Education Week - June 10, 2015 - (Page 15)

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS Education Policy Issues in Arizona Crossfire State chief, other officials tussle as decisions loom By Andrew Ujifusa Disagreements between Arizona's education chief and other state officials could complicate the state's work on academic standards, school finance, and other issues. Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas were both elected last year as Republicans, but their relationship hasn't been particularly smooth. Disputes between Ms. Douglas and the governor, along with other officials including state board President Greg Miller, have included K-12 governance and even the physical location of state board staffers' offices. In some respects, the tension in Arizona mirrors the multiyear battle between Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, and gop elected and appointed officials in that state, including Gov. Mike Pence. In Indiana, Ms. Ritz has fought Gov. Pence and others over control of the state school board and testing, among other issues. "There's an unspoken impact inside school buildings. And that has to do with the way you choose, as a state, to spend your emotional capital," said Timothy L. Ogle, the executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association, referring to the state officials' political fight. "It's just not a good use of time and energy." Who Do They Work For? Ms. Douglas won a Republican primary vote last year against then-Superintendent John Huppenthal, after making opposition to the Common Core State Standards a central element of her campaign. She then topped Democrat David Garcia in the general election. A key moment in the tensions that have arisen since then was Ms. Douglas' decision to fire the state school board's top two staffers, Executive Director Christine Thompson and Deputy Director Sabrina Vasquez, in February. Ms. Douglas argued that she ultimately had hiring and firing power over the employees. Ms. Douglas said she fired them because they had refused to report to her. In her position, Ms. Thompson had previously advocated on behalf of the common core. Mr. Miller opposed the move, and Gov. Ducey reinstated the two staffers countering that Ms. Douglas had no power to fire them. (With the exception of Ms. Douglas, Gov. Ducey appoints state board members to four-year terms.) Last month, after the board voted to move its executive staff out of the education department's offices, Ms. Douglas filed a complaint with Maricopa County Superior Court seeking to clarify her control over the staff and saying they should move back to her department. State law indicates that Ms. Douglas can make staffing recommendations to the board, and the state department's website says that she may "direct the work" of board employees. Hiring and firing isn't explicitly mentioned. The state board, in turn, has ordered the superintendent to grant the board full access to files in her office, and voted to block Ms. Douglas from controlling the board's administrative matters. Antipathy to Ms. Douglas goes beyond fellow state officials. An effort is also underway DIANE DOUGLAS The Arizona schools' chief has clashed with other state officials on governance and K-12 policy topics. GOV. DOUG DUCEY The governor and the state superintendent have disagreed over school finance and the common core. to recall her, although it remains unclear if the campaign, led by Phoenix teacher Anthony Espinoza, will be able to get 364,000 signatures (25 percent of all ballots last year) required to put a recall election on the ballot. 'No Conversation' A spokesman for the Arizona education department, Charles Tack, speaking on behalf of Ms. Douglas, rejected the notion that PAGE 19 > Congress Appears Poised to Tackle Higher Education Issues By Lauren Camera tion begins with students and their families collecting information on various programs. As such, members of Congress have spent a lot of time focusing on how to disburse the most useful and accurate information about institutions of higher education in a way that's not overwhelming. That information includes things like tuition and other fees, available scholarships, loans, and loan-repayment estimates. It also includes graduation and dropout rates, job attainment rates, and average starting salaries. The Obama administration has made data transparency a high prior- generation students go to college, as well as some debate about how effective the programs are, largely due to the difficulty policymakers have had evaluating them. But so far during the reauthorization hearings, there's been little focus on how lawmakers might reformat them. However, with Republicans looking to shed some of the federal government's financial burden, TRIO programs such as Upward Bound and the College Access Challenge Grant will likely be scrutinized. The challengegrant program provides matching funds to partnerships of federal, state, and local governments and philan- With movement currently stalled on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization in both chambers of Congress, lawmakers have turned their attention to another pressing education matter: overhauling the Higher Education Act. The postsecondary education law, which expired at the end of 2013, is a sweeping piece of federal legislation that includes the entire student loan system, the Pell grant tuition assistance program for low- and middleincome students, teacher-preparation provisions, and various programs that help smooth the path of disadvantaged students into higher education. The access and readiness policies and programs, in particular, make the hea rewrite of keen interest to K-12 school administrators and families. Education committee leaders in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives seem poised to begin U.S. SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R-TENN. introducing legislation after convening several hearings on various higher education issues, including affordability and consumer information. ity and launched a college navigation thropic organizations that are aimed tool early in its White House tenure. at increasing the number of low-inBut Republicans have criticized it come students who are college-ready. Potential Potholes for providing so much information But some of the same issues that that it actually overwhelms students Missing Pieces stand to hold up renewal of the esea and families. They'd like to see a recould also delay the higher education vamped and pared back version of Another topic members of Conreauthorization: a congested congres- the tool. gress are sure to examine but sional calendar, forthcoming approIn the area of college readiness, haven't spent much time debating priations battles, and looming 2016 many students, especially those from yet: teacher-preparation programs. presidential politics. low-income families or those who There are more than 80 such pro"Hea is a conversation that might would be the first in their family to grams across 10 agencies, and a major take a decade," said Ben Miller, senior attend college, need help academically goal of Republicans last year was to director for postsecondary education preparing for college. That's where streamline as many as possible. Rep. at the Center for American Progress, federal TRIO programs come in. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of a left-leaning Washington think tank. There's been a longstanding battle the House education committee, pro"But where you start with that conver- over the scoring rubric for TRIO, the posed shifting the Teacher Quality sation will reflect where it ends." slate of programs that receive federal Partnership program into the esea alThe path to postsecondary educa- funding to help low-income and first- together. Democrats are more likely to seek to expand teacher-preparation offerings, especially for on-the-job training in high-need schools, rural schools, or high-need subjects. One of the most difficult parts of overhauling the hea will be putting the Pell grant on solid financial footing. In the past, Congress has had trouble fully funding the Pell grant, which is a quasi-entitlement program and gets both discretionary and mandatory federal funding. During the recession, the Obama administration increased the income threshold for eligible recipients, and more people than ever accessed the grant, causing the cost of the program to skyrocket to " [The Higher Education Act is] the piling up of well-intentioned laws and regulations, done without anyone first weeding the garden." more than $30 billion in the current fiscal year. There is bipartisan agreement that students should be able to use their Pell grants to pay for courses they take year-round, including the summer. There is also agreement that information should be pulled from irs filings from the prior tax year in order to automatically qualify students for Pell and other federal student loans, which would essentially eliminate the need for the burdensome federal aid form currently used. "Those two things cost money and if it weren't for the monetary side of it we'd have those back already," Mr. Miller said. Republicans have supported poli- cies to change Pell eligibility requirements by limiting the grant to lowincome students, but Democrats are generally determined to maintain the maximum grant and eligibility for as many students as possible. Lawmakers also are trying to find ways to simplify the loan and repayment system so that, generally speaking, students can get access to one federal loan and/or one federal grant, and have one repayment system, as opposed to the various loan and repayments systems that currently exist. Political Odds While the hea overhaul faces major legislative obstacles, breaking off smaller and less controversial pieces of the law may present a path forward. That's the strategy Rep. Kline took last year with some success, when he ushered through the chamber three bipartisan bills dealing with less-controversial higher education issues-although student loan debt was not among them. Though the Senate historically prefers to pass legislation in big packages, there may be some appetite for such a piecemeal approach. Indeed, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who is working to broker a bipartisan hea proposal with Sen. Patty Murray, DWash., recently called the hea "the piling up of well-intentioned laws and regulations, done without anyone first weeding the garden." Mr. Miller, of cap, also noted that the most important changes to higher education policy have used legislative vehicles other than the hea to become law. "So the question is, do we keep following that path, or do we move back to a role where it really is the big hea [reauthorization] with a lot of important stuff in it?" he asked. EDUCATION WEEK | June 10, 2015 | | 15

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 10, 2015

Education Week - June 10, 2015
Cleveland Embraces Social- Emotional Learning
Challenge of Co-Teaching A Special Education Issue
As Federal Grants Taper Off, Two N.C. Districts Tally Impact
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.Y. ‘Open’ Content Going Nationwide
School Choice Supercharged In Nev. Statute
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Debate Persists Around Kindergarten Reading Standards
New York Expanding Dual Language to Help Its English- Learners
Schools, Students Hit Hard by California’s Historic Drought
Blogs of the Week
Massachusetts School Transforms Renovation Into Teachable Moment
Magnet Schools Found to Boost Diversity—But Only a Bit
Survey: Students Need More Than Academic Prowess
Education Policy Issues In Arizona Crossfire
Congress Appears Poised to Tackle Higher Education Issues
SIG Money Gives Principal Tools For Turnaround
Federal Aid Fuels Multi-Tiered Instruction
Additional Entrants Join Presidential Race
High Court Rules in Online Threat, Religious Rights Cases
A Movement Gains Momentum
What Teachers Are Saying
Parents Have a Civil Right To Question Testing’s Goal
Parents See Testing’s ‘Distorting Impact’
What Are the Policy Implications of the Opt-Out Movement?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
An Early Opt-Out

Education Week - June 10, 2015