Whiteboard Notes | $900M Federal Proposal for Employment and Training; The #1 Skills Gap Today

Republicans Propose $900 Million Bump in Employment and Training Budget:  House Republicans recently proposed a $1 billion annual budget  for employment and training programs, as part of theAgriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, better known as the Farm Bill. The funding would flow through the SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) program, which aims to help those currently on food stamps gain the skills they need to secure meaningful employment and a stronger economic position. Currently, the federal government spends $90 million SNAP E&T grants each year; under the House’s proposed farm bill, this would increase to $250 million in FY 2020 and $1 billion for FY 2021 and future years.  The proposed increase is one of several controversial changes to the SNAP program.

Former School Principal Named Head Start director: Deborah Bergeron has been chosen to lead the Office of Head Start  at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bergeron most recently served as principal of Manassas Park High School in Northern Virginia. Ann Linehan, the career official who has been interim director for the last year, will continue in the Office of Head Start as deputy director.

Civil Rights Data Reveal Disparities in STEM Access, Success: The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has released the Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2015 to 2016 school year. The report focused on school safety and discipline, bullying, and STEM access. In terms of discipline policies, despite Obama-era guidance that reduced expulsion and suspension rates for black students, disparities still exist. Gaps are also evident in Algebra I enrollment — known as the gateway to other math and science courses — where black students trail behind their Hispanic and white peers in the enrollment distribution.


Missouri Seeks to Change Higher Education Tuition Cap: bill that would change the existing cap on tuition charged at public institutions of higher education in Missouri is moving through the state legislature. Currently, tuition increases are capped at the rate of inflation, but the proposed legislation would permit institutions to increase their tuition beyond those rates. The bill, which would also repeal provisions allowing institutions to seek waivers of the tuition increase cap, was heard in the House on April 10. 

Nebraska Adopts New Law to Improve Reading Instruction: Last week, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) signed into law a measure intended to improve reading instruction in early childhood education. The law, referred to as the Reading Improvement Act, requires the adoption of policies to facilitate improved reading instruction and intervention services in early grades, including administering an approved reading assessment three times each school year to all students in grades K-3. The act will take effect on July 18.

New Hampshire Senate Passes Student Data Bill: bill passed by the New Hampshire Senate last week would implement requirements for local education agencies related to the handling of student data. Specifically, the bill would require each local education agency to create and make publicly available an index of data elements containing definitions of certain individual student personally-identifiable data fields. Additionally the bill would require districts to develop a data security plan, publicly disseminate students’ rights under FERPA, and use digital badges to obtain the written consent of a student’s parent or guardian.

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Tennessee Drops 2018 Test Results After Major Glitches: The Tennessee legislature approved two bills in the past week to address flawed results of the 2017-2018 TNReady assessments. Under the two bills, the test scores cannot impact a student’s final grades; the hiring, firing, or compensation of teachers; or a school’s ranking as a priority school within the bottom 5 percent. Lawmakers are still determining exactly how or if  the results will impact teacher evaluations, a requirement of the state’s school accountability plan.

Report Uncovers Data Gap Between High School and College:  A recent report conducted by nonprofit GreatSchools sought to investigate how well states track how high schools prepare students to succeed in college and ultimately earn a degree. The report uncovered that only two states report the postsecondary graduation rates for individual high schools and only 12 states track those students’ performance throughout college. While ESSA only requires states to publish the college matriculation rates of individual high schools, the report suggests that states should follow up on student success through college to better understand student outcomes.

Detroit Weighing Kindergarten Adding Summer School to Boost Literacy Skills: In response to only 10 percent of Detroit third graders passing the state’s English Language Arts exam, district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced that summer school will now start in kindergarten. This announcement is one of several literacy initiatives seeking to prepare students for the looming state law to be enacted in 2020 that will hold third graders back if they are not reading at grade level. Vitti also recommended that assistant principals run the summer school programs, thus preparing them for the role of principal in the future and allowing principals to focus on teacher recruitment.


Report Recommends Mergers within Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education: A report issued by the RAND Corporation sought to consider ways for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to promote a sustainable environment for allocating financial resources. Among the options proposed, a majority included mergers within the state system meant to combat issues of a declining traditional college-age population, competition amongst colleges and universities for resources, and internal governance issues. Merger recommendations faced significant pushback from faculty unions and those who believe that shutting down struggling schools in poor areas of Pennsylvania will lead to a decline in educational opportunities.

Defense Department Opposes Elimination of PSLF Program: The U.S. Department of Defenseopposes the elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, according to a Department document. The document, which recently became public, outlines military leaders' opposition to a provision in the House bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act that would eliminate the PSLF program. The memo argues that if the program is eliminated, current recipients should be grandfathered in and an alternate program approved.