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Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024

May 07, 2024 8 min read
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GOP-Led States Race to Block New Title IX LGBTQ+ Protections

Within days of the Biden administration announcing new rules to extend Title IX protections to transgender students, a number of Republican-led states sued to overturn them.

In three separate lawsuits filed last week, Republican-led states seek to block the LGBTQ+ changes to Title IX, calling the new regulations “a naked attempt to strong-arm” schools, “divorced from reality,” and simply “onerous.”

The new rule, announced April 19 and published in the Federal Register April 29, is the latest interpretation of the 1972 federal statute that bars sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs. It includes major sections on sexual harassment and assault and pregnancy discrimination, among others, but it is the codification of protections for LGBTQ+ students that has spurred the most discussion.

The regulation says a school would violate the law if it “denies a transgender student access to a sex-separate facility or activity consistent with that student’s gender identity.” But the U.S. Department of Education is still weighing a separate regulation that addresses how schools and colleges may deal with gender identity in athletics.

Even before the lawsuits were filed, though, education officials in at least five states had advised schools to ignore the new regulation.

One suit argues that the Education Department violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the spending clause in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, under which Congress attaches conditions to the receipt of federal funds. It asks a federal court to vacate the new regulation and delay its Aug. 1 effective date.

One suit was filed by Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Montana. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina filed a second. And Texas went solo with a third.

The Education Department said it could not comment on pending litigation, but “the department crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to give complete effect to the Title IX statutory guarantee that no person experiences sex discrimination in federally funded education.

“We look forward to working with school communities all across the country to ensure the Title IX guarantee of nondiscrimination in school is every student’s experience,” the statement added.

Maryland Athletic Director Accused of Using Artificial Intelligence to Frame His Principal

Put this in your “this could happen to you” file.

Authorities say a high school athletic director in Maryland used artificial intelligence to impersonate a principal on an audio recording that included racist and antisemitic comments, leading to dire consequences for the principal.

The case appears to be among the first of its kind in the country, authorities said. They called for new laws to guard against the technology.

Dazhon Darien faked the voice of Pikesville High School’s principal in response to conversations the men had about Darien’s poor work performance, Baltimore County police said.

Darien forged an audio clip in which it sounded as if the principal was frustrated with Black students and their test-taking abilities, according to charging documents. They also said the recording purported to capture the principal disparaging Jewish individuals and two teachers.

The audio clip quickly spread on social media and had “profound repercussions,” court documents say, with the principal being placed on leave. The recording put the principal and his family at “significant risk,” requiring police officers to provide security at his house, according to authorities.

The recording also triggered a wave of hate-filled messages on social media and an inundation of phone calls to the school police said. Activities were disrupted for a time, and some staff felt unsafe.

“Teachers have expressed fears that recording devices could have been planted in various places in the school,” the charging documents say.

Darien, 31, faces charges that include theft, disrupting school activities, stalking, and retaliating against a witness.

Scott Shellenberger, the Baltimore County state’s attorney, said the case appears to be one of the first of its kind nationwide involving AI. He said Maryland’s legislature may need to update laws to catch up with the nefarious possibilities of the new technology.

The Baltimore County school system has recommended Darien’s termination, Superintendent Myriam Rogers said.

More School Workers Will Qualify for Overtime Under Federal Rule, But Teachers Don’t Count

Tough luck, teachers. A new federal rule that requires school districts to offer overtime pay to more workers excludes teachers.

The U.S. Department of Labor did not act on a request from the National Education Association to end exemptions for teachers, who are included in the categories of employees who do not qualify for mandatory overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Labor Department said the request was outside the scope of the current review.

Such a change “ would have been groundbreaking in terms of what it would mean to district budgets because we all know teachers work more than 40 hours,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, the associate executive director of advocacy and governance at AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

The new rule raises the minimum salary threshold for non-teaching worker exemptions. Since 2019, eligible employees who earn less than $35,308 a year have qualified for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. Effective July 1, the new rule will increase that to $43,888 and to $58,656 in January. Salary thresholds will update every three years starting in July 2027.

AASA has been preparing district leaders for the shift for months, Ng said. In some cases, districts will have to choose between offering newly qualifying employees overtime or hiring additional workers to help lower their workloads, she said.

The NEA argued for the end of the teacher exemption in a November letter to federal regulators.

“It no longer makes sense to treat teachers, 44 percent of whom are paid below the proposed salary threshold, the same as high-earning doctors and lawyers,” wrote Alice O’Brien, the general counsel for the NEA. “Instead, teachers, a heavily female profession that suffers from a large and growing wage gap compared with other similarly educated professionals, should be provided the same protections as other white-collar professionals whose exempt status depends not just on job duties, but also on salary.”

Doctors and lawyers are also among the employees exempt from mandatory overtime but tend to be paid much more than educators. Last year, the median salary for doctors was $229,300, and the median salary for lawyers was $135,740, the NEA’s letter noted. The median pay for teachers was $66,397.

English Learners’ Scores Lower Than Pre-Pandemic

The pandemic did a number on many students, not the least of whom are English learners.

A new analysis by the WIDA consortium shows that English-language proficiency scores remain in decline. Average scores on the ACCESS online language assessment from 2023 remain lower than pre-pandemic averages. Pronounced declines appeared in grades 1-2. Those scores are an important component of how students exit out of English-learner status in nearly 40 states.

The analysis published last month also found disparities in scores worsened between English learners identified as Hispanic and non-Hispanic since the pandemic’s start.

English learners especially were considered at risk during the pandemic because of potentially limited access to remote instruction, technology, and social interaction with peers.

Breaking down scores by the four language domains tested (reading, listening, speaking, writing), researchers found that proficiency in reading and speaking has remained relatively consistent over the last six years. Listening has declined, especially in the early-elementary grades. Writing was already on a downward trend before the pandemic and remained so across grade-level clusters.

One silver lining in the analysis found that while students in grades 1-2 saw lower average scores in proficiency, they were also the one group to show more growth in 2023.

The latest analysis of assessment data also marked the first time WIDA researchers disaggregated results by the categories of Hispanic and non-Hispanic English learners. More than two-thirds of the nation’s English learners are Hispanic. According to the analysis, those students reported lower average English-language proficiency than their non-Hispanic peers.

The researchers recommend educators disaggregate data by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status for their student populations.

What Are Teachers Worth? Here’s What They Say

If teachers had their way, districts would pony up a lot more money for them. But just how much?

A $20,000 raise might help, a new survey suggests.

Allovue, an education finance software company, commissioned the EdWeek Research Center to conduct a nationally representative survey of 1,855 teachers, school leaders, and district leaders. The survey was conducted in November and released last month.

Among all the issues covered, salaries were top of mind for educators, who think they should be paid more even if it means reducing spending in other areas.

More than two-thirds of teachers said their current salaries are unfair, and about half said they want to leave their current jobs because of it.

Teachers said they realistically deserved a 31 percent raise, from the current U.S. median salary of $65,000 to a desired median salary of $85,000.

The survey found similar desired raises for assistant principals and principals, the latter of whom said $123,500 would be fair pay for the work they do. Superintendents asked for an 18 percent raise to $150,000.

“I just want a fair raise that will cover the cost of living and inflation,” a high school math teacher in California wrote in an open-ended response to the survey.

A high school English/language arts teacher in Texas wrote, “I am a single parent, and I currently can’t afford to do my job and live. My bills far outweigh my salary due to inflation and the area we live in. ... I have been in education for 15 years, and there is no reason I should have to take two jobs to live or look at food stamps to feed my family.”

Teachers make less than their similarly educated peers in other professions, a long-running analysis by the Economic Policy Institute has found. Nearly 1 in 5 teachers holds a second job outside the school system to supplement their salaries, according to federal data.

The Associated Press, Wire Service; Evie Blad, Senior Staff Writer; Ileana Najarro, Staff Writer; Mark Walsh, Contributing Writer; and Madeline Will, Senior Staff Writer contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2024 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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