EDUCATION ISSUES AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL: GENERAL INFORMATION

KNOW THE PLAYERS

This is a little educational background on your Members of Congress:

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Representative):  She was home schooled and attended private, Christian schools – including Pensacola Christian College (not accredited at the time she attended it.  This is an article critical of Pensacola College).   Her educational background may influence her perspective on vouchers and separation of church/state.  

Patty Murray (Senator): She has been consistently supportive of public education. She is a leader in the fight against vouchers.  Read this article to learn more about her leadership against vouchers.   She voted against Betsy DeVos. 

Maria Cantwell (Senator): On her webpage she says she benefited from Pell Grants when attending college.  She has supported charter schools in the past but no vouchers.  She voted against Betsy DeVos. 

This is a general article on what impact Betsy DeVos might have as Secretary of Education:


THE ISSUE (1): FEDERAL FUNDING FOR EDUCATION

The Federal government has a limited involvement in funding for public education. Only about 10% of most states’ education budget comes from the Federal government.  Financial support for public education from the Federal government falls into these main categories:  Pell Grants (college scholarships for low income students), Title I funds (K-12 supplemental funds for low income students) and IDEA funds (K-12 money for students who qualify for special education services).  The Federal government also provides a little money through grants for a variety of educational programs.

Perhaps the educational issue that most parents, students and teachers are familiar with is the issue of testing.  Starting with President Bush, the federal government tied funds for Title 1 to state systems of accountability, specifically test scores.  The law was called “No Child Left Behind” or ESEA.   President Obama’s administration diminished the punitive aspects of E.S.E.A. and tried to incentivize states to support educational accountability and the common core standards.  This year Congress, supported by President Trump, has rolled back the accountability aspects of Title 1 funding even more.  Many teachers’ unions and state education departments support decreasing Title 1 regulations.  Opponents worry that without accountability, schools will not focus on academic achievement for low income students.

In her confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos showed a shockingly low level of understanding about services for student in special-education.  Right now, the federal government is only paying 16% of special-education services.  The goal was 40% when the IDEA law was passed in 1990 (the first version was passed in 1975).  The issue of special education services is complicated and there is a current case under review by the Supreme Court that could be critical in determining the quality of services provided to students who qualify for special-education.


LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION (1): FEDERAL FUNDING

This is a general article explaining how federal education dollars are spent.

This is an article on how education would be affected by Trump’s budget.

This link and this link describe the Trump administration’s policies on Pell Grants.

This article discusses legislation passed by Congress and supported by Trump on Title 1 funding and accountability.

This link is an in-depth article on issues in special education right now.

 

THE ISSUE (2): CHARTERS & VOUCHERS

Betsy DeVos is a supporter of charter schools and vouchers.  Charter schools are independent schools supported with public funds.  Charter schools generally have more freedom structuring their curriculum and students’ educational experiences than standard public schools.  They are a divisive issue in education.   Many people support charter schools as an alternative to “failing” urban public schools.  However, most teachers’ unions oppose charter schools because they lack accountability, do not serve all students, are not usually unionized, and can damage public schools by siphoning off stronger students.  The Obama administration was very supportive of charter schools and tied states’ access to educational grants to state support of charter schools.   

Vouchers are different than charter schools.  Vouchers allow families to use taxpayer funds to pay for private schools, including religious schools.  The Department of Education cannot require states to support vouchers.  However, Betsy DeVos could tie grant funds to states’ support of vouchers.  Additionally, there is legislation in the House which would create block grants for states to be used to support vouchers.  We are following this bill, although govtracker.com gives it only a 3% chance of passing. 


LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION (2): VOUCHERS

This article lists reasons why vouchers are not a good idea.

This article describes the results of recent studies on the effectiveness of vouchers in supporting student achievement.

This article describes Trump’s budget proposal support for vouchers.

This article describes recent legislation supporting vouchers in Arizona.

This is a link to information about the House bill on vouchers.

 

THIS ISSUE (3): RIGHTS

The Federal government does have a significant role in creating and enforcing a variety of regulations designed to protect students’ rights in all states. 

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination by any educational program that receives educational funding.  Under Obama, the Department of Education took on a leadership role in trying to prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campuses.  Additionally, Obama’s administration tried to strengthen protections and rights for trans students.   Trump has already rolled back guidance from the Obama administration that stated (quoted from the NPR article cited below) “that to be in compliance with the law, every K-12 school district, state education association and high school athletic association in the country ‘must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.’”

There is currently a lot of concern about how school discipline policies are being enforced.  Many studies have documented that students of color are dis-proportionally punished in the educational system.  The federal government is critical in holding school districts accountable for inequitable discipline practices.


LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION (3): RIGHTS

This article discusses concerns about the Trump administration’s possible Title IX policy changes.

This article discusses the order Trump signed rolling back protections for trans students.

This is an interview with Derek Black discussing his concerns about students’ civil rights under the Trump administration.