School choice could be ramped up

The NEA shared reports about President Trump’s recent address to Congress, in which he indicated that he “remains serious about his campaign-trail pledge to expand school choice,” urging Congress “to ‘pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.’” However, the piece reports, the Trump administration has yet to release any concrete details about its plans, and “it remains tough to say what other policy proposals might be on the president’s K-12 priority list.” The piece contrasts this with President Obama and President George W. Bush, “both of whom were knee-deep at this point in their presidencies in the education initiatives that would define their K-12 legacies.”

Judgment of teacher preparation better left to states

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to overturn the regulations governing Obama’s teacher-preparation programs.  Education Week quoted Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), the bill’s sponsor, saying, “This regulation actually makes the assumption that bureaucrats in Washington are competent to micromanage teacher-training programs in America.” Senate HELP ranking Democrat Patty Murray “said the rules would ensure that prospective teachers have more and better information about teacher-training programs” and “would protect teacher preparation from the as-yet unknown approach that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would take.”

The House version with these changes passed last month and President Trump is expected to sign the bill. With the change, states will not be required to report on the “success rate of teacher-training programs, partly on the basis of graduates’ employment and evaluations of their work.” It also will mean that funding of federal Teach Grants to prospective teachers no longer will be tied to this reporting.

The National Council on Teacher Quality, which was involved in brokering these new rules, criticized the bill, with reports quoting: “Repealing these rules would tell the institutions that they will not be held accountable for how well they train teachers.”

DeVos is Confirmed

The Senate today approved Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education when Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in her favor. The vote by a vice president to break a deadlock over a cabinet official was a first in U.S. history.  Despite the opposition, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to advance her nomination to the full Senate. The New York Times posted the following:

“The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools. Two Republicans voted against Ms. DeVos’s confirmation, a sign that some members of President Trump’s party are willing to go against him, possibly foreshadowing difficulty on some of the president’s more contentious legislative priorities.”