By Benjamin Wermund | 05/18/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Caitlin Emma, Kimberly Hefling and Michael Stratford
SOURCES: DEVOS EXPECTED TO UNVEIL SCHOOL CHOICE DETAILS MONDAY: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will likely offer details on the Trump administration's vision for a federal investment in school choice on Monday, when she's slated to speak at a conference hosted by her former advocacy group, the American Federation for Children. That's according to multiple sources familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.
- DeVos is believed to be preparing an education tax credit proposal that, if passed by Congress, could channel billions of dollars to working class families to help them pay for private schools, including religious schools. What DeVos is expected to outline could look different than a bill pushed by Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana. She's expected to stress that the Trump administration won't mandate school choice and will emphasize flexibility for states, sources say. For example, she may say that states would have the right to opt out of a federal plan and should be the ones to designate entities that accept donations from individuals and corporations and award tuition support to students. Caitlin Emma has the full story.
- DeVos' designated ethics official found no conflict with her addressing the American Federation for Children in her official capacity, a spokesman said Monday. DeVos is the former chair of the American Federation for Children, which advocates for school choice policies, such as tax credit scholarships and vouchers. She and her husband also donated $200,000 to AFC's charitable arm in 2014 and 2015 through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. DeVos stepped down as AFC chair last year after President Donald Trump nominated her for secretary.
- DeVos signed an ethics agreement earlier this year that said that for one year following her resignation, "I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know that entity is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate."
- DeVos is also slated to testify about the administration's budget proposal before the House subcommittee overseeing Education Department funding next Wednesday at 11 a.m. The administration plan will call for a $10.6 billion cut to federal education initiatives as it proposes to channel new money into "school choice" policies, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Citing budget documents slated for release next week, the Post reported that Trump will propose "about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies." The administration will also propose diverting $1 billion in Title I money to a new grant program called Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS. The program would provide money to school districts that allow students to pick the public school they attend, according to the Post. More on that here.
GOOD THURSDAY MORNING AND WELCOME TO MORNING EDUCATION. I returned to D.C. after a few days in Texas to find it's hotter here than it was there. I am not ready for this summer. Tips? Feedback? Hit me up: email@example.com or @BenjaminEW. Share event listings: firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.
LA SCHOOL BOARD FIGHT WON'T BE THE LAST OVER CHARTERS: Pro-charter forces, and some billionaires supporting them, won out over unions in a contentious and unusually expensive election fight for control of the Los Angeles school board. But the battles surrounding charter school expansion show no signs of slowing in the Trump era. The winners in Los Angeles - former Obama administration staffers Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez - successfully countered efforts to tie them to the "anti-public education agenda" of Trump and DeVos. Instead, they pushed a message that said they would be more willing than their opponents to allow charter schools to continue expanding in a push to strengthen all public education.
- The issue of charter schools is far from settled. A recent POLITICO-Harvard poll found that while more than half of Americans said they support charter schools, that plummeted to 30 percent if the respondents were told the funding was taken from traditional public schools.
- Union leaders, meanwhile, promised to fight on. "We're not deterred," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "Communities around the country will take stock of what happened in Los Angeles as they prepare to fight against future efforts by billionaires to engage in hostile takeovers of school districts." Kimberly Hefling has the full story.
ED SAYS DEVOS IS REVIEWING DEBT RELIEF CLAIMS 'CAREFULLY': After a group of Senate Democrats blasted the Trump administration for halting debt relief to federal student loan borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit schools, an Education Department spokeswoman said that "students should rest assured that the secretary is reviewing these claims carefully with the best interest of students in mind." The senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and four others, sent a letter to DeVos slamming the administration for failing to carry out debt-forgiveness claims that were approved by the Obama Education Department. A 120-day deadline for finalizing that loan forgiveness, announced by the department in January, has "come and gone" without relief for the borrowers, the senators said. The department, in response, called the 120-day deadline an "arbitrary one set by the Obama administration."
- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said late Wednesday that the response is "insulting to students." " For students defrauded by Corinthian and who have been approved for relief, 120 days isn't arbitrary. It's what they were promised by their government. They anxiously check their accounts every day to see when this incredible debt burden will be lifted. They live every single day with the financial, emotional, and social destruction brought on by their for-profit college experience. Every day the Trump Administration delays the relief to which these students are entitled is another day they are subjected to this misery." Michael Stratford has more.
HOUSE COMPANION BILL TO REPEAL BAN ON COLLECTING STUDENT-LEVEL DATA: A pair of House lawmakers this week filed companion legislation to a Senate effort aimed at overturning a federal prohibition on tracking the educational and employment outcomes of college students. Reps. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced legislation that would establish a new "secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student data system." The bill would allow the Education Department to more comprehensively capture student success and employment outcomes of students, broken down by college and major.
- Both lawmakers are members of the House education committee, which is chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) who has been a vocal opponent of repealing the ban, citing data privacy concerns and questioning whether it's the proper role of the federal government to collect the information. Read the bill text here and our coverage from earlier in the week here.
TESTER WANTS TO PULL FUNDING OVER UPWARD BOUND REJECTIONS: Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) wants to cut a half million dollars from DeVos' office budget for every week the department does not reconsider applications for Upward Bound grants that were denied over formatting issues. Tester filed a bill that would rescind funds only from the Office of the Secretary, which cover salaries and expenses of DeVos and her senior staff. The Office of the Secretary received nearly $17 million in fiscal year 2016. It's the latest effort to convince the department to reconsider the roughly 5 percent of applications for the grants that help low-income students prepare for college, which were denied over formatting problems, such as line spacing. DeVos has issued new department-wide policies that applications cannot be rejected based on simple formatting issues, but so far the department has refused to reconsider applicants rejected this year.
BAYLOR DRAWS SEVENTH TITLE IX LAWSUIT OVER SEXUAL ASSAULT SCANDAL: The latest lawsuit against the school, filed by a former student, claims as many as eight football players drugged her and took turns raping her in 2012. It alleges that rape was a "bonding experience" and that the the football team had a system of hazing freshman recruits by having them bring freshman females to parties to be drugged and gang raped. The incidents were often recorded, as well, the lawsuit alleges. The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has launched two investigations at Baylor following last year's sexual assault scandal that led to the firing of the school's star football coach and demotion of its president. In a response to the latest lawsuit, Baylor officials say the school has "since initiated and structurally completed 105 wide-ranging recommendations" to crack down on sexual violence at the school. The Waco Tribune has more.
- Meanwhile, another lawsuit may be coming. A Houston-area teacher who attended Baylor told the Houston Chronicle she plans to file a lawsuit against the school, too, after reading reports about the suit filed Wednesday and deciding she was ready to come forward. That woman claims she was also raped by a football player while at Baylor.
ICYMI: PERDUE WANTS KIDS TO 'GET USED TO' FRUITS AND VEGGIES IN SCHOOL: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is against purchasing restrictions that keep SNAP recipients from buying soda or candy, and instead wants SNAP recipients to eat healthier "through education." "If people using SNAP benefits aren't buying healthy food, I'm not sure we can corral enough restrictions to make them do that," Perdue said during a House Agriculture Committee hearing. "It's a really dicey issue on how we do that. I think we try to do it through education and allowing SNAP to be used in local farmers' markets and ensuring our schools have fruits and vegetables, so kids can get used to them and hopefully ask their mom and dad for them." Catherine Boudreau has more.
- Oklahoma school districts are slashing budgets with the legislature at an impasse over state funding: NewsOK.
- Texas community colleges that reach certain benchmarks could offer bachelor's degree under bill that passed Senate: The Houston Chronicle.
- Northwestern professor who drew notoriety for writing about Title IX "witch hunts" faces defamation allegations: Inside Higher Ed.
- University of Madison-Wisconsin briefly lost control of its Twitter account: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- How a university helped save a failing high school: The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Students shut down University of California regents meeting in protest of President Janet Napolitano's secret $175 million fund: The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Texas officials threaten special session over 'bathroom bill': The Dallas Morning News.
- Maryland school district sees 80 percent spike in reports of sexual harassment in just one year: The Washington Post.
The Pro Education team. Maybe we listen more than you think. @caitlinzemma (email@example.com), @khefling (firstname.lastname@example.org), @mstratford ( email@example.com) and @BenjaminEW (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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