Whiteboard Notes | DeVos Launches Back to School Tour; AL State Superintendent Resigns; NY to Adopt New Academic Standards

Congress & Administration

DeVos Launches Back to School Tour: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spent the week traversing the Midwest in a Back-to-School Tour aimed at highlighting ways that local and state leaders are rethinking education. Starting in Casper, Wyoming on Tuesday, DeVos was scheduled to move through Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana. I
University of California Sues Trump over DACA: Last Friday, the University of California filed a suit in federal court against the Trump administration, claiming that President Trump’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program harmed both the school and its students. The suit follows several other lawsuits filed by state Attorneys General challenging President Trump’s decision, although this represents the first action taken by a university system. The University of California enrolls thousands of students covered by DACA, and employs other dreamers on its campuses, making it especially sensitive to changes in dreamers’ legal statuses. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversaw DACA, has stated that it does not comment on ongoing lawsuits, although Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when speaking more generally about the decision to rescind DACA, claimed that the program was, “unconstitutional,” and “a circumvention of immigration laws.”
DeVos Announces Overhaul of Campus Sexual Assault Guidelines: In a speech at George Mason University last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education will replace the campus sexual assault guidelines and enforcement system enacted under the Obama administration. While making clear that sexual assault is a serious problem that universities and colleges must address, DeVos also noted that the current system is unfair to students accused of sexual misconduct, denying many of them the protections of due process guaranteed by the Constitution. DeVos’s statement was met with varying responses, including harsh criticisms from student and sexual assault advocacy groups who claimed that the effort demonstrated the government’s lack of concern for survivors of sexual assault, while civil liberties groups cautiously supported the move to protect the individual rights of all students.

States, Districts, & Colleges

Alabama State Superintendent Resigns: Michael Sentance, who took office as Alabama’s State Superintendent in August 2016, submitted his resignation letter to Governor Kay Ivey (R) this week. His resignation comes after a negative State Board evaluation last month, and days before the state’s ESSA accountability plan, which was crafted under his leadership, is due to the federal government. Governor Ivey has asked the State Board to accept Sentance’s resignation, and plans to use it “as an opportunity to move forward and begin a new chapter in public education.”
California Allocates Funds to Support Dreamers: A pair of identical bills were introduced in the two chambers of the California State Legislature on Tuesday, proposing that $30 million be allocated for legal services and financial aid for students affected by President Trump’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The bills would set aside $20 million for immigration legal services through the state’s One California program, and $10 million for financial aid split between the Dream Loan Program at the University of California System and California State University, and the state’s emergency loan program for community college students. California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has until Friday, September 15 to act on the legislation.
Colorado Aims for 66% Post-Secondary Achievement by 2025: On Tuesday, Colorado state officials unveiled a new initiative, called “Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development,” outlining strategies for raising the proportion of adult Coloradans with some post-secondary education to 66% by 2025, from about 55% today. The strategies in the report focus on boosting credential completion, improving student success, investing in innovation and affordability, and closing racial and ethnic achievement gaps that represent some of the highest in the country. To address these inequalities, the state is partnering with the Lumina Foundation to offer a $500,000 Talent, Innovation, and Equity grant in support of minority students. The state’s push for post-secondary achievement is designed to remedy its shortage of STEM-trained and college-educated workers, especially in the face of anticipated growing demand over the next decade.
New York to Adopt New Academic Standards: On Monday, a New York Board of Regents committee voted unanimously to pass a new set of academic standards for the state, replacing the Common Core standards currently in use. The new standards, called “Next Generation Learning Standards for English, Language Arts, and Math,” were developed with input from teachers and administrators, and address criticisms of Common Core, including vague expectations, a focus on technical and nonfiction writing over literature, and a less effective sequence for middle school mathematics lessons. A final vote by the full Board of Regents is expected to take place next week, after which the new standards will be gradually phased in, with full implementation anticipated by September 2020 and testing according to the new standards beginning in Spring 2021.