March 29

2018 Federal Budget & School Safety and Discipline

Process and Protest: To advance educational excellence and equity, we must prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable students and communities. To accomplish this goal, we need clear processes for the deliberation and development of policy, and we need to take into account opposition to current and proposed policies and practices – protest – as a healthy part of those processes. This Newsbrief gives our sense of important and timely federal educational news within this process and protest context. 

 

2018 Federal Budget is Mixed Bag

The Issue:

Despite threats to veto the bill, President Trump signed the 2018 federal budget last Friday after it passed in both houses of Congress earlier in the week. The 2018 budget not only overrode the administration’s calls to eliminate $1.1 billion funding for after-school programs, but increased funding for these programs by $20 million. The new budget also disregarded the administration’s call to shrink the Office of Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education, instead adding money for the hiring of additional staff. The budget also contains significant increases for a variety of education-related programs, including:

  • $2.37 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants;
  • $700 million for Title IV  student support and academic enrichment grants;
  • $610 million for Head Start;
  • $300 million increase for Title I grants for local educational agencies (LEAs);
  • $275 million for IDEA – Part B special education grants to states;

Read the full blog on this issue here.

The Process:

The federal budget that was approved last week was for the fiscal year that is currently in progress. The 2018 fiscal year ends in September, so Congress will need to either approve a new budget for 2019 before then or pass what is called a “continuing resolution” to maintain budget levels at the currently-approved levels. If Congress fails to do either, the government will shut down at the end of September 2018.

President Trump has already called for significant reforms to the budget approval process, including a significant revision to Senate rules to allow future budgets to pass on a simple majority basis, and the creation of a “line-item veto” power that would allow the President to specifically strike certain pieces of approved legislation with which he disagrees. This kind of line-item veto was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1998.

Learn More:

Be a Part of the Process:

  • Get Informed: The missing piece in the current federal budget agreement is a just and equitable approach to addressing the legal status of undocumented students in the K-12 educational system. The approved budget contains nothing to ensure the protection and continued viability of thousands of undocumented students in every state in our nation.
  • Take Action: Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-2311 to speak with your members of Congress about the 2019 budget and how undocumented students will be treated while talks about the 2019 budget are in progress.

Significant Action Around School Safety and Discipline

The Issue:

Last weekend, thousands of people rallied across the country to advocate for gun control. This came on the heels of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which sparked a debate on school violence—but has also been linked by commentators and politicians to U.S. Department of Education guidance on school discipline.

In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a series of guidance documents relating to school discipline practices and explaining how the Office for Civil Rights in the United States Department of Education (US ED) would be analyzing data and conducting investigations into discipline practices by schools and districts.

Supporters of the guidance welcome US ED taking a closer look at the potentially discriminatory impact of school discipline policies on students of color, students with disabilities, and/or low-income students. Critics of the guidance believe it puts the safety of teachers and administrators at risk by making it more difficult to suspend dangerous students, and that it creates an incentive for schools to develop a “racial quota” approach to student discipline. Advocates on both sides believe that US ED Secretary Betsy DeVos is interested in rescinding this guidance in the near future. It is unclear what, if anything, would replace the current guidance.

Read the full blog on this issue here.

The Process:

In September 2017, US ED revoked guidance issued by the Obama Administration concerning how schools should handle allegations of sexual assault on campus. US ED did not immediately replace the guidance, but circulated an interim Q&A document to guide schools during the development of an as-yet-unreleased new guidance. US ED’s rescission of the guidance came after Secretary DeVos convened several public meetings to obtain input on the guidance. Secretary DeVos recently convened a public meeting to hear from teachers and administrators who felt the school discipline guidance puts them at risk. It is within her powers to revoke the guidance at any time.  

Learn More:

 

Be a Part of the Process:

  • Last week, President Trump announced that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would lead a school safety commission that is charged, in part, with examining the repeal of these Obama administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” policies. It appears that President Trump intends that the entire membership of the commission will be comprised of members of the President’s cabinet.
  • Get Informed: Read the White House’s Press Release on the Federal Commission on School Safety and learn more about how and when the Commission will be taking input from the public.
  • Take Action: Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-2311 to speak with your members of Congress about US ED’s approach to school discipline and how it will handle the Obama administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” policies.

Partner and Friend Updates:

    • Partnering for Equity and Opportunity, Community Schools National Forum, May 2-4, Baltimore, MD. The Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership will convene the Community Schools National Forum. Check out  the full agenda, including pre-conference site visits, and register here.
    • What is Resource Equity? Education Resource Strategies (ERS) has published a working paper focused on resource equity —i.e. the allocation and use of resources (people, time, and money) to create student experiences that enable all children to reach empowering and rigorous learning outcomes—no matter their race or income.  In this working paper, they identify nine “dimensions of equity,” and explain how each links to student outcomes, identify typical sources of inequities within systems, share ways that schools and systems have organized resources to create greater equity, and provide sample diagnostic questions to help systems self-assess. ERS is requesting feedback on the working paper.
    • Here are some reactions and resources from organizations within our network regarding school violence and how input from students should help inform decisions on school discipline policies:
      • Alliance for Excellent Education’s Statement on Gun Violence in America’s Schools and Communities. The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) supports a multi-tiered approach to addressing school-related gun violence that includes: 1) Student voice; 2) Promotion of safety and well-being; 3) Common-sense gun control measures.
      • Schott Foundation: Webinar Series The Safe and Supportive Schools All Children Deserve. The Schott Foundation and Communities for Just Schools Fund are hosting three webinars that take a holistic approach to the problems of classroom safety, policing, and the school-to-prison pipeline—and that examine how these issues interact with larger systemic inequities surrounding race, gender, sexuality, and class.
      • Center for American Progress (CAP): Six Measures to Reduce Gun Violence in America. CAP offers fact sheets on each of six common-sense steps to reduce gun violence in our country: Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence as a public health issue; require background checks for all gun sales; support local violence prevention and intervention programs; disarm all domestic abusers; make extreme risk protection orders available in every state.
      • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). NCTSN offers a variety of resources to support students and school communities, including for the immediate goals of school staff after a crisis: reestablishing a sense of safety and restoring the learning environment at the school.