Tag Archives: Education

Here is where most of Trump’s education cuts come from

The largest portion of President Donald Trump’s cuts to the Education Department in his 2019 budget proposal is buried within 160 pages and mentioned in a single sentence among a slew of other programs.

Making up more than half of the $3.6 billion total cuts to the agency, the budget plan calls for eliminating the $2.1 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant program in its entirety. The program, also known as Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is used by schools to pay for teacher professional development, reductions in class size, and the formation of new evaluation procedures.

Listed in a section entitled “Reduces Waste: Streamlines or Eliminates Ineffective or Redundant Program,” the administration barely gives any other explanation for the cuts.

Credit: Screenshot of FY2019 Budget

Despite the lack of fanfare, the grant program is the key source of federal funding to support teacher training. A recent report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that schools use the funding not just for professional development, but to “build stronger teacher pipelines” and “modernize and elevate the teacher workforce” by recruiting teachers of color, providing mentoring, and increasing teacher salaries — practices that help prevent teacher attrition. (ThinkProgress is editorially independent of CAP.)

This is especially important at a time when teacher shortages have reached high levels across the country. Education Department data shows that districts in every state are struggling to fill teacher positions for a variety of subjects, including math, science, and special education.

“This would be a significant burden for states charged with staffing in these high need areas,” Constance Lindsay, research associate at the Urban Institute’s education policy department, told ThinkProgress.

The shortages have been a longstanding problem, with teacher education enrollments dropping by 35 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to a report by the Learning Policy Institute. The report highlighted the key trends leading to a decrease in the number of teachers, including high student-teacher ratios — an issue that Title II funding also seeks to resolve. According to the Department of Education, more than 40 percent of schools in the 2014-2015 school year used some Title II funds for class size reduction, and 14 percent of schools used all of their funds to reduce class size.

Gutting the Title II program would “be particularly hard felt in our higher poverty schools where educators and students need more support — not less,” explained nonprofit organization Education Trust. According to the organization, Title II money is distributed based on a formula that ensures districts with the highest percentage of students living in poverty receive the most funding. During the 2015-2016 school year, almost half of the money was distributed to the highest-poverty schools. Those schools are often the ones who stand to benefit the most from additional teacher training and professional development, and they typically serve the most diverse populations of students.

“Those students — they’re already going to school in strapped environments,” said Lindsay, adding that schools in high poverty areas “don’t have the resources on their own … it’ll hurt these kids the most.”

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has proposed cutting the program, and while the Obama administration also had its qualms about it — namely, that professional development funds should be better analyzed to measure their impact on student education — former Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggested fixing the program, not getting rid of it. Last year, House Republicans unveiled a measure that also calls for the elimination of the program. It currently awaits committee consideration.


Department of Education to dismiss ALL transgender student bathroom access complaints, nationwide

The Department of Education, helmed in this new Republican era of ensuring every federal department is governed by someone who objects to the very premise of their office by the very wealthy anti-public-education Betsy DeVos, has summarily declared that they will be ignoring any and all complaints filed by transgender students over school bathrooms. As in, all of them, nationwide, without exception.

Finally on Thursday, Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the agency, responded “yes, that’s what the law says” when asked again if the Education Department holds a current position that restroom complaints from transgender students are not covered by a 1972 federal civil rights law called Title IX.

Asked for further explanation on the department’s position, Hill said Friday, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.”

The declaration is specific to transgender students and bathrooms. As of now, any transgender students complaining about bathroom access will find their complaints summarily dismissed. And DeVos and company are taking this position despite multiple federal court rulings saying otherwise, because the Trumpites apparently just feel like doing that.

This new policy, in which an entire category of student complaints will now be summarily dismissed in order to comport with anti-LGBTQ Republican ideologies, comes on the immediate heels of incompetent whining rich person DeVos complaining that it is “hurtful” to criticize her for her department’s actions.

“It’s hurtful to me when I’m criticized for not upholding the rights of students, the civil rights of students,” DeVos told a small group of media outlets, as reported by Politico.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she added. “I have to turn it back around and say why do I keep getting criticized for that? I mean, nothing that I’ve done would suggest otherwise.”

In conclusion, Betsy DeVos is a terrible person, is still unfit for her position and incompetent in her pronouncements, and apparently exists only as another wealthy pen-holder who will sign off on implementing the cruel ideological demands of a radicalized Republican B-team. Terribly sorry to be hurtful, Bets, but at least the federal government lets you use the Department of Education bathrooms.

Education Department says transgender student complaints about bathrooms will be rejected

The Education Department said it will not investigate complaints from transgender students who have been denied access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender. BuzzFeed News broke the story on Monday.

The department responded to BuzzFeed’s question about whether the department’s current position is that bathroom complaints from trans students are not included in Title IX. Title IX is a 1972 civil rights law that says students should not be excluded from participation in, denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in education programs receiving federal assistance.

Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the department responded, “yes, that’s what the law says” and maintains that Title IX “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.”

Transgender students, their families, and advocates for the rights of transgender students have been waiting on further clarity from the department since HuffPost reported last month that the department has specifically said they don’t have to handle three cases about transgender students’ experiences with school bathrooms or sports teams. The department also said complaints involving transgender students do not fall under its jurisdiction. Last week, parents of more than 700 students across the country wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos condemning the department’s policy approach toward transgender students, which so far, has been to ignore them.

“People who espouse hateful and transphobic views continue to hold positions of power in schools across the country, and are enabled now more than ever before by the poor example set by the federal government with regard to acceptance and support for all youth,” the parents wrote.

A year ago, the department rescinded 2016 guidance from the Obama administration on transgender students’ access to bathrooms. The administration’s draft letter to schools stated that “School administrators, parents and students have expressed varying views on the legal issues arising in this setting” and “struggled to understand” the 2016 guidance.

The Obama-era guidance said schools should respond promptly to harassment claims when it involved a trans student’s gender and that transgender students should be able to access bathrooms and locker rooms and belong to sports teams that match their gender identity. It also made clear that schools should be aware of a student’s gender and can’t ask students for a medical diagnosis or treatment before they act accordingly. But nearly half the states joined two lawsuits challenging protections for transgender students.

Catherine Lhamon, former head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration, tweeted on Monday that the federal government is “further turning its back” on transgender students.

Lhamon told BuzzFeed News that the department’s response is inconsistent with the courts’ interpretation of Title IX. In May, a federal court ruled that the anti-discrimination law covered trans Americans. In the case of Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, the federal appeals court ruled that a trans boy could use the boys’ bathroom under Title IX protections.

Harper Jean Tobin, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, released a statement to ThinkProgress over email accusing the department of “ignoring the law —including rulings from two federal appeals courts—in favor of promoting discrimination against children.”

Tobin added:

Trans students have stated that they avoid using the restroom all day, or avoid eating and drinking so that they will not have to. The Department appears to be saying it will turn its backs on these students even though courts have specifically said they are protected, forcing them to take the longer and far more costly route of suing in federal court. The Department also leaves students without any reason to have faith that it will help if they are outed and humiliated by school staff misgendering them every day, [or] suspended for following the dress code in a way that matches their gender identity.


DeVos whines about 'hurtful' criticism on same day Education Department locks out protesters

A group of union leaders, teachers, parents and students tried to deliver a report card to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos now that she’s been on the job for a year … but they were locked out. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia were at the head of a group of about 100 protesters bearing 80,000 failing report cards from people across the country, but though they’d requested an appointment, they were literally locked out of the Department of Education for not having an appointment.

In the report cards, parents and educators leveled criticisms like “education is not and should not be treated as a business,” and “Ms. DeVos should think about the children whose lives she is making infinitely harder with her actions.” […]

“This is a remarkable moment,” Ms. Weingarten told the crowd, adding of the department: “They knew that teachers and parents and students from all over the country have actually taken their time to say what is going on in their schools. And here on Betsy DeVos’s anniversary, this is the first time that I have ever been to this building where we were not let in — where the educators, where the students, where the parents of America were locked out of the federal Department of Education.”

Eskelsen Garcia said, outside the locked doors, that “she is showing us who she is and we have always believed exactly who she is.” Perhaps DeVos’s staff were trying to protect her delicate fee-fees, as she has recently said that:

“It’s hurtful to me when I’m criticized for not upholding the rights of students, the civil rights of students,” DeVos told a small group of media outlets, as reported by Politico.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she added. “I have to turn it back around and say why do I keep getting criticized for that? I mean, nothing that I’ve done would suggest otherwise.”