Congress Passes Bill Scrapping Teacher Preparation and Accountability Regulations, Ignores Civil Rights Concerns

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A bill aiming to dismantle Obama-era regulations on accountability and teacher preparation has squeaked through Congress and been presented to President Trump.

The joint resolution targets two rules in the Every Student Succeeds Act that define how States must implement the provisions that “require them to have an accountability system based on multiple measures, including school quality or student success, to ensure that States and districts focus on improving outcomes and measuring student progress”.

A press release for the bill, H.J. Res. 57,  argues that the ESSA regulations “dictate prescriptive accountability requirements and violate prohibitions on the Secretary of Education’s authority.”

Before the bill passed senate by the slimmest of margins (50-49, along party lines), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent an advocacy letter to U.S. Senators asking them to continue the implementation of the ESSA regulations and reject H.J. Res. 57.

“These regulations will help states, districts, and schools to faithfully implement the law and meet their legal obligations to historically marginalized groups of students including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are English learners, immigrants, girls, Native American, LGBTQ or low-income.”

Instead of fully implementing the ESSA regulations around accountability, the Betsy DeVos led Department of Education has already released new, watered-down “guidelines”. EdWeek notes that the biggest difference between the templates is around the requirement of outreach. In the Obama template, the language dictated states must engage in “meaningful consultation” with stakeholders who “reflect the geographic diversity of the state”. The Trump template: “if you feel like it, go for it”.

While comments from the Trump administration line up with the Republican talking point of “federal overreach”, the Leadership Conference and the 45 co-signing Civil Rights and education organizations note that the regulations came about as a result of the bipartisan crafting of ESSA and that federal oversight is necessary for state cooperation in advancing equity.

But, in the new administration, one thing is clear: ‘state rights’ Trump civil rights.

 

 

Chance The Rapper Announces $1 Million Dollar Donation to Chicago Public Schools.

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Grammy award winning artist Chancellor Johnathan Bennett A.K.A Chance the Rapper stopped by Wescott Elementary School in his hometown of Chicago earlier today to announce a $1 million dollar donation to Chicago Public Schools.

The press conference follows his meeting last week with Illinois’ governor, Bruce Rauner. Chance came away from that meeting less than pleased and noted that the governor gave him a series of vague responses to questions about public education funding. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Bennett announced he would continue to fight for the children of Chicago and would be making a major announcement about how he would do so.

That announcement came today as he handed over a giant 1,000,000 check to a group of ecstatic elementary students, drawing applause from the media, faculty and families in attendance. Chance also had another message for governor Rauner:

“Do your job.”

Watch the full press conference, streamed on periscope here:

The Historical Importance of HBCU’s – A Discussion with Van Jones and Dr. Michael Lomax

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Historically Black Colleges and Universities have received increased attention this week, after a majority of the 104 HBCU presidents accepted an invitation to the oval office to meet with President Trump.

A lot of people weren’t happy with that meeting and a statement from John Silvanus Wilson Jr., president of Morehouse, seems to indicate that the meeting and Trump’s executive order on HBCU’s won’t signal much of a change in funding, or address issues like boosting pell grants or setting up an HBCU innovation fund as the presidents had hoped.

Rather than highlighting the important work that HBCU’s do and have done throughout their existence, the meeting mostly led to social media outrage.

Back in October of 2016, we had political commentator and activist Van Jones as a guest host on the ‘Rock the Schools’ podcast to lead a discussion with Dr. Michael Lomax of the UNCF about the historical and current importance of HCBU’s and a report they released titled “Building Better Narratives in Black Education”.

Instead of getting caught up in social media driven controversy such as the feet-on-couch-scandal, take a listen to the full conversation:

Do Charter Schools Advance or Impede Civil Rights?

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On January 27th, 2017, the Institute for Education Policy at John Hopkins School of Education convened a group of leaders to discuss charter schools and their relationship with civil rights.

Moderator Dmitri Mehlhorn noted that in light of the recent call for a moratorium on charter school expansion by the NAACP and introduction of bills like the Charter School Act of 2017 in Maryland where the discussion was held, the group would be discussing the impact of charter schools, especially with students of color.

The question under discussion is how much, and how fast they grow and whether charter schools themselves can violate civil rights of children, especially children of color through segregation, through discipline practices, through narrow learning, or whether the cap on charter schools is itself a violation of civil rights by preventing low income students of color from escaping schools systems that are not serving them well.

The group was composed of Hilary D. Shelton (Director to the NAACP’s Washington Bureau / Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy), Gerard Robinson (Resident fellow, Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute), Matthew Cregor, Esq. (Education Project Director at the Lawyers’ Committee), and Dr. Ashley Berner (Deputy Director of the Institute for Education Policy at John Hopkins School of Education).

Check out the full video of the discussion, titled “Do Charter Schools Advance or Impede Civil Rights?”

Local property tax policies affect education funding and equity in a major way

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A new report from EdBuild titled “Building Equity: Fairness in Property Tax Effort for Education” analyzes the way public schools are funded via property taxes and how this affects school funding equity.

“Close to half of public school dollars in the United States are raised locally, mostly from local property taxes. But not all property tax bills are created equal. In some states, tax rates are fairly similar across districts, while in other states, property owners in one district may be putting in twice the tax effort as those in another.”

Those disparities in “tax effort” for education funding are a key emphasis for the report, which aims to determine whether the burden put on poorer districts is more than their wealthier counterparts. The findings do show a “regressive” tax rate overall in education funding from property taxes, meaning a majority of the states studied had lower tax rates in wealthier neighborhoods, but that’s not the main takeaway.

The key problem highlighted in the report is the taxation of non-residential property, like businesses, factories, and farms. The state-by-state analysis shows that districts “often fail to effectively leverage the non-residential property tax base for school funding.”

Simplified, it often occurs that districts fail to have progressive tax rates on high value properties, meaning they need to make up the difference in education funding with higher taxes on areas that already have smaller tax bases.

So, while equitable education funding should look like this:

Instead, it ends up looking like this:

When this happens, the state’s education funding is inherently unfair. Higher value properties and parts of town aren’t contributing their fair share of school funding, either limiting overall funding or increasing the burden on needier areas.

This report shows that states have a real capability to increase equity in education funding (or do the opposite) based on a few key policies:

  1. Including non-residential property taxes in the conversation around funding.
  2. Guiding and limiting districts’ local tax rates to promote fairness in tax effort.
  3. Taking into consideration the income levels of local taxpayers and setting relative, progressive tax rates for education funds.
  4. The final point of policy revolves around how the state determines each district’s needed budget, and how much they pay toward that total. Essentially, this will determine the tax burden that is put on the local taxpayers.

The general concept of property tax driven education funding seems to be intrinsically inequitable. But, if it is to continue to serve as the model, states must take steps to craft policy that balance the dollars going to districts and the tax burden placed on all citizens.

“If public education is meant to provide every child, no matter his or her background, with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, then funding for public schools must be raised in a way that is aligned with this mission: fairly and equitably, in a manner that supports rather than harms needy communities.” – Building Equity: Fairness in Property Tax Effort for Education

How is it fair that poorer communities shoulder a greater tax burden than wealthier ones, while often still having their students receive fewer resources?

To see the full report and how states vary on their levels of fairness in educational funding: read more.