Whiteboard Notes | SXSW Panel Picker; ED Considers Changes to Title IX Rules; Ruling On ACICS Delayed

Department of Education Considering Changes to Title IX Rules: According to a recent New York Times article, the U.S. Department of Education is considering a set of policies for institutions of higher education that would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, hold schools accountable only for conduct that occurred on campus or was reported via formal complaints filed through proper authorities, and establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools have improperly addressed complaints. The Department has declined to comment on these proposed policies and said they are still in the deliberative process, but if implemented, this would mark the first time that the federal government would go beyond guidance and recommendations on Title IX — which governs sexual discrimination on college campuses —  and codify the definition of sexual harassment and the steps that institutions are legally required to take in order to address it. [The New York Times, Subscription Required]
Ruling On ACICS Delayed Again: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delayed a final decision for the second time on whether to federally recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Schools and Colleges (ACICS), an oversight body for 245 institutions of higher education, many of which are for-profit colleges.   At the end of the Obama administration, the Department of Education terminated ACICS’s accrediting agency based on the recommendation of the federal panel that advises the Department of accreditation. Early this year, a federal judge ruled that the Department failed to consider key evidence when making the decision and must reconsider.  DeVos issued an order this past Tuesday extending the Department’s review period until September 28. [Inside Higher Ed
Advocates in Alabama Warn Against Arming Teachers: Half a dozen advocates in Alabama warned the Federal School Safety Commission, headed by U.S Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, against using federal funds to arm teachers this past Tuesday. Recently, the Department has been evaluating the idea of allowing federal funds from the flexibility block grant in Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act to be used to arm teachers. During the Commission’s final public listening session, speakers representing school psychologists, grassroots lobbying organizations, and counseling organizations spoke out against compromising the school safety zones and warned against the potential traumatic effects that arming teachers could have on students with exposure to gun violence. [Education Week,Subscription Required]


The last 2018 legislative sessions are coming to a close! We’ll continue to share the latest state policy news here each week, but content might be lighter during this time of year as lawmakers shift gears to election mode. According to Ballotpedia, 87 of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers will hold elections this year, and nearly 82% of all state legislative seats will be up for grabs.
California and Ohio are the only states currently in regular session. Puerto Rico is also in regular session. Next year’s session are just around the corner, and activity for 2019 has already begun. Florida, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia are currently posting 2019 bill drafts, prefiles, and interim studies. The following states are currently holding 2019 interim committee hearings: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida (House), Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois (Senate), Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi (Senate), Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma (House), Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

*W/A provides state legislative tracking services. If you're interested in learning more, drop us a line.

Teachers Strike Throughout Southwest Washington, Demand Higher Pay: This week, educators from school districts throughout southwest Washington -- including Evergreen, Vancouver, Ridgefield, Hockinson, Washougal, and Battle Ground -- went on strike to protest stagnant teacher pay. The strikes come after negotiations between districts and teachers unions throughout the summer, and have delayed the start of school in districts within Clark County and beyond. Teachers in Seattle Public Schools haven’t yet joined the protest, but voted on Tuesday to strike if a deal isn’t reached by next week. [NPR]
Number of Students Taking AP Computer Science Skyrockets: More than 136,000 students took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam this year, a 31 percent increase compared to last year. According to College Board and Code.org, the number of underrepresented minorities, females, and rural students participating in AP computer sciences courses also reached a record high this year. [USA Today]
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Awards $92 Million in Grants: This week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continued the efforts of its Networks for School Improvement Initiative by awarding$92 million in grants to 19 organizations across 13 states. The grants vary in amount and duration and are individualized to focus on the indicators the school or organization would like to focus on, ranging from test scores, suspensions, or grades to qualitative factors like empathy or creativity. [Education Dive]


Tennessee Residents Show Interest in New Grant Program: Tennessee state officials are enthusiasticabout the 31,000 adults who have applied for their adult learner grant program. The Tennessee Reconnect is a grant program for students 25 and older to earn an associate degree or technical certificate free of tuition or fees. Initially state officials only anticipated 8,000-10,000 students would apply, but now are expecting at least 9,000 adults will enroll in the fall. [Inside Higher Ed]
Average Student Loan Debt Increases for Mississippi Graduates: According to the The Hechinger Report half of students who graduated from a  Mississippi university in 2017 on average owe $30,268, which is more than the national student loan debt average. LendEDU, a financial product marketplace conducted the report and ranked Mississippi 37th in the nation for the amount of debt per borrower. Overall the average student loan debt for graduates of Mississippi public and private school ranges from $19,000 to more than $35,000. [The Hechinger Report]