Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited a Catholic school in Philadelphia, PA on February 5. The event was billed as a "Celebration of Education Freedom," and both Pence and DeVos took the opportunity to promote school choice proposals at the state and federal level. “No parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school," said Pence.
Pictured with the vice president are Catholic school leaders Philip Fromuth and Brooke Tesche from the Diocese of Allentown, Jo-Ann Semko from the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Bishop Michael Fitzgerald of Philadelphia, Dan Breen from the Diocese of Harrisburg, and Sean McAleer of the Pennsylvania State CAPE.
New York Steps Back from the Brink on Substantial Equivalency
Regular readers of CAPE Outlook are by now all too familiar with the proposed "substantial equivalency" regulations promulgated by the New York State Education Department, under which public school officials would inspect private schools statewide to determine whether the education being provided is satisfactory.
It seems that a record-shattering 140,000 public comments in opposition had an effect, as the Department has announced that it will "re-engage stakeholders," an admission that it's time to go back to the drawing board on this one.
The issue remains open but friends of CAPE in New York are confident that this is a move in the right direction.
Faith Leaders, Bipartisan Group of Legislators Defend Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
As described by a February 4 redefinED piece, "More than 100 black and Hispanic pastors from across the state gathered this afternoon at the State Capitol for a news conference" to defend Florida's tax credit scholarship program. The event came on the heels of criticism of the policies of some of the schools participating in the program, which "serves more than 100,000 lower-income students, three-quarters of whom are students of color."
Administration Launches School Safety Clearinghouse
The Trump Administration has launched a Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website: www.schoolsafety.gov.
According to a USDE release, the website includes:
The School Safety Readiness Tool, an assessment that assists users in evaluating their respective school's safety posture across 10 foundational elements of school safety. After completing the assessment, users are provided an action plan with task prioritization, options for consideration, aligned resources, and grant opportunities specific to individual needs;
A Secure Information Sharing Platform for designated school personnel to share school safety ideas, practices, plans, and tactics in a protected environment; and
A wide array of resources and best practices on key school safety topics to assist with building awareness within the school community to promote vigilance and build capacity to respond to incidents.
The Clearinghouse fulfills "one of the key recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety," which was established following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida two years ago.
Proposed FY2021 Education Budget Calls for Big Changes
Each year, sometime around the first week in February, the president of the United States sends a mountain of paper down Pennsylvania Avenue to Congress, the main consequence of which is to kill a forest worth of trees and set off a flurry of press releases praising or condemning its contents -- "it" being the president's annual budget request. Because Congress retains the power of the purse and is not bound to spend what the president asks for, the presidential budget request is less a governing document than a statement of administration principle.
In that sense, the contents of this year's education budget request takes on some significance. Unlike previous Trump Administration budget proposals, which called for cuts to the Education Department and elimination of entire programs (requests which Congress ignored by increasing Education Department funding), this year's budget request calls for "consolidating nearly all existing K-12 formula and competitive grant programs into one block grant to States," according to a USDE release. This would include Title I.
The odds of this concept being enacted this year are, well, zero. However, it gives a glimpse of Administration thinking on these matters.
Debate has already erupted over whether this is a prudent way of taking spending authority away from DC dysfunction and putting it closer to actual schools, or whether this is just a new way of trying to cut education funding (and indeed, the proposal does cut education spending). For the purposes of private school leaders, regardless of the view one takes on the wisdom of federal block grants to the states, questions need to be answered about what this approach would mean for the provision of equitable services. Thus far, it is safe to say that the Administration's efforts to sell the new approach have not been heavy on details regarding the protection of equitable services. This is a crucial issue for private schools.
While the USDE budget request, including and especially the block grant proposal, is already in the equivalent of Congress' wastepaper basket, private school leaders need to get engaged on this issue with an eye to eventual Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization. As far as education goes, the president's FY2021 budget request is not about next year's spending, it's about the future.
Private Education: Good for Students, Good for Families, Good for America
CAPE member organizations:
Agudath Israel of America
American Montessori Society
Association of Christian Schools
Association of Christian
Teachers and Schools
Association of Waldorf
Schools of N.A.
Christian Schools International
Council of Islamic Schools
in North America
Council on Educational Standards
Evangelical Lutheran Church
Friends Council on Education
Islamic Schools League of America
Jesuit Schools Network
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
National Association of
National Association of
National Christian School
Office for Lasallian Education
Christian Brothers Conference
Oral Roberts University
Board of Education
United States Conference of
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran
Affiliated State Organizations a coalition of national associations serving private schools K-12
Outlook is published monthly (September to June) by CAPE.