Briefly Stated: July 14, 2021

July 13, 2021 8 min read
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U.S. to Review History Of Boarding Schools For Indian Children

The federal government will investigate its past oversight of Native American boarding schools to “uncover the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences” of policies that forced hundreds of thousands of children from their families and communities in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The unprecedented work, which U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced last month, will include compiling and reviewing records to identify now-closed boarding schools, locate known and possible burial sites at or near those schools, and uncover the names and tribal affiliations of students.

“To address the intergenerational impact of Indian boarding schools and to promote spiritual and emotional healing in our communities, we must shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past no matter how hard it will be,” said Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and policies to establish and support Indian boarding schools. For over 150 years, Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into boarding schools that focused on assimilation.

Haaland noted the federal government’s attempt to wipe out tribal identity, language, and culture and how that past has continued to manifest itself through long-standing trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, premature deaths, mental-health issues, and substance abuse.

The recent discovery of children’s remains buried at the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school has magnified interest in the troubling legacy both there and in the United States.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has reported that by 1926, more than 80 percent of Indigenous school-age children were attending boarding schools that were run either by the federal government or religious organizations.

Aside from trying to shed more light on the loss of life at the boarding schools, Interior Department officials said they will work to protect burial sites associated with the schools and consult with tribes on how best to do that while respecting families and communities.

As part of the initiative, a final report from agency staff is due by next April.

Overhaul to TEACH Program Makes It Less Likely Aspiring Teachers Will End Up Owing Thousands

Want to be a teacher? We’ll give you a grant to help make that happen. Oh, wait, we’ve switched that to a loan, on which you’ll pay lots of interest.

That was the unintended consequence of a U.S. Department of Education program that has left thousands stuck with student debt.

Now, the department has loosened the rules to eliminate, for the most part, that outcome.

The update is part of a federal rules overhaul finalized under the Trump administration but is just now taking effect. Unlike other Trump-era rules the Biden administration is working to reverse, this rule was heralded as a victory for teachers.

TEACH Grants—short for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education—were created in 2007 to expand the nation’s teaching force and steer more teachers to schools in low-income areas.

Under the program, students can get up to $4,000 a year if they plan to teach high-demand subjects in schools that serve low-income students. They must teach for at least four years within eight years of graduating. If they fall short of that goal or fail to submit regular paperwork, the grants become loans that must be repaid in full, with interest.

Since its creation, more than 200,000 students have received TEACH grants.

A federal watchdog agency found in 2015 that thousands of the grants had been converted to loans. In many cases, that occurred only because recipients failed to turn in annual forms proving their teaching status.

With the new policy, recent college graduates no longer have to submit a form indicating they have started teaching or plan to within 120 days. Once they begin teaching, they still must file annual forms proving their status; failing to do so will not automatically get their grants turned into loans. That can only happen if students request it or if they run out of time to complete four years of teaching within the eight-year deadline.

President Joe Biden is proposing to double the grant size, to $8,000, eliminate interest when grants are converted to loans, and include early-childhood teachers.

The Supreme Court and Education: What Happened In the 2020-21 Term, and What’s on Tap Next Term?

The U.S. Supreme Court issued important decisions on issues of interest to educators during the just-concluded 2020-21 term. First, though, what it didn’t do:

The court declined to take up a case in which a lower court allowed transgender students to use school restrooms of their choice. And it put off a decision on taking up a case about affirmative action in higher education.

Now, what the court did:

In Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., it ruled 8-1 that a Pennsylvania district violated the First Amendment when it punished a student for posting—while off-campus—a vulgar message on Snapchat expressing frustration about school and her cheerleading team.

In National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, the court unanimously upheld an injunction that authorizes increased education-related compensation of student-athletes, such as for graduate school scholarships. Some observers in K-12 worry about the effects of such changes on the recruitment of high school athletes and on youth sports.

In a decision involving school and college policies, the justices ruled 8-1 in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski that a request for nominal damages of as little as $1 can keep alive a lawsuit challenging a government policy even when the agency drops the policy.

In Jones v. Mississippi, the court held 6-3 that in cases involving defendants who committed murder when they were younger than 18, a court does not need to make a finding that the offender was “permanently incorrigible” before imposing a sentence of life without parole.

In California v. Texas, the court ruled 7-2 that a group of GOP-led states lacked legal standing to challenge the Affordable Care Act after Congress in 2017 eliminated the penalty for not complying with the law’s mandate to carry insurance. Teachers’ unions had joined a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the law.

What lies ahead? The court early this month added a major case on religion and education, Carson v. Makin, to its docket for next term, agreeing to examine Maine’s exclusion of religious schools from its program of paying private school tuition for students in communities without high schools.

Dept. of Education Tells Florida: Bonuses Are Out

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis spent time touting his plan and political capital making it a legislative priority. Now, though, the federal government has put a damper on the Florida governor’s intention to give teachers and principals $1,000 bonuses out of the federal COVID-19 relief pot.

The U.S. Department of Education sent state education Commissioner Richard Corcoran a letter last week saying that while there is a path to provide premium pay for educators, the way Florida approved the bonuses doesn’t appear to fit federal guidelines.

Ian Rosenblum, a deputy assistant secretary at the federal agency, said enhanced pay needs to be “reasonable and necessary.” Funds are to be used, he added, to address learning loss during the pandemic through programs that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.

DeSantis made the bonuses one of his highest budget priorities and toured schools to tout them while posing with teachers holding an enormous mock check.

The governor has also boasted about his decision to require in-person instruction at public schools at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and has often said states that shut schools down were making a mistake that will have negative effects for years.

The Florida education department is reviewing Rosenblum’s letter, said spokesman Jason Mahon.

“It is surprising that the U.S. Department of Education would suggest that a $1,000 disaster- relief payment is not ‘reasonable or necessary’ given the dedication teachers in Florida have shown to keep schools open, allow in-person learning, and recover lost learning the entire school year,” Mahon said in an email.

Rosenblum ended his letter by saying he’ll work with the state to make sure relief money is spent as intended.

Elite School Raises Share of Black, Latino Students

A premier public high school in northern Virginia has dramatically increased the number of Black and Latino students offered admission under a new application system that some Asian American parents say discriminates against their children.

Data released by Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on the 550 students who were offered admission to the school this fall as incoming freshmen show the share of Black students increased from 1 percent last year to 7 percent this year. Hispanic representation rose from 3 percent to 11 percent, and white representation grew from 18 percent to 22 percent.

Asian American representation, however, dropped from 73 percent to 54 percent.

Across the county school system as a whole, about 38 percent of students are white, 27 percent are Hispanic, 20 percent are Asian, and 10 percent are Black.

Jefferson routinely ranks as one of the best public schools in the country. For decades, though, Black and Latino students have been underrepresented under an admissions system that relied heavily on standardized testing.

This year, the school board overhauled the admissions process, eliminating standardized testing and application fees. Slots were set aside for the top students at each of the county’s middle schools, replacing a system where a handful of top-performing middle schools dominated the process.

A group of Asian American parents are suing the school board in federal court, claiming the new procedures discriminate against Asian American students. The judge hearing the case declined to issue an injunction barring the new rules from taking effect but made clear that he has concerns about them. “Everybody knows the policy ... is designed to affect the racial composition of the school,” Judge Claude Hilton said.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand insisted the new policies are race neutral and said he expects them to withstand legal scrutiny.

The Associated Press, Wire Service and Mark Walsh, Contributing Writer contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2021 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed


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