Education Week - June 20, 2018 - 19
put school issues back on the front
In late February, teachers in
West Virginia, upset over their pay
and a series of other budget cuts to
schools, went on strike. The legislature, though visibly irritated with
the teachers, responded by giving
them and other school employees
5 percent raises, a cost of $110 million a year.
That inspired teacher-led movements in other states including
Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North
Carolina, and Oklahoma.
Raising teacher salaries is a politically and legally divisive process,
legislatures in those states said during the protests.
State legislators must balance
more money for teachers against
competing financial pressures, including rising health-care and pension costs and fallout from tax cuts
passed over the last decade in order
to spur the economy back to life.
"When you're talking about giving
a raise to a workforce of that size,
it's going to require significant funding that's phased in over several
years," White said.
While teachers in Oklahoma
and Arizona received raises after
changes were made to those states'
tax structure, teachers in Colorado,
Kentucky, and North Carolina lost
the fight to get pay raises and avoid
changes to their pension plans.
Other funding battles took place
in the courts.
Washington's supreme court earlier this month, for example, put an
end to more than a decade of legal
wrangling over how much the state
should spend on public schools,
finding that the legislature has
complied with its 2012 ruling that
the state must provide an adequate
education to students.
Kansas' legislature, on the other
hand, risks for the second year in a
row having its entire school system
shut down by the state supreme
court after it pledged to spend
more than $500 million more on
its schools over the next five years.
That's several hundred million
dollars short of what plaintiffs in
a long-standing school adequacy
lawsuit have demanded. The court
is expected to make a decision in
the coming weeks.
School Safety Legislation
Teacher strikes shared the stage
with student protests when in
March tens of thousands of students across the country walked out
of their classrooms in order to protest gun violence. Activists blamed
a series of violent acts in schools
across the country on lax guncontrol laws and school security
measures and demanded that state
legislatures do something about it.
President Donald Trump, who convened a national task force chaired
by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy
DeVos, suggested teachers be armed
in order to make schools safe.
In response to the high school
shootings in Parkland, Fla., and
in Sante Fe, Texas, more than 348
waivers must provide data showing the number of
students in each subgroup that last year took, or are
now slated to take, alternate assessments. That way
advocates can see if, for example, racial minorities are
being disproportionately held to different standards.
And states are supposed to make the requests public,
and give the education community a chance to comment, advocates say.
Most states that received waivers did not take this
step, said Candace Cortiella, the founder of the Advocacy Institute, a non-profit that works to improve the
lives of people with disabilities. In fact, the majority of
states did not make their applications publicly available at all, she said. There were a few exceptions, she
said, including Kentucky.
Advocates asked the Education Department to publish state waiver requests on its website, making the
request both in-person, in a meeting in early April,
and by letter. So far, the department has declined.
"Many states are still not making the waiver requests publicly available so parents and advocates can
see the data provided and the steps that the states
promised to take to lower the participation rate to
meet the cap. We have asked the department to post
the waiver requests (not just approval letters) but that
hasn't happened," said Cortiella in an email.
In response, Hill said the department does not post
incoming waiver requests of any kind. But, she added,
the agency does post both approvals and denials.
That, she said, provides "increased transparency over
the last administration when only approvals were
Advocates also have qualms about how monitoring
will work. States must help districts that go over the
cap, and make sure those districts are appropriately
training school staff, especially individual education
program, or IEP, teams when it comes to who has a
school safety bills were proposed,
and 59 of those bills had been enacted into law as of June 11, according to the National Conference of
A law in Maryland, for example,
will provide more than $10 million
to, among other things, provide a
school resource officer in every high
school in the state. Similar laws
were passed in Connecticut, Vermont, and Washington.
New Jersey was one of the few
states, along with Florida, to enact
substantive gun legislation. Garden State lawmakers passed a law
that bars people who have tried to
harm themselves from possessing
guns, requires background checks
for private gun purchases, and
then asks buyers to provide the
state with a "justifiable need" to
get a carry permit.
"The majority of America's youth
know we need this change to survive
in our own schools," said Alfonso
Calderon, a student from Stoneman Douglas, who was on stage
with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy
of New Jersey when he signed the
bill last week.
Many of the battles over teacher
pay and school safety are expected
to spill over into this year's midterm elections. More than 100
teachers have filed to run for legislative offices in Arizona, Kentucky,
Oklahoma, and West Virginia. And
in Florida, the National Rifle Association has pledged to oust several legislators behind that state's
school safety law.
severe cognitive disability and who doesn't.
"We are concerned about ED's capacity to monitor
the 1 percent cap waivers," Cortiella said.
She's particularly worried because it appears monitoring will fall to the elementary and secondary education office, the department's main K-12 office, rather
than the special education office, which has more expertise on the issue. The department, she said, assured
her that states with waivers would get extra scrutiny,
but that didn't seem sufficient, she said.
Hill said that both offices have "been working closely
on this issue thus far and will continue to do so as
we support states." She added that, "the support for
states, districts, and schools to provide guidance to
IEP teams about determining the appropriate assessment is an important role that OSERS plays."
And there's another issue that nags at special education advocates: Cortiella was told by a department
official that about a dozen other states are over the
testing cap but haven't applied for a waiver, possibly
because those states wouldn't meet the test participation requirements outlined in the law and its regulations. She hasn't been able to get additional answers
from the department about which states those are or
what's being done to make sure they simply aren't
ignoring the law.
In response, Hill said it's too soon to tell how many
states exceeded the cap, which went into effect in the
2017-18 school year. The agency, she said, is aware
that some states exceeded the cap in the 2016-17
school year, when the requirement wasn't in effect.
The agency, though, won't have data on whether states
busted past the 1 percent cap in the 2017-18 school
year until next winter.
Because of that delay, "it is premature to determine
what action ED may take in the event that a state
exceeds 1 percent," Hill said in an email.
DeVos' European Tour
Yields Insights, Cautions
Netherlands, Switzerland, U.K. visited
By Alyson Klein
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy
DeVos spent the last week and a half
in Europe, touring three countries to
learn about school choice, career and
technical education, and more.
Her big takeaway: There's a lot
the United States can learn from
Switzerland, the Netherlands, and
the United Kingdom when it comes
to training the future workforce and
broadening school options. All three
countries get higher scores on the
Program for International Student
Assessment, or PISA, than the U.S.,
DeVos noted in a statement ahead
of her trip. But experts also say aspects of all three systems would be
difficult to replicate here.
DeVos' swing through the United
Kingdom focused primarily on
choice. In addition to meeting with
officials, she visited several schools,
including The Grey Coat Hospital,
a school for girls run by the Church
of England, and Pimlico Primary, a
In England, which is part of the
United Kingdom, religious schools
receive government funding, just
like secular schools, said Paul Peterson, the director of the program on
education policy and governance at
Harvard University who has spent
years studying the British system.
Religious schools are also subject to
the same regulations as their secular
During a call with reporters from
London on June 15, the final day
of her 10-day trip, DeVos also gave
a shout-out to the country's "academy" schools, which are similar to
School choice was also a focus of
DeVos' second stop on the 10-day
tour, the Netherlands. That country
has four sectors of schools-Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and secular.
Students can choose to attend any
school, and they don't have to stick
with their religious tradition, Peterson explained.
"Basically what you have in both
the Netherlands and in Britain are
regulated choice systems in which the
students have full support and the
schools are fully funded, and that's
different from what we have in the
United States," Peterson said. "We
try to do choice on the cheap in the
But he added that it wouldn't be
easy to adopt the Dutch or British
systems. The United Kingdom for
instance, doesn't have a written constitution like ours, with an amendment that calls for the separation
of church and state. Instead, the
United Kingdom's constitution is
considered informal, Peterson said.
"The choice [system here] is
being treated around the First
Amendment," Peterson said. "How
much of it we can apply in our
constitutional system is another
matter. It can't be one for one, the
same system. It's going to have to
On a call with reporters at
the tail end of her trip, DeVos
acknowledged the difficulty in
translating that approach to the
United States. But she said that
public funding for religious education is something states can
choose to adopt.
"I think the experience of both
these countries has demonstrated
that all of these schools can freely
co-exist with one another," she
DeVos' first stop-Switzerland-
focused on career and technical education. DeVos sees a lot to admire in
Switzerland's apprenticeship program, which allows students to prepare on the job for careers in health
care, finance, and law, as opposed
to only the more technical careers,
such as welders and carpenters.
About two-thirds of students in
Switzerland participate in an apprenticeship at some point in their
education, according to DeVos.
Employers work with educators to
develop training programs, with
common standards, curriculum, and
assessments. High school students
get access to work-based learning
experiences, complete with mentors,
and extensive career counseling.
But, DeVos did not call for a
wholesale replication of the Swiss
system and said she doesn't think
the federal government should necessarily spearhead any initiative on
"I don't think it would be successful if we tried to put together
a national or federal model and
then said go and adopt this everywhere," DeVos said in a call with
reporters from Switzerland. "In
fact, I'm positive that would not
pan out well."
Truly copying the Swiss approach
would be a "monumental lift," said
Alisha Hyslop, the director of public
policy for the Association for Career
and Technical Education.
"I think it would most definitely
take leadership at the federal level,"
she said. "Employers would have to
completely restructure the way they
interface with students. ... Here one
of the challenges to work-based
learning has been not enough places
for students to access those opportunities. There's not just the scale in
the U.S currently. ... It would definitely need to be a big jump."
EDUCATION WEEK | June 20, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 19