Whiteboard Notes | Affirmative Action Guidance Rolled Back; SCOTUS Nominee on Education; Michigan Allocates Funds to Improve State Talent Pipeline

Obama-era Affirmative Action Guidance Rolled Back: The Trump Administration announced that they would be rolling back Obama-era affirmative action guidelines on July 3. The U.S. Department of Education’s website was updated to reflect race-neutral guidance from the Bush administration. The Justice Department explained the decision by saying the administration did not support bypassing the courts and Congress to create policies through executive action. Opponents to the decision have pointed out that the guidelines in question are not binding policies so much as they are the federal government’s official positions on how to handle various race issues. Democrats, civil rights groups, and education experts have expressed alarm over the move that could limit educational outcomes for African-American and Latino students.
 
Staffing Changes in Education Department’s Office of General Counsel: Steven Menashi, who previously served as acting general counsel at the U.S. Department of Education, has left the Department to join the White House Counsel’s Office this week. Additionally, Jed Brinton, a political appointee in the office, began a short-term detail at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.
 
Brett Kavanaugh on Education: President Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, currently a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh is the son of a former public-school teacher and has ruled on a handful of cases involving K-12 education. During his 13 years as a judge, Kavanaugh has written in support of school prayer and religious freedom and in opposition to race-based affirmative action. In 2000, Kavanaugh predicted that school vouchers would be upheld by the Supreme Court.

 

Michigan Allocates Funds to Improve State Talent Pipeline: Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed into law an education appropriations bill that calls for a $100 million investment in public education in Michigan. The appropriation is part of the state’s Marshall Plan for Talent, an ongoing project designed to improve the state’s talent pool through a variety of approaches, including training citizens for high-demand career fields, expanding career exploration opportunities, and supporting innovative teachers and curriculum. Allocations of funds include $25.5 million to provide scholarships for low-income students for degree credentials in high-demand fields, $10.5 million to provide funding to districts that are members of a talent consortium to hire career navigators, and $4 million for a web-based career preparation platform, among others.
 
New Hampshire Updates Academic Performance Indicators, Ranking System for Schools and Districts: This August, New Hampshire school districts will be required to report additional academic performance indicators to the state Department of Education according to legislation that Governor Chris Sununu (R)  signed into law on June 25. Indicators required by the law include teacher and administrative turnover rates, student expulsion and suspension rates, percentage of students completing a career pathway program of study, and school environment measures, among others. The law also establishes an updated school and district report card system. Under the new system, school and district performance will be rated on a 1-4 scale, and a statewide report with rankings will be made publically available each year.
 
Rhode Island Extends Free PSAT and SAT Program to Homeschool Students: Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) signed into law a measure that includes homeschool students in a state program that provides the PSAT and SAT to Rhode Island public school students at no cost. The law took effect immediately.
 

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NC House Establishes Committee to Support Low-Income Students: The North Carolina House of Representatives approved a bill to establish a House Study Committee focused on increasing access to advanced academic opportunities for low-income, high-achieving students in the state’s public schools. The six-member committee will study and identify best practices to ensure low-income students have opportunities to reach their academic potential. The committee plans to outline their findings in a written proposal by the end of December.
 
New Orleans is the First District to Create Citywide Charter School System: The local, elected school board in New Orleans will now control all 79 public charter schools in the city, making it the first district in the nation to oversee a citywide charter school system. Each school will still have its own school board to oversee daily operations; however, the schools will also have to adhere to systemwide standards regarding transportation, enrollment, discipline, and finance.

 

California Will Give Grants to Community College Students Attending Full-time: In an effort to increase the number of students who graduate in four years, California is offering up to $4,000 in grants to community college students who take a full 15-credit course load. The new completion grant offers students the opportunity to work less and study more. In addition to its roughly $90 million education budget, the state is adding $41 million to fund the grant.
 
Legacy Admission Policies Hold Immense Sway at Elite Schools: According to recent data, select elite institutions consistently admit more legacy students than first-generation college students. Many students are advocating for universities to review their legacy policies to improve diversity initiatives.
 
Florida Looks to Boost Community College-to-University Pipeline: In the 2016-17 academic year 61% of students who earned associate degrees in Florida applied to state universities. Out of the 30,000 students accepted, only 25,000 students have enrolled in state universities. The Florida Board of Governors is working to pinpoint factors that discourage accepted students from attending state universities or applying to more than one state university.