Friday, October 9, 2015

Federal Suit Alleges Racial Discrimination in Arkansas' Takeover of Little Rock School District

The LRSD's overall faculty population is 32% black, but minorities make up a much smaller percentage of the faculty at the district's schools with a majority-white student body.

Cribbed from the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Another suit challenging the Arkansas Board of Education's decision to assume control of the Little Rock School District (LRSD) was filed Wednesday, this time in federal court. The federal complaint was filed by parents and students in the Little Rock district and two former school board members who were displaced after the state's January takeover of the district, after which a state court complaint was filed by the same attorney who represents the complainants in the federal case. The federal suit alleges that LRSD's black students suffered racial discrimination after a federal court held that the district had achieved unitary status in 2007, by being disciplined more harshly than their white peers, being educated in inadequate facilities, having their elected school board stripped of power, and by the district's building new schools away from majority-black areas. The complaint also notes that in the LRSD schools with a majority-white student body, the percentage of minority teachers are low (see graphic, courtesy of the Arkansas Times). The suit requests that the school board be restored, that LSRD be enjoined from opening a new school in west Little Rock (a majority-white area), and that the state be enjoined from approving new charter schools until the LRSD has a "constitutionally adequate" facilities plan. The Arkansas Times has posted an unofficial copy of the complaint in Doe v. Arkansas Dept. of Ed. here.

October 9, 2015 in Cases, Discrimination, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

New University of Washington Report Studies Educational Opportunities in Fifty U.S. Cities

Crpe-measuring-up-coverResearchers at the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released “Measuring Up: Educational Improvement and Opportunity in 50 Cities, a study that assessed cities across the U.S. including district- and charter-run public schools. The study examine how well each city’s schools are doing overall and how well they are doing for students from low-income households and students of color, who now make up the majority of America’s public school students nationwide. CRPE reports the following national findings:

  • Performance in most cities is flat, with limited proficiency gains and large shares of schools stuck in the bottom 5 percent of schools in their state.
  • Students from low-income households and students of color face staggering academic inequities, with limited access to high-performing schools and college preparatory experiences.
  • Across the 50 cities, white students were four times more likely than black students to enroll in a top-scoring elementary or middle school.
  • Black students were twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as white students.
  • Less than 15 percent of all high school students took the ACT/SAT in 30 of the 50 cities.
  • Less than 10 percent of all high school students took advanced math classes each year in 32 of the 50 cities.

October 8, 2015 in Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

John King Expected to Stay the Course as Acting Secretary of Education

85Following Education Secretary Arne Duncan's announcement last week that he is stepping down in December, eyes have turned towards Duncan's successor, John King. Here's U.S. News and World Report's 5 Things to Know about the New Education Secretary:

1. King was most recently the commissioner of New York state public schools. In this role, King oversaw New York's schools during a period of tumultuous change driven largely by the state's winning of a federal Race to the Top grant. He supervised the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, new teacher evaluations based in part on student test scores and the expansion of charter schools, among many other significant policy changes. 

2. King says he owes his life to public school teachers: "Education can be the difference between life and death," King said last week during a press conference at the White House where President Barack Obama introduced him as the new acting education secretary. "I know that's true because it was for me. New York City public schools teachers are the reason I am alive. They are the reason I became a teacher and the reason I'm standing here today." King had a difficult childhood. By the age of 12, both of his parents, who were public school teachers, had died. After that, he lived with his half-brother, who had alcohol problems, and later his aunt and uncle. School, he said, was his sanctuary. 

3. King has gone to battle with teachers unions: Like his predecessor Duncan, King had to stand up to teachers unions while commissioner of New York's public schools, a stance that hasn't historically been the norm for Democrats. In 2014, the state teachers union called for his resignation, and he's not exactly being welcomed into his new role with open union arms, either. "We are disappointed to hear that Deputy Secretary of Education John King Jr. will be appointed as the acting secretary," Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers, said last week in a statement. "No one doubts John's commitment to children, but his tenure as New York state's education commissioner created so much polarization in the state with parents and educators alike that even Gov. Andrew Cuomo is finally doing a mea culpa over the obsession with testing. We can only hope that King has learned a thing or two since his tenure in New York."

4. King is big on charter schools: In 1999, King founded a charter school just outside Boston – the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School – that became the highest-performing urban middle school in Massachusetts. He helped open several others in New York City as the managing director of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit charter management organization that focuses on closing achievement gaps and preparing low-income students for college. The organization oversees 24 schools throughout the city, as well as in upstate New York, Newark, New Jersey, and Boston.

5. King hasn't been OK'd by Congress for his current position and probably won't be the permanent secretary: When King first came on board at the Education Department, he was a "senior adviser" who was delegated the duties of the deputy secretary, even though he'd been tapped to replace Jim Shelton, who at the time was second-in-command at the department. His adviser title allowed him to shirk congressional approval, a laborious and increasingly political process. When Duncan says his final goodbye to the department in December, King's new position will be acting secretary, which once again will allow him to serve during the remaining year of the Obama administration without getting the OK from Congress.

October 6, 2015 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Alabama Court Finds Police Officers' Failure to Adequately Decontaminate Students from Pepper Spray Effects and Use of Spray on Nonviolent Students Unconstitutional

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The Northern District of Alabama ruled yesterday that Birmingham police officers (acting as school resource officers) used excessive force when they pepper-sprayed students who were not posing a danger and when officers failed to adequately decontaminate students from effects as recommended by the spray's manufacturer when there were available facilities to do so. discussed the suit earlier this year, The plaintiffs, students from eight of the city's nine high schools,  alleged that local police used excessive force by spraying students with a substance called Freeze +P, a spray made up of Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile (CS) and Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), that causes “strong respiratory effects" and "severe pain." The spray was used to break up fights, disburse bystanders, and discipline students who were verbally disrespectful but not physically violent.  The officers were following Birmingham Police Department procedures in using the spray, as summarized by the court in Fig. 1. The district court found that the sprayings were unconstitutional seizures under the Fourth Amendment, and that officers' failure to arrange for sprayed students to be decontaminated was part of those ongoing seizures. Thus, the court concluded, the plaintiffs' claims were best evaluated under the Fourth Amendment's unconstitutional seizure doctrine, rather than the Fourteenth Amendment's "shock the conscience" standard. Turning to remedies, the district court found that six of the eight student-plaintiffs were entitled to damages. The court declined the plaintiffs' request to ban the use of Freeze+P in Birmingham schools, given the "scenarios when it is appropriate for S.R.O.s to use Freeze +P in the school setting." The court instead ordered the parties to meet and develop a training and procedures plan for S.R.O.s’ use of Freeze+P, including protecting uninvolved persons from overspray. The court also suggested that the Birmingham police chief remind his officers that "enforcement of school discipline is not part of their job description and that Freeze+P is not suited for general crowd control." Given the chief's comments earlier this year that the school system was too dependant on the police department to resolve low-level misbehavior, he may agree with the court's sentiment. The plaintiffs were represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  The opinion in J.W. v. Birmingham Board of Education is here.

October 2, 2015 in Cases, Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Arne Duncan Stepping Down

In case you missed it, Arne Duncan released this announcement today:

Dear colleagues,

I'm writing to tell you two things. First, what is for me some bittersweet news: after several months of commuting between my family in Chicago and my job here in DC, I have made the decision to step down in December.

 Second, and very happily, President Obama has asked our delegated Deputy Secretary John King Jr. to step into my role when I leave. An announcement to that effect went out from the White House a few minutes ago. President Obama will give a press conference on the transition at 3:30 this afternoon, and you’re invited to watch the live stream.

Serving the President in the work of expanding opportunity for students throughout this country has been the greatest honor of my life. Doing so alongside people of the brilliance, ability and moral conviction of the team here at ED has been nothing short of thrilling. We have been lucky to have an amazing team here from Day One, but I honestly believe our team today is the strongest it’s ever been. So it's with real sadness that I have come to recognize that being apart from my family has become too much of a strain, and it is time for me to step aside and give a new leader a chance. I haven’t talked with anyone about what I’ll do next, and probably won’t for a little while – I’m simply returning to Chicago to live with my family. I imagine my next steps will continue to involve the work of expanding opportunity for children, but I have no idea what that will look like yet.

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October 2, 2015 in Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

South Carolina's Supreme Court Orders the State to Come Up With a Funding Remedy by March

Almost a year ago, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the state was failing to deliver a minimally adequate education.  It also retained jurisdiction over the case, indicating that the state should return to the Court with evidence of a remedial plan.  Since then, the legislature has established commissions to study the issue, but not the legislature has not taken any formal action toward a remedy.  Last week, in response to motion filed by the plaintiffs, the Court order the state to take more concrete action and set a timetable for doing so.  The specifics of the order are as follows:

  1. To facilitate the discussions and work of the House Task Force and the Senate Special Subcommittee, and to assist this Court, the parties will engage a panel of three experts (the expert panel) by October 15, 2015.  The panel will be tasked with the responsibility of identifying the educational needs of students in the Plaintiff Districts by:  (1) examining the various defects detailed in the Court's analysis in Abbeville II—including alarmingly-low student and school district performance, insufficient transportation, poor teacher quality, high teacher turnover, local legislation, school district size, and poverty; and (2) proposing remedies which address these educational needs and constitutional defects.  The Defendants shall select one of the experts and bear the cost of that expert.  The Plaintiff Districts shall select one of the experts and bear the cost of that expert.  The third expert shall be the State Superintendent of Education, who has agreed to serve on the panel.  These experts will bring their expertise to bear and to serve as facilitators in helping marshal information and obtain proper input from the various stakeholders, including the Plaintiff Districts, the Defendants, the House Task Force, and the Senate Special Subcommittee.  The expert panel will be granted access to meetings with such office holders, school districts, and state personnel as is necessary to perform their work.

  2. By February 1, 2016, the Defendants will present to the expert panel their plan for implementing a constitutionally compliant education system, and will send a copy of the proposed plan to the Plaintiff Districts and the Court.  Proposed legislation supporting the plan shall be drafted prior to the meeting and presented at the meeting.  Staffing and other critical needs may require time to fully implement the plan, but the plan and proposed legislation shall specifically provide reasonable dates for their full implementation.

  3. By March 1, 2016, the Plaintiff Districts will present to the expert panel their reaction to the Defendants' proposed plan.

  4. By March 15, 2016, the expert panel will present a written report that includes its assessment of whether the Defendants have proposed a viable plan for remedying the constitutional violations and provide it to the parties and the Court.  The report will include a description of the panel's recommended methodology for assessing constitutional compliance.  Should the experts disagree on parts of this report, the experts shall so note their disagreement in the report.

  5. The Court will conduct a de novo review of the Defendants' plan and the expert panel's report and recommendations on implementing a constitutionally-compliant education system.  As the Court assesses whether the plan and the report provide a remedy for the constitutional defects identified in Abbeville II, it should give due consideration to the General Assembly's prerogative to choose the methodology by which the constitutional violation shall be remedied, and give due consideration to the expertise of the panel members chosen.

  6. The Court will issue an order after conducting its review of the plan and the expert panel's findings stating whether the plan is a rational means of bringing the system of public education in South Carolina into constitutional compliance, and whether the Court's continued maintenance of jurisdiction is necessary.


October 2, 2015 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Ninth Circuit Takes The Middle Ground In O'Bannon v. NCAA, But The Case for College Athletes' Compensation Is Still Open

The Ninth Circuit decided O'Bannon v. NCAA yesterday, upholding the district court's finding that the National Collegiate Athletic Association's restraints on what its member schools could pay Div. I college basketball and football players violated the antitrust laws, but vacating the lower court's  remedy that would have required the NCAA to allow its member schools to pay student-athletes up to $5,000 per year in deferred compensation. The case arose when class plaintiffs, represented by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, challenged the NCAA's rules against player compensation that prohibit college athletes from receiving any compensation to be eligible to play college sports. The NCAA's rules applied to players' names, likenesses, and images even after they finished school, which prompted the suit when O'Bannon and other athletes recognized their likenesses in NCAA-licensed video games. Last year, a California district court ruled that NCAA violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for the use of their names and likeness and enjoined the NCAA from prohibiting its member schools from giving student-athletes scholarships up to the full cost of attendance at their respective schools and paying players $5,000 each year in deferred compensation to be held in trust while they were still eligible to play college sports. While the NCAA will be unhappy that the Ninth Circuit declined to exempt it from antitrust scrutiny because of its tradition of amateurism, it should be relieved that the panel credited its argument that amateurism is a legitimate procompetitive purpose that supports the NCAA's eligibility rules. The class plaintiffs, on the other hand, can claim partial victory for the Ninth Circuit's recognition that the NCAA's rules are"more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market," thus providing more traction to help the pipeline of cases pressing for compensation for college athletes, including Jenkins v. NCAA. The Ninth Circuit stressed that its opinion was limited and that it did not want to change college sports into another minor league of professional sports. Mark Edelman at Forbes thinks that the plaintiffs lost this case during the bench trial below in not countering the NCAA's study showing that that its rules increased consumer demand among fans to attend college sporting events - an important pro-competitive benefit. Read the Ninth Circuit's opinion in O'Bannon v. NCAA here.

October 1, 2015 in Cases, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seattle Imposes Moratorium on Elementary School Suspensions for Minor Misbehavior

Last week, the Seattle School Board unanimously voted to place a one-year halt on elementary schools suspension for disruptive conduct, rule breaking and disobedience.  Last year, seventy five percent of the district's elementary school suspensions were for these minor misbehaviors.  Under the new policy, elementary schools will remain free to suspend student who endanger themselves or others.  

Seattle follows the lead of some other school districts in the area that are seeking to eliminate most suspensions all together.  Readers might also require that California passed legislation last year to eliminate suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade.  To Seattle's credit, even before the policy change, its suspension rate was below average.  Given its progressive stance on discipline, it would not be surprising to see this policy migrate to middle schools in another year or two.  It will be interesting to see how the district performs if it moves toward a system in which there are very little if any suspensions other than those for very serious misbehavior.

More here.

October 1, 2015 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Detroit Mercy Law Review Call for Papers

Detroit Mercy is hosting a symposium issues focusing on the past and present challenges in Detroit. Among those is obviously education.  The full announcement is after the jump.

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October 1, 2015 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

California Settles English Language Learner Case, Promising to Implement Better Standards and Oversight

California has reached a settlement in DJ v. State of California.  Plaintiffs charged that the state Department of Education was failing to carry out its obligations to English Language Learners (ELLs) and the trial court agreed.  Under federal law, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act requires states and schools to take affirmative action to help ELLs overcome language barriers and make appropriate educational progress.  California's state constitution also establishes education as a fundamental right and requires the state "to intervene when the educational opportunity provided to some students falls below "prevailing statewide standards. . . The failure to provide appropriate services to EL students denies them equal educational opportunity."  DJ v. State of California, BS 142775 (Sept. 14, 2015).  

Applying those standards, last fall, the trial court found that the Department had failed "to take appropriate action in response to reports from districts that EL students have not received instructional services.  Petitioners are also entitled to an injunction requiring Respondents to establish procedures that effectively ensure all EL students receive required EL instructional services."  

The state has now agreed to put specific remedies in place to address these failures.  The state promised to collect and monitor more accurate data on ELLs, make that data publicly available, establish standards that increase the likelihood of triggering onsite evaluations of ELL programs, seek additional funding for new staff to oversee the program, and conduct a compliance review in Compton Unified School District.

 More here.

September 30, 2015 in English Language Learners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

OCR Finds Princeton Does Not Discriminate Against Asian Americans and Offers a Preview of Race Neutral Analysis for Fisher II

The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education  (OCR) completed its compliance review of Princeton's admission practice last week.  Princeton, like Harvard and the University of North Carolina, has been accused of discriminating against Asian Americans in admissions.  OCR applied strict scrutiny to the University's admissions practices and policies and concluded that "there was insufficient evidence to substantiate that the University violated Title VI or its implementing regulation with regard to the issue investigated."  

Princeton easily met the compelling interest analysis by demonstrating its interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity.  As to narrow tailoring, OCR asked 

whether the University considered workable race-neutral alternatives; whether the admissions
program provided for flexible and individualized review of applicants; whether it unduly
burdened students of any racial group; and whether the consideration of race was limited in time and subject to periodic review.

On the question of flexible individualized review, it rejected the notion that quotas were at play, finding there was

no evidence that the University tried to cap or otherwise limit the number of applicants who would be admitted from any race or national origin group. OCR also did not find that the University engaged in “patently unconstitutional” racial balancing, which the Supreme Court has defined as an effort “to assure within its student body some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin.” Instead, to the contrary, OCR found mostly steady increases in the percentages of Asian students who have been admitted in the past several years, rising from 14.2% of the University’s Class of 2007 to 21.9% of the University’s Class of 2012 and 25.4% (more than one-fourth) of the University’s Class of 2014. Such fluctuations are inconsistent with the existence of a quota, as the Supreme Court noted in Grutter. 

It also found that race played a relatively small and flexible role in the process:

Here, OCR found that during the University’s admissions process, an applicant’s race and national origin – if he or she offered that information — may or may not be considered, depending upon whether that information provides further context about an individual applicant. For example, an admissions officer might consider how race may have figured in the context of where a person was born, where a person grew up, and where he or she had gone to school. Race and national origin may also be considered if an applicant brings up those subjects in his or her essay. However, OCR found no evidence of the University giving an automatic “plus” for identifying as a particular race or national origin; nor did OCR find evidence of applicants given an automatic “minus” for belonging to a particular race or national origin. OCR also found no evidence of the University using a fixed formula to weigh an applicant’s race or national origin.

Post-Fisher v. Texas, the potentially more difficult analysis for universities is the race neutral alternative analysis.  If interpreted strictly, Fisher's statement that a university should demonstrate that its consideration of race is "necessary" could be fatal to many admissions plans.  If interpreted consistent with Grutter, the term means something more flexible than absolute necessity.  

OCR's letter did a nice job of averting the significance of this definition problem, which scholars have been wrangling over.  OCR did so by referencing the Court's "necessary" quote in a footnote, but refusing to allow the meaning of the phrase to become the analysis itself.  Instead, it rephrased the question as being one of "sufficiency."  It asked  "whether race-neutral alternatives were sufficient to achieve its diversity goals, of which race was a single though important element." It then alternatively phrased the question as whether race neutral alternatives were "not sufficient to achieve the educational benefits of diversity."  Sufficiency captures the notion of flexibility far more clearly than necessity would, and that flexibility, of course, was clearly forwarded in Grutter. Drawing on Grutter's approach to race neutral alternatives, OCR concluded that "there were no race-neutral alternatives that would have worked about as well."  

In reaching that conclusion, OCR interestingly focused on the race neutral alternatives that the University currently uses.  Often, the focus elsewhere is on those hypothetical processes the university could or should use instead of race.  Here, OCR makes a compelling argument that the University is already using these alternatives  and race is just a tipping factor on top of those alternatives in certain circumstances, although without those tipping it would not achieve its goal. In other words, the fact that the University is using race-neutral alternatives substantiates the fact that it has considered alternatives and exhausted their efficacy.  One would expect these ideas to show up in the government's briefs in Fisher II, where the analysis of the facially race neutral top ten percent plan will be key.

Get OCR's full letter here.

September 29, 2015 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

School Speech Shorts: School District Employees Entitled to Qualified Immunity in Facebook Search Suit; Univ. of Kansas Cannot Expel Student for Off-Campus Tweets

The Fifth Circuit recently reversed a district court's decision denying qualified immunity to officials of a Mississippi school district on a First Amendment claim. The case arose when a teacher in the Pearl Public Schools, who served as the school's cheer squad sponsor, coercively requested a student's Facebook log-in information, accessed her Facebook messages, and later punished the student by removing her from the cheer squad because of the messages' content. After the student was dismissed from the squad, her parents filed a § 1983 action alleging that school officials violated their daughter's First and Fourth Amendment rights by searching her messages. The Fifth Circuit held that the school officials were entitled to qualified immunity because the law was not “clearly established” when the incident occurred (September 2007) that searching a student's Internet messages would violate either the First or Fourth Amendments if the teacher was acting on a reasonable suspicion that that the student had posted threatening messages immediately after a school event. The finding of qualified immunity was compelled, the Fifth Circuit explained, by conflicting rulings in school search cases until the Supreme Court handed down Safford Unified Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. Redding in 2009. The circuit court likewise held that school officials had qualified immunity on the First Amendment claim, because they did not have "fair warning," given the available precedent, that removing the student from the cheer squad because the content of her Facebook messages would violate the First Amendment.  Read the opinion in Jackson v. Ladner, No. 13-60631 (5th Cir. Sept. 15, 2015) here.

A Kansas appellate court held last week that University of Kansas had no authority to expel a student for posting sexually harassing tweets about another student even though the university had ordered him not to contact the other student. The harassing communications were done off-campus, and construing the University's student code, the court concluded that the "only environment the University can control is on campus or at University sponsored or supervised events." The case is Yeasin v. Univ. of Kansas, No. 113,098 (Kan. App. Sept. 25, 2015).

September 29, 2015 in Cases, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Court Limits Special Education Complaint Filing to Two Years from Date Parents Knew or Should Have Known of a Violation, But Leaves Measure of Compensatory Education Open by Mark Weber

Last week, the Third Circuit handed down a major special education law decision, G.L. v. Ligonier Valley School District Authority, No. 14-1387, 2015 WL 5559976 (3d Cir. Sept. 22, 2015). In brief, it holds that two oddly worded provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act establish a two year limitations period from the date the parent knew or should have known of an IDEA violation for the filing of a due process complaint, but the provisions do not limit the period that may be considered in fashioning a compensatory remedy for claims that are timely filed.


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September 28, 2015 in Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Writing Competition for Special Education and Related Papers

For those teaching education related seminars this fall, this may be a great opportunity for your current or past students to get their seminar papers published and/or win a cash prize.  The announcement is as follows:

Thomas Jefferson School of law is pleased to announce the second Jameson Crane III Disability and the Law Writing Competition. Made possible by the generous gift of Thomas Jefferson School of Law alumnus Jameson Crane III, the Crane Writing Competition seeks to encourage outstanding student scholarship at the intersection of law and medicine, or law and the social sciences. The competition promotes an understanding of these topics, furthers the development of legal rights and protections, and improves the lives of those with disabilities.

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September 28, 2015 in Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 25, 2015

California School Board Association Sues State For Lowering Education Budget By $150 Million Through Legislative "Manipulations"

An alliance of school boards has sued California officials this week alleging that the state legislature "manipulated" what is included in the state's minimum education spending guarantee and thus violated the California Constitution's Article XVI, sec. 8, called Proposition 98.  In the complaint filed September 22 by the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and Education Legal Alliance, the plaintiffs explain that Proposition 98 requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be spent on K-12 public schools and community college districts.  In 2011, the legislature moved childcare spending out of the education budget and adjusted or "rebenched" the minimum education spending guarantee to reflect the missing amount. When some childcare costs were added back in the current 2015-16 budget, however, the legislature did not readjust or "rebench" the minimum educational spending requirement, thus decreasing the minimum guarantee of Proposition 98 by $150-$180 million, the plaintiffs allege. The CSBA says that it does not object to childcare expenditures being part of the education formula, but does object to the legislature's inconsistency in defining what is part of Proposition 98's minimum spending guarantee. Read the complaint in California School Boards Association v. Cohen here.

September 25, 2015 in School Funding, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Class Action Suit Pending Against Philadelphia District for Failing to Provide Language Translation During IEP Process

Philadelphia parents filed a class action lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia last month, alleging that the district violated special education law requirements by failing to translate  documents and to provide sufficient interpretation services during Individualized Education Program meetings. The class alleges that the Philadelphia school district denied parents and students with limited English proficiency (LEP) an opportunity to participate IEPs on the same basis as their English-speaking counterparts. In 2013, the district reportedly received requests from 19,670 families of students who had requested documents in a language other than English; the district interpreted about 487 special education documents of any type that year. The plaintiffs received a due process hearing in May 2015 at which the Hearing Officer found violations of the parents' meaningful participation in the IEP process due to translation issues, required the district to  translate IEPs and other documents for the plaintiffs in the future, and awarded compensatory education. However, the Hearing Officer declined to order that the district change its translation policies system-wide, concluding that the requested relief was outside of his powers. The plaintiffs are represented by the Education Law Center. T.R., by and through Barbara Galarza, v. The School District of Philadelphia, 2015 WL 5011332 (E.D.Pa. filed Aug. 21, 2015). 


September 24, 2015 in Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

NCLB Waivers Survive at Trial, But Will the Fifth Circuit Ask Different Questions?

Last week, the federal district court in Jindal v. U.S. Department of Education denied Jindal's motion for a preliminary injunction.  Jindal had sought to enjoin the Department's Race to the Top Program and its No Child Left Behind waivers.  Jindal argued that the Department's support for the Common Core Curriculum through these programs violated the 1oth Amendment and a federal statute that prohibits the Department from dictating curriculum.  The district court rejected both arguments.  

Before going into my analysis, I must, in full disclosure, state that Jindal retained me as an expert in the case.  It was just two months before the case went to trial and long after I had completed my article, Federalizing Education by Waiver?.      In fact, I completed my article before Jindal filed his case, which I only learned about in the news.  My testimony was little more than a recitation of my article.  Regardless, I clearly have an opinion on this case.  With that disclosure, I offer the following.

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September 24, 2015 in ESEA/NCLB, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Colorado Supreme Court Says State Can Reduce School Funding Even Though Constitution Says Otherwise

On Monday in Dwyer v. State, the Colorado Supreme Court held that its constitutional mandate that specifically requires annual increases in "statewide base per pupil funding" does not prohibit the state from reducing the total amount of funds per pupil it provides to school districts.  That does not make sense, so let me explain.  

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September 23, 2015 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kansas Supreme Court Denies Local District's Request To Intervene In School Finance Suit

The Kansas Supreme Court held yesterday that a local school district could not untimely intervene in a school equity funding lawsuit. The state supreme court acknowledged that the interests of Shawnee Mission School District No. 512, which wanted to eliminate a cap on the local option budget, were not adequately represented by the suit's defendants, the State of Kansas. However, the court concluded, the District could not overcome it's untimely entry into the case. The court noted that the district could file an amicus brief to voice its interests. The case is Gannon v. State, No. 113908 (Kan. Sept. 21, 2015):

September 22, 2015 in State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Make School Funding Fair

Last fall, plaintiffs filed suit against Pennsylvania, arguing that education is a fundamental right under the state constitution and that the state has violated that right by repeatedly failing to ensure adequate education resources.  That claim moved through the trial court quickly and is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has yet to fully entertain these issues, having dismissed school funding cases in the past as non-justiciable. Something tells me that this time might be different.  As discussed several times on this blog over the past few years, the state has been so derelict in its obligations to its students that its action could be declared unconstitutional under any minimal and deferential standard one might imagine.

The Education Law Center released this summary of the case and its amicus brief:

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September 22, 2015 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (1)