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The Biggest K-12 Education Events of 2018

As this year comes to a close, Federal Flash reviews ten things, both good and bad, that happened in federal K-12 policy in 2018.

The list starts with some least favorite items for the year, but to be very clear, these items are not in order of importance. Kicking off the list are several actions taken by the U.S. Department of Education.

10. Department of Education Ends Civil Rights Investigations of Transgender Bathroom Complaints

Early in the year, the Department announced that it would no longer investigate civil rights complaints from transgender students regarding the use of bathrooms that match their gender identity.

9. Equity-Focused Special Education Rule Put on Hold for Two Years; Guidance on Discriminatory Discipline Practices May Be Reversed

Later in the year, the Department put on hold for two years a regulation issued under the Obama administration intended to address inequities in the identification and discipline of students with disabilities based on race. The Department is also considering reversing guidance to address discriminatory discipline practices, over the objection of 11 state attorneys general as well as equity advocates nationwide, and may do so by the end of the year.

8. Rescinded Guidance to Achieve Diversity and Reduce Racial Isolation

Over the summer there was yet another policy change made by the Trump administration to curtail the Office for Civil Rights.  In July, the Departments of Education and Justice rescinded guidance to achieve diversity and reduce racial isolation that was originally issued under President Obama.

7. Reversing Course on “Mass Filers”

It’s not all bad news. The Department reversed course in a positive way in one area of civil rights policy. After initially modifying its protocols to allow civil rights investigators to dismiss multiple complaints filed by the same individual or organization, the Office for Civil Rights revised its policy on this issue, referred to as “mass filers.”

6. DACA on Life Support

This is an issue you’ve heard about several times on Federal Flash – DACA. Although the Trump Administration tried to end the program, courts have kept the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on life support. Undocumented individuals who have been able to use the program to gain temporary legal status may continue to renew their status for now, but the fate of DACA is far from certain without a permanent legislative solution.

5. Increased funding for Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants

In response to the horrific mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Congress provided $1.1 billion for Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, also known as Title IV. This is a $700 million increase over the prior year. These funds can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from increasing access to rigorous coursework, to school safety and mental health services.

4. ESSA Oversight in Congress

Both the House and the Senate have held oversight hearings regarding the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. The Alliance for Excellent Education issued an analysis in conjunction with one of these hearings raising concerns regarding how states are including historically underserved students in their accountability systems.

3. All ESSA Plans Approved

Speaking of ESSA, the Department completed its review and approval of all state ESSA plans – though, as we just reviewed, not without concern over some of the decisions that were made.

2. No Temporary Shutdown of the Department of Education

Congress provided funding for the Department of Education on time for the first time in years. This means the prospect of an impending partial government shutdown will not include the Department of Education, though it would include several other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.

1. Congress Passes Perkins

Number one on our year in review is passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act which revised the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. This updated version of Perkins places a stronger emphasis on equity as well as dual enrollment and work-based learning. For information on the new law, including fact sheets and videos, visit

That’s it for our 2018 top ten list. Keep an eye out for our “what to look for in 2019” video in early January. In the meantime, from all of us here at the Alliance for Excellent Education, have a wonderful holiday season!

This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the December 14 episode of Federal Flash, All4Ed’s five-minute (or less!) 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