Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 19)

GOVERNMENT& POLITICS Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 'Sequester' Pain Early education a winner, Obama initiatives shorted By Alyson Klein The massive spending bill headed for pas- sage in Congress last week aims to largely restore federal aid for most schools after the biggest cuts to K-12 funding in history, while including a more than $1 billion down payment on the Obama administration's proposal to ramp up existing early-childhood programs. But two initiatives high on the administra- tion's wish list-a Race to the Top for higher education and $750 million in new grants to help states improve their preschool programs- aren't slated to receive funding in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. And the bill would flat-fund, or even cut, the marquee competitive-grant programs that form the bedrock of the administration's education-redesign strategy. What's more, the high-priority School Improvement Grant turnaround program would undergo a major makeover, resulting in more flexibility for states and districts to devise their own strategies for fixing the lowest-performing schools-an idea that's met with stiff resistance in the past from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The $1.1 trillion spending bill for fiscal 2014 is the first since Congress temporarily put the brakes on sequestration, the 5 percent, acrossthe-board cuts to federal programs that went into effect last March. It would largely affect districts beginning in the fall, with the start of the 2014-15 school year. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation. Down the Road The issue of sequestration hasn't gone away entirely. Lawmakers are rolling back roughly 86 percent of the cuts for the next two years, but will have to come to a broader budget agreement to permanently scale back the reductions. The big formula programs that nearly every district depends on-Title I grants for districts and special education state grants-would receive slight increases under the spending bill. Both programs were pinched by sequestration, resulting in larger class sizes, delayed profes- sional development, and other cutbacks at schools around the country. Neither program would make it back up to the funding level it had before sequestration hit in March 2013, but both would come close. Title I grants, which help districts educate poor children, would be financed at $14.4 billion, a $624 million increase over sequestration levels, but not quite to their previous high of $14.5 billion in fiscal 2012. And special education state grants would get roughly $11.5 billion, a $497 million increase over sequestration levels, but not as high as the nearly $11.6 billion the program got before the decreases went into effect. Other formula programs-including the grants to help districts create after-school and summer programs or extend learning time, grants to help educate English-language learners, and money for career and technical education-also would see their funding rise close to levels before sequestration. But competitive grants wouldn't fare nearly as well. The administration's Promise Neighborhoods initiative, which helps communities pair wraparound services with education, would be frozen at sequestration levels Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It By Evie Blad As California school districts implement a new law designed to accommodate transgender students, officials are reviewing petitions to determine if the law's opponents collected enough valid signatures to ask voters to repeal the measure in November. Known as AB 1266, the new law went into effect Jan. 1. It requires public schools to allow a transgender student to use restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities that are consistent with his or her gender identity, which may not correspond with the gender listed on that student's educational records. Schools are also required to allow students to participate in gender-segregated sports, classes, and activities that align with their gender identity. The law comes at a time when schools around the country are working to address concerns raised by families of transgender students, who are asserting their gender identities at earlier ages, supporters say. "Before this law, I didn't want to go to school because I was treated like somebody that I wasn't," said Ashton Lee, a 16-year-old from Manteca, Calif., who was raised as a girl until he told his parents he identified as male a few years ago. Supporters of the law say schools must work not to stigmatize students like Mr. Lee, who was placed in girls' physical education classes. Sometimes the use of the wrong pronoun or being directed to the wrong bathroom can lead to bully- ing or even more physically harmful behaviors from peers, said Mr. Lee, who has testified before legislative committees in support of the law. Since the law passed, "I feel safe and happy at school," he said. For and Against The law's supporters say it gives educators a blueprint for assisting transgender students. Groups supporting the measure include the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Federation of Teachers, and the California State Parent Teacher Association. Opponents of the bill, who are listed in legislative documents, included Concerned Women for America and the California Catholic Conference. Privacy for All Students, a coalition of organizations that has petitioned to overturn AB 1266, has called the measure "an assault on privacy and safety of vulnerable children." "First, it's an invasion of student privacy to open sensitive school facilities such as showers, restrooms, and locker rooms to students of the opposite sex," the organization's website says. "Further, the legislation is poorly drafted and flawed, a one-size-fits-all approach that contains no standards, guidelines, or rules." Without a legally prescribed method for educators to determine whether a student is legitimately transgender, students are likely to "game the system" and invoke it to use whatever school restroom they want, the law's opponents say. But the 640,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District, which has had a policy for transgender students that is very similar to AB 1266 since 2005, has never had a problem with it, said Judy E. Chiasson, the district's diversity program coordinator. "Being transgender is not something that one does willy-nilly," she said in an interview with Education Week. "If someone was going to try to declare themselves transgender just so they could sneak into the girls' restroom for lecherous reasons, we would absolutely intervene." The district's principals design accommodations for transgender students on a case-by-case basis, typically after meeting with their parents, said Ms. Chiasson, who said she assists with fewer than 10 consultations with transgender students in a year. The district doesn't track how many students it accommodates under the rule, she said. Many state athletics and activities associations, including California's, already have regulations that allow transgender students to play on single-gender teams, regardless of the gender listed on their educational records, Ms. Chiasson said. Setting a Clear Path California's new law merely clarifies what districts are obligated to do, Ms. Chiasson said. "This law solves problems," she said."It doesn't create them." The California School Boards Association has released preliminary guidance to districts that encourages staff training about the law, campus discussions about transgender issues, and a system for meeting with students and, "if appropriate," families before making accommodations. Privacy for All Students, the opposition group, collected nearly 620,000 signatures in support of PAGE 22 > Transgender student Ashton Lee in his room at his family's home in Manteca, Calif. of $56.7 million. Investing in Innovation, the grant competition that helps nonprofit organizations and school districts scale up promising practices, would get $141.6 million, and the School Improvement Grant program would receive $505.8 million. Funding Priorities Overall, the National Education Association was pleased with the budget compromise. "I think this appropriations bill is trying to address the harm that has come to students most in need under the sequester," said Mary Kusler, the government-relations director for the 3 million-member NEA. But Mark Benigni, the superintendent of the high-poverty, 9,000-student Meriden district in central Connecticut, said he would have liked Congress to direct even more funding to formula programs, given that school systems are being asked to serve more students and roll out new standards and tests. Mr. Benigni's district lost $300,000 in a $100 million budget because of sequestration. The federal reductions were a factor in its decision to eliminate PAGE 22 > EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | | 19 Hime Romero/Manteca Bulletin

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 22, 2014

Education Week - January 22, 2014
50 Years Later, Verdicts Are Mixed On the Nation’s War on Poverty
A K-12 Titan in Congress to Move On
Fla. Pushes Longer Day With More Reading In Struggling Schools
Personal Danger of Data Breaches Prompts Action
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Funds to End For Little Rock Desegregation
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
Revised GED Ushers in New Era With More Testing Competition
In Five States, Districts Bail Out on Race to the Top Grants
K-12 Publishing, Ed-Tech Markets Experiencing Rising Revenues
Blogs of the Week
Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit To Cincinnati’s West End
Among States, Spending Gaps Have Widened
Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 ‘Sequester’ Pain
Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It
State of the States
Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost
BRUCE FULLER: Is Small Beautiful? New York’s tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ: A Common Cause for the Common Core
JEFFREY D. WILHELM & MICHAEL W. SMITH: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
XU ZHAO, HELEN HASTE, & ROBERT L. SELMAN: Questionable Lessons From China’s Recent History of Education Reform

Education Week - January 22, 2014