Whiteboard Notes | Zais Confirmed as Deputy Education Secretary; New Trump Nominee for CTE Job; Michigan State to Pay $500m to Settle Nassar Lawsuit

DeVos Approves Two ESSA Plans: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approved to ESSA plans from Alaska and Iowa this week, bringing the number of approved state plans to 44, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Alaska’s plan focuses on chronic absenteeism, using data to inform eligibility for Alaska Performance Scholarships, and interim testing to address school quality. Iowa will track school performance through student surveys, test scores and postsecondary readiness. They also set goals for increasing the number of students who score “proficient” on state exams.

Mick Zais Confirmed as Deputy Education Secretary: In a 50-48 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Mick Zais for the number two position at the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, Zais was the state Superintendent of Education for South Carolina from 2011 to 2014, and before that he served as president of Newberry College. He is a strong supporter of school choice and opposed Common Core State Standards. Zais is a retired brigadier general in the U.S Army.

DeVos Mulling Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Reshuffle: Promised changes to the office of elementary and secondary education (OESE) structure could also mean a reconfiguration of the offices of academic improvement, early learning, Impact Aid, Indian education, migrant education, safe and healthy students, school support and rural programs, and the office of state support. The structural shifts are aligned with the Trump administration’s desire to “streamline” government.

Trump Names Pick for Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education: This week the White House nominated Scott Stump, chief operating and people development officer at Colorado learning services firm Vivayic Inc., for the Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education position .  Stump previously served as the Colorado Community College System’s provost for career and technical education (CTE), and in 2014 he was president of Advance CTE. Advocates have expressed early optimism for Stump, citing his direct experience with job training.


Missouri Proposes Changes to Financial Transparency, Virtual Schooling: This week, Missouri lawmakers agreed upon legislation that would make a number of changes to elementary and secondary education policy in the state. Among the provisions, the bill would impose new financial transparency requirements on school districts and charter schools, require that school districts allow students to integrate virtual courses into their academic course loads, and create a Career Readiness Task Force to explore college and career readiness course options. The bill awaits presentation to Governor Eric Greitens (R), who has been at the center of a lawsuit for most of this legislative session.

South Carolina Legislator Pushes to Lower Higher Ed Tuition Costs: South Carolina legislators are considering a bill that would cut tuition costs at institutions of higher education throughout the state. The legislation proposes amending funding eligibility criteria for various student aid and scholarship programs, including creating a $125 million trust fund that would increase the amount of money each university would receive for enrolling in-state students. The South Carolina legislature is in recess until May 23 when lawmakers will return to address the state budget, but Senator Sheheen, the bill’s sponsor, has said that he intends to hold interim hearings on the bill over the summer.

State Superintendent May Become Appointed Position in South Carolina: bill that would make the state superintendent of education a cabinet-level position appointed by the governor, as opposed to a statewide elected office, is pending presentment to South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R). If the bill is presented with five or fewer days remaining before adjournment, or after adjournment, Governor McMaster will have until two days after the next meeting of the legislature to act or the bill becomes law.

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Child-Care Mapping Tool Created in Philadelphia Expands to More Cities: The Childcare Map, created by the Reinvestment Fund, which maps out geographic gaps in quality child-care, will now be expanding its efforts to New Jersey, Atlanta, and DC. The Reinvestment Fund calculates all licensed and unlicensed child-care providers, the number of children under age five, and parent employment information to identify communities in Philadelphia in need of high-quality child-care options. 

Ohio Legislators Vote to Change School Report Card: This week, the Ohio House Education Committee voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate the use of letter grades on schools’ 2018 school report cards. Rather than grading schools through on the contested A-F system, the report card would reflect raw scores, calculated from test performance and graduation rates, among other measures. The bill also seeks to change how the state calculates student growth and third-grade reading scores. 

North Carolina Joins the Teacher Protest Movement: On Wednesday, teachers in North Carolina rallied to demand higher pay and more school funding. Governor Roy Cooper (D) joined the rally and promoted his proposal to increase teacher salaries by eliminating proposed tax cuts to corporations and high-income households. Teacher salaries in North Carolina are ranked 39th in the nation, averaging about $50,000 per year. 


Michigan State to Pay $500 Million to Settle Nassar Lawsuit: Michigan State will pay half a billion dollars to survivors of abuse, who sued the university on account of the crimes of former professor and doctor, Larry Nassar. According to the recent settlement, the school will distribute $425 million among the victims who have come forward and will reserve $75 million for possible victims who have not yet spoken out. It is unclear how the university will finance the settlement. 

Senators Urge Harvard to Increase Funding for Service Opportunities: A bipartisan group of six senators wrote a letter to outgoing Harvard University President, Drew G. Faust, urging her to follow through on her 2010 promise to increase access to public service summer internships. The senators recommend doubling funding for summer service opportunities for undergraduates, as well as a significant increase for graduate students. Under the current structure, low-income Harvard students are often unable to take advantage of service-oriented internships due to the cost of travel and living.