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ESEA/NCLB Update #201

Oklahoma NCLB waiver reinstated

The Department of Education (ED) last week reinstated and extended Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver through the end of the 2014-2015 school year. ED had revoked the waiver in August when the state legislature dropped the Common Core State Standards, and the state could not provide proof of a substitute set of standards that met the state higher education system's approval. In October, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved the state’s reading and math standards as college and career ready, which led to last week’s reinstatement.

Under the waiver rules, a state’s college- and career-ready standards must be either common to a significant number of states, or approved by a state network of institutions of higher education.

Seven states eligible to apply for priority waiver renewal

Citing ED, EdWeek reports that seven states will be eligible to apply for expedited and extended waiver renewals: Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Under ED’s renewal guidance, states that have adhered to the original waiver timelines and principles are eligible to apply earlier (in January) and for a longer period (four years) than other states. A few states that were originally told in their extension letters that they might be eligible for longer renewal were not on the list provided to EdWeek.

OCR issues guidance on single-sex classes

ED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a detailed "Q and A" on the appropriateness of same-sex classes and extracurricular activities under Title IX, outside of certain contact sports and courses on human sexuality. The central question posed in the guidance is: "What criteria must be met to offer single-sex classes under the Department’s Title IX regulations?" According to OCR’s answer, single-sex classes are allowed if a school has a two-part justification for doing so, demonstrating that:

  • each single-sex class is based on the recipient’s "important objective" either to: improve its students’ educational achievement through its overall established policies to provide diverse educational opportunities (the diversity objective); or to meet the particular, identified educational needs of its students (the needs objective); and <
  • the single-sex nature of the class is "substantially related" to achieving that important objective.

In addition the school must:

  • implement its objective in an evenhanded manner;
  • ensure that student enrollment in the single-sex class is completely voluntary;
  • provide a substantially equal coeducational class in the same subject; and,
  • conduct periodic evaluations to determine whether the class complies with Title IX, and if not, modify or discontinue the class to ensure compliance with Title IX.

These requirements are elaborated upon in the overall document. The "Q and A" also states that transgender students must be treated consistent with their gender identity with regard to same-sex classes.

The ACLU, which had been calling on ED to intervene against certain "stereotyped-based single-sex classrooms," issued a statement applauding the guidance.

New report estimates up to $54 million in NY state charter school fraud

In its latest groundbreaking report documenting oversight deficiencies and financial irregularities in the charter school sector, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) estimates as much as $54 million in suspected charter school fraud in 2014 in New York state. The report, Risking Public Money: New York Charter School Fraud, was released December 1, 2014 with the Alliance for Quality Education. It analyzes New York state’s charter sector financial oversight practices and concludes that, despite the investment of $1.29 billion in public funding for New York City charter schools alone, the state has failed to implement a system that adequately monitors charters for fraud, waste, and mismanagement. In a response, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said:

These findings are truly disturbing. While some charter school officials spend tens of thousands of public dollars on staff trips to the Bahamas from funds diverted from traditional public schools, New York state’s 90,000 charter school students may not be getting the resources they need . . .[L]egislators need to commit the resources to provide regular audits and real oversight. It’s ridiculous to consider lifting charter school caps until operators have a firm oversight structure in place and are transparent with their expenditures and practices.

CPD issued a report, Fraud and Mismanagement in Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools, with the groups Action United and Integrity in Education in October. This report followed a May release, with Integrity in Education, of a national report Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse.

Federal agencies offer grants to serve disconnected youth

A new collaboration among the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services will provide an unprecedented federal response to the country’s more than five million disconnected youth, including low-income youth who are not enrolled in, or are at risk of dropping out of, an educational institution. The new effort will provide states, tribes, and local communities access to funds under the Performance Partnership Pilot (P3). Grantees will receive increased flexibility and expanded across the board services collaboration in exchange for providing outcome-focused strategies for disconnected youth. The initiative will fund 10 pilots and provide start up grants of up to $700,000. The application deadline is March 4, with notices of intent to apply requested by January 8, 2015.

Child Care and Development Block Grant program reauthorized

President Obama signed the bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, updating the program for the first time since 1996. At a signing ceremony, Obama said the bill would accomplish several important goals:

It’s going to improve the quality of child care by requiring more training for caregivers and more enrichment for children. It’s going to improve child safety by instituting background checks for staff and better inspection of facilities. It’s going to give working parents a little more peace of mind—if you receive subsidies to pay for your child care, you know that if you get a raise on your job or you find a job, your kids aren’t automatically losing their care because your status has changed midstream.

NEA had urged the Senate to support the bill, noting that the bill would increase the likelihood that students enter school ready to succeed by investing in the early childhood workforce, focusing on early learning, and ensuring the health and safety of children served by the program. The bill passed the Senate 88-1.

Take action: Join the GPS Network

Join the Great Public Schools Network, a place where NEA members, affiliates, and partners are collaborating to improve public education through a student-centered agenda.

Published December 5, 2014

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