Education Week - October 23, 2013 - (Page 15)

sal pre-kindergarten program. On the other hand, the House educa- tion spending bill was considered by some GOP lawmakers to be so skimpy that they balked at unveiling it. Under the deal to reopen the govern- ment, the nearly 4,000 Education Department employees who had been furloughed returned to work. They will get back pay as part of the budget agreement. Employees returned to a mile-long to-do list that includes examining 219 applications for the latest round of Race to the Top grant competition for districts, and taking a look at applications for a piece of the $280 million Race to the Top program for early learning, plus assisting states with monitoring and renewal of their waivers from provisions under the No Child Left Behind Act. "I know that you're coming back to even more work than you already had on your plate before the department had to shut down," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote in a memo to his staff on Oct. 17, the day the government reopened. "Emails have piled up. Voicemails will be waiting for your callback. Projects are falling behind schedule." Head Start Losses Meanwhile, Head Start was a highprofile victim of the shutdown. Twentythree programs receive their annual federal funding in October, and several were forced to close during the budget impasse, until a pair of Houston-based philanthropists, John and Lauren Arnold, came forward with a $10 million grant to tide them over. The Arnolds will get their money back if Head Start grantees are funded retroactively to Oct. 1, the start of the shutdown. Dora Jones, the director of the Talladega, Ala.-based Talladega Clay Randolph Child Care Corp., a Head Start grantee serving 770 children, said last week that she was expecting information soon about a resumption of funding. The six centers that the grantee runs had to close for six days before reopening with funds provided by the Arnolds. "We have not lost any children as a result," Ms. Jones said, though some families had to pay for other care providers while the center was closed. Impact Aid Payments The end of the shutdown also came just in time to spare the 1,200 school districts that receive roughly $1 billion in federal Impact Aid, which is one of a handful of federal K-12 programs that rely on payments made throughout the school year. In times of budget uncertainty, districts that are heavily dependent on Impact Aid often ask the Education Department to process their payments early-but in this case, there was no one around to send out the checks, said John Forkenbrock, the executive director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools. That meant some Impact Aid districts were beginning to hit the panic button, he said, with at least one worried about making payroll. With the shutdown concluded, Mr. Forkenbrock expects that his association will be able to work with the department to get Impact Aid dollars first to the districts that need them most. "We were right on the bubble, in terms of whether or not there was going to be major damage," Mr. Forkenbrock said. Impact Aid districts, which tend to be more reliant on federal funding than others, are closely watching the debate over whether to turn off sequestration, Mr. Forkenbrock added. Districts were largely able to handle the first round of cuts by delaying purchases and tapping reserve funds, he said. But if the cuts to education spending get deeper, those districts could run into real trouble. "We could have some schools that would have to lay off teachers in the middle of the school year," he said. Staff Writer Christina A. Samuels contributed to this story. Nakia Wallace, center, a Detroit high school student, protests at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of affirmative action. The high court is weighing a Michigan law barring its use in higher education. Appeal Argued on Affirmative-Action Ban By Mark Walsh Washington Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court appeared skeptical last week that Michigan's voterenacted prohibition on affirmative action in higher education violates the 14th Amendment's equal-protection principles. The 2006 ballot measure known as Proposal 2 was not a "racial classification," as its opponents suggest, Justice Antonin Scalia said during the Oct. 15 oral arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (Case No. 12-682). "It's a prohibition of racial classifications." The Michigan ballot initiative also bars race preferences in K-12 public schools and other areas of state government, but the case before the high court concerns the measure's prohibition of race preferences in college admissions. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court's decision could have wide implications. (See Education Week, Oct. 2, 2013.) Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., another of the court's conservatives on race issues, said one way to look at the equal-protection clause was that it takes "race off the table." "Is it unreasonable for the state to say, 'Look, race is a lightning rod.' ... So why don't we say we want [colleges] to do everything [they] can without having racial preferences?" Paths to Diversity The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, (or about 173 in all) are to begin using the new system. That leaves the vast majority of districts using new teacher evaluations in the 2016-17 school year-a year later than the federal requirements. "That's not just a little thing. It means most districts are a year behind. I think that makes it hard for the department to make an exception," Ms. Hyslop said. Still, she said, Illinois has a strong plan in place for teacher evaluations-one that makes clear who is implementing what and when, in what order, and how student achievement is being used. "My confidence in them is pretty high," she said. "I wouldn't say that about all waiver states." To that end, other states have gotten waivers without having a teacher-evaluation law, by simply laying out a plan on paper for how they will comply with federal requirements, according to an Education Week review of approved waiver plans. Kansas, for example, lacks a law governing how student achievement should be used in teacher evaluations and has convened task forces to decide how to do this. (The state is now on "high-risk status" and in danger of losing its waiver after federal officials determined the state had not made enough progress on its teacher-evaluation system.) New Hampshire is also working with task forces to develop a model of teacher evaluations for districts to use. And Alabama's waiver plan says that the state board of education's strategic plan for 2020 will include a federally aligned teacher evaluation system. For Illinois to move its timeline would require a change in state law, which was artfully negotiated more than three years ago. Plus at this late date, it would likely be logistically impossible for districts to speed up implementation, education advocates in the state say. "We approached teacher evaluation in a thoughtful and reasonable way, and with a timeframe that's workable and honest," said Robin Steans, the executive director of Advance Illinois, which works on education-improvement efforts in the state. Getting a waiver now, more than a year after other states have, she said, would be a "deserved reasonable accommodation." "But is it fatal if we don't? No. At the end of the day the work is there and the work will get done." Assistant Editor Stephen Sawchuk contributed to this story. in Cincinnati, ruled last year that the ballot measure made it more difficult for racial minorities to achieve a race-conscious admissions policy. That was a significant change in the ordinary political process and a racial classification that violates the Supreme Court's "political restructuring" doctrine, the appellate court said. The doctrine stems from two Supreme Court precedents. In Hunter v. Erickson, the high court in 1969 invalidated an Akron, Ohio, ballot measure that had overturned a local fair-housing ordinance. In Washington v. Seattle School District No. 1, the court in 1982 struck down a ballot-initiated state law that prohibited busing for school desegregation. Those cases, especially the Seattle busing case, figured prominently in oral arguments. "There's no way to distinguish Seattle from this case, nor the Hunter case," said the American Civil Liberties Union's Mark D. Rosenbaum, one of two lawyers arguing against the Michigan measure. Both cases would have to be overruled for the Supreme Court to be able to reinstate the ballot measure, he said. The Proposal 2 opponents found strong allies in two of the court's more liberal members. "The rationale of Seattle is that notion that we can't put hurdles in the way of a disadvantaged minority," said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the court's liberals who seemed more sympathetic to the group challenging Proposal 2. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has discussed the role that affirmative action played in her own Ivy League educational career, aggressively challenged the state's arguments. "This amendment is stopping the political pro- cess," she said. "It's saying the board of regents can do everything else in the field of education" but adopt affirmative action. John J. Bursch, Michigan's solicitor general, said, "It does not violate equal protection to require equal treatment" of race. He offered the court several narrow legal paths under which the Michigan initiative could be upheld. A Political Process Justice Elena Kagan is not participating in the case, presumably because she worked on it when she was U.S. solicitor general. Michigan must attract five votes on the court to overturn the 6th Circuit ruling striking down Proposal 2. (A 4-4 tie on the court would result in the appeals court ruling being affirmed without an opinion.) Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is usually the pivotal vote in cases about race, told Mr. Bursch that he had trouble distinguishing the 1982 Seattle decision from the Michigan case. But he pressed the lawyers attacking Proposal 2 about why the equal-protection concern should kick in with a ballot initiative eliminating affirmative action in admissions, but not if the board of regents or other state officials make such a decision. Noting that Michigan's regents had delegated the decisions about whether to have race-conscious admissions policies to state university faculties, Justice Kennedy said, "Why is ... a faculty decision any less outcome-determinative than what the voters would say?" "That's part of the ordinary political process," said Mr. Rosenbaum. But he and Shanta Driver, the lawyer representing the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, stressed that putting the question to voters put the issue on "a separate and unequal political track," as Mr. Rosenbaum put it. A decision in the case is expected by late June. What Shutdown? Separately, as the Supreme Court carried on business as usual last week despite the shutdown of much of the rest of the federal government, the justices: * Declined without comment to hear an appeal from black parents that a student-assignment plan for the Metropolitan Nashville school district led to unconstitutional resegregation of the schools. The appeal was Spurlock v. Fox (No. 13-196). * Dismissed a case about age-discrimination claims by public employees that was being watched closely by groups representing teachers and school boards. The Oct. 7 oral arguments in Madigan v. Levin (No. 12-872) had revealed procedural problems with the case, so the high court's dismissal did not come as a surprise. EDUCATION WEEK | October 23, 2013 | | 15 Susan Walsh/AP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 23, 2013

Education Week - October 23, 2013
Colorado Tax Boosting K-12 Up to Voters
Paddling Persists in U.S. Schools
Health-Care Law Raises Questions For Districts
K12 Inc. Learning Difficult Lessons This School Year
News in Brief
Report Roundup
New Student Majority in South and West: Poor Children
School Poverty Said to Hurt College Access
Media Group Calls on Companies To Protect Students’ Personal Data
D.C. Teachers Improved After Overhaul Of Evaluations, Pay
Blogs of the Week
K-12 Advocates Remain Braced For Fiscal Fight
Illinois Among Outliers With No NCLB Waiver
Appeal Argued on Affirmative-Action Ban
The Public School Ownership Gap
We Need a National Monument to Teachers
Changing the World, One Student at a Time
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Common Core’s Power for Disadvantaged Students

Education Week - October 23, 2013