September 29, 2017

Puerto Rico in Crisis; Changes to Title IX Regulation

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 opposition to current and proposed policies and practices – protest – into account 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.

In This Newsbrief:

  • Puerto Rico in Crisis
  • Changes to Title IX Regulation

 

Puerto Rico in Crisis

The Issue:

Hurricane Maria, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the United States, made direct landfall on Puerto Rico last week and devastated large swaths of the island. There is a still-developing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico more than a week after the storm’s end, with much of the island’s electrical grid still down and many people still lacking access to running water, food, fuel, adequate shelter, and other basic necessities. This crisis is occurring in the midst of an ongoing political and economic emergency. Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy a few months ago and closed numerous public schools and relocated thousands of students as a result.

The Process:

The main airport in Puerto Rico is not operating close to full capacity, many roads remain blocked or closed, and it is difficult to obtain gas and petroleum in many parts of the island, so many residents are still stuck in their devastated homes and neighborhoods. Humanitarian relief efforts are ongoing, as are discussions about how Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy and debt load will figure into the scope and nature of relief efforts, and whether such financial considerations are even appropriate at the current time, given what are uninhabitable conditions on the island. As American citizens, many Puerto Rican families are expected to seek refuge in cities and communities in the continental United States.

Learn More:

Be a Part of the Process:

  • Make Your Voice Heard:
    Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-2311 to speak with your Congressional member about protections and support for Puerto Rican students and the reopening and rebuilding of schools in Puerto Rico.
  • Take Local Action:
    Contact your state educational agency (SEA) and local school board about the future of displaced Puerto Rican students and families where you live.

Changes to Title IX Regulation

The Issue:

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that she was rescinding guidance issued by the Obama Administration regarding US ED’s handling of complaints of sexual assault in schools. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities operated by recipients of federal funding.The guidance issued by the Obama administration applied equally to districts and schools and to institutions of higher education, and required schools to use a specific “preponderance of the evidence” standard in sexual misconduct cases. New guidelines put out by US ED says schools may continue using this standard of evidence, or may adopt a tougher “clear and convincing” standard of evidence that makes it more difficult to prove sexual misconduct.

The Process:

To inform her decision, DeVos met with survivors and advocates, university representatives and attorneys, and students who had been falsely accused of assault. In the coming months, US ED intends to engage in rulemaking on how it will address complaints of sexual misconduct made under Title IX. US ED will solicit comments from stakeholders and the public during the rulemaking process.

Learn More:

Be a Part of the Process:

  • Make Your Voice Heard:
    Keep an eye on the Federal Register and prepare to make a comment to US ED regarding changes to Title IX regulations. We will provide additional background on what is at stake and a sample comment letter in the coming weeks.

What Else is Happening in Our Network?

    • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is hosting a panel discussion on October 2nd in Washington DC (2-3:30 PM ET, Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216) on “States Leading in the Age of ESSA.”  The panel will feature state education leaders talking about how they plan to take advantage of the new flexibility in the law and the challenges they are facing in implementation. RSVP here.
    • The Fordham Institute is moderating a discussion of state superintendents and education advocates—The ESSA Achievement Challenge, October 3, 3-6 PM ET in Washington DC. The panel will focus on identifying states with strong ESSA plans and distinct approaches to implementation. Register or tune in for the webcast here.
    • Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), ranking member of the US Congress Joint Economic Committee, published a brief examining the importance of a comprehensive system of early learning and care. The brief outlines key challenges, provides a 2017 data snapshot of how each state is doing in providing access to high-quality programs, and offers principles for universal, high-quality, Pre-K. (September 17, 2017)
    • Check out the Alliance for Excellent Education’s September 25th Federal Flash, which covers a letter from two top Democrats to US ED regarding US ED’s review of state ESSA plans, and the recent Senate confirmation hearing for Carlos Muñiz, President Trump’s nominee to serve as General Counsel at US ED.
    • The September issue of the Standard, a journal of the National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE), is wholly focused on states’ ESSA plans, including keeping equity at the core of implementation. This month, Molly Mauer, director of Partners for, writes about how local districts can learn from promising practices at the state level as they develop their own stakeholder engagement plans.