Archives for category: U.S. Department of Education

Veteran educator Nancy Bailey has some very clear ideas about the next Secretary of Education. All her proposals are premised on Trump’s defeat, since billionaire Betsy DeVos would want to hang on and finish the job of destroying public schools and enriching religious and private schools.

Let’s hope that the next Secretary of Education has the wisdom and vision to liberate children and teachers from the iron grip of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, High-stakes testing, privatization, and a generation of failed federal policies.

Bailey begins:

During this critical time in American history, that individual should be a black or brown woman, who has been a teacher of young children, and who understands child development. She should hold an education degree and have an additional leadership degree and experience that will help her run the U.S. Department of Education.

Children deserve to see more teachers who look like they do, who will inspire them to go on and become teachers themselves. A black female education secretary will bring more diverse individuals to the field and set an example. This will benefit all students.

Many individuals, including accomplished black men, have brilliant minds, and understand what we need in the way of democratic public education. Leadership roles should await them in the U.S. Department of Education, in schools, universities, or states and local education departments.

But with the fight for Black Lives to Matter and for an end to gender inequality, a knowledgeable black woman with a large heart to embrace these times should take this spot. The majority of teachers have always been women, and while men are critical to being role models for children and teens, it is time for a black woman to lead.

We have had eleven education secretaries, and only three of them have been women, including Shirley Hufstedler, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. None of these women were educators or had experience in the classroom. Only two African American men have been in this role, and neither of them could be considered authentic teachers and educators. Both had the goal to undermine public schools.

The time is now for a black female education secretary who will set a positive example and be the face of the future for children from all gender and cultural backgrounds.

Congress passed the CARES Act and included over $13 billion to public schools. DeVos issued a rule requiring that public schools share that money with private schools. Meanwhile, another $660 BILLION in the CARES Act was allotted to the Paycheck Protection Plan to protect small businesses and nonprofit organizations from going bankrupt; public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP, but charter schools and private schools were and did.

Public schools sued to prevent DeVos from compelling them to share their money with private schools (which already enjoyed the bounty of PPP).

Her rule has now been knocked out by two different federal judges. Jan Resseger writes here about the efforts to demand fair play for public schools, which enroll 85-90% of the nation’s students.

While the Republican Party announced the themes of the Republican Convention—“Monday is ‘Land of Promise,’ Tuesday is ‘Land of Opportunity,’ Wednesday is ‘Land of Heroes’ and Thursday is ‘Land of Greatness.'”—the Convention instead dramatized a very old theme: the difference between appearance and reality. Producers, including people from The Apprentice, put together a spectacular show draped in flags. Their purpose: to distract, distort, and dissemble.

The Convention hardly touched on education policy. But last night in his acceptance speech, the President claimed he will “expand charter schools and provide school choice for every family in America.” Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Tim Scott, (R-SC) also extolled school choice as the future of education, even as, ironically, President Trump himself and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are demanding that the nation’s 90,000 public schools reopen as the only path to getting America’s parents back to work. Trump and DeVos certainly haven’t been counting on their favorite patchwork of charter schools and private schools to accomplish their systemic goal. The convention’s primary education speaker, Rebecca Friedrichs, the lead plaintiff in an anti-teachers union case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, not surprisingly, attacked teachers unions. Although she claimed that the unions “are subverting our republic, so they undermine educational excellence, morality, law and order,” you will remember that instead a wave of #Red4Ed strikes during 2018-2019 pushed states like West Virginia and Oklahoma to increase school funding at least a little bit and forced Los Angeles, Oakland, and Chicago to address unreasonable conditions including class sizes of 40 students and a dearth of school counselors in public schools serving concentrations of our nation’s poorest students.

While the Republicans held their convention, Betsy DeVos herself wasn’t having such a good week. She was left off the Convention agenda, and on Tuesday, the Savannah Morning News reported that she visited a reopened public school in Forsyth County, Georgia, where she made a speech: “I think it’s been good that schools are committed to reopening… I know there have been a couple of schools that have had more incidences of students with the virus. The CDC has been very helpful in providing a lot of information and recommendations for how to go about going back to school., and we highly suggest referencing them.” The newspaper countered DeVos’s comment with an analysis by Georgia State University public health professor, Dr. Harry J. Heiman: “According to the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, we are the second worst state in the country for coronavirus transmission… To suggest that not having a mask mandate is a responsible approach, especially for older students, reflects Secretary DeVos’ lack of understanding about both CDC guidelines and the measures necessary to ensure the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff.”

And on Monday, a Florida judge blocked a requirement announced on July 6 by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran that public schools reopen five days a week for any families who do not opt for virtual learning. The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss reports that Corcoran threatened any districts refusing to reopen with a loss of state funding. Trump and DeVos’s pressure on governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, has in this case created confusion just as schools are trying to manage the complexities of educating children in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic. Strauss quotes Orange County school board member Karen Castor Dentel: “We were under threat of losing our funding and forced to develop models that are illogical and not based on what’s best for kids. But we had to go forward…. I wish the ruling came sooner. Not just that our kids are back in school but in the whole planning stages. We were planning another model that was developmentally and educationally sound and we had to scrap that.” And to add more confusion: DeSantis says he intends to appeal the judge’s ruling.

But the most important public education news is that the second judge this week has now blocked Betsy DeVos’s binding guidance that drove school districts to set aside more than expected federal CARES Act dollars for private schools.

Politico’s Michael Stratford reports: “A federal judge in California on Wednesday halted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ effort to boost emergency coronavirus relief for private school students. The court ruling blocks DeVos from implementing or enforcing her rule in at least eight states and some of the nation’s largest public school districts. The secretary’s policy requires public school districts to send a greater share of their CARES Act… pandemic assistance funding to private school students than is typically required under federal law. U.S. District Judge James Donato’s order prevents DeVos from carrying out her policy in a large swath of the country: Michigan, California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia as well as for public school districts in New York City, Chicago, Cleveland and San Francisco.”

Just last Friday, another federal judge in Washington state, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara J. Rothstein, issued a similar preliminary injunction blocking Betsy DeVos’s binding guidance that federal CARES Act dollars be diverted from the public schools serving poor children to cover the educational needs of students in private schools regardless of the private school students’ family income.

In the statutory language of the CARES Act, Congress directed that CARES Act public education relief be distributed in accordance with the method of the Title I Formula, which awards federal funds to supplement educational programming in public school districts serving concentrations of low-income children. Public school districts receiving Title I dollars are also expected to provide Title I services to impoverished students attending the private schools located within their district boundaries. In the binding guidance she imposed in July, DeVos demanded that per-pupil CARES Act relief for private schools be based on each private school’s full enrollment, not merely on the number of the private school students who qualify for additional services because their families are living below 185 percent of the federal poverty line.

Education Week‘s Andrew Ujifusa elaborates on the meaning of Betsy DeVos’s binding rule, whose enforcement two federal district court judges have now blocked: “The Education Department’s interim final rule, publicized in June and formally issued in July, pushes school districts to reserve money under the CARES Act, the federal coronavirus stimulus plan, for services to all local private school students, irrespective of their backgrounds. That represents a major departure from how education law typically governs that arrangement, in which federal money for what’s known as ‘equitable services’ goes to disadvantaged, at-risk private school students.”

Stratford explores what this week’s court rulings will mean: “The pair of rulings amounts to a major setback for DeVos as she seeks to oversee the roughly $16 billion pot of emergency assistance Congress laid out for K-12 schools in the CARES Act in March… The Trump administration argues that it has the authority to create policy dictating public distribution of the funding to private school students because the CARES Act is ambiguous on that point. But the two judges disagree… Donato ruled that DeVos’ policy is likely to be struck down because she lacks the legal authority to impose her own conditions on coronavirus relief funding for K-12 schools. The judge said Congress’ intent ‘is plain as day’ for how CARES Act funding should be distributed to schools. The judge also said the coronavirus relief law ‘unambiguously’ instructs the funding to be distributed to private school students in the typical manner under federal law based on the number of low-income students.”

Jim Blew was hired by Betsy DeVos for a key role at the U.S Department of Education, having worked at the far-right Walton Family Foundation, which has a strong commitment to privatization, charter schools, Teach for America, and union-busting. He told education writers that the Department of Education was not likely to grant waivers for next spring’s annual federal testing, despite a year of confusion and disruption in schooling.

The American people are likely to tell Betsy DeVos and Jim Blew and the other public-school haters to pack their bags this November and clear out by January 20, 2021. Someone appointed by President Biden will decide whether to inflict the detritus of NCLB on the nation’s students. If the public votes wisely, the whole wrecking crew will be ousted, blown with the wind, so to speak.

An assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education said Friday that his agency’s inclination is not to grant states waivers from federally mandated tests for the upcoming school year like it did in the spring.

Speaking on a video call with reporters at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar, Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis, stressed the importance of testing beyond accountability. And he expressed support for a recent statement from the Council of Chief State School Officers about the importance of assessments for learning; that July 20 statement said that “even during a pandemic” assessments “serve as an important tool in our education system.”

In March, as schools shut down in-person classes around the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos quickly granted waivers to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico from having to administer certain annual exams as required by federal law. But concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the 2020-21 school year have grown, as have sentiments in some quarters that states should get those waivers again, in order to focus on other educational needs…

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Blew pointed to CCSSO’s statement and said that with respect to testing, “Accountability aside, we need to know where students are so we can address their needs.”

Blew then indicated it would be premature to grant waivers at this time from testing and said, “Our instinct would not be to give those waivers” from the exams, which are mandated under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the main federal K-12 law. “There are so many benefits to testing and it allows for some transparency about how schools are performing and the issues we need to address, that our instinct would be to decline those waivers,” Blew added.

A group of civil rights and education organizations have filed suit against Betsy DeVos, who seeks to divert public funding to private schools. Say this for DeVos: She is maddeningly consistent in her efforts to fund private schools. Whether authorized or not, she presses forward on behalf of the private school sector. She doesn’t care about public schools or their students. She wants them to open in the middle of a pandemic without regard to safety of students or teachers.

DEVOS SUED BY PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS, NAACP, AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO BLOCK ILLEGAL RULE THAT DIVERTS CRITICAL COVID-19 AID FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS

A rule issued by the U.S. Department of Education this month coerces school districts to use an illegal process to inflate the amount of federal COVID-19 aid they must share with private schools. The rule will drastically diminish the resources available to support public school children and historically underserved student populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed today by public school parents, districts, and the NAACP. The lawsuit seeks to block the rule.

The lawsuit, NAACP v. DeVos, explains that the rule imposes illegal and harmful requirements on the emergency relief funds allocated to public school districts under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under the rule, school districts must divert more funding for “equitable services” to private school students than the law requires or face onerous restrictions on the use of those funds in their public schools. Both options violate the clear language and intent of the CARES Act and will undermine district efforts to adequately serve students who desperately need services and supports due to the impacts of the pandemic.

The CARES Act directs public school districts to calculate the amount they must set aside for private schools based on the number of low-income students enrolled in private schools. However, DeVos’ rule forces school districts to comply with one of two illegal options, either: (1) allocate CARES Act funds for private schools based on all students enrolled in private school, which includes students from affluent families, or (2) allocate these funds based on the number of low-income students at private schools, but face severe restrictions on how the rest of the district’s CARES Act funds can be used, including a prohibition on their use to serve any students who do not attend Title I schools.

The rule was first introduced in April as non-binding guidance from Secretary DeVos and received widespread criticism from education leaders and lawmakers that the guidance violated the CARES Act and would leave districts without resources essential to address the impacts of COVID-19. Several state attorneys general have also filed suit to challenge these new rules.

“Amid a national health crisis, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is robbing public school children of desperately needed relief and diverting it to private schools,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP. “This is a new low, even for an administration intent on promoting inequality in education. Children and families across the nation are facing unprecedented risks to their safety and educational opportunities. COVID-19 has magnified the hardships for children from low-income households and diminished access to quality instruction, digital technology, nutrition, social development, and other vital resources. These are consequences that will last a lifetime.”

“Forcing districts to spend even more funding on private schools exacerbates existing inequities in Arizona,” said Beth Lewis, Title I school parent and teacher in the Tempe Elementary School District and cofounder of grassroots advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona. “Our public schools have been defunded for decades and already lose hundreds of millions of dollars to private schools via vouchers every single year. Secretary DeVos’s binding rule forces our neighborhood schools to give desperately needed federal aid to private schools that have already accepted small business bailouts. Meanwhile, Title I public schools like mine have to rely on local charities and donors to help us feed students and stock classrooms. This rule will harm the students and families who need resources the most.”

“Secretary DeVos’ new rule is plainly illegal because it violates the clear language and congressional intent of the CARES Act,” said Jessica Levin, Director of the Public Funds Public Schools campaign, a collaboration of the organizations that represent the plaintiffs in the case. “The impact on students and schools will be severe, as the rule shows complete disregard for the reality that public schools need increased resources as they continue to serve 90% of our nation’s students during this incredibly challenging time.”

The coronavirus pandemic has focused the nation’s attention on the essential role public schools play in the lives of families and communities. Since closing buildings in March, public schools across the country have worked tirelessly to maintain instruction and provide students with meals, access to technology, health services, and social and emotional supports. Public schools now need more – not fewer – resources. Yet, Secretary DeVos continues to exploit the pandemic to promote her political agenda of funneling taxpayer dollars to private schools.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented pro bono by the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, as well as Education Law Center (ELC) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), all of whom collaborate on Public Funds Public Schools.

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24
skrengel@edlawcenter.org

How cruel can Betsy DeVos and Steven Mnuchin be? As people of great wealth and privilege, they have not a thought for those who have been impoverished by the pandemic.

Both have been sued in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of student debtors whose tax refunds they sought to garnish.

Jessica Corbett writes in Common Dreams:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the federal departments they run were hit with a class-action lawsuit Friday for illegal seizures of thousands of student borrowers’ tax refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 40 million Americans jobless and familes across the country struggling to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.

The suit (pdf)—filed by Student Defense and Democracy Forward in the U.S. District Court for D.C.—accuses the Education and Treasury departments of violating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act from late March, which halted all involuntary collection of federal student loans, including tax refund offsets, until the end of September.

“Secretaries DeVos and Mnuchin have inflicted needless financial pain on student borrowers and their families by failing to stop the illegal seizures of their tax refunds,” Democracy Forward senior counsel Jeffrey Dubner said in a statement.

“The turmoil caused by the ongoing pandemic is no excuse for breaking the law,” Dubner added. “Our class-action suit seeks to hold the administration accountable so that student borrowers can stay on their feet during this crisis.”

Stan Karp has written a brilliant critique of federal policy and Betsy DeVos’s audacious and vicious assault on our nation’s public schools and their students. Don’t believe those who say that Congress has blocked her most horrendous actions. She has used her authority and exceeded the intent of Congress to advance her single-minded and narrow-minded pursuit of privatization. When Congress tries to blunt or control her actions, she simply ignores Congress. She is out of control. She treats members of Congress like her household help.

Karp reviews the failures of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Then he shows how the pandemic has given DeVos the tools to wreak havoc on our public schools, which enroll the vast majority of children.

He writes:

The emergency CARES Act, passed without a single dissenting vote and signed in March, was the first of several massive pieces of federal legislation rushed through Congress in response to the pandemic. While the CARES Act didn’t include the same kind of signature federal initiative that RTTT represented for Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, it did give Duncan’s successor, the wildly unpopular, right-wing billionaire Betsy DeVos, extraordinary powers in a host of important policy areas.

There will be additional federal action affecting schools in the months ahead, including attempts to address the financial tsunami that is already engulfing school budgets. But even a cursory comparison between the federal response in 2009 and the initial response to the current crisis provides some clues about the extended emergency ahead for public education.

The CARES Act included $13.5 billion for K–12 schools, $14 billion for higher education, and another $3 billion that governors can split between the two as part of $31 billion in “stabilization aid” for state budgets. But while the total $2.2 trillion legislative package was several times larger than the $800 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, the initial amounts provided for education in the CARES Act were much smaller.

The Recovery Act sent $54 billion in education aid to states primarily for K–12 programs and the implementation of RTTT. Moreover, as noted by Education Week, the “2009 stimulus didn’t just shore up education budgets; its unprecedented windfall of education aid also helped the Obama administration put financial muscle behind its priorities. Those priorities focused on areas like standards and accountability.” To promote those policies, the funds came with prescriptive regulations about their use, including provisions that drove an expansion of charters, standardized testing, and test-based teacher evaluation. States and school districts desperate for federal dollars had to commit to this agenda to receive RTTT’s “competitive grants.”

“The CARES Act doesn’t take the same approach,” Education Week’s analysis concluded. “It’s hard to see discrete elements of a Trump education policy agenda driving current coronavirus aid — although U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated last week she wants to change that.”

DeVos Given Tools of Destruction

The CARES Act gives DeVos multiple tools to do so. It gives the secretary of education authority to waive many requirements outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the omnibus federal education legislation that replaced NCLB. The first — and undoubtedly most popular — use of this authority came when all 50 states sought and received in a matter of weeks a waiver to suspend federally required annual standardized testing for the current school year. The educational irrelevance of these tests and their existence as an obstacle to serving the real needs of students was one of the first lessons of the pandemic.

But DeVos’ new authority has much more sinister potential. The CARES Act gives her the power to waive Title I funding regulations, which govern the largest federal education program supporting children from low-income families. It also allows her to suspend Title II rules defining professional development and Title IV requirements to “provide students with a well-rounded education” including the arts, mental health services, and training on trauma-informed practices — all crucially important in the current crisis. The CARES Act specifically allows schools to shift money from these areas to purchase “digital devices.” By early April, 28 states had received waivers to reallocate ESSA spending.

In the guidelines for distributing the first pot of CARES funding, the $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, DeVos blocked any use of funds to support DACA recipients or international students. She also said any monies awarded to teacher unions to provide services defined in the CARES Act would be “inconsistent with statutory requirements,” although last year she authorized church and religious groups to receive federal funds to provide similar services.

DeVos has a long and notorious record of using agency guidance and regulatory action to undermine equity. One of her first acts after being confirmed as secretary was to support the repeal of protections for transgender students, including their right to choose restrooms. She was sued for rolling back protections against predatory lenders at for-profit colleges and threatened with jail by a federal judge for “intentionally flouting” a court order to stop collection proceedings for such loans. DeVos rescinded sexual assault guidance issued under Title IX, a move the National Women’s Law Center said would have a “devastating” impact, and in May released new guidance that weakened protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault. She proposed allowing schools to use federal “student enrichment funds” to purchase guns and used a school safety commission formed in the wake of the Parkland school shootings to recommend repeal of regulations on school discipline practices that were rooted in civil rights concerns. Similarly, DeVos tried to rescind Obama-era rules that required districts to track racial disparities in special education classification rates, an effort a federal judge blocked as “arbitrary and capricious.” In April, DeVos relaxed oversight and accreditation rules for higher education online programs at a time when the pandemic was massively expanding the scale of such programs.

Trump and DeVos on Feb 14, 2017 in Washington D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool
Beyond putting her very rich thumb on the wrong side of the scales of justice, DeVos is now in position to be a key gatekeeper for a new and crushing era of austerity for school budgets. To access the CARES Act’s stabilization funds, states must nominally commit to maintaining recent levels of education funding for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. But DeVos can waive that requirement and no doubt will. Already, she has issued guidelines for distributing CARES Act funds that drive more dollars to private schools and wealthier students by circumventing requirements to allocate the funds according to more progressive Title I formulas.

DeVos undermines equity. She flouts the Will of Congress. She seeks to dismantle civil rights protections.

Unlike Trump, she is not incompetent. She is not stupid. She is very clever. She is diabolical. Trump will never fire her because she sows chaos as surely as he does, but without bluster and braggadocio.

If you need a reason to vote for Joe Biden, think about Betsy DeVos.

Three whistleblowers in the U.S. Department of Education filed complaints that Betsy DeVos overruled internal reviews to award $72 million to the IDEA charter chain.

This is not the way federal grants are supposed to work. Funds are supposed to be awarded based on peer reviews and staff reviews, not awarded as plums by political appointees. This is political interference at the highest level. This award should be revoked.

I have often referred to the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program as DeVos’s private slush fund, and this grant proves that my hunch was right.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post:

A U.S. congressman is demanding answers from the U.S. Education Department, alleging department employees complained to his office about political interference in the awarding of a multimillion-dollar federal grant to the controversial IDEA charter school network.


Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the department Monday asking for details and records related to the awarding of the grant.

In an interview, Pocan said “three whistleblowers” told his office that professional staff evaluating applications for 2020 grants from the federal Charter School Program had rejected IDEA for new funding, deeming the network “high risk” because of how IDEA leaders previously spent federal funds.


But according to these whistleblowers, Pocan said, professional staff was overruled by political appointees who ordered the funding be awarded to IDEA. The identities of the whistleblowers were not revealed to The Post, nor were the names of the political appointees.


The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment.


IDEA, a Texas-based charter school network with nearly 100 campuses in Texas and Louisiana serving nearly 53,000 students, said in a statement:
”Peer reviewers from education and other fields evaluate grant applications independently from Department of Education staff. In three of the last four Charter Schools Program competitions, spanning two administrations and including the most recent round of grants, the independent reviewers who evaluated applications gave IDEA Public Schools the highest scores of any applicant in the country. (In 2017, IDEA received the second-highest score.) All of the outside reviewers’ scores and comments are public on the Department’s website, and we encourage anyone doubting the strength of IDEA’s applications and our 20-year track record with students to read those reviews.”


Earlier this month, the Education Department announced it was awarding millions of dollars in new grants to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. IDEA was the top recipient, receiving $72 million over five years.

IDEA had previously received more than $200 million in funding over the past decade through the program.



But the network has been dogged by controversy. This month, IDEA chief executive Tom Torkelson resigned after publicly apologizing for “really dumb and unhelpful” plans that included leasing a private jet for millions of dollars and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on San Antonio Spurs tickets.

The Texas Monitor reported last month that Torkelson had flown on a private jet to Tampa to meet with DeVos to discuss “education philanthropy,” records show. The Monitor reported he was the only passenger on a jet that can hold nine people.


Last November, the Education Department’s inspector general criticized IDEA in an audit of data IDEA included in annual performance reviews it submitted to the federal government, required as part of the grants received from the federal Charter Schools Program.
The inspector general concluded that IDEA Public Schools “did not provide complete and accurate information” for all performance measures on annual performance reports over three years and did not report any information for 84 percent of the performance measures on which it was required to report over two years.

Still, IDEA had certified its annual performance reports were “true, complete and accurate.”
The audit also found IDEA “did not always spend grant funds in accordance with federal cost principles and its approved grant applications.”
IDEA acknowledged some of the findings, took issue with others, and agreed with all the recommendations from the inspector general to improve internal procedures.


That inspector general report, together with the suggestion that political appointees pushed through more grant money, should spark an even deeper inspection of IDEA, Pocan said in an interview.
“There needs to be an investigation,” Pocan said. “This would be completely improper to take a program that has to have inspector general reports and a lot of media attention about bad decisions they’ve made, and then to get a grant that wasn’t approved by the professional staff and instead given for political reasons.”

Our regular reader and diligent researcher Laura Chapman writes:

It is not difficult to see who is busy publicizing and brokering ideas for federal action on pre-K-12 education and who is not. The active players are all in for school choice and they have a “perfect” opportunity to dismantle and starve brick and mortar public schools. Federal policies will jumpstart what happens in states, districts, and communities.

The transition from NCLB to ESSA took longer than expected. Most states put their new DeVos-approved plans for accountability and school improvement in place during 2019-2020, later than expected.

Those plans have been pruned by the pandemic. Since April 3, 2020, every state is eligible for a range of ESSA waivers including tests and how state education agencies “permit LEAs (local education agencies) to use Title IV, Part A funds to best meet its needs without regard to customary requirements for
–content-areas,
–spending limits on technology infrastructure, or
–completing a needs assessment.”
In addition, “the definition of professional development” is modified to allow LEAs s to provide effective teacher training for distance learning. https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/04/invite-covid-fiscal-waiver-19-20.pdf

Although these flexibilities are in place now, no one has a clear idea about how the pandemic will shape the 2020-2021 school year, or what proposals presidential candidates will put into play for reshaping ESSA and the scheduled reauthorization of ESSA after the 2020-21 school year.

I think that the accumulated national debt will lead to massive budget cuts for federal and state funding and full-out marketing of choice programs.

The choice advocates have a clear policy package in the works, and big bucks now from the billionaires to market it. Bellwether Partners is playing a role in this work, and so is the 74Million, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, California Community Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Charles Strauch, Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, Gen Next Foundation, Karsh Family Foundation, Park Avenue Charitable Trust, The City Fund, Walton Family Foundation, and William E. Simon Foundation.

The pandemic and special federal legislation to shore up the social safety net, including grants to schools, has accelerated the activity of groups intent on expanding federal support for choice in education.

Here is an example: “FEDS MUST HELP ALL TYPES OF SCHOOLS REOPEN: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act will support millions of workers and industries hard-hit by COVID-19. About $13 billion from the bill will make it to K-12 schools across the country for uses such as classroom cleaning and teacher training.” … “State governments, at the urging of Washington and epidemiologists, have closed all schools, public and private. This is an unusual (and necessary) instance of equal treatment for schooling sectors that normally operate under different rules. But all schools, and all sectors of out pluralistic system of public education, will need support when they are allowed to reopen; a coherent policy that supports non-public schools and homeschoolers — along with charters and traditional districts that already receive public funds — will not be a luxury. It will be an essential element of how the country’s children recover from the COVID-19 disruption.” https://mailchi.mp/the74million/t74-virtual-charters-targeted-in-school-closures-equity-access-the-federal-stimulus-video-keeping-college-bound-students-on-track-virtually?e=5cdda43764

This marketing campaign for “our pluralistic system of public education” is gibberish for choice in education, including private and religious education. This agenda has been reinforced with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ March 27, 2020, proposal that Congress provide “Continue to Learn Microgrants” to disadvantaged students whose schools have “simply shut down.” Federal funds would be allocated for “educational services provided by a private or public school” with the priority for students in special education and eligible for food stamps. Funds could be used “to buy computers and software, internet access, and instructional materials like textbooks and tutoring. For children with disabilities, the grants could be used for educational services and therapy.”

This proposal is a variation on her push for “Education Freedom Scholarships” authorizing federal tax credits to people who donate to school scholarship programs for private school tuition and other education expenses. https://www.the74million.org/devos-proposes-microgrants-amid-coronavirus-school-closures-continuing-push-for-school-choice/

Then there is news on this blog and elsewhere that charter schools are eligible for “Small Business Loans,” if, they affirm they are a “non-government entity.” That affirmation is a non-trivial and legal redefinition of charter schools with implications for how these are marketed, authorized, and supported (or not) by billionaire foundations and Congress, whether Republican or Democrat. Charters that have been profiteering from public dollars will probably move into double dipping (once for students, another as a small business) with little fear of legal action.
https://www.publiccharters.org/cares-act-low-or-no-cost-lending-programs-charter-schools

Over multiple years, experts in “follow the money” have identified major ‘idea brokers” and the federal policies that have emerged from their work. Some legacy brokers from the Obama Administration are still at it—promoting digital learning, charter schools, pay for success contracts, alternative certifications, and more. If the pandemic accelerates I think that the de-professionalization of education will accelerate along with the unschooling of instructional delivery. In that case, many brick and mortar buildings once known as public schools are likely to repurposed or rot, except in wealthy suburban communities.

The IDEA act is on jeopardy. This is the act that protects students with disabilities and guarantees their right to a free and appropriate education.

The pandemic crisis is a time when the Trump administration is taking radical steps to eliminate and cut back on programs they don’t like.

It’s time to save IDEA. http://saveidea.org/

Signs this petition and make your voice heard on behalf of the children who need you!

A few days ago, the House Subcommittee that controls federal education appropriations invited Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to testify about her budget proposals, which seek to eliminate 29 federal programs and turn their funding over to the state as a block grant. At the same time, she wants to slash the Department’s funding. And…of course, she wants $5 billion for vouchers for private and religious schools, which are both demonstrably unpopular and ineffective.

This video clip shows Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) questioning DeVos about the federal Charter Schools Program. Rep. Pocan relied on a report from the Network for Public Education to the nearly $1 billion in federal funds wasted on charter schools that either never opened or closed not long after opening.

He asked DeVos direct questions, questions that required a yes or no.

She evaded, she ducked, she weaved, she obfuscated. She refused to answer yes or no.

She dismissed the NPE report, Asleep at the Wheel, as “propaganda” that had been “debunked.” This was a lie. The data in the report came from the U.S. Department of Education and from DeVos’s own reports to Congress.

Pocan exposes two facts about DeVos. One, she plays fast and loose with facts. Two, she refuses to answer questions that are uncomfortable for her. We already know that she, unlike previous secretaries of education, actively dislikes public education. I humbly suggest that her contempt for public schools makes her unfit to be Secretary of Education.

Asleep at the Wheel:

Rep. Mark Pocan Questions Betsy DeVos on the Charter Schools Program