Whiteboard Notes | CO Teachers Strike; DeVos Approves Three ESSA Plans; College Remedial Math Enrollment Down

Mulvaney Blends CFPB Student Loan, Financial Education Offices: Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), has informed employees that the CFPB office that works on investigating the student-loan industry will be moved into a larger unit that focuses on consumer information. Critics of the decision see the move as an attempt to weaken the bureau’s focus on protecting student borrowers from predatory lending practices.

DeVos Approves Three ESSA Plans: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans from Alabama, Colorado, and Kentucky, bringing the total number of states with approved plans up to 42. Colorado, which turned in its plan last May, has now waited longer than any other state for approval, while Kentucky’s plan has not been signed off on by Governor Matt Bevin (R).

Lawmakers Call for Stalling School Closures in Puerto Rico: Congressional Democrats are speakingout against Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s plan to close hundreds of schools on the island. In aletter sent Monday, the 30 lawmakers warned of the education harm of closing these schools in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and noted their opposition to proposals to open charter schools and introduce school vouchers to the Puerto Rican educational system. 


Iowa FY19 Appropriations Bill Clears House and Senate, Awaits Presentation to Governor: A billmaking fiscal year 2019 appropriations for Iowa’s College Student Aid Commission, Department of Education, and Board of Regents has passed the House and Senate and is awaiting presentation to Governor Kim Reynolds (R). Proposed appropriations include $1.4 million for the Iowa Opportunity Scholarship Program, $1.3 million for Career and Technical Education, and $3.9 million for the state’s Successful Progression for Early Readers program. Governor Reynolds has until June 4 to act on the bill or it becomes law.

Louisiana Lawmakers Consider Behavioral Health Legislation: Legislation that would increase access to behavioral health services in schools is moving through the Louisiana State Legislature. The bill, HB 766, would prohibit public school governing authorities from preventing behavioral health providers from serving students during school hours if requested by a parent or guardian. HB 766 passed the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare with amendments on May 9, and is pending further assignment.

Next Generation Science Standards May be Considered if Maine Calls Special Session: Although Maine’s regular legislative session adjourned on May 2, a bill regarding the state’s adoption of Next Generation Science Standards may still be heard by lawmakers. LD 49, which would require the Department of Education to include the Next Generation Science Standards for grades K-12 in the state assessment system by the 2019-2020 school year, may be considered if a special session of the Legislature is called to order.

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Sex Abuse Education Legislation Signed in Georgia: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) has signedlegislation that will bring sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education to students in kindergarten through ninth grade. The unfunded mandate is expected to teach 1.3 million students how to recognize and report abuse.

Colorado Teachers on Strike Over Salaries: Hundreds of teachers in Pueblo, Colorado are on strike for the third day, seeking a 2 percent pay raise for the current school year. Still recovering from funds lost during the recession, the school district says it cannot afford to increase teacher salaries until next year.

New Report on School Superintendent Tenure: Although large districts are commonly critiqued for high rates of superintendent turnover, The Broad Center’s analysis of data from the nation’s 100 largest schools over 15 years found that the average tenure of superintendents is six years. The data also revealed that women hold the position for an average of 15 months shorter than their male counterparts and that tenures were three-and-a-half years shorter in districts with highest percentage of low-income students. 


Remedial Math Enrollment Down at 2-Year Colleges: Enrollment in remedial math courses hasdecreased 30 percent in the past five years, according to research by the Conference Board for Mathematical Sciences (CBMS). The decrease in enrollment in these remedial courses, however, is not the result of improved high school math achievement. Researchers believe that the decrease can be explained by reforms undertaken by community colleges based on research indicating that remedial math does not improve graduation rates and can actually worsen them. The State of California and community colleges across the country are developing stricter placement criteria to limit the amount of students taking remedial math and to avoid the under-placing students who do not need such courses. The de-emphasis on remedial math courses is intended to shift the focus to improve math instruction in the K-12 system.

Pilot Program to Focus on Free College Textbooks: According to Senator Richard J. Durbin (IL - D), the federal government is on track to expand the free use of textbooks through open-educational resources (OER). Legislation presented earlier this year led to an approved $5 million in support of OER in the 2018 fiscal budget. The legislation included recommendations for use of the funding, which a letter from Frank T. Brogan, the acting assistant secretary of postsecondary education says the Department will follow. After a public comment period, the Education Department plans to open a grant competition allowing public colleges and universities to apply for funding to provide these highly discounted course materials to students.