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Here and Now in the Education World

children playing in a schoolyard

Taking on the latest in the controversy about the best for public school students from the viewpoints in a family of teachers and trainers.

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High and Low

December 27th, 2017
Post by CJN
a desert high school with undocumented students

a desert high school with undocumented students

Since the last Take Care Schools post, the new tax legislation, signed into law by the president on December 23, 2017, is on the highest shelf of the “to-worry-about” list for every teacher, administrator, and parent with a child or children in public school – from pre-school to college.

Above all, lowering state, sales, and local tax deductions to $10,000 remained in the legislation. Since tax money is what state and local communities deploy to fund schools, this change in revenue in high or low tax states will lead to unfortunate choices for education, transportation, and public safety. In other words, according to the GOP, lower taxes per worker means more money in his/her paycheck, but if state and local budget choices must be made because of lower tax revenue, some of those jobs may disappear. Will that work? Let’s see.

Those well-to-do enough, and who prefer private school education, can deduct up to $10,000 from taxes to 529 college savings plans, which now can be used for K-12 private and parochial fees, and they can deduct donations made to school voucher projects organized by the state. All these loopholes help wealthy taxpayers, but not the public schools.

Also, separate legislation to change aspects of the latest Every Students Succeeds Act, sends $253 million in grants to expand charter schools with the Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Program. While it’s true that some charter schools have excellent models that support children who need a different approach to learning, only $52 million (just one-fifth!) of the funds are to reach 17 non-profit charter management organizations for replication and expansion of high quality programs. For example, Environmental Charter, Fortune School of Education, and Voices College-bound Language Academics in California, plus others across the country.

In addition, the Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are rewriting the law that protected higher education students from for-profit predatory colleges’ loan repayments for useless degrees. Two Obama law regulations called assurance of “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” will be repealed and blocked from re-adoption. Other benefits for colleges and obstacles to for-profit colleges are being revised also. See “Education Bill Sweeps Away Obama Rules” by Erica L. Green, New York Times, December 13, 2017.

Consider the 365,000 high school students and the 241,000 college students of the 1.2 million eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA)  who came into this country with their undocumented parents. The president has left it up to Congress to consider a bill by March 5, 2018, or up to 800,000 will be subject to deportation, including twenty thousand teachers. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, to replace the teachers will cost at a minimum $350 million to school districts and local taxpayers.

Recall that the Supreme Court of the United States, 35 years ago in Plyler v Doe said the State can’t deny free public education to any student residing in the country, citizen or undocumented. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) of 2017, establishing the right to residency for children, by Durbin and Lindsey Graham – SB 1615/HR3440 – is supported by 86% of Americans, including ¾ of the most conservative GOP in a survey by ABC News/Washington Post on November 17, 2017.

Last and not least, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been given funds until mid-January, but it must be re-authorized to support the children at the lowest level of learning – early childhood education.

What can you do? Call and email your members of Congress – it’s helped before, so don’t let them get away with inaction. Reach for the high shelf and stoop to the lowest shelf to make DACA and CHIP happen. For the future ….

 

Congress and Doing the Math

November 26th, 2017
Post by CJN
preparing students to be college or career ready

preparing students to be college or career ready

The ongoing news about the man who sexually compromised high school girls 40 years ago and is still running for the Alabama special election Senate seat makes one despair for women and girls. Will they ever get their chance for a decent education or job or any professional accomplishment?

Despite the above worry, are you rooting for improved education outcomes for female (and male) students and for the teachers whose profession is to make sure those kids actually graduate from high school prepared to benefit from the many higher education possibilities? You are faced with the foolhardy attempt by Congress to pass a tax bill.

If you’re really, really rich, or run an exceptionally large corporation, you may be happy or you may be discomforted by your luck compared to the rest of taxpayers. Why?

First of all, eliminating state and local tax deductions for the ordinary tax filer – which taxes, nationwide, cover an average of 46% of the funding for public schools – risk cuts to education funding of $370 billion in the next decade. (NEA’s Education Insider, 11/19/2017) The dominos will fall – JOBS for custodians to food prep workers to teachers to school district personnel.

Second, the House bill eliminates the measly $250 a year deduction for teacher’s purchase of school supplies for classroom instruction. That small amount is the last straw on the state/local tax deduction, property tax deduction, and medical expense deductions that will be eliminated and thus increase a teacher’s taxes due.

Next, students who have taken out loans to finish their higher education will not be able to deduct the interest on the loan for taxes due. In addition, of the $2500 deduction available to graduate students who get a tuition waiver or work for professors will be eliminated. So, tell me why the wealthy will be able to stash away $10,000 a year in tax-free accounts to pay for their child’s private school tuition?

In an end-run attempt to trash the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate will be eliminated, thus 13 million Americans will likely lose benefits. Students in those families that can no longer afford insurance are doubly whacked with the reduction in state/local taxes to support school nurses and assistants. Furthermore, adopted students and their families are damaged if the adoption tax credit is eliminated.

Also, excluding mortgage interest deductions will affect all families, including teachers and students making less than $75000 a year. How can lack of affordable housing be reduced by eliminating such deductions and thus raising taxes?

Last, to make the bill work, any middle-class tax cuts still remaining will sunset in 10 years. (David Leonhardt, New York Times, 11/19/2017)

Take Care Schools thinks that members of Congress who will vote for this bill were not well-prepared for higher education mathematics, an important project for high schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions since 2013.

Improving Students’ College Math Readiness… by the Center for Analysis of Post-Secondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) proposed instructional improvement in five independent strands of mathematical learning. The outcome is to produce math proficiency for all students before they enter the work force – including the government.

  • Conceptual understanding of when and why mathematics are important;
  • Procedural fluency to use procedures in the right way for the right purposes;
  • Strategic competence to present formulations that make sense;
  • Adaptive reasoning to use logic to explain mathematical relationships;
  • Productive disposition to believe sustained effort leads to benefits in life.

If mathematical learning is good for students, why is the Congress unable to formulate a tax bill that benefits the American public? Is it true, as Chris Collins (R-NY) says, his donors call for an action, any action, or don’t call for more money.

That is one reason, but hardly logical if you want to run a government that will do good for all Americans, not just the rich.

Perhaps Congressional members should do the right thing and listen to procedurally fluent graduates in statistics, percentages, and sensible formulations that may determine tax legislation that provides beneficial wealth distribution in the United States.

 

 

 

 

For and Against in October

October 29th, 2017
Post by CJN
Little Rock 9 walking to Central High

Little Rock 9 walking to Central High

On September 25, 1957, under terrible harassment and fear, the Little Rock 9 desegregated Central High School in Arkansas. Since then the civil rights laws for public schools have improved, but, 60 years later, schools still suffer from concentrated neighborhood segregation – where poverty, unemployment, and indecision among legislators leave much to improve students’ academic achievement.

As of October 8, two Pennsylvania Republican representatives formed a caucus to push for preservation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, affecting not only college students and teachers, but fire fighters, police, and other public service providers.

Will a bill make it through congress? Will the president sign it? In the same month, Betsy DeVos, Superintendent of Education, has delayed the rules that provide oversight to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges that promise but don’t provide good education and leave students with huge loans to pay back. To top it off, DeVos picked Julian Schmoke, Jr, former dean of for-profit DeVry University to oversee the issue of fraud in higher education.

On October 16, Ms. DeVos went to Washington state to speak before the conservative Washington Policy Center, once again, about the value of for-profit charter choice and private school vouchers for needy “individual students.” This seems to be the solution for education’s poor “systems and buildings” instead of attention paid to the 90% of students in the 600,000 public schools in America. In fact, through the media her comments have been broadcast that parents choosing a school for their child is like choosing among myriad food trucks for a meal. Is that so?!?

On October 21, the Senate barely passed the FY 2018 budget resolution, 51-49, and on October 26, the House of Representatives passed the resolution 216-212. In the resolution non-defense discretionary funding is cut deeply – that means not only cuts to Medicare, but to education and to the Children’s Health Insurance Program which keeps students healthy enough to attend school. So far, no continuing resolution has come forward, and so five states plus Washington, DC will be scraping the empty CHIP funding barrel by the end of the year.

On October 25, Lily Eskelen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, and many others spoke before Congress about the need for a decision on DACA, the Dream Act. There isn’t any time to waste before members of the education community – from bus drivers, to students, students’ teachers, and colleagues – will be affected, and not well. Many teachers have said they can see the fear in their students’ eyes as a result of the president rescinding DACA.

On October 25, the Patsy T. Mink Gender Equity in Education Act of 2017 (GEEA) – so named for the Democratic representative from Hawaii who helped pass Title IX 45 years ago – is up to be passed to further expand Title IX provisions such as, establishing an Office of Gender Equity in the Department of Education; improvements for Title IX coordinators in schools on training and tech support; competitive grants to expand Title IX provisions in K-12, colleges, LEAs, and states.

Title IX and sexual harassment have been a big topic in the media lately, and usually one hears from another student – often female – who has been harassed or abused and how difficult and intimidating resolution can be. The most recent 2017 regulations address the heavy problem of investigating these incidents and providing the correct recourse. But, the new regulations have been intensely argued as too hard on the victim and too lenient on the accused. In fact, new congressional legislation to reverse by law some of the disruptive changes authorized by DeVos is called the Title IX Protection Act.

Besides the victim’s group End Rape on Campus, there is another group called FACE (Families Advocating for Campus Equality) which wants to make sure of the rights of the accused. There have been times where the accused’s case has been dismissed, but the student still pays the price of losing friends, being taunted, deciding to change college or drop out. Members of the victim’s group feel that the same happens on their side.

TakeCareSschools hopes that the appointment of Kenneth L. Marcus to the Office of Civil Rights in the DOE and the legislation providing an Office of Gender Equity can resolve the disparities on each side and still allow for equality of opportunity for an excellent education in college without fear of intolerance or aggression.

Just what the Little Rock 9 were striving for 60 years ago. Now, we are trying to address the right to an education free of harassment and fear, not only because of color, but because of U.S. status or gender.

 

 

Title IX and What is Causing Uproar for Schools

September 26th, 2017
Post by CJN

 Title IX

On Friday, September 22, 2017 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced changes to Title IX procedures affecting sexual harassment and violence on college campuses. Her statement confirms suspicion that the U.S. Department of Education intends to roll back critical civil rights protections for students. A new “Dear Colleague” letter to all educational entities explicitly stated the two 2011 actions to be rescinded – the Obama administration actions to clarify procedures for investigations of sexual harassment and violence to students.

When educational environments are unsafe because of sexual harassment, assault, and violence, students can’t learn — and their right to an education free of discrimination is put at risk.

#1: Forty-eight percent of students in grades 7–12 still face sexual harassment.

#2: Girls still receive $1.2 million less in funding for high school sports than boys.

#3: Although approximately 20 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault, 89 percent of college campuses disclosed zero reported incidences in 2015.

Title IX, part of a U.S. Education amendment in June 1972, signed by President Richard Nixon, states

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Usually, the public thinks only of Title IX legislation affecting sports. It also affects classes offered to boys and girls, job discrimination in an educational institution, biased academic advantages and opportunities for scholarships, and sexual assault and harassment discrimination, especially on college campuses.

After Title IX regulations went into effect, women in sports increased 600%. However, the issues of sexual harassment showed numbers not so well improved. 8 in 10 boys and girls were still harassed, 25% very often. Girls were more likely to be harassed, 56% girls vs. 40% boys. See titleIX.info.

In 2011 regulations in a “Dear Colleague” letter explained in more explicit detail who and how Title IX would be implemented at all educational institutions. At that time, the criticism was that not enough victims’ complaints were pursued or decided. New regulations said the case would be decided by the preponderance of the evidence (POTE), the principal objective being to avoid use of federal monies to support sexual discrimination and provide protection against discrimination.

The argument about and the reason for the changes made September 22, 2017 are because Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, claims that the accused in a sexual discrimination case and decisions that come before a school’s administration are diminished unless legal counsel is hired and forced to sue. The Office of Civil Rights of the DOE wishes to change the regulations to more equally weigh the claims of the victim and the accused. To do so, the OCR has sent another “Dear Colleague” letter to require clear and convincing evidence that what happened, happened.

When this decision first came to light on September 7, 2017, National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskalon Garcia said, we “are appalled that the Department of Education has decided to weaken protections for students who survive campus sexual assault or harassment. This decision offends our collective conscience and conflicts with the basic values of equality, safety, and respect that we teach our students every day.” See USA Today link above.

It’s 45 years since Title IX regulations first went into effect. Speaking personally, my daughter was harassed in middle school and the administration knew the rules and handled the situation well. My son-in-law dealt with the issue as coach at the local high school.

Brett Sokolov, director of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), has posted many interim measures used while a matter of harassment is investigated in 80% of the schools in the U.S. that have a Title IX coordinator. He notes that the need to improve is not the excuse to remove the moral, ethical, and legal obligations of any educational institution.

Remember nobody can be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Claiming the need for clear and convincing evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence may seem useful, but can overwhelm the investigation and decision.

In addition, such heavy-handed investigations and decisions interfere with getting help for the survivor so s/he can succeed equably in education – the purpose of Title IX.

For all things Title IX go to https://www.titleix.com/law/

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Budget to Cut After-School and Summer Programs?

August 29th, 2017
Post by CJN
California elementary school with after-school program

California elementary school with after-school program

Keep in mind the $9 billion education cuts proposed by the president and Superintendent of the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the Department of Agriculture cuts to school meal funds proposed by Sonny Perdue. These cuts are sitting on the table for all to see while Congress comes up with an actual budget funding bill.

The Committee on Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, chaired by Republican Virginia Foxx-North Carolina, has designed a bill which passed by committee vote and passed the Appropriations Committee vote on July 12, 2017. It is unlikely to pass a full floor vote, nor in the Senate.

Still the action rattles the education community because some unfortunate version will pass. It cuts $2.4 billion from several sections of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

From Title II-A it eliminates funds to reduce class size, provide professional development, recruit and retain teachers, and provide mentoring services to school districts across the country.

It takes money from Title I services to needy schools.

Most objectionable to districts that try to improve achievement levels and graduation rates are funds being slashed from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC) – part of ESSA – that provide for after-school services, summer programs, including meals, to low-income neighborhood schools.

The president and the Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, insist that the programs are not boosting student achievement. Likewise, the bill claims to eliminate duplicative or ineffective programs and reduce funds to others. Evidence for such statements is rare or non-existent, like voter fraud.

Looking at current research, The Hechinger Report, Covering Innovation and Inequality in Education, focuses on 21st Century Community Learning Center sites in Mississippi’s poor neighborhoods. The document blames the cuts from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provide meals as well as the reduction of service funds for 21st CCLC that will lead to cognitive delays from malnutrition as well as no homework help, tutoring, or recreation supervision which means, of course, there will be no growth.

The Texas Education Agency’s evaluation of fifteen 21st Century Community Learning Center sites found higher test scores from grades 9-12 program participants and improved progression through grades. In middle schools, they found fewer disciplinary problems, better attendance and behavior, higher promotion and graduation rates. For details see “Texas study” .pdf in The Hechinger Report, found in the paragraph under subtitle “Related: How does Mississippi really compare…”.

The California Department of Education’s “Independent State-wide Evaluation of After-School Programs” shows reduced juvenile crime rate, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. To see the details click here and to choose ACES 12/2012 from a list of studies click here.

Take Care Schools has data for California schools. Four hundred programs across the state serve 100,000 California students at 21stCCLC sites and other after-school programs agreed to by voters in an initiative promoted by former Governor Arnold Schwarznegger. California spends 4 times as much from state funds than it receives from the federal government. The problem is that, like in many states, the monies are divided: elementary and middle school programs are funded by state money. Any high school monies for after-school and summer programs come from the federal budget.

Click here for more analysis of California, Texas, and other state after-school programs.

If those funds disappear, anyone can realize that the progress low-income neighborhood schools are focusing on – student achievement, promotion, graduation rates – will be affected.

Do we want 18-year-olds standing on street corners, wandering from low-pay job to job, putting strain on their family or worse as we’ve all seen. Only because the president and his cohorts seem to think that taking all the $$ away, rather than fixing and improving the services, is the solution. Is that so?

 

 

 

Contributors

Ongoing posts by CJN, Claire Noonan, M.A., elementary teacher in large urban schools with fifteen years in the classroom and twenty years supervising and coaching the reading/language arts curriculum.

Occasional posts by PEN, Paula Noonan, Ph.D., thirty years in training and consulting services to companies across the nation and content expert/teacher of M.Ed. programs for Jones International University.

Periodic posts by SEN, Sarah Noonan, the teacher starting her career in a suburban elementary school hit with all the budget and achievement dilemmas in beautiful California.