The ​U.S. Department of Education Will Reorganize in January

The U.S. Department of Education will undergo an internal reorganization set for January 6th, but will take several months to implement, CNN reports:

The new Education Department structure consolidates a number of offices within the agency. The Office of the Secretary will merge with the Office of the Deputy Secretary. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer will merge with the Office of Management to become a new Office of Finance and Operations, according to the email.

The new Office of Finance and Operations will also take on certain responsibilities of other agency offices including the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Deputy Secretary, and the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, according to the email.

 The Office of Innovation and Improvement will also “integrate” into the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The internal email that CNN was provided did not say how many positions would be cut, but the department spokesperson, Liz Hill, said no full-time positions would be cut. The email stated the reorganization was due to, “an administration-wide commitment to making government more efficient, effective, and accountable.”

The Trump Administration in June recommended merging the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor to form the U.S. Department of Education and the Workforce. That merger needs Congressional approval, something I think was going to have difficulty passing even when Republicans controlled both chambers. I definitely don’t see it happening with a divided Congress. 

President Trump Says He Will Expand Access to STEM Education

President Donald Trump giving the 2018 State of the Union Address.

The White House released a statement yesterday from President Donald Trump about how he is working to ensure all Americans have access to STEM education. 

“My Administration will do everything possible to provide our children, especially kids in underserved areas, with access to high-quality education in science, technology, engineering, and math,” Trump said.

The Trump administration has swallowed the workforce development model of education hook, line, and sinker. Because of this, I don’t think we can reasonably expect any significant positive changes in education policy. 

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a report by the Committee on STEM Education of the National Science and Technology Council that outlined the Administration’s plan for STEM Education.

They stated three goals:

  • Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy by ensuring that every American has the opportunity to master basic STEM concepts, including computational thinking, and to become digitally literate. A STEM-literate public will be better equipped to handle rapid technological change and will be better prepared to participate in civil society.
  • Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM and provide all Americans with lifelong access to high-quality STEM education, especially those historically underserved and underrepresented in STEM fields and employment. The full benefits of the Nation’s STEM enterprise will not be realized until this goal is achieved.
  • Prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future—both college-educated STEM practitioners and those working in skilled trades that do not require a four-year degree—by creating authentic learning experiences that encourage and prepare learners to pursue STEM careers. A diverse talent pool of STEM-literate Americans prepared for the jobs of the future will be essential for maintaining the national innovation base that supports key sectors of the economy and for making the scientific discoveries and creating the technologies of the future.

One of the ways the Trump administration would like to accomplish these goals is through increasing work-based learning:

Strategic partnerships that promote work-based learning (WBL) experiences offer powerful, relevant ways to ensure that STEM learning is authentic and engaging, and that learners are prepared to succeed in the modern workforce. Learners who have access to WBL opportunities—ranging from elementary school workplace visits, to secondary pre-apprenticeships, to skilled trade apprenticeships, to research experiences and internships for undergraduates and graduate students—are better prepared to transition into the skilled workforce. Although WBL policies and practices vary widely across the country, communities can consider adopting components and promising practices that include a consensus definition of WBL, a strategic plan, a coordination entity, outreach strategies, and clear communication.

Read the Trump Administration plan below:

Watch: Rethinking Federal Intervention in K-12 Education

The Heritage Foundation and Pioneer Institute co-hosted an event entitled “Rethinking Federal Intervention in K-12 Education” held at The Heritage Foundation on Thursday. 

The description for the event states: “After recent historic declines in student achievement following decades of increased federal involvement in K-12 education, it is time to re-think federal intervention in education.”

Panelists included:

  • Theodore Rebarber – CEO of AccountabilityWorks
  • Neal McCluskey – Director, Center for Educational Freedom, Cato Institute
  • Brad Thomas – Senior Education Policy Advisor, U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce
  • Patrick Wolf – Distinguished Professor of Education Policy, University of Arkansas
  • Jamie Gass – Director of the Center for School Reform, Pioneer Institute
  • Lindsey Burke – Director, Center for Education Policy and Will Skillman Fellow in Education, Heritage Foundation

Watch the panel discussion below:

A New Student Privacy Policy Office to Be Created for U.S. Department of Education

Politico reported yesterday that one of the upcoming changes at the U.S. Department of Education will be the rcreation of a new Student Privacy Policy Office.

Caitlin Emma writes:

— Other changes that haven’t been reported include the creation of a new Student Privacy Policy Office, which would be housed under the department’s Office of Planning Evaluation and Policy Development. The new approach would essentially break up the current Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, which has been housed under the Office of Management. The Education Department’s former chief privacy officer, Kathleen Styles, was reassigned earlier this year. 

— The new Student Privacy Policy Office would be created by combining and moving two offices out of the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer — the Student Privacy Policy and Assistance Division and the Family Policy Compliance Division. A new rulemaking effort would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, so the Family Policy Compliance Office can administer the law.

— The Student Privacy Policy Office would be charged with providing student privacy assistance to states and school districts, in addition to investigating FERPA complaints. The position of chief privacy officer will move over to the Office of the Chief Information Officer, which has historically dealt with information technology issues. The chief privacy officer would have jurisdiction over issues related to the Privacy Act, which regulates federal record-keeping, and other privacy safeguards.

FERPA desperately needs to be updated, but unless schools, states, and the Feds stop collecting student data, privacy will always be an issue.

A Day That Shall Live In Infamy (For Those of Us Who Hate Fed Ed)

President Carter signed the Department of Education Organization Act on Oct. 17, 1979.

On this day 39 years ago, President Jimmy Carter signed the Department of Education Organization Act creating the U.S. Department of Education.

Three years prior, American celebrated its bicentennial. We had existed as a nation without the U.S. Department of Education for over 200 years. Children received a quality education, we saw significant advancements in technology, and even sent men to the moon without the U.S. Department of Education.

Congress and President Carter in their *infinite wisdom* created a federal department that had no constitutional basis that no Congress or President since has reduced in any meaningful way. 

When the Department was created Congress declared its purposes, from the Department’s website:

  1. to strengthen the Federal commitment to ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;
  2. to supplement and complement the efforts of States, the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States, the private sector, public and private educational institutions, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community-based organizations, parents, and students to improve the quality of education;
  3. to encourage the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs;
  4. to promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education through federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information;
  5. to improve the coordination of Federal education programs;
  6. to improve the management and efficiency of Federal education activities, especially with respect to the process, procedures, and administrative structures for the dispersal of Federal funds, as well as the reduction of unnecessary and duplicative burdens and constraints, including unnecessary paperwork, on the recipients of Federal funds; and
  7. to increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress and the public. (Section 102, Public Law 96-88)

The U.S. Department of Education notes that in the 1860s the federal government had a budget of $15,000 (roughly the equivalent of $456,000 in 2018) and four employees that handled “education fact-finding.” By 1965, when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” the Office of Education (that was part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) had 2,100 employees and a budget of $1.5 billion. Now the Department has a workforce of 3,912 and their largest budget to date – $71.5 Billon.

And what results has it had to improve student achievement since its inception?

None, but yet we keep wasting money on this unconstitutional department.

HT: U.S. Parents Involved in Education

DeVos Releases a Parents’ Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a parents’ guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Along with it comes a steady stream of propaganda that paints ESSA as a deliverer of state and local control, which it is not.

“At the core of ESSA is an acknowledgment that Washington doesn’t know best when it comes to educating our nation’s students,” DeVos said. “Our focus is on returning power to the hands of parents, states and local educators, where it belongs. Parents should not have to parse through a 500-page legal document to understand how a law or policy affects their children’s education.”

“Because states and districts have significant flexibility in how they meet the requirements of the law, parents should know and have a voice in how they use that flexibility to best help their children. These new resources will help empower those closest to students with information they need to be informed advocates as education decisions are made at the state and local level,” she continued.

There are some pieces of useful information for parents in understanding their rights under the law:

  • If your eighth-grader is taking a high school level math class and test, he or she is not required to take the State math test other eighth-grade students take.
  • Your high school student may be able to take a nationally recognized high school test, such as the ACT or SAT, instead of the test your State normally administers in high school.
  • If your child attends a school in a district in a State that receives the flexibility to offer an innovative assessment, he or she may take a different type of test in place of the standardized tests the State would otherwise administer.
  • If your child is a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities, as defined by your State, it may be appropriate for your child to be assessed with an alternative assessment. This determination will be an individualized decision, with your input, based on your child’s individual and unique needs.
  • If your child attends a school the State identifies for comprehensive support and improvement, your district may allow your child to transfer to another public school and use a portion of its Federal funds to pay for transportation to the public school you choose for your child.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of parents opting their students out of assessments which is the most significant way parents can exercise control of their student’s education. The rest is merely lip service.

Read the guide below:

Some Questions for Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos at CPAC 2017
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at CPAC in 2017.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

During her speech in Huntsville, AL earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asked some difficult questions about the current state of K-12 education:

So I think it is high time to ask—and answer!—a few questions “the system” fears:

Why aren’t all teachers allowed the autonomy to guide their students?

Why aren’t all parents allowed to decide the education that’s right for their own children?

Why aren’t all students allowed to pursue learning in ways that work for them?

Why are we afraid?

Americans are no strangers to facing their fears. Many feared taking on the Crown and charting their own new destiny. But the Founding Fathers weren’t afraid to put blood and treasure on the line when they signed their names on the Declaration of Independence.

Many feared going to the moon. But President Kennedy inspired and unified a nation when he announced that we’d go to the moon within the decade. And just a few years later, we did.

The demand for action is hardly new. 1983’s landmark “A Nation at Risk” report sounded a clarion call to do better for America’s students. 35 years later, next to nothing has changed.

We’ve defied the laws of gravity, and sent men to the moon and back. But many still fear doing what needs to be done to bring education into the 21st century. Why? Because many fear the perceived power of union bosses. They fear November’s ballot boxes.

I have some questions for Secretary DeVos:

  • How can you address what teachers are allowed to do in the classrooms when you don’t support states doing what they want without federal interference?
  • How can you speak of parents having a choice when you don’t support the ability for parents to opt their children out of assessments? They can decide how their child is educated (which I support), but can’t decide whether or not they should take an assessment?
  • Why instead of pursuing education fads like personalized learning do you not advocate classical education that has been proven to work?
  • Why are you afraid of letting states and schools have control? Why haven’t you called for the repeal of the Every Student Succeeds Act and every federal education law that goes beyond protecting a student’s civil rights?
  • Speaking of sending people to the moon, don’t you realize that was done before we had a Department of Education and education was mostly decentralized?

Next to nothing has changed because education reformers go from recycled fad to recycled fad foisting top-down reforms that don’t work while, at the same time, ignoring what does.

Why are you afraid to ignore the floundering group think mentality that currently exists?

Largest Ever Appropriations for U.S. Department of Education

President Donald Trump giving the 2018 State of the Union Address.

Education Week reports that the FY2019 Appropriations Bill that was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump represents, not counting inflation, the largest appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education. They write:

In total, the bill Trump signed into law sets the department’s budget at $71.5 billion for fiscal 2019, an increase over fiscal 2018 of $581 million, although that figure doesn’t include a rescission of $500 million from Pell Grant reserves. In general, the fiscal 2019 budget impacts education funding for the 2019-20 school year. The spending package largely ignores the push from Trump and DeVos to create new school choice programs, as well as their proposals to cut the Education Department’s overall budget.

Not adjusting for inflation, the $71.5 billion budget is the largest-ever appropriation from Congress for the Education Department.

But never fear! The spending increase is smaller compared to last year’s!

Compared to last year, the Education Department’s funding increase is smaller—when Trump signed the fiscal 2018 spending bill into law last March, it gave the department a $2.6 billion boost. 

This budget is what reducing the federal footprint in education is supposed to look like? I don’t know about you, but I’m disgusted. Education Week offers a chart that compares the FY18 education spending to the FY19 appropriations. For instance:

  • Title I Funding for school districts increases by $100 Million.
  • Title IV-A (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Block Grants) get a $70 million increase.
  • There is a $100 million increase in special education grants.
  • Charter school grants see an increase of $40 million.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (After-School Programs) see a $10 million boost.
  • The Office for Civil Rights receives $8 million more.
  • School Safety National Activities sees a $5 million bump.
  • There is $10 million more budgeted for Education Innovation and Research along with $2 million for the Institute of Education Sciences.
  • Career-Tech Grants receive $70 million more in appropriations.
  • Head Start will receive $240 million more in FY19.

Just awesome.

Parents Group Calls on President Trump to Fire Betsy DeVos

On Tuesday, U.S. Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) released an open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to fire Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. You can read it below.

Dear Mr. President, 

United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), a nationwide grassroots organization of parents and education advocates regularly conveys concerns to you and other elected officials about the negative effect of Federal government intrusion in education. 

USPIE calls for Congress to abide by the Constitutional structure for education, for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, for ending all Federal education programs, and for returning the control of education to parents and local communities. USPIE developed a Blueprint based on references from CATO Institute and The Independent Institute to provide clear reasons and steps to achieving these goals. The Blueprint has been shared extensively with elected officials in Washington D.C. 

As USPIE communicated to you previously, we were hopeful, with some reservations regarding the nomination of Mrs. DeVos for Secretary of Education. USPIE believed you would instruct Secretary DeVos to be laser focused on fulfilling your campaign promises to eliminate Common Core, however rebranded, and begin to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education. 

Since her appointment, Secretary DeVos has used the hammer of the Federal government to broaden its authority and disregard the rights of states and parents. Three actions in particular demonstrate this disregard:

  • threatening states abiding by state parental rights laws through the ESSA plan approval process,
  • recommending the merger of the Departments of Education and Labor fundamentally shifting the purpose of education to “workforce development”,
  • and now, endorsing the G20’s Declaration enshrining the UN’s education agenda, which undermines not only parents and states, but the fundamental sovereignty of the United States.

We do not believe these actions are consistent with your “America First” philosophy nor your campaign promises that generated so much enthusiasm.
As one of the nation’s largest collaboration of parents, and grassroots education advocates, we are committed to the goal of truly improving education for all of America’s children, which begins with reinstating parental authority and control, and ending Federal meddling in education. We continue to be available to assist in this effort.

Given these concerns, we call for the immediate dismissal of Secretary DeVos and for the appointment of an American education leader who will prioritize the fulfillment of your campaign promises.

U.S. Parents Involved in Education

Ill-advised Opposition to Rescindment of Fed School Discipline Guidance

Tom Perez rolled out a disparate impact analysis for school disciple cases.

On August 24, 2018, eleven state attorneys general (AGs) sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and U.S. Attorney General Jeff  Sessions on the letterhead of California’s Office of the Attorney General. The letter was sent via e-mail to the School Safety Commission regarding “States opposition to withdrawal of School Discipline Guidance Package.” Clearly, the AGs were acting in their capacity as officials elected to execute the duties of the “People’s Lawyers.” One would think that the AGs should be concerned about officials in the federal government complying with the rule of law. Sadly, however, the eleven signatories, (all Democrat, and ten whose states did not support the current administration in the 2016 presidential election) are likely politicizing their offices – making a tacit threat of filing a lawsuit should the January 2014 School Discipline Guidance Package be rescinded. After all, filing lawsuits is what AGs do.

Their letter should be interpreted in the context of former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez’s roll-out of disparate impact analysis as described in the January 8, 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter which is one of the four components of the package. Perez, current Chair of the Democratic National Committee, rolled out his new interpretation of the Civil Rights Act in an invitation-only conference of civil rights lawyers hosted by the ED and DOJ in Washington, DC on September 27 and 28, 2010. The conference was entitled, “Civil Rights and School Discipline, Addressing Disparities to Ensure Educational Opportunity.” Readers should question how many of the AGs signing the letter to DeVos and Sessions had received special invitations to attend that conference.

At the conference, Perez announced that the DOJ would use a disparate impact analysis on school discipline cases to determine whether school districts’ policies were racially discriminatory. In other words, Perez introduced a policy derived from Critical Race Theory taught at Harvard Law School, Perez’s alma mater. Disparate impact analysis presumes districts are guilty of racism until proven innocent, even without an actual complaint filed. That presumption is inconsistent with America’s legal tradition and aligned with and UCLA’s School of Law, not with the U.S. Constitution the AGs have sworn to support and defend. Readers should ask why the AGs invoked civil rights as justification for their concerns when Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not address discrepancies data reported for racial groups, such as that reported in the CRDC; instead, it addresses intentional racial discrimination against “persons.”

The March GAO report prominently discussed in the AGs’ letter stated explicitly in Appendix I that parent education or household type (single-versus multiple-headed household) could be related to student behaviors resulting in disciplinary actions analyzed. The report also stated,  “Results of our analyses are associational and do not imply a causal relationship because, for example, CRDC data were not gathered by a randomized controlled trial, where students would be randomized to attend schools with certain characteristics.”

The AGs do not consider that ED and DOJ’s joint “significant guidance” on its face violates the Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices § IV, OMB Memorandum M-07-07. “Section II(2)(h) clarifies that, given their legally non-binding nature, significant guidance documents should not include mandatory language such as ‘‘shall,’’ ‘‘must,’’ ‘‘required’’ or ‘‘requirement,’’ unless the agency is using these words to describe a statutory or regulatory requirement, or the language is addressed to agency staff and will not foreclose consideration by the agency of positions advanced by affected private parties.” Despite the OMB’s prohibition, the January 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter employs the prohibited language. While purporting not to impose legal requirements, ED-DOJ used their administrative powers to rewrite Title VI and embedded the new policy in the January 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter. This type of overreach by Departments in the executive branch is not new as the D.C. Circuit observed in Appalachian Power v EPA.

If the AGs really understood the effects of disparate impact analysis on school discipline in minority-majority school districts, they may better understand how the School Discipline Guidance Package actually endangers all students regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin – but perhaps they interpret endangerment for victimization by peers as equal opportunity. It is difficult to justify the content and tenor of the AGs letter in light of the history of the January 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter and the weak evidence the AGs used to defend it. It is inexplicable how they could defend the letter in their official capacity as AGs; but easily explained in the context of their political affiliation.