Education Update: August 03

From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

August 3, 2020

Betsy DeVos Pushes Schools to Clear COVID Hurdles Without Special Favors

The education secretary’s main message to educators has been: Meet your obligations and don’t assume the feds will remove major mandates.


August 10, 2020

DeVos: Give Religious Groups Equal Consideration for Education Grants

The new U.S. Department of Education guidance creates a federal process for individuals and organizations to file complaints under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

August 12, 2020

Joe Biden Picks Kamala Harris for VP After Intense School Desegregation Clash

Although Harris clashed with Biden over his record on school desegregation, some of her education proposals might dovetail well with his.


August 13, 2020

As Schools Open and COVID-19 Aid Talks Flop, Trump Pushes In-Person Class Again

President Donald Trump told a White House gathering that virtual learning is “not as good as being there” and said Democrats have made negotiations over virus aid for schools difficult.

Child COVID-19 Cases, School Outbreaks Spike in Run-up to Fall

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports COVID-19 cases among children nearly doubled in four weeks, as reopening schools in multiple states are forced to isolate hundreds of students.

August 14, 2020

Schools Reopen and COVID-19 Cases Crop Up. Can K-12 Leaders Be Confident in Their Plans?

Many schools that have recently opened their doors are already seeing COVID-19 cases among students and staff. Should that shake the confidence of other school leaders who are planning to reopen?


From: ASCD’s Smartbrief

August 4, 2020

NAEP expected to be administered in 2021

The National Assessment Governing Board has ruled in a 12-10 vote that the National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as the “nation’s report card” — should continue as planned in 2021. The decision to proceed with the math and reading assessments was made following input from state and district leaders as well as health experts, but officials say they are unsure whether a request for federal funding to help administer the exams safely will be approved.

Full Story: The 74 (8/3)


August 6, 2020

Study: Education budget cuts affect test scores

Budget cuts to education during the previous recession worsened academic outcomes for students, particularly students from lower-income households and those who are Black and Latino, according to a report published in Education Next. Data shows that for every $1,000 a school district’s budget declined by, test scores in math and reading were reduced by 1.6 percentage points, with a 6 percentage-point gap between white students and their Black and Latino peers.

Full Story: Education Week (tiered subscription model) (8/4)


August 7, 2020

Data: 51% of districts plan for hybrid learning

Fifty-one percent of school districts are preparing a hybrid model of instruction for the fall, blending online and in-person instruction, according to data from the Center on Reinventing Public Education. About one-third of districts have not yet announced their plans, according to the sample of 477 districts studied.

Full Story: Education Dive (8/6)

Survey: Most teachers favor remote instruction

Two-thirds of teachers say they favor starting the school year teaching primarily online, according to an NPR/Ipsos poll. Among those surveyed, 82% of teachers say they are concerned about teaching in person this year, with 77% saying they are concerned about their health.

Full Story: National Public Radio (8/6)


August 10, 2020

Poll: Racial divide over plans to reopen schools

More Black families appear to favor online learning as schools consider plans to reopen. A poll from the University of Southern California’s Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research finds nearly 70% of Black families with school-age children favor all-online instruction — compared with 32% of white families.


August 12, 2020

Survey considers student motivation during closures

During coronavirus-related school closures in the spring, students’ ability to motivate themselves to complete schoolwork varied by age, with 57% of fifth-graders saying they were able to stay motivated compared with 26% of 12th-graders, a survey finds. Distractions at home were the most common reason students cited for lack of motivation, followed by feeling stressed or depressed.

Full Story: T.H.E. Journal (8/10)


Virus shortens time for accurate census count

The US government will shorten the time frame for the census count because of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that advocates say could threaten funding for programs such as Title I and the National School Lunch Program. So far, about 63% of households have responded to the census, and in a letter to senators signed by 900 community organizations, it states that if “remaining counting operations are not done well, communities most in need of resources to improve quality of life and standards of living will get the short end of the stick for the next decade.”

Full Story: Education Week (tiered subscription model) (8/10)


Harris has a record of education advocacy

US Sen. Kamala Harris — who advocated for increased teacher pay during her presidential run this year — is former Vice President Joe Biden’s choice for a running mate. Besides supporting a proposal that would have resulted in teachers receiving a $13,500 raise on average, Harris also pushed for measures to improve diversity in schools.

Full Story: Chalkbeat (8/11)


Survey: 40% of freshmen are getting cold feet

A survey by SimpsonScarborough finds that 40% of incoming freshmen are rethinking their decision to attend a four-year college this fall. Just 7% say they think fellow students will adhere to coronavirus protocols, and 34% say they would feel safe living in a dorm.

Full Story: Inside Higher Ed (8/10)


August 13, 2020

White House event centers on school reopening

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos held an event at the White House Wednesday focused on reopening schools to in-person instruction. A special-education teacher who has asthma stated she felt safe resuming in-class learning, given her district’s safety practices, and an education researcher warned about the learning losses that can come from closed campuses.

Full Story: Chalkbeat (8/12)


From: ASCD’s Educator Advocates, Capital Connections

August 6, 2020

Education Funding In COVID-19 Relief Packages

House, Senate, and White House negotiators remain far apart on a deal to provide emergency funding for jobless benefits, distressed businesses, and schools as part of a COVID-19 relief package.

Earlier this year, the CARES Act was enacted which provided funding to business to keep their staff employed, an additional $600 per week in unemployment insurance and which provided K-12 education $13 billion in funding to begin to address the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

As a follow up, the House passed the HEROES Act back in May. That bill would provide $58 billion to K-12 schools. The Senate HEALS Act would provide $70 billion for K-12 education, but with strings attached. In a nod to the president’s call for reopening schools, the Senate bill would earmark two-thirds of its funding for schools that partially reopen with some in-person learning with the other third being allocated to all schools. Disappointingly, the Senate bill includes no additional funding for the E-rate to help the estimated 10 million students who cannot utilize online learning because they lack a device or Internet access.

Negotiations are ongoing and the situation is extremely fluid. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House won’t adjourn for its summer recess until a deal is agreed to. The Senate is scheduled to break for the month of August on Friday.


House Passes FY21 Education Funding Bill

In other education funding news, the House passed its FY21 education funding bill. The measure includes increases of $254 million (1.6%) increase for Title I ($16.6 billion total), $195 million(1.5%) for IDEA ($13 billion total), $23 million (1.1%) for Title II ($2.2 billion), and $10 million (0.8%) for Title IV’s safe and supportive school state grants ($1.2 billion). The bill also includes $110 million for a social-emotional learning competitive grant program.


It does not look like the Senate will consider an appropriations bill prior to the start of the 2021 fiscal year on October 1 so a series of “continuing resolutions” (CR) to temporarily fund government operations will be needed till a final FY21 deal is hammered out in a lame duck congressional session after the November elections.


From: The Council for Exceptional Children’s Policy Insider

August 5, 2020

Newly Released Bill Focuses on Removing Police from Schools

Last week, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act was introduced in the Senate—a bill that would forbid federal funds to support police in schools and redirect existing federal funding toward counselors, social workers, and other services and supports to improve school climate and student well-being.


From: Special Education Smartbrief

August 5, 2020

Will coronavirus spread with the reopening of schools?

Analyses of different studies released in recent weeks look at the possibility of students further spreading the coronavirus if schools return to in-person instruction. A study of 20 countries’ reopenings found that outbreaks were lessened at schools that mandated face masks, physical distancing and “pandemic pods” — yet the determining factor often was the rate of community infection.

Full Story: Education Week (tiered subscription model) (7/31)


From: AASA’s News of the Nation

August 11, 2020

Schools Rely on the Census. A Rushed Count Threatens Its Accuracy, Groups Warn
August 10, Politics K-12
2020 U.S. Census workers nationwide are starting to visit households that haven’t responded to the survey online or by mail. And plans to abbreviate this “nonresponse followup” phase could impact the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like the National School Lunch Program, Title I, and Head Start. Read AASA’s letter to the U.S. Senate here.


From: Whiteboard Advisors Whiteboard Notes

August 6, 2020

Study: State Education Budget Cuts Lead to Lower Test Scores, College Enrollment: In a new study published by Education Next, researchers analyzed the effects of reduced state education budgets following the Great Recession. The researchers studied budgets, test scores, and college enrollments between the years 2002–2017 in order to understand how the average funding drop of 7% between 2007–2009 affected educational outcomes. They found that “on average, a $1,000 reduction in per-pupil spending reduces average test scores in math and reading by 3.9 percent of a standard deviation and increases the score gap between black and white students by roughly 6 percent. A $1,000 reduction also lowers the college-going rate by about 2.6 percent.” These effects did not subside when the economy rebounded, but budgets did not, suggesting that the effects are indeed spending-related. [Education Dive; Education Next]

Worldwide, Open Schools Are the Exception, Not the Norm: The US Department of Education and the White House continue to push for school reopenings, citing examples of other countries that have reopened schools, but in most countries schools are closed. Data from UNESCO find that across the world, 143 countries, representing nearly 1.2 billion, or 68% of the world’s learners, have nationwide shutdowns, while many other countries, including the US and China, have localized school closures of over 70% of schools, and only 10% of world students have returned to regular in-person schooling. [CNN, Politico, UNESCO]


August 14, 2020

Many Schools, Especially in Rural Areas, Face Infrastructure-Based Reopening Concerns: A recent report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 41% of school districts operate buildings that have issues with their HVAC systems, raising concerns related to the airborne nature of the virus that causes COVID-19. CDC guidelines underline the value of ensuring that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. More than 36,000 school buildings across the country are not up to current standards, and many districts lack the resources to update their ventilation systems. The GAO report found that students in high poverty and rural districts are particularly vulnerable because their districts are more likely to rely on state funds–which are now running scarce– for facilities repairs. Rural districts are also less likely to have access to high-speed internet, which makes hybrid and distance-learning plans especially difficult to institute. [GAO, Education Dive]

School Reopenings Surface New Student Data Privacy Concerns: As classes resume for the 2020-2021 school year —  whether remotely, in-person, or via blended models– districts, parents, and data security experts are expressing concerns over the safe storage and transmission of sensitive school information such as remote learning video sessions, virtual teletherapy sessions, and school-collected student health data. In response, the Consortium for School Networking and Future of Privacy Forum has released guides for student data privacy in the age of the coronavirus. The recommendations include having a clear plan on how to collect, use, and store data; avoiding using public-facing platforms such as social media sites for educational purposes; avoiding recording classroom interactions with students; limiting access to student data; and ensuring that data storage measures comply with privacy laws, chief among them FERPA. [Education Week, subscription required; CoSN; Future of Privacy Forum]


Trump’s Proposed Funding Model Pushes for In-Person Instruction:  This week, President Donald Trump outlined a funding model that would benefit schools that reopen for in-person instruction and allow for school choice. The proposed model would provide $70 billion for schools but $35 billion would be reserved for schools that reopen in-person. Trump also said federal funding should be given to parents that choose to send their child to private, charter, or religious school if schools don’t reopen. Trump has continued to advocate for in-person instruction this fall even as reports indicate that nearly 100,00 student-aged children tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July. [U.S. News & World Report, Insider]


From: The Council for Exceptional Children’s Special Education Today

August 14, 2020

Action Alert: Congress Adjourns for August Recess Without New COVID Bill
On Friday, Congress went into their traditional month-long August recess without coming to an agreement on a much-anticipated COVID-19 relief package that had the potential to send additional aid to people and systems impacted by the virus, including the education system. As Congress continues to negotiate a final COVID-19 response package, lawmakers need to hear from special educators like you!