THE PROGRESSIVE NATION WEEKLY EDUCATION WATCH
View the current political landscape revolving around education issues and how they will affect students, teachers and parents
- SEVERAL STATES ADVANCE ‘SCHOOL CHOICE’ PROPOSALS: With a champion for charters, vouchers and other ‘school choice’ measures in charge at the Education Department, much attention has been focused on how the federal government might promote those options. But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told state education leaders this week that whatever policy the Trump administration crafts, it would simply “enhance ” what’s already going on at the local level. Lawmakers in at least 10 states are pushing bills that would expand or create new tax credit scholarship programs, education savings accounts and voucher policies.
- Lawmakers in Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia are pushing new or expanded education savings accounts that enable families to use the money that typically would be spent on their child at public schools to pay for private school tuition and other services, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under the model, parents can choose to use that money for a range of options, including tuition, textbooks and tutoring. The effort in Virginia is the furthest along: The bill passed the legislature and is waiting for the governor to sign – though he vetoed a similar measure last year. Several other state bills have passed through committees, but are still awaiting full votes in state Houses and Senates
- “School choice” policies have made big gains in states ever since the Republican wave of 2010, said Josh Cunningham, senior education policy specialist, at NCSL. “It perhaps could be said that the selection of Secretary DeVos is, in part, the result of an increased energy and momentum in the school choice movement that has been building in states over the past six or seven years.”
- ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER TAKES JAB AT TRUMP: Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is “back” – at least when it comes to defending after-school programs. Reviving a battle that has raged on and off for months on Twitter, Schwarzenegger needled President Donald Trump on Tuesday about his budget proposal to slash funding for after-school programs. “That’s not what you call Making America Great Again. Come on, who’s advising you?” he said. Schwarzenegger suggested Trump go to Hart Middle School just miles from the White House to see how the programs work. These cuts may have special import for Schwarzenegger. He launched his political career championing after-school programs, which he said reduced delinquency and improved educational outcomes.
- TEXAS, TENNESSEE LEAD ‘SURGE’ OF TRANSGENDER ‘BATHROOM BILLS’: A year after North Carolina lawmakers passed the controversial HB2, which requires transgender people to use the bathrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates, a handful of states are pushing similar efforts – despite the economic hit that some cities in North Carolina took, civil rights groups said Tuesday. The groups, including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign and others, blasted Republican lawmakers in Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas for considering restricting bathroom use, in a call with reporters Tuesday. “These are absolutely terrifying the transgender people on the ground,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.Tennessee’s Senate education committee is set to debate one such bill today. The Texas Senate passed a measure last week that would require public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. The effort appears less likely to pass the House, where the speaker has been a vocal critic. Arkansas lawmakers are pushing similar measures, although the governor has opposed them.
- COURTHOUSE DEVELOPMENT ON LOAN FEES: United Student Aid Funds sought Tuesday to end its longstanding lawsuit against the Education Department. The move likely ends a dispute that started during the Obama administration over loan collection fees. As Kimberly Hefling writes, the filing to dismiss the case follows the department’s decision last week to reverse a 2015 directive the loan guarantor had challenged. USA Funds said last year that it was transferring its student loan guarantor business to Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation. In a statement Tuesday, Great Lakes said despite the recent actions, it will continue the practice of not assessing collection costs of borrowers who agree to rehabilitate their loans within 60 days of default.
- THE SYLLABUS:
– More than 55,000 students at historically black colleges and universities would be affected by the elimination of a federal grant program that Trump zeroed out his budget blueprint: Inside Higher Ed.- The Atlantic takes a dive into Georgia’s efforts to teach students with disabilities, which have created a segregated system.
– Google is donating $50 million to education tech nonprofits striving to create equal access to education around the world: Tech Crunch.
– New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s 2018 budget proposal wipes out state money for security at private schools: NJ.com.
– Grandmother of slain boy pushes for home-school law reform in Kansas: The Topeka Capital-Journal.
– A Pennsylvania high school boy is suing his school district over a policy that allows transgender students to share the gymnasium locker room: Huffington Post.
– Texas Senate panel passes bill that would require high school students, drivers-in-training and police officers to be taught how law enforcement and civilians should interact: The Texas Tribune.