, more sodium, and additional milk flavors in children’s meals. The official charge blames the U.S. Department of Agriculture for cutting back school breakfast and lunch standards without the typical, required public review and comment period, and in doing so violating the federal Administrative Procedure Act. The lawsuit files by the states claims that the Department has disregarded federal dietary standards. The original rules were set in place by former first lady Michelle Obama, as part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign, in an effort to make school meals healthier. The “Let’s Move” guidelines set a limit for sodium, trans fats and calorie intake, while also promoting more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Analysis
In May 2017, during his first week on the job, the Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue announced he would begin to roll back the Obama-era school meal standards. The Agriculture Secretary seemed to take the issue lightly as he said, “I wouldn’t be as big as I am today without chocolate milk.” Soon after, Mr. Perdue went on to allow exemptions from the whole-grain requirements, delay the sodium mandate and serve 1 percent flavored milk instead of nonfat. The Agriculture Department maintained that the guidelines, laid out by the previous administration, were not only onerous for the school system, but aided in higher costs and significantly lowered federal school lunch program participation. Advocacy organizations opposed to the recent changes, have claimed Perdue’s goal to “Make school meals great again” has, in reality, gambled with the health of more than 30 million students.

Letitia James, Attorney General of New York, has spoken out ardently against the school lunch rollbacks. Earlier this month, the Attorney General said, “The Trump Administration has undermined key health benefits for our children – standards for salt and whole grains in school meals – with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law. My office will use every tool at our disposal to fight back against these shameful rollbacks and ensure our children are  protected.” During her statement Ms. James went on to say, the Trump administration is “attacking the health and the safety of our children”. She pointed out that the poorest children would be the most affected by the negative changes. Currently, New York State has nearly two million children who live below the poverty line. “For many of our students, the meals they receive at school are the only hot nutritious meals they eat during the day. And access to healthy and nutritious food should never be determined by your ZIP code or your socioeconomic status.

New York is not alone in their public outrage. Other states that signed on to the suit include California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia. In addition, The Center for Science in the Public Interest and Healthy School Food Maryland, have also filed a similar complaint in Federal District Court in Maryland. Many critics have spoken out against the current administration’s abandonment of the Obama-era nutritional standards without doing any scientific research beforehand. By ignoring scientific results showing that healthier school meals can improve not only the overall health of the students but can also aid in school preparedness.

  • Action for Healthy Kids fights childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives.
  • Share Our Strength‘s mission is to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad, by helping low-income families learn to shop and cook healthier.
  • Wellness in the Schools is a national non-profit that teaches kids healthy habits to learn and live better. WIT partners with public schools to provide nutrition and fitness education, healthy scratch-cooked meals and active recess periods for long-term change, shifting school cultures.
  • The Center for Ecoliteracy is dedicated to cultivating education for sustainable living. The Center recognizes that students need to experience and understand how nature sustains life and how to live accordingly. The organization also encourages schools to teach and model sustainable practices.
  • No Kid Hungry is a national campaign run by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. The group is working to make sure children all across the country are able to get the food they need, every day.

Photo by Toa Heftiba

Betsy DeVos Special Olympics Cuts

Betsy DeVos Special Olympics Cuts

Policy Summary

The Department of Education’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year led to scathing criticism this week. In particular, the suggestion made by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics was met with disbelief and contempt. The Education Secretary’s budget proposal, in all, would propose over 7 billion dollars in cuts, slashing nearly 10 percent of the department’s overall budget. DeVos went on to suggest $60 million in funding to charter schools and creating a tax credit for those donating to scholarships at private schools. In regard to the $17.6 million cut to help fund the Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization designed to help children and adults with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities, DeVos simply suggested it should be solely supported by philanthropy. “We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget…we are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results,” DeVos said to the House subcommittee.

After a large public outcry President Trump, in a session with reporters, said that he had “told his people” to restore the cut in Special Olympics funding (an amount so small that either Trump or the notoriously wealthy Betsy DeVos, could probably fund out of their own pockets.

Analysis

For some time, DeVos has been an avid supporter of charter schools, educational institutions that receive government funding but function independently of individual state school systems and are therefore, models of public asset privatization. DeVos and her ilk argue supporting charter schools allows parents to have a choice in schools and that funding should follow suit. However, supporters of public-school claim that financial support from the government towards charter schools and private schools undermines conventional, public schools, where most of American students learn today.

On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D) of Wisconsin questioned the Education Secretary’s proposal, asking, “Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut?” Pocan went on to reference a recent report by a nonprofit group that claimed the U.S. government has recently spent $1 billion on charter schools that never opened or closed due to poor management and various other reasons. Chairwoman of the subcommittee on Tuesday, U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D) of Connecticut, said the budget proposal was “cruel and reckless,” and would “hurt the middle class and low-income families that most need our help.” During the meeting on Tuesday DeLauro openly confronted Betsy DeVos, asking, “As secretary of the Department of Education, how can you support, even boast, about taking 10 percent … away from our teachers and students?”

Education and political experts have reassured concerned citizens that the proposal is not definite or guaranteed. The proposals have not been executed and will still require approval from Congress. In the end, it is doubtful that any of the proposed budget slashes or proposals to boost “school choice” is likely to pass. Over the past two years, a republican-majority House rejected DeVos’ most severe proposed budget cuts.  With Democrats currently in the majority, DeVos is far less likely to gain traction.

Engagement Resources:

  • The Special Olympics mission remains even more vital today as it did when the movement was founded in 1968. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Get involved here: https://www.specialolympics.org/get-involved
  • The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET)is the only national membership organization dedicated solely to meeting the needs of special education teachers and those preparing for the field of special education teaching. Join the cause here: https://www.naset.org/index.php?id=556
  • The Stand Up Campaign provides the public with a more accurate and thorough perspective of public education by capturing the ordinary, yet extraordinary activities and the dauntless and bold actions of educators – teachers, administrators, superintendents, and school board members – that help prepare students for the future. It reveals the true teaching and learning in public schools and it provides a means for people to demonstrate support for their schools. Support the mission here: http://standup4publicschools.org/#block-views-the-pledge-block
  • Pearson unequivocally supports the provision of free, high-quality, government-funded education led by well-qualified, well-trained teachers, for every child around the world. By supporting public education around the world, Pearson can help more people discover a love of learning and make progress in their lives. Learn more here: https://www.pearson.com/corporate/about-pearson/the-importance-of-education.html

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭

Teacher’s Strikes March On: Success in Oakland

Teacher’s Strikes March On: Success in Oakland

Brief #33—Education

Policy Summary
Oakland teachers are returning to their classrooms, this week, after a week-long strike. After a year of contract negotiations, this Sunday school officials and teacher’s unions were finally able to come to an agreement. Although Oakland teachers were not able to obtain all of their demands from the strike, they did get much more than the county wanted to offer initially. Most notably, teachers returned to schools with nearly $38 million in pay raises. This number was based on a 3 percent bonus and an 11 percent pay raise, over four years. These numbers are almost double the pay increase that district officials offered teachers before their 7-day walk out.

These increases are especially important when considering Oakland teachers are the lowest-paid in the Bay Area. Many have become extremely strained with the cost of living increases occurring in Silicon Valley. It is estimated that monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment would require up to 60% of a teacher’s salary.

In Oakland, educators and school employees were also effective at demanding smaller class sizes. The district plans to drop the class size by one student a year beginning in 2020. Counselors will also see a significant drop in student numbers as their caseloads will be reduced from the average 600 to 500 cases. School  speech therapists, psychologists and resource specialists will also see reduced caseloads, while school nurses will be receiving the teachers’ raise plus another 9%, and $10,000 bonuses by 2020.

Analysis
Their successful strike has not slowed down Oakland educators. Teachers will continue to push onward for classroom funding, a cease to school closings in African America and Latino communities, and a ban on charter schools, which the teachers union says divert millions from the school district. Soon after the final vote on Sunday, Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown said the victory “sends the message that educators will no longer let this school district starve our neighborhood schools of resources. Oakland educators spoke clearly today at our ratification vote that this agreement will not be the end of our struggle, and we will continue to fight in Oakland and Sacramento.”

The issues facing public schools in Oakland are plaguing public schools around the nation, causing  a 30-year high in strikes for 2018 and continuing on into 2019.  Teacher’s salaries continue to fall behind the wages of other college-educated employees. The American Federation of Teachers claim schools have been under-funded for years now. In 2015, public school teacher  wages were 17 percent lower than those of comparable employees, and the number has continued to grow. In 2017, a report found that 29 states were offering less school funding in 2015 than in 2008. It is unsurprising that states, with very low educational funding  have become locations of some of the larger teacher strikes. Last year approximately 375,000 educators and staff participated in strikes.

However, not everyone is happy for the advancements made and stands taken by teachers nationwide. Donald Trump Jr., seemed to ridicule protesting educators and school officials. Last month in El Paso, Texas, during a recent speech, the President’s son, exclaimed, “these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.” With leadership mocking and misunderstanding their plight, it is understandable why America’s teachers continue to push for better working conditions and better schools.

Resistance Resources:

  • Teach to Lead recognizes the many school principals, state and district systems leaders, and organizations who work collaboratively with teachers to make leadership and innovation a regular part of school culture and the profession of teaching.
  • Donors Choose is an online charity that allows individuals to give directly to teachers and students. Donors can browse classroom causes by location, materials requested or greatest need.
  • The United Federation of Teachers is a labor organization with over 200,000 members. Although the UFT represents teachers, nurses and other professionals in New York City, educators from across the country can benefit from its resources, particularly its website.
  • SEIU Local 99 is comprised of education employees from all sectors working in schools, colleges, family/childcare centers, and administrative offices. They represent the wellbeing and standards of 35,000 public and private sector education workers throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino Counties.

This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Erin Mayer, Policy Analyst  Contact ErinMayer@usresistnews.org

Photo by Josh Barwick

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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

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