Dear Colleagues:

The final countdown is on for Congress to pass a FY2023 spending bill with the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expiring next Friday. There is considerable speculation on whether or not a bill will pass before January, but many on the Hill remain hopeful that we will see an omnibus package before Christmas. Stay tuned as next week is sure to be a busy week in Washington.

1. Rep. Virginia Foxx Secures Waiver to Lead House Education Committee in 118th Congress

This week, Rep. Virginia Foxx, the current ranking member on the House Education and Labor Committee, was granted a waiver from the Republic Steering Committee to be considered for the top leadership position on the Committee in the next Congress. Rep. Foxx sought the waiver due to a GOP rule that prohibits Members from serving more than three consecutive terms as a ranking member or chair of a committee. Early reports on Wednesday suggested that Rep. Foxx would run unopposed; however, on Thursday reports began to surface that Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) will challenge Rep. Fox for the Committee gavel. A spokesperson for Rep. Walberg released a statement saying: “Having served on the Education and Workforce Committee for 14 years, Rep. Walberg has a proven track record of putting students’ future first and has the leadership experience to tackle the pressing issues facing America’s classrooms and workplaces..” Just last week, Rep. Walberg signed a letter in support of Rep. Foxx waiver. The Steering Committee is expected to make leadership decisions in the coming weeks.

2. National Parent and Family Engagement Council Dissolves

In June, the Department of Education established the National Parent and Family Engagement Council. The Council’s original intent was to help families engage with school districts at the local level. The Department quickly came under scrutiny with allegations of bias by several conservative lawmakers who suggested the group was created with liberal bias. These allegations would eventually lead to a lawsuit from conservative parent advocacy groups. This week the Administration announced that the Council has dissolved .

The Department of Education issued the following statement in response:

“Parental rights and voices matter. That’s a clear and consistent message we hear from education stakeholders throughout our nation, whether they’re parents themselves, students or educators, or partners in government or the private sector. We all share a vital concern for the future of our students, and our nation, regardless of our political, social, or cultural backgrounds. Parents and families have a critical role to play in building a brighter future for our kids and our communities – the Department has always tried to hear from as many parents as possible and to engage with them in the most meaningful and effective way. On June 14, the Department announced the creation of the National Parents and Families Engagement Council. Several organizations subsequently sued, alleging that the Department violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) when it established the Council. The Department disagrees but has decided to not move forward with the National Parents and Families Engagement Council. The Department will continue connecting with individual parents and families across the country, including through townhalls, and providing parents and families with a wide array of tools and resources to use to support our students.”

3. OCR Enters Resolution Agreement with Davis Joint Unified School District

This week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that the Davis Joint Unified School District in California has entered into a resolution agreement to ensure that its restraint and seclusion policies and practices do not deny students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

OCR determined that the district placed three of its students with disabilities in nonpublic school settings and violated their rights under Section 504 and Title II because the district:

  • Failed to ensure that district staff making placement decisions for these students had access to and carefully considered information obtained about the use of physical restraint and/or seclusion with these students.
  • Separately failed to ensure that those making decisions regarding behavioral interventions for these students were knowledgeable about each student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement.
  • Failed to reevaluate these students to determine whether the repeated use of restraint and seclusion for these students denied them a FAPE and if additional aids and services were appropriate to provide a FAPE. And,
  • Denied a FAPE to all three students based on the above failures and resulting harms to the students.

Throughout the investigation, OCR found that one of the students died after being subjected to a prolonged restraint.

In a statement, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said:

“I am grateful for Davis Joint Unified School District’s commitment to take important steps to ensure that its students with disabilities are not denied a free and appropriate public education as a result of the use of restraint or seclusion whether they are placed in district schools or nonpublic school settings…The tragic death of a child subjected to prolonged and repeated restraint at a school placement through this district underscores the urgency for school communities everywhere to carefully examine their restraint and seclusion practices to safeguard children in their care, in addition to their obligation to satisfy the federal civil rights laws we enforce.”

The letter to Davis Joint Unified School District is available here and the resolution agreement is available here.

4. OCR Announces Resolution of a Racial Harassment Complaint Filed Against Ottumwa Community School District

On Monday, The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced the resolution of a racial harassment complaint filed against Ottumwa Community School District in Iowa. OCR determined that during the course of school years 2020-21 and 2021-22 district students subjected a Black middle school student to racial harassment so pervasive that it constituted a racially hostile environment and that the district failed to take necessary steps to protect the student, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations.

In a statement, the Department notes that OCR also found that even though the district had notice of possible ongoing harassment, the district disregarded its obligations to investigate whether its response to the reported harassment was effective in eliminating the hostile environment, whether it addressed the cumulative effect of the incidents on the harassed student, and addressed the impact the verified wide-spread conduct may have had on other students.

The district’s commitments in the voluntary resolution agreement include:

  • Reimbursing the student’s parent for documented expenses incurred related to past and future therapeutic services resulting from the racially hostile environment.
  • Publishing an anti-harassment statement stating that the district does not tolerate acts of harassment, including acts of harassment based on a student’s race, color, or national origin.
  • Reviewing and revising its policies and procedures to address Title VI’s prohibition of harassment based on race, color, or national origin.
  • Providing training to district staff regarding the district’s obligation to respond to complaints of harassment based on race, color, or national origin.
  • Providing age-appropriate information programs for students to address harassment based on race, color, or national origin. And,
  • Conducting a climate survey to assess the prevalence of harassment in the student’s former school and provide suggestions for effective ways to address harassment.

The letter to Ottumwa Community School District is available here and the resolution agreement is available here.

5. AACTE Releases Report on Alternative Preparation Programs Run by IHEs

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education released a new report on alternative preparation programs run by institutions of higher education (IHEs). The report notes that that IHE-based alternative teacher preparation programs are bringing more educators to the strained workforce than alternative programs run by organizations other than colleges and universities. Although enrollment in university-based alternative programs declined by 8% between 2011 and 2020, the number of teachers completing these programs grew by 10%; in contrast, enrollment in non-IHE alternative programs grew by more than 140% but the number of teachers produced by these programs declined by 12%.

6. New Resources for Educators

  • National Center for Education Statistics released their October data on staffing vacancies across US public schools. The report notes that More than half of public schools in high-poverty neighborhoods (57 percent) had at least one teaching vacancy. The vacancy numbers do not take into consideration whether or not the individual is qualified for the position. · NCLD is out with a new report examining youth with disabilities involvement in the juvenile justice system.
  • NCLD is out with a new report examining youth with disabilities involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Wishing you all a joyful weekend.

Until next time, see you on Twitter!

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