U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is proposing to eliminate aspects of the Civil Rights Data Collection. Today’s Federal Flash gives you the details on her proposal. It also covers recent congressional action to address school shootings and rising tensions in the Senate over the rewrite of the Higher Education Act.
Proposed Changes to Civil Rights Data Collection
Let’s say that you’d like to know if students of color in your school district are more likely than White students to be taught by teachers in their first or second year in the classroom. You can find that information because it’s collected by the U.S. Department of Education through a mandatory survey issued every two years called the Civil Rights Data Collection or CRDC.
But if Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has her way, we’d no longer know the answer to this, and other questions, about disparities in educational opportunities because the Department is planning to eliminate them from the CRDC. On the chopping block are questions related to: teacher experience, including the distribution of teachers in the first or second year of teaching; school finance issues, such as how much is spent on teacher salaries; and early childhood education, such as a disaggregated count of preschool enrollment.
What’s being added? Several questions related to sexual assault, bullying on the basis of religion, and participation in advanced coursework by students with disabilities.
These changes have only been proposed; they are not final yet. You can review the Department’s proposal and submit your comments by November 18.
On top of these proposed changes, the Department has also issued final policy guidance on several issues over the past few weeks, including state and local report cards, the use of special education funding to support dual enrollment, and school safety.
Congressional Action to Address School Shootings
Speaking of school safety, the House education committee passed the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act on a party-line vote to establish a definition of “school shooting” in federal law and collect data on school shootings. In passing the bill, Committee Chairman Bobby Scott said, “This is a small, but important step towards ensuring that classrooms are safe places where parents can have peace of mind and children are free to learn.” His counterpart, the committee’s lead Republican Virginia Foxx, had a different perspective, saying “this bill and the unnecessary reporting requirements included in it are not about school safety, but instead about gun politics.
Additional information on the legislation is available at the links below:
From Democrats: https://edlabor.house.gov/imo/media/doc/2019-09-18%20School%20Shooting%20Safety%20and%20Preparedness%20Act%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
From Republicans: https://republicans-edlabor.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=406557
Movement on the Higher Education Act
There’s also been movement on Capitol Hill to rewrite the Higher Education Act, the federal law governing higher education, but it could amount to little more than running in place. The House of Representatives passed legislation to continue funding for two-years for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving colleges and universities that expired on September 30th. But when democrats in the Senate tried to pass the legislation, it was blocked by Senate education committee chairman Lamar Alexander.
Instead, Chairman Alexander said he wants a long-term solution and introduced legislation that would provide permanent funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving colleges and universities—alongside several other bipartisan proposals Senators had been pushing as part of a comprehensive HEA reauthorization, such as simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.
So far, Senator Alexander’s proposal and strategy have been criticized by civil rights organizations, labor unions and others while receiving support from for-profit colleges. Some groups support pieces of Alexander’s proposal but would prefer a more comprehensive approach. Bipartisan negotiations on a comprehensive reauthorization of HEA have been taking place for months, but Chairman Alexander’s narrower legislation does not address key priorities for Senate Democrats, including student loan debt, accountability, and campus safety.
For now, the HEA reauthorization process will continue, with the next significant action expected sometime after Congress returns from its two-week recess in the House, which has yet to release a comprehensive HEA proposal this session. In the meantime, the links below provide additional information on Chairman Alexander’s legislation and the response from Patty Murray, the Senate education committee’s leading democrat.
This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the October 4 episode of Federal Flash, All4Ed’s video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.