Whiteboard Notes | Trump Proposes Merger of Education and Labor Depts.; LA School Board Approves $8.2 Billion Budget

Trump Proposes Merger of Education and Labor Departments: On Thursday, President Donald Trump proposed merging the Departments of Education and Labor into the Department of Education and the Workforce. The merger is the centerpiece of Trump’s plan to reform and reorganize the federal government. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement that the plan will “make the federal government more efficient and effective” and eliminate barriers between education and workforce programs. If Congress approves the merger, the new Department would be comprised of four sub-agencies: the American Workforce and Higher Education Administration, K-12 agency, Enforcement agency, and the Research, Evaluation, and Administration agency.
Ruling on Student Loan Forgiveness Clarified: In May, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Department of Education was not allowed to take earnings data into account when granting student loan forgiveness for Corinthian College students, and halted collections for the students’ debts. The Department of Education had interpreted the ruling to only apply to the four students involved in the case. On Tuesday, the judge clarified that the order applied to all Corinthian students. 
Department of Education to Amend Accreditation Rules: The U.S. Department of Education welcomes innovative ideas to amend the federal accreditation regulations. According to Diane Auer Jones, Senior Advisor to Betsy DeVos, the department would like to hear fresh and even “risky” ideas. The department may consider funding experimental programs. Notice of public hearings will be announced this summer.
Administration Considers Tightening Student Visa Rules: Senior White House Officials are considering plans to tighten the rules on student visas and exchange programs as part of a wider effort to strengthen U.S. immigration policies before the November midterm elections.


DC City Council Addresses Considers New Policy on Unexcused Absences: The District of Columbia City Council is considering a measure that would prohibit DC Public Schools from penalizing students for unexcused absences. The bill, which would create the School Promotion and Graduation Fairness Act of 2018, would not allow unexcused absences accrued between August 8, 2017 and April 6, 2018 to be the sole reason that a student is ineligible for promotion to the next grade, is ineligible to graduate from school at the end of the school year, or receives a reduced grade in a course. Under current law, students with more than five unexcused absences in an academic semester are penalized with a half-letter grade reduction and students with 10 or more unexcused absences receive an administrative failure.
Louisiana Legislature Makes Budget Cuts to Higher Ed, Enters 4th Special Session: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed into law legislation that includes a $26 million cut to higher education programs and a $29.5 million (10%) cut to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), which provides financial assistance for higher education to in-state students. On Monday, however, the Louisiana State Legislature began its 4th special session, during which Governor Edwards has asked lawmakers to take action to fill holes in next year’s budget.
Innovation Schools Program Proposed in New Jersey: New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill that directs the Commissioner of Education to establish an Innovation Schools program that outlines the process for creating innovation schools either as new entities or through conversion of existing public schools. The legislation, called the Innovation Schools Act, also requires the Commissioner to provide planning and implementation grants to eligible applicants to establish innovation schools and collect and disseminate best practices in innovation schools that may be adopted by other public schools. It also notes that innovation schools shall have increased autonomy and flexibility around curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing policies and procedures, and professional development, among others.

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Walton Family Foundation Announces $100 Million Funding Plan: At the National Charter Schools Conference this week, the Walton Family Foundation announced a $100 million initiative to increase diversity in schools and expand innovative approaches. The foundation’s new report, Rooted in Opportunity, outlines a new funding strategy that is focused on supporting teachers and students of diverse backgrounds, students in special education, and innovative curriculums.
LA School Board Approves Budget: After months of deliberation, the Los Angeles School Board passed a $8.2 billion budget for the 2018-19 school year. The new budget will cover the cost of college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, which will be administered to students in their own schools. Additionally, the budget directs the superintendent to develop a plan for administering the PSAT, a practice test for the SAT, to all eighth-, ninth-, and 10th-grade students.
Judge Blocks Rule Allowing NY Charters to Certify Teachers: This week, a New York judge ruled against regulations approved by The State University of New York (SUNY) that would allow charter schools to certify their own teachers. The Judge ruled that such certification programs were illegal because they did not meet the minimum state requirements. SUNY officials plan to appeal the ruling and remain confident in finding a way to create new certification rules according to the court’s guidelines.


University of Colorado Considers Eliminating Word ‘Liberal’ in Mission Statement: The University of Colorado Board of Regents is considering eliminating the phrase, “liberal education” from the university system’s mission statement. University officials explained many people do not understand the meaning of the phrase and they would like the statement to capture the university’s professional programs. However, others believe the university does not want to appear to be affiliated with any political party.