Federal Policy & Reform
Covering an alleged sexual assault is a difficult assignment for any journalist. Education reporters have to deal with the added complication of Title IX, the 39-page federal law that addresses sexual discrimination in education.
Taryn Morrissey recalls that when she had her first child several years ago, “I knew how expensive it was going to be.” Morrissey is, after all, an associate professor at American University who studies child-care policy. Then she started shopping for child-care centers and got hit with sticker shock.
“It’s REALLY expensive,” she said with a laugh.
With the White House expected to decide shortly on the fate of the DACA program, questions loom about future access to U.S. education by undocumented immigrants. And some education leaders are speaking out this week in favor of protecting the program.
“How many people are here in some part because you’ve made a request for a record and gotten the FERPA answer?” asked Frank LoMonte, an expert in the federal privacy law, to a roomful of education reporters at a recent conference.
Nearly all in attendance raised their hands.
“That’s why my phone rings 2,000 times a year,” said LoMonte during the Education Writers Association’s 2017 National Seminar in Washington, D.C.
In the aftermath of the white supremacy gathering in Charlottesville, Va., some universities are under pressure to take action against students who attend rallies organized by hate groups. Nick Roll of Inside Higher Ed discusses the situation and how postsecondary institutions are responding. How do universities balance respect for free speech with concerns about cultivating an inclusive campus environment?
The Trump administration has big ambitions to ramp up school choice — both public and private — but those desires have quickly bumped up against political reality. Will the president and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos deliver? It remains to be seen, though speakers on a recent EWA panel expressed some skepticism.
Journalist Kelly Field recently won a top honor at EWA’s National Seminar for her compelling series, “From the Reservation to College,” on the education of Native American students. Field’s coverage for The Chronicle of Higher Education — supported by an EWA Reporting Fellowship — follows several students from the Blackfeet Indian reservation in Montana. Their experiences highlight the significant educational challenges facing Native communities in the U.S. today.
A new investigation by NerdWallet’s public-interest journalism team focuses on student loan debt-relief companies that promise consumers savvy fiscal help but too often do little to actually lighten their load — and, in some cases, actually increase borrowers’ financial burdens. Reporters Richard Read and Teddy Nykiel discuss who is — and isn’t — holding these companies accountable. What would need to change at the state and federal levels to improve consumer protections?
Educators have been wading through a sea of conflicting messages from President Trump’s administration about undocumented immigrants, trying to figure out how best to serve these students without breaking the law.
Alyson Klein of Education Week and Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Ed discuss recent developments on the federal policy front, and what’s been a busy month for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The Education Department has hit the “pause button” on regulations aimed at reining in for-profit colleges, announced plans to scale back civil rights investigations, and suggested federal scrutiny of state accountability plans for K-12 education could be more forceful than some people — particularly Republicans — were expecting.
Cory Turner discusses the NPR education team’s deep dive into school vouchers, with a focus on Indiana, home to the largest voucher program in the nation. Among NPR’s findings: less than 1 percent of participating students transferred out of public schools that had been labeled by the state as low performers, and many students using vouchers were already attending private schools. With school choice as a centerpiece to President Trump’s education policy agenda, what does the evidence show when it comes to academic outcomes for students using vouchers?
Confusion and uncertainty. Gridlock and disagreement.
No, we’re not just talking about the political machinations on Capitol Hill. It’s also a pretty good characterization of the discussion on “The Changing Politics of Higher Education” at the 2017 Education Writers Association seminar at Georgetown University.
Emma Brown of The Washington Post discusses President Trump’s budget proposal for education, with fresh analysis of the priorities and politics behind the line items. She also explains the prospects in the GOP-led Congress for the Trump plan. Overall, the president’s budget envisions deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Education budget, even as he wants to step up federal aid for school choice. Which education programs are up for major cuts or outright elimination and why? How do some of the largest programs, like Title I aid for disadvantaged students and Pell grants, fare?
This week, a school district in Fort Worth, Texas passed a resolution declaring their school district “welcoming and safe” for all undocumented students in response to calls from parents and students who feared being deported.
President Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint begins to flesh out the areas in which he sees an important federal role in education — most notably expanding school choice — and those he doesn’t. At the same time, it raises questions about the fate of big-ticket items, including aid to improve teacher quality and support after-school programs.
The presidential election pushed grassroots proposals to make public college free into the mainstream. But should these plans stay there? And if so, in what form, now that the most prominent supporters of those proposals lost the race for the White House?
Kimberly Hefling of Politico discusses the new U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence was called in to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate. What will be her top priorities moving forward? How aggressively will the new secretary push school choice, and how likely is President Trump’s $20 billion school choice plan to gain traction? Has DeVos lost political capital during the bruising confirmation process? Was she held to a higher standard than other nominees for President Trump’s cabinet? And how much power will the Republican mega-donor have to roll back the Obama administration’s education policies and initiatives?
During his time in office, President Obama substantially altered the landscape of postsecondary education, from making the federal government the direct lender of student loans to changing the climate for how colleges address allegations of sexual assault. Journalists who cover federal policy on higher education offer insights and story ideas about issues to track, from the regulation of for-profit colleges to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.