Whiteboard Notes | Federal Education Funding Bill Released; PA Considers HS Civics Requirement; Report Exposes Degree Attainment Gaps in Each State

House Releases Education Funding Bill: A funding bill released today by the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee proposes $71 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Education for the next fiscal year. This is a slight increase from the $70.9 billion appropriated for this year. The Trump administration requested $63.1 billion. Given that this is an election year, there remains a lot of negotiation in the House and then the Senate before the figures are stable.
 
ED Has Lost 550 Employees in Trump Era: A recent analysis of employment data found that the U.S. Department of Education has lost 550 employees since the beginning of the Trump administration. Experts speculate that many of these departures are the result of retirement without replacement as the department has shifted its goals to deregulation and reducing bureaucratic overhead. Notable reductionsin staff include an 11% loss in the Office for Civil Rights and a 7% loss of employees in the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Reduced Staffing Creates Backlog for Loan Forgiveness Seekers: Tens of thousands of applications for student debt forgiveness are awaiting processing after the Trump administration reduced the number of employees who review the paperwork. The U.S. Department of Education has since hired more contractors to tackle the claims. This comes after the department announced changes to its loan forgiveness application procedure in late May to allow previously denied applicants to reapply.
 
Senate Education Committee to Reauthorize Major High School Funding Bill: Next week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is set to markup a bill to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Last updated in 2006, the bill is the largest source of federal funding for public high schools. The House has passed a bill to reauthorize the program twice over the past two years, but both parties on the Senate side have expressed concern over secretarial power. Ivanka Trump is planning to lobby Senators for the reauthorization this week, and HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander has announced that the committee will vote on the bill on June 20.

 

Massachusetts Considers Prohibiting Tax Break for Private and Religious School Tuition:Massachusetts legislators are considering a budget amendment that would prohibit residents from using tax-advantaged college savings plans, commonly referred to as 529 plans, to pay for private or religious school tuition. The pending legislation in Massachusetts would not alter federal law, but would eliminate tax breaks at the state level for those using 529 plans for K-12 private or religious school tuition. Previously, 529 plans could only be used for postsecondary education purposes, but under the new federal tax law the plans can be used for K-12 private and religious school tuition, as well.

Missouri Governor Appoints New State Board Members, Resumes Board Policymaking Abilities:This week, Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R), who took office on June 1, 2018 after the resignation of former Governor Eric Greitens (R), appointed two new members to the State Board of Education. With the new appointments, the board has enough members to vote and advance policy for the first time in six months. Now that it has a quorum, Governor Parson expects the board to begin a national search for Missouri’s next Commissioner of Education.
 
North Carolina Supreme Court Rules on Authority Over K-12 School System: On Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on whether the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent of Education has rightful control over the state’s K-12 schools, upholding a lower court’s decision that a 2016 law transferring some of the State Board of Education’s power to the State Superintendent is constitutional. Both the State Board of Education and current State Superintendent Mark Johnson haveexpressed support for the Court’s decision, each side claiming that the ruling reaffirms their respective authority.
 

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Three States Refuse to Streamline Accountability Guidelines: While most states have adjusted theiraccountability guidelines to meet requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Colorado, Indiana, and Florida continue to push back on several components of the Federal law. Because these states have refused to align their systems for assessing school performance to ESSA,  their schools will be ranked twice for accountability purposes based on distinct state and federal expectations.  Some anticipate that facing two separate accountability systems could force school leaders to prioritize one set of guidelines over the other, creating tension around how best to spend time and resources.
 
Pennsylvania Considers a High School Civics Requirement: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) plans to sign a bill that would require all students in the state to take a civics test before graduating high school. Representative Karen Boback (R) wrote the bill, which would take effect in the 2020-2021 school year, in response to the results of a 2016 survey indicating that only 26 percent of adults can recall the three branches of the federal government. The bill has been passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate and awaits the signature of Governor Wolf (D), who has verbally expressed his support.
 
California High School Benefits from Awarding Positive Behaviors: The implementation of a positive behavioral system led to a decrease in disciplinary action and an increase in student achievement at a high school in California. The daily average for tardies dropped from 200 to 15, the number of fights per year reduced from 16 to 3, and the amount of students making progress to English Language Proficiency increased by nearly 25 percentage points. The school achieved these results using a points and reward system that allows teachers to award points to students for a range of positive behaviors, in turn giving students the opportunity to cash those points in for a prize. 

 

Community Colleges to Offer Facebook’s Digital Marketing Program: Five community colleges across the country have partnered with Facebook to offer the tech company’s digital marketing certificate program. Facebook plans to add at least 15 more colleges to this cohort as part of its goal to provide digital skills training to one million people by 2020. Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community Colleges, Des Moines Area Community College, Central New Mexico Community College and Greenville Technical College a have agreed to adopt the program.
 
Report Exposes Degree Attainment Gaps in Each State: A new report from nonprofit Ed Trust highlights the significant degree-attainment gaps within each state. The report rates states based on the overall degree-attainment of black and Latino students, the progress the state has made since 2000, and whether the state’s gap is larger or smaller than the national average. Andrew Nichols, senior director of higher education research and data analytics, identified the results of the report as an economic crisis, urging states to address the problem.