By Michael Stratford | 10/10/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Caitlin Emma, Kimberly Hefling and Benjamin Wermund
EDUCATION 'INSIDERS' SPLIT OVER TRUMP'S ENFORCEMENT OF K-12 LAW: More than half of education policy "insiders" surveyed by the consulting firm Whiteboard Advisers say they expect little or no federal enforcement by the Trump administration of state accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. But nearly a third of insiders say they expect "some enforcement" of the new K-12 education law, which the Education Department is now implementing, according to the new survey, to be released this morning. The regular survey is composed of views from government officials, congressional staffers, policy wonks and others.
- Insiders are deeply skeptical that Congress will go along with the Trump administration's budget proposal that would cut more than $9 billion from the Education Department. Nearly 80 percent said that Congress will likely not enact the proposed cuts - and 75 percent predict that Congress will keep funding for teacher training at about the same level, roughly $2 billion, which the administration proposed zeroing out.
- A "Trump effect" in education policy? Those surveyed also predicted that the Trump administration's support for various "school choice" policies - charter schools, vouchers, and education tax credits -- could end up decreasing public support for those policies. More than 40 percent predicted that the Trump administration's support of school choice and vouchers, for instance, would lead to less public support for those policies. And 58 percent of insiders surveyed said they expected the Education Department to be less effective under President Donald Trump than the previous administration, while nearly 40 percent expected no change.
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VIRTUAL EDUCATION CHAMPIONED BY DEVOS BUT GETS BAD MARKS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long extolled the power of online education to provide new school options to rural America. But in Pennsylvania, an early adopter of virtual charter schools, rural superintendents are screaming the loudest about the negative effects on their budgets and student success. The virtual charter schools' combined graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state's "passing" benchmark. And the founder of one of the state's largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year.
- Nonetheless, the schools have a loyal following and enroll more than 30,000 students in Pennsylvania. They are popular particularly among parents who want to homeschool their children for religious reasons, who are concerned about safety or bullying problems at traditional schools, or who want flexibility so their children can participate in athletics. That's made it harder to persuade the Pennsylvania Legislature to force more oversight or to change the funding formulas. Critics are also fighting an uphill battle against the virtual charter schools' heavy TV advertising and lobbying. "Here's what I would say to Betsy DeVos - do those parents really understand what they're sending their kids to?" said Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. More from Kimberly Hefling.
NEW PUSH TO GET CANDIDATES TO RUN FOR LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS: RunForOffice.org, a website run by the political tech firm NationBuilder, has expanded its database to include information about more than 13,000 school boards across the country. The website, which seeks to get more people to run for all types of political office, has compiled information about how to run for each the nation's more than 80,000 elected school board positions.
- "It's the first time this information has been aggregated and made publicly available," Emily Schwartz, vice president of organizing at NationBuilder, told Morning Education. The data was compiled by several hundred crowd-sourced volunteers and some paid interns, she said. The project was funded in part by the XQ Institute, an affiliate of Laurene Powell Jobs' philanthropic venture called the Emerson Collective. See the full database here.
WILL DOJ WADE INTO WAR OVER PRAYER IN SCHOOLS? Groups that have sought to defend displays of religion in schools cheered the religious freedom guidance. The First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based group that takes up court battles on behalf of Christian issues, including prayer in schools, said it has "numerous clients who may be positively affected by this new guidance."
- One such case involves a high school football coach who lost his job after praying on the field after a game. In August, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit held that a Washington school district could ban Joe Kennedy, the coach, from praying after a game. The First Liberty Institute has appealed the ruling, asking for an en banc hearing. Mike Berry, deputy general counsel at the First Liberty Institute, pointed to that case when asked how the guidance might affect clients, though he said he did not know whether the DOJ would get involved. "We certainly believe the case presents a textbook example of religious hostility and discrimination by a public school," Berry said.
- The case is on the president's radar. In 2015, Trump tweeted: "Support Coach Kennedy and his right, together with his young players, to pray on the football field."
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TRINITY LUTHERAN SAID WHAT? Experts are questioning the Trump administration's reading of a recent Supreme Court ruling in the closely watched Trinity Lutheran case, which said states cannot exclude religious institutions from state programs that have a purely secular intent. In guidance the administration issued last week , which urges sweeping protection for religious freedom, the administration says that government cannot "deny religious schools - including schools whose curricula and activities include religious elements - the right to participate in a voucher program, so long as the aid reaches the schools through independent decisions of parents." The guidance specifically cites the Trinity Lutheran ruling.
- But the Trinity Lutheran ruling was a narrow one, experts said, with Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote for the majority, saying in a footnote that "this case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination."
- "The claim that states can't block religious schools from voucher programs clearly goes beyond what the Supreme Court said in its Trinity Lutheran ruling," Harvard professor Martin West told Morning Education. "The majority in that case explicitly limited its holding to 'discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing' and emphasized that it did 'not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.' That's why most voucher supporters, although pleased with the court's ruling, expressed disappointment that it did not go farther than it did."
- A Justice Department official who briefed reporters on the new legal guidance said it only cites Trinity Lutheran "as the most recent case." The official argued that the government can't block schools "because they're religious ... and that has roots in decisions that go back far beyond Trinity Lutheran." West said the role of guidance is to explain the administration's interpretation of legal issues. "I have no doubt that the attorney general believes that the principle underlying Trinity Lutheran would imply that religious schools could not be blocked - and that, if the opportunity arose, the administration would side with religious schools challenging their exclusion."
- The ACLU, which is part of a related case challenging a voucher program in Colorado, called the guidance an "overreach." Dan Mach, who heads the group's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said the guidance is "apparently based on a misreading of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Trinity Lutheran, which was expressly limited to grants for playground resurfacing and said nothing about funding for religious activities or education."
U.S. STILL SHORT ON TEACHERS: America is still short hundreds of thousands of teachers years after the Great Recession created a gap that has only widened since, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. Per the report, the number of teachers and education staff has failed to get anywhere near its pre-recession level and isn't keeping pace with a growing student population. Public education jobs are down by 128,000 compared to nine years ago, and with growing enrollment added on, the report estimates the country is short some 327,000 teachers. Read it here.
STUDYING ABROAD ... IN D.C.: Wake Forest is the latest university setting up shop in Washington, launching a study abroad-like program for undergraduate students to learn to navigate a city that can seem pretty foreign for students in Salem, N.C., and elsewhere. "Finding that job and understanding how to network and navigate this city is obviously very different than a lot of other cities in the United States," Jennifer Richwine, the executive director of the "Wake Washington" program, told Morning Education. The university is opening a new facility at One Dupont Circle this week, though students have been studying here since August. Several other universities, including New York University, Duke and the University of California, have similar programs.
- Wake Forest isn't the only school moving into the D.C. area. The University of Virginia Darden School of Business announced this week it will open classrooms and offices in Rosslyn in the spring. UVA plans to expand on the 30th and 31st floors of the highrise at 1100 Wilson Boulevard, the tower connected to the one where POLITICO operates.
- Can social science tell us how much gerrymandering is too much? The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- After three years under ISIS, Mosul's children go back to school: NPR.
- Thousands expected to turn out to hear, or protest, DeVos in Bellevue, Wash.: The Seattle Times.
- Blackwater founder Erik Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, weighs a Republican primary challenge to Sen. John Barrasso: The New York Times.
- Texas Tech police officer fatally shot, suspect in custody: CNN.
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