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Federal Flash: Could New Federal Data Prevent DeVos From Rolling Back Obama-Era Rules?

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April 27, 2018 12:24 pm

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New federal data on bullying, discipline, and school safety should prompt tough questions about why certain groups of students are unfairly singled out. Could it also prevent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from rescinding Obama-era guidance on school discipline?  Today’s Federal Flash addresses that question, highlights new people taking over top positions at the U.S. Department of Education, and covers interesting comments on education coming from top Republicans on Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Education released the 2015-2016 Civil Right Data Collection or CRDC, a biennial snap shot of data on bullying, discipline, and school safety among other items.

The data shows that black students and students with disabilities are suspended and arrested far more often than their peers. Given the information, many are hoping this will prevent the department from rescinding Obama-era guidance on school discipline that was designed to address those problems.

The data also confirms racial disparities across students when it comes to success in science, technology, engineering and math courses.  For example, 85 percent of white eighth graders who were enrolled in Algebra I passed the course, compared to only 72 percent of Latino students and 65 percent of black students. Among Native American students and students of two or more races, fewer than 50 percent passed the course.

The data also show that high schools with high percentages of black and Latino students are less likely to offer advanced math and science courses like calculus, physics, chemistry and advanced math.

 

In other news from the Education Department, several empty positions have been filled. On April 18, the Senate confirmed Carlos Muñiz to serve as the Education Department’s top lawyer.

In his role as General Counsel, Muñiz will be charged with tackling some of the stickiest legal issues confronting the Department including determining whether states are complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), deciding whether to rescind the school discipline guidance mentioned earlier, and laying out new rules for colleges handling allegations of sexual assault on campuses under Title IX.

In addition to Muñiz, Mark Schneider was confirmed to serve as the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences and James “Lynn” Woodworth was appointed by President Trump to serve as the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Education Department also issued a notice inviting applications for new awards for fiscal year 2018 for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) Program. The IAL program supports high-quality programs designed to develop and improve literacy skills for children and students from birth through 12th grade in high-need schools and school districts.

Applications were made available on April 18 and the deadline for submissions is May 18. Click this link to apply or get more information.

Finally, the top Republicans on the House and Senate education committees made some interesting comments recently.

In a speech at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education earlier this month, Senator Lamar Alexander gave credit to the Department for its approval of state ESSA plans, saying, “I think the implementation is fine.”

As we’ve reported previously, Senator Patty Murray the ranking Democrat on the committee, has raised a number of issues with the department’s approval of state plans. Some of those concerns were reiterated in a letter sent by more than a dozen organizations, including the Alliance for Excellent Education, highlighting specific concerns with plans that had been approved by the Department.

At the same event, the Chair of the House education committee, Republican Virginia Foxx, recently made comments arguing that pay for school teachers should be comparable to the salary of professors.

She stressed the need for better pay in response to a question about waves of teachers walking out of their classrooms in red states like Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, demanding better pay and more education revenue to make up for years of budget cuts.

She further suggested that sexism may play a role in the salary disparity, noting that the majority of public school teachers “are women and the majority of college professors are men.”

This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the April 27 episode of Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s five-minute (or less!) video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. The video version is embedded below. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at alliance@all4ed.org.

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