October 12

Continued School Closures in Puerto Rico; Questions About Federal Enforcement of ESSA

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:

  • Continued School Closures in Puerto Rico
  • Questions About Federal Enforcement of ESSA
  • What Else is Happening in Our Network

Continued School Closures in Puerto Rico

The Issue:

More than two weeks after Hurricanes Maria and Harvey swept across the island, the United States territory of Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover. Many residents still do not have access to electricity or to clean water, and schools remain closed. With 347,000 students in over 1,100 schools, Puerto Rico has one of the largest school systems in the United States. It is also one of the poorest school systems in the country. The closure of schools has not only a lasting effect on the education of children on the island, but also exacerbates the ongoing humanitarian crisis, because many children rely on the schools for free lunches and clean drinking water.

The Process:

Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s education secretary, has set October 23rd as the deadline for  all viable schools on the island to reopen. Viability in this case means that school buildings must be structurally sound, free of debris, and have water for sanitation purposes. Many schools in Puerto Rico may not be able to meet that criteria, as a number of roads remain blocked or impassable and access to clean water and electricity remains scarce. In tweets and interviews, President Trump has placed blame on Puerto Rico for the extent of the damage and has threatened to withdraw federal assistance for recovery efforts.

Read More:

Be a Part of the Process:

  • Make Your Voice Heard:
    • Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-2311 to speak with your Congressional Members about making relief funding and resources available to support Puerto Rican students and the reopening and rebuilding of schools in Puerto Rico.
    • Contact the White House regarding the President’s statements about Puerto Rico and the White House’s plans to continue deploying federal resources to aid hurricane victims.
  • Take Local Action:

Questions About Federal Enforcement of ESSA

The Issue:

The initial reviews of the ESSA implementation process — including the quality of the State Plans submitted by State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and the way the United States Department of Education (US ED) is reviewing of those plans — have been mixed. At a recent Senate hearing and at public events, some state leaders received praise for innovative components of their State Plans. On the other hand, US ED and other state leaders received public rebukes for not following the requirements of the law, and for not fully articulating how they plan to advance equity under ESSA. Furthermore, in a few states, elected officials who disagree with elements of their states’ submitted ESSA Plans are asking US ED to reject those plans.

In its weekly Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) covered the Senate’s hearing examining the quality of State Plans, plus concerns about possible violations of the law’s testing requirements.

The Process:

Over thirty ESSA State Plans were submitted for US ED’s September 18th deadline and are now undergoing staff and peer review. US ED will have at least one exchange with each SEA in order to give feedback. Under ESSA, US ED has up to 120 days to approve/deny each State Plan. This means most State Plans are likely to be approved sometime around January 2018.

Learn More:

Be a Part of the Process:

Get Informed:
Contact members of your state’s legislature regarding their position on your state’s ESSA Plan.

Take Local Action:
Contact your state educational agency (SEA) and local school board about the details of your state’s ESSA Plan, including implementation and monitoring activities.

What Else is Happening in Our Network?

  • The Migration Policy Institute is hosting a webinar on Thursday, October 12th, 12:00 PM ET: Are States Recognizing and Responding to the Needs of Their Dual Language Learner Children? The webinar will present key findings from a study of state and national demographic and policy profiles highlighting the characteristics of DLLs, their families and the policy context they encounter in state early childhood education and care (ECEC) systems. Register here for the webinar, and read the U.S. and state demographics fact sheets here.
  • The Alliance for Excellent Education is hosting a webinar, Students Without Status: Understanding and Protecting the Rights of Undocumented Immigrant Students, on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm ET.  Panelists will discuss DACA, the rights of undocumented students, best practices for creating a culturally inclusive school environment, and address questions from online viewers. Register here.
  • The Schott Foundation is hosting a webinar, “National Movements for Racial Justice in Education,” on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 2:00 pm ET, as part of its Grassroots Education Series. The moderated panel discussion will feature racial justice and education justice advocates from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, the Journey for Justice Alliance, and the Dignity in Schools Campaign. Register here.
  • Guy Johnson, Sr. Program Director, writes about the recent action to roll back more essential federal regulations at the Department of Education in his recent post – Bad Humours: A Bloodletter’s Guide to ESSA Implementation.
  • The September issue of the Standard, a journal of the National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE), is wholly focused on ESSA State Plans, including the importance of keeping equity at the core of ESSA implementation. This month, Molly Mauer, director, weighed in on the foundational importance of stakeholder engagement.