Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The State of Exclusion

UNC imageThe UNC Center for Civil Rights has launched a multi-year Inclusion Project Project, "which is dedicated to understanding, documenting, and addressing the persistent and related impacts of the legacy of residential segregation."  It will analyze the effects of residential segregation on public education, municipal underbounding, and environmental racism.  The Center's first report, The State of Exclusion, is now available.  In addition to housing opportunity and environmental hazard exposure, the report offers a sophisticated empirical analysis of each of North Carolina's communities and shows the disparities in access to racially integrated schools, middle income schools and high performing schools.

September 24, 2013 in Racial Integration and Diversity, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who or What Is Failing Virginia's Schools?

HoustonA la the thesis of Diane Ravitch's new book, which I posted on yesterday, it is worth stepping back to consider what is really going on with the takeover of six Virginia schools.  As LaJuana posted a few days ago, the state passed legislation creating the Opportunity Educational Institution, which grants this entity the power to take over schools that have failed to gain accreditation four years in a row.  At least one district has filed suit arguing that the takeover violates the state constitution.  Putting the constitutional issues aside for a moment, the persistant failure to meet accreditation standards suggests that these schools are in crisis, but are they?  And if so, who is to blame?

The state's accreditation standards require elementary and middle schools to achieve the following pass rates: English – 75 percent or higher; Mathematics – 70 percent or higher; Science – 70; percent or higher; and History – 70 percent or higher.  High schools are fully accredited if students "achieve pass rates of 75 percent or higher in English and 70 percent or higher in mathematics, science and history; and [a]ttain a point value of 85 or greater based on the Graduation and Completion Index (GCI)."  (For further definition of the GCI see here).  These flat and simple standards are the whole of the accreditation requirements.

One of the six schools in the state that has failed to meet this standard is Jefferson-Houston (formerly an elementary school, now a pre-k through 8 school) in Alexandria.  The school rests on the edge of Old Town Alexandria, one of the DC area's most affluent neighborhoods.  When I lived in the DC area, my home happened to be less than a mile from Jefferson-Houston.  We didn't live in Old Town, but our son, had he been old enough, would have been assigned to Jefferson-Houston.  The school's name also carries special meaning to me.   Jefferson is in reference to Thomas Jefferson and Houston is in reference to Charles Hamilton Houston, former Dean of Howard Law School and the original architect of the NAACP's desegregation strategy. 

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September 24, 2013 in Analysis, Equity in education, Racial Integration and Diversity, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Newsweek on New Orleans' Great Charter Tryout

New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD) is among the most hailed charter school experiments in the nation and is considered a template for national education reform. Newsweek tells the New Orleans RSD story this week in The Great Charter Tryout: Are New Orleans’ schools a model for the nation—or a cautionary tale? I summarize part of the article here: More than 75 percent of New Orleans kids are educated in the Recovery School District, which is dominated by charter schools. Hurricane Katrina swept away the public schools that ranked among the lowest-performing districts in the nation. Post-Katrina, New Orleans fired many of its unionized and veteran teachers and replaced them with Teach for America graduates (about 400 TFA grads teach in New Orleans; 42% of RSD teachers have been teaching less than three years). Today, 79% of RSD charters are still rated D or F by the Louisiana Department of Education, but that is not for lack of trying. The per-pupil funding post-Katrina was about double what it had been in the two years immediately preceding the hurricane and 50 to 100 percent greater than it was for the rest of Louisiana during the same period. Oprah Winfrey gave RSD’s flagship high school, Sci Academy, a $1 million check on-air. RSD's schools are also putting in lots of time. At Sci Academy this spring, classes were regularly suspended for added studying for the ACT, which included tutoring for seniors who scored below 20 on their ACT at a cost of $1,000 per student. Sci Academy’s teachers put in 16-hour workdays to try to prove that charter schools are the right choice for a solid education and a pathway to college for low-income students. And it is working, depending on what you measure. Sci Academy got a B in the state’s grading system. But its out-of-school suspension rate was 49 percent in 2012, the second highest in the city. Even with all of the money and teacher hours, achieving a district-wide turnaround is proving to be more complicated than originally thought. Large numbers of New Orleans’ students are still not graduating and are not likely to make it through college. Read The Great Charter Tryout here.

September 24, 2013 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 23, 2013

American Schools in Crisis? Diane Ravitch Says No

RavitchCaptureDiane Ravitch has a new book out this week titled "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools."  Ravitch does not appear to say American schools are excellent, but she argues that they are not in crisis and that the constant assertion that they are in crisis undermining them.  In other words, the tail is wagging the dog in school reform.  She also points out that we label students and schools as failing because we set unrealistic goals for them.  This is not to say that we should set low goals, but that we can't expect students at severe disadvantage to achieve at the levels of privileged kids unless we first address those factors that make students disadvantaged.  Likewise, it is not fair to compare our education system to Finland's--the top performing in the world--because Finland's poverty rate is only 5 percent whereas ours is about 7 or 8 times that rate.

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September 23, 2013 in Equity in education, K-12, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

NJ School District Settles Bullying Claim: The Good and Bad Differences Strong Law Makes

Just last week, I posted on a Connecticut court rejecting a student's cause of action under the state's anti-bullying statute.  In contrast, the Old Bridge School Board in New Jersey settled an anti-bullying case for 60,000 last week.  New Jersey's anti-bullying law is considered the toughest in the nation.  It was a response to the public outcry over the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, in 2010.  The explicit mandates and clarity of the New Jersey law seems to have made all the difference. 

This clarity has a huge upside statewide.  Knowing the risks of litigation, districts will respond quicker and more effectively to bullying.  Those who do not will suffer the consequences.  The trouble is discerning what amounts to "bullying" around the margins.  All "bullying" is serious and I, in no way, mean to minimize it.  Schools should be held accountable for the failure to stop it.  But some schools overreact and punish behavior that is not bullying.  From many schools' perspective, it is better to be safe (as in not get sued) than sorry.  This is the same approach we saw schools take with zero tolerance policies on weapons and drugs, which has lead to the expulsion of children with finger clips, butter knives in their lunch boxes, and tylenol in their purse.  New Jersey has apparently already seen some potential overreactions/over-broad applications with bullying. None of this is to find flaw in the law, but to point out the potential serious downside of applying laws without a good dose of common sense and judgment.  Unfortunately, those dreaded professional development workshops might be of some use here.

September 23, 2013 in Bullying and Harassment, Cases, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Deaf Medical Student Wins Disability Lawsuit but Federal Jury Awards No Damages

Michael Argenyi, a deaf medical student, won a federal trial this month when the jury found that Creighton University failed to provide special equipment and interpreters for his education. Although the jury found that Creighton discriminated against him and violated federal disability laws by failing to make accommodations for his hearing impairment, it awarded no damages.  Argenyi sued Creighton under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after the medical school failed to provide equipment and accommodations such as “cued speech” interpreters to help him lip-read when speakers use sounds that look the same. While Argenyi attended Seattle University as an undergraduate student, the university provided Communication Access Real-time Transcription (CART), a system which transcribes spoken words into text on a computer screen and and a cued speech interpreter. Argenyi graduated from Seattle University with a 3.87 GPA. Upon entering Creighton’s School of Medicine in August 2009, he asked for similar accommodations. Creighton provided some assistance, but not the specific accommodations that Argenyi requested.

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September 23, 2013 in Higher education, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 20, 2013

40th Anniversary of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a statute that requires accomodations and education plans for students with disabilities across the nation, turns 40 years old next week.  The Department of Education is hosting an event to honor the day.  The details are as follows: 

Celebrating Forty Years of Learning Under Section 504

Please join the U.S. Department of Education for Section 504’s 40th anniversary event, “Forty Years of Learning Under Section 504,” on September 26, 2013. Experts, youth, and leaders in the disability communities of the past, present, and future will join senior Administration officials, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to discuss the importance of Section 504 and help honor its 40th anniversary. The event will emphasize the importance of accommodations, specifically in education, and highlight today’s leaders in the youth disability communities and individuals who worked to help pass the law as youth in the 1970s.

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September 20, 2013 in Conferences, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

DOJ and DOE Briefing on Creating and Supporting Diversity in Higher Education

Please join the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice for a panel discussion, “Creating and Supporting Diversity in Higher Education,” on September 27, 2013 from 9:30-11:00am ET at the U.S. Department of Justice. Higher education leaders will join Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, and Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Justice, to discuss the importance of creating and supporting diversity on college campuses and the parameters for using in race in admissions as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of Education, will deliver opening remarks, and Ada Meloy, General Counsel for the American Council on Education, will moderate the discussion. The event will coincide with the release of a document, “Questions and Answers About Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin,” developed jointly by the Departments.

 

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September 20, 2013 in Conferences, Federal policy, Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Illinois Proposal to Eliminate Caps on Special Education Class Sizes ‘Dead’—For Now

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) removed a proposal from its agenda yesterday that would have eliminated all state rules on special education class size. The ISBE move is not unusual, as similar measures have been proposed in D.C., New York, North Carolina, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island. Since the beginning of the year, the ISBE proposed repealing Sections 226.730 and 226.731 of the Illinois Administrative Code that limit class sizes for self-contained special education classrooms and place a 30 percent limit on students with IEPs in a general education classroom (called the 70/30 rule).  ISBE administrators say that Illinois’ requirements exceed the requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and “its implementing regulations and have resulted in several unintended consequences.” One of those consequences, State Superintendent of Education, Christopher Koch,
 said on Monday, was that Illinois’ current rules “interfere with decisions for students that
would best be made at the local level.” Koch noted that “Illinois is no longer under the Corey H. settlement agreement and our data shows that these artificial limits are actually keeping students with disabilities out of general education classrooms.” Despite the ISBE’s arguments that eliminating class size requirements “will best ensure that each student with disabilities … has access to the broad array of coursework available to his or her nondisabled peers, particularly in the middle grades and high school,” parents and advocacy groups fiercely opposed the proposal.  Bev Johns, Chair of the Illinois Special Education Coalition, said in a posted message that “[e]veryone else testifying, special ed groups, disability
 organizations, parents, the IEA, IFT and CTU, other 
teachers, etc.” opposed the ISBE proposal. The Illinois Special Education Coalition is a coalition of parent and educator organizations interested in the education of students with disabilities.

September 20, 2013 in Special Education, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cause of Action Rejected Under Connecticut's Anti-Bullying Statute

In 2002, the Connecticut Legislature enacted an anti-bullying statute that directed schools to come up with policies and procedures to address and prevent bullying.  In the wake of high profile bullying incidents that led to the victims' suicide or other serious harm, Connecticut reenacted and strengthened the statute in 2011.  The current statute broadly defines bullying and harassment and provides that "Each local and regional board of education shall develop and implement a safe school climate plan to address the existence of bullying in its schools." Conn. Gen. Statute 10-222d. It further specifies 17 different responsibilities, structures, and procedures that must be included in the plan and complied with. Id.  The statute does not include an explicit cause of action.

Some prior courts had addressed the existence of cause of action under the old version of the statute, but Mazzo v. Town of Fairfield Bd. of Educ., 2013 WL 4872203 (Sup. Ct. of Conn. 2013), appears to be a case of first impression regarding the newly enacted version of the statute. Plaintiff's primary argument appeared to be that Conn. Gen. Statute 10-222l evidences intent to create of cause of action because, while that section speaks to immunity, it conditions that immunity on good faith compliance with the statute.  In other words, plaintiff argues that a basic failure to attempt to comply with the Act is not granted immunity and, thus, is actionable under the act.  

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September 20, 2013 in Bullying and Harassment, Cases, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Virginia and Texas Shift Control Away from State Boards of Education

Laws passed this year in Virginia and Texas have stripped control from state education boards in matters that are traditionally school board functions. In Virginia, school boards sued last week challenging the constitutionality of a law that moved oversight of certain schools from local districts to a statewide school policy board. This summer in Texas, legislators removed the State Board of Education’s power to approve charter schools.

Virginia’s Local School Boards Sue State Over Creation of Statewide School Policy Board

The Virginia General Assembly created a new statewide school division called the Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) and the Opportunity Educational Institution Board  (Senate Bill 1324) in the spring. The new legislation requires the OEI Board to take over the supervision and operation of any school in a local school division that has been denied accreditation and permits the OEI Board to take control of any school that has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years. The OEI Board can control the school for five years or until the school achieves full accreditation.

Last week, the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and the Norfolk County Schools sued the OEI Board in state court, asking the court to declare that the OEI law violates Article VIII of Virginia's Constitution, which provides that “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board.” The VSBA alleges that the law violates another section of Article VIII, which provides that the State Board of Education shall create school divisions. Because the General Assembly, rather than the State Board, created the OEI Board as a statewide school division, the VSBA argues that the OEI law is unconstitutional.

The VSBA says the law is a school-takeover measure that usurps the power of local school boards to a policy board in the executive branch. In fact, the authorization for the OEI falls under the part of the Virginia code that covers higher educational institutions rather than elementary and secondary schools. Local school boards in Alexandria and Newport News have joined the lawsuit. Newport News Board’s Vice Chairman Jeff Stodghill told a local newspaper that the legislation removes local school control, and that “[u]nder this arrangement, [parents] might have to drive up to Richmond if [they] have a problem with [their] child's schedule." The OEI law is a part of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's 2013 education agenda. In his State of the Commonwealth address in January, Governor McDonnell said that the OEI was a part of a “zero tolerance” initiative to “turnaround failing schools… and provide a brand new approach to a broken system.”

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli agrees with local school districts that the OEI Board is unconstitutional and told the governor in a letter in late August that his office would not defend it in court. (For those unfamiliar with Cuccinelli, he is no bleeding-heart. Cuccinelli is the Republican candidate for governor this fall and two election talking points have been his crusade to reinstate Virginia’s crime-against-nature statute (the Supreme Court struck down a similar anti-sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas) and his controversial running mate—and future lieutenant governor of Virginia—who tweeted this spring  that gay-pride month made him feel “icky” and once suggested in one of his books that yoga could lead to satanic possession, although he has since backed off that statement in his campaign.)

Texas charter school licenses jump after approval authority shifts from the State Board to the Education Commissioner

Texas' new law shifts the power to authorize charters moved from the elected State Board of Education to the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, appointed by Governor Rick Perry. State Senator Dan Patrick, who sponsored Senate Bill 2said legislators approved the shift out of concern that the State Board “already has enough to do setting academic curriculum and approving textbooks for use in classrooms.” At a recent meeting with the State Board to explain the shift, Board members expressed annoyance with the new procedure, noting that they were elected by voters, rather than appointed by the governor. The new law also raises the maximum number of charter school licenses from 215 to 309 and streamlines the application process for existing charter operators. 

September 20, 2013 in Charters and Vouchers, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alabama's Move to Put Education in a New Era

By a new era, I do not mean a forward looking or an improved era.  I mean an era the state has not seen in decades.  I mean an era that resembles the days before Brown v. Board of Education.  LaJuana's post this morning contained a lot of news on Alabama, but the piece that struck me the most was the enormous decline in support for its schools and the push to amend its constitution in a not so good way. 

My comparison to pre-Brown days is not meant to suggest that Alabama wishes to resegregate its schools--although I doubt race is irrelevant to the moves afoot in the state.  It is a comparison to stark educational deprivation and inequality.  The level of educational defunding in Alabama is mind-boggling and threatens to push the poorest and neediest schools--if not the entire state--into a class of their own, whose deprivations cannot be rivaled anywhere else in the country.  On top of that, many wish to strip children of their constitutional right to education, something unheard of and unspeakable in this country for some time.

After accounting for inflation, the Center on Budget Priorities Report reveals a $1,200 decline in per pupil expenditures in Alabama between fiscal years 2008 and 2014.  To put this number in local perspective, it amounts to a 20% decline in funding in Alabama.  In other words, 1 out of 5 education dollars in the state is gone, or the money for 1 out of 5 children has vanished.  To put this number in national perspective, in 2006, the Education Trust reported a national funding gap between the highest and lowest poverty districts of $1,300 per pupil.  So in comparison, Alabama's funding shortfall turns the entire state into a similarly underfunded subclass.  No matter where a student lives in the state, he or she might reasonably be treated as a poverty class that trails the rest of the nation.  Moreover, these cuts come on top of the fact that Alabama already had one of the lowest per pupil expenditures in the nation, and distributed those funds among school districts in one of the most regressive ways in the nation.  See School Funding Fairness Report.  In short, awful is getting much worse in Alabama.  In a high poverty, regressively funded school district in a state with an educational system in a subclass of its own, a new era of educational deprivation not seen in decades is a serious risk.

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September 19, 2013 in Equity in education, School Funding, State law developments, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Duty to Exhaust IDEA Claims When Making Some Section 504 Claims

For those who dug a little deeper on the special education case I posted yesterday, Horton v. Boone Cnty. Sch. Dist., 2013 WL 4875025 (E.D. Kentucky 2013), you may have noticed an oddity.  The plaintiff's claim was about the failure to properly implement the student's Rehabilitation Act Section 504 plan, but the court dismissed the claim for failure to exhaust IDEA administrative remedies.  This struck me as odd and irrelevant, but I did not address it in my post because I was not sure of the right answer and I did notice that the plaintiff had cited to some Kentucky regulations, which looked to be IDEA implementing regulations.  In other words, maybe there was an IDEA claim there and I just did not see it.

Mark Weber was nice enough to clarify the issue for me and point out what is another significant issue in cases of this sort.  He offered the following:

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September 19, 2013 in Analysis, Cases, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alabama District Opts for iPads Over School Choice; State Has Biggest Drop in Per-Student Education Funding In the Nation

While segregated sororities at the University of Alabama was in the news this week, a few other state educational developments are of interest.  We have been covering the lawsuits filed about the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), which branded dozens of schools across the state as “failing,” but because of various barriers, allowed only a few students who attended those schools to transfer to better ones. The Tuscaloosa County Schools system may have added to those barriers for students seeking to use the AAA as a path to a better education. This week, the Tuscaloosa district announced its plan to provide iPads or laptops to students this school year instead of paying transfer costs to better schools. (Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, coincidentally.) Tuscaloosa Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford told the media, “I don't see the value in kids transferring to another school other than it being an out. We would prefer for the kids to stay at their school…. The state allows us that option of not accepting students into our other schools. We feel like this will better serve the students.” This position raised a few eyebrows, as reported by Trish Crain at Alabama School Connection.The AAA does not force private schools to accept transfer students, but Swinford heads a public school district that now plans to resist, as a policy matter, the efforts of its students in a “failing” school to transfer to another school. When asked about Tuscaloosa County Schools’ stance, State Education Superintendent Tommy Bice said that parents, not school districts, have the choice to transfer the student. Meanwhile, Tuscaloosa County Schools have already approved the iPad and laptop purchases. 

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 11.20.10 PM
Image: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Alabama has also been working to change its constitution, and Trish Crain also has news about those efforts at the Constitution Revision Commission. The Commission is making its perennial attempt to change the language in the Alabama Constitution requiring that “separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.” What is most embarrassing about this constitutional article is the number of attempts that have been made to excise the segregationist language, which voters have refused to do twice in recent history. Currently on the table is the following revision: “The legislature shall establish, organize and maintain a system of public schools throughout the state for the benefit of children thereof, provided nothing in this Section shall create any judicially enforceable right or obligation….” Trish Crain points out that the latter clause negates the first—that the state must establish a public education system, but there is no enforceable obligation to maintain it. Critics suggest that the lawmakers want to protect the state against equity funding lawsuits. Considering the data last week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that Alabama’s per student funding dropped almost 23% since 2007—the state with the greatest drop in per-student dollars—such litigation may be inevitable. Access the Center’s full report here.

 

September 19, 2013 in State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Arne Duncan the De Facto United States School Superintendent?

When the NCLB waiver process began last year, I commented at a few conferences that Arne Duncan had become the School Superintendent of the United States of America, a position which he obviously had not been elected or appointed.  I offered this characterization of his new role not as a substantive critique of Duncan's policies, but as a legal scholar/contrarian questioning the exercise of power, regardless of whether that power was exercised benevolently or well.  To be clear, I have long favored the federalization of education in certain respects and have argued that the federal government should exercise far more control over states and districts in terms of equityschool finance, and integration.  All of those proposals, however, are predicated on existing or new legislation that gives the Department of Education the necessary power.

NCLB does not give Duncan the power he has exercised in the waiver process.  NCLB includes the short statement: "The Secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement of this Act for a State educational agency, local educational agency, Indian tribe, or school through a local educational agency.” 20 U.S.C. § 7861 (2006).  Missing from this text is any mention of the Secretary placing conditions on waivers.  A logical argument can be made that conditional waivers are implied in this power in so far as conditions are necessary to or further eventual compliance with the Act.  For instance, the Secretary might waive a state's failure to meet NCLB standards in 2013 on the condition that a state reach compliance by the following year.  Or more heavy handily, the Secretary might condition a waiver on a state taking steps X, Y, and Z, which directly relate to the state's ability to reach compliance the following year.  In both instances, the conditions are embodied within the conditions and requirements that the Act had already placed on the state.  In other words, the conditions would not add not substance to NCLB.  To infer that the waiver power gave the Secretary broader power would be to infer that the waiver was intended as an independent and open ended policy making or judgment power for the Secretary.  If it were, it would be the equivalent of making the Superintendent of the United States School Districts.

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September 18, 2013 in Analysis, ESEA/NCLB, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Pursuing Administrative Relief Futile After Graduation for Special Education Students? Court Says No

Dakota Horton enrolled in a new school in the fall of 2008.  In his prior school, he had received services pursuant to a Section 504 plan, but when he enrolled in Boone County Schools, his 504 plan was never reviewed, notwithstanding his parents requests.  In his senior year, he encountered problems in math and requested an accommodation.  He did not receive it, did not pass the course, and was unable to graduate with his class in May of 2012.  He did, however, graduate that summer. Apparently, this delayed graduation and the course structure affected his subsequent college opportunities and requirements.

He filed a claim against the district under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA. The district court dismissed his case for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.  Horton asserted that his administrative remedies were futile because he had already graduated from high school, but the district court in Horton v. Boone Cnty. Sch. Dist., 2013 WL 4875025 (E.D. Kentucky 2013), disagreed, finding that he still could have sought compensatory services from the district after the fact.

September 18, 2013 in Cases, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Great Divide: Lifelines for Poor Children

The New York Times is running a series about inequality called The Great Divide. One recent article by James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics, is called Lifelines for Poor Children. Lifelines for Poor Children echoes Derek’s scholarship about the need to invest in early childhood development. Here is an excerpt:

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 10.21.39 PMEveryone knows that education boosts productivity and enlarges opportunities, so it is natural that proposals for reducing inequality emphasize effective education for all. But these proposals are too timid. They ignore a powerful body of research in the economics of human development that tells us which skills matter for producing successful lives. They ignore the role of families in producing the relevant skills They also ignore or play down the critical gap in skills between advantaged and disadvantaged children that emerges long before they enter school.

While education is a great equalizer of opportunity when done right, American policy is going about it all wrong: current programs don’t start early enough, nor do they produce the skills that matter most for personal and societal prosperity.

These established findings should lead to a major reorientation of policies for human development. Because skill begets skill, the opportunity for education should begin at birth — and not depend on the accident of birth.

The family into which a child is born plays a powerful role in determining lifetime opportunities. This is hardly news, but it bears repeating: some kids win the lottery at birth, far too many don’t — and most people have a hard time catching up over the rest of their lives. Children raised in disadvantaged environments are not only much less likely to succeed in school or in society, but they are also much less likely to be healthy adults. A variety of studies show that factors determined before the end of high school contribute to roughly half of lifetime earnings inequality. This is where our blind spot lies: success nominally attributed to the beneficial effects of education, especially graduating from college, is in truth largely a result of factors determined long before children even enter school.

Read more here.

September 18, 2013 in K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Forbes: "Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City"

Forbes published an article last week taking private equity charter school investors to task for shifting public education dollars to charter schools without sufficient evidence that charters provide better education. Derek recently posted about the risks of treating schools as markets, and Forbes’ take is not news to anyone paying attention to educational trends. But a less-than-flattering article about the players in the private equity educational market and their incentives for investing in charter schools is unexpected in Forbes. Read the article here

September 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Push to Pressure DOJ Away from Enforcing Desegregation in Louisiana

When I first posted on DOJ's motion to enjoin vouchers in Louisiana until the district court could determine whether they had the effect of violating standing court ordered desegregation,  I assumed that no one but the few remaining desegregation junkies and the few students affected by it would pay it much attention.  DOJ's motion was standard fare for a desegregation case and, in comparison to other current desegregation battles, is of relatively small importance.  I seriously underestimated the politics of this case, which explains why I am a law professor.

I have no doubts on the law here, but what is becoming increasingly clear is that no one else really cares what the law is.  All that seems to matter are the politics and, rather than a story dies quickly, this one has legs due to the ratcheting up of the politics.  Two cases in point.  The Chicago Tribune issued a stinging editorial on Sunday titled United States v. minority children.  Now, former Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Tim Scott, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education are joining Governor Jindal in hosting a press conference at the National Press Conference tomorrow to discuss the lawsuit.  Earlier, House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, asked why Obama wants to keep poor kids out of good schools. 

Maybe, the escalating politics suggest a new answer to the question in my second post: why is Louisiana seeking to delay the hearing in this case?  The new answer may be that it gives the state more time to turn up the politics and distract the district court from the legal question, which is a slightly different game--albeit still a game--than the one I posited earlier.

September 17, 2013 in Analysis, Cases, Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Educational Civil Rights Conference at Penn State and Call for Papers

Penn State’s College of Education will host an interdisciplinary civil rights conference June 6-7, 2014.

The primary goal of the conference is to address the inability of many students of color to access high-quality pre–K through higher education — still uneven for young people from historically marginalized groups and/or in many urban and increasingly in suburban settings. While many policy proposals have focused on access to education, there has been much less attention to racial inequality and segregation in access to P–20 education, even as the percentage of students of color is rapidly increasing. This conference seeks to explore what strategies have been effective in expanding educational opportunities for these students — and how we can implement additional best practices that will ensure equity in public education for the future.

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September 17, 2013 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0)