DC Shuttle …
John King Appointed Acting U.S. Secretary of Education. John King Jr. took over as the acting secretary of education. He will not undergo the usual confirmation process, but rather will serve as acting secretary for the rest of President Obama’s time in office. A native of New York, King was one of the founders of the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston. Read more about King in The Washington Post.
Secretary of Education Finds Community College Accreditor Noncompliant. Among his first actions, King upheld Department of Education decisions that found the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) noncompliant with federal standards for accrediting community colleges. The ACCJC accredits community colleges in the western U.S. and came under federal scrutiny after attempting to revoke the City College of San Francisco’s accreditation in 2013. According to The San Francisco Examiner, King’s decisions gives the commission one year to meet all federal standards.
Senator Sends Letter Questioning Education Department Actions on Campus Sexual Assault. The Washington Post reported that Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) sent a letter to the Education Department questioning some of the actions it has taken to address campus sexual assault. In the letter, Lankford asks Acting Secretary King if the department has overstepped its legal authority by using “Dear Colleague” letters to expand the definitions of harassment and assault on campus, instead of drafting new regulations.
States Begin to Interpret ESSA. As state legislatures across the country reconvened for the new year last week, one of the first things on many of their agendas was addressing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that President Obama signed into law late last year. The law gives states much more autonomy to make decisions about their own schools and education policy than its predecessor, No Child Left Behind, did. However, as Education Dive reports, the new power also presents new challenges for certain states, as many must now address issues including teacher shortages, budget gaps, and inequitable funding formulas. Legislatures are expected to use the beginning of this year to implement task forces to study their new powers and responsibilities under ESSA, as well as to examine what changes their constituents would like to see before the law goes into effect for the 2017-18 school year. One area where changes are expected is testing, since ESSA does not require test scores to be used as a main component in teacher evaluations like No Child Left Behind did. At the federal level, the Department of Education is preparing to begin the rulemaking process for the law. The department will be seeking input from stakeholders and the public, particularly in regard to assessments, standards, and Title I accountability.
Supreme Court to Hear Union Dues Case. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Rebecca Friedrichs is a California teacher who is suing her union over compulsory dues, arguing that they amount to forced political speech, in violation of the First Amendment. If the court sides with Friedrichs, union dues could become voluntary for all government employees. The court has until the end of June to rule on the case. Read more about the case in Education Week.
We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Jan. 11, 2016. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.