Dear Colleagues:

This week, Washington D.C. welcomed more than 2000 in-person participants and 1500 virtual attendees for the annual National HBCU Week Conference . This year’s conference focused on the work the federal government is doing to meet President Biden’s executive order that directed federal agencies to increase their engagement with HBCUs. Under the order, federal agencies must submit plans each year that describe how they are working to increase HBCU participation in their programs. The conference also comes as a group of Florida A&M University students announced they are suing the state’s university system in federal court alleging that the HBCU has not been receiving its fair share of funding for years.

1. Congressional Democrats Prepare Resolution to Address Book Bans and Restrictions on School Library Materials

This week, Congressional Democrats prepared resolutions to address the wave a book bans and restrictions on school library materials across the nation. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a sponsor of the House resolution and chair of the chamber’s oversight subcommittee on civil rights and liberties in a statement said:

“The wave of book bans that has swept across our country in recent years is a direct attack on First Amendment rights and should alarm every American who believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar of our democracy…Efforts to remove books from schools and public libraries simply because they introduce ideas about diversity or challenge students to think beyond their own lived experience is not only anti-democratic but also a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.”

The resolution “expresses concern about the spreading problem of book banning and proliferating threats to freedom of expression in the United States” and “reaffirms the United States’ commitment to supporting writers’ freedom of expression, and the freedom of all Americans to read books without government censorship.” It also calls on schools and local governments to offer students with opportunities to read a vast array of books that reflect a diverse and wide range of viewpoints and perspectives.

According to preliminary data from the American Library Association there were 681 efforts to target 1,651 unique titles between January and August of this year.  A similar analysis by the PEN America literary advocacy group identified efforts in 138 school districts and 32 states to remove book titles from school libraries, prohibit them from classrooms and pull them from circulation amid public disputes or in response to state laws during the past calendar year. Also this week, the American Federation of Teachers, PEN America, the American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians and the National Council of Teachers of English signed onto a full-page ad in The New York Times that rebukes efforts to ban books.

2. Democrats Send Letter to Department of Defense Raising Concerns over Negotiations with Teachers Union

On Wednesday, congressional Democrats sent a letter to the Department of Defense raising concerns over negotiations with the teachers union representing those serving military families abroad. The Overseas Federation of Teachers – an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers that represents hundreds of schools in Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Bahrain are negotiating updates to parts of their collective bargaining agreement that was first ratified nearly 30 years ago.

The letter was addressed to Department of Defense Education Activity Director Thomas Brady and states:

“As members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, we believe that DoDEA’s reported actions are out of step with President Biden’s commitment to protect the federal workforce and ensure a meaningful right to collective bargaining as set out in Executive Order 14003. As the President noted, the Federal Government should be a model employer, and it is indeed the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining. As such, we urge DoDEA to bargain in good faith and advance proposals that both parties can meaningfully negotiate.”

Some of the concerns presented by the Union center around duty-free lunch periods and teacher prep time.

3. In the States

Parents File Lawsuit Against VA Dept. of Education and Fairfax County School Board over Discrimination:

The Virginia Department of Education and the Fairfax County School Board are facing a federal class action lawsuit  filed by parents of students with disabilities for allegedly violating the due process of rights of students as required under federal law. The parents claim that Virginia’s due process hearing system is biased toward school districts and against the parents of children with disabilities. “In Northern Virginia, 83 percent of hearing officers have never ruled for a disabled child in a decade,” according to the lawsuit.

Trevor Chaplick, one of the parents who filed the lawsuit said:  “We want to shine a light on and reveal the deeply troubling ruling record of Virginia hearing officers against parents of disabled children in IDEA due process cases…We hope to make a difference for the disabled community through legal reform.”

Statewide, only slightly more than 1.5 percent of parents who initiated a due process hearing received a ruling in their favor — only 13 rulings in all 847 cases brought in Virginia over an 11-year period. In comparison, the lawsuit highlights that other states have historically had better results for parents. For example, in California, a study of due process cases found that parents won in 34.6 percent of cases, and in Ohio, parents won 32.7 percent of due process cases.

Shortage Showcase:

Prior to the start of the school year, the Rochester School District in Rochester, NY reported that 99% of the 600 vacant positions identified at the beginning of the summer had been filled. But, just this week, a month in to the school year, the Rochester teachers union says that account is simply not accurate. There are 46 schools across the district- in a recent survey of 40 of those schools, only 13 school leaders said they were fully staffed with teachers. The other 27 schools out of that survey identified 78  teaching vacancies. On the district’s employment website, Rochester identifies a need for special education teachers, elementary teachers, English as a second language teachers, and more. It is unclear how many of the 600 vacancies reported at the beginning of summer have been filled by a fully certified, profession ready educator.

4. New Resources for Educators

  • RAND Corporation in a new analysis found that teachers of color identified increased pay and loan forgiveness as their top approaches to recruit and retain more teachers of color into schools while very few supported ending or reducing certification requirements or eliminating preparation program admission standards.
  • EdChoicereleased results from a new poll that found 40% of current school parents prefer public school compared to private school. The percentage of current school parents who said they preferred public district school is up by 3.6 percentage points from 2021 while those who said they preferred private school is down 4.7 points.

Well, folks, fall is officially here- I hope you all have the opportunity this weekend to take just a bit of time and enjoy it.

Until next time, see you on Twitter!