National Scene

January 24, 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 3


USA Today (1/15, Fritze) reports, “As he seeks to shore up support among evangelical Christians who were key to his election, President Donald Trump on Thursday is set to announce new federal guidance he has said will ‘safeguard’ students’ ability to pray in school.” The President “previewed the idea during an address to evangelicals in Florida this month, praising state efforts to expand school prayer and warning against what he described as ‘hard left’ opposition.” Trump said at the Evangelicals for Trump event in Miami, “I will be taking action to safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in their schools. They want to take that right along with many other rights.

Kaiser Health News (1/21) reports the US Department of Agriculture has “proposed new rules for school meals aimed at giving administrators more flexibility in what they serve in school cafeterias around the country each day.” For example, “instead of being required to offer higher quantities of nutrient-dense red and orange vegetables such as carrots, peppers and butternut squash, schools would have more discretion over the varieties of vegetables they offer each day.” But critics say that “loosening restrictions creates a loophole that will lead to kids having less nutritious options.”

Teachers, teaching

NBC News (1/16) report there are “at least seven Republican governors – along with several Democrats – who have included raises for teachers among their priorities for 2020.” The efforts “reflect not only a strong economy, but also the fact that public support for educators has risen to levels that appeared unlikely just a few years ago.” Indeed, plenty of “pundits predicted that teachers and their unions would never recover the clout they once had.” But public sentiment toward teachers “began to shift two years ago, when thousands of teachers streamed out of their classrooms in such states as West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona to protest low salaries and other issues in schools.”

School safety

The AP (1/21) reports Iowa will become the “latest state to create an organization within state government designed to prevent school shootings under a plan announced Tuesday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.” The Governor’s School Safety Bureau within the Iowa Department of Public Safety will “cost $2 million to start and $1.5 million annually to operate, and Reynolds said she’s included needed funding in her legislative budget request.” Full-time bureau instructors will train “local law enforcement officers and school staff in identifying and responding quickly in a consistent way.”


Business Insider (1/16, Feder) reports when “‘13 Reasons Why’ aired on Netflix, many experts sounded alarm bells about the unfiltered depiction of a young high-school student named Hannah Baker who died by suicide.” But a new paper published in PLoS ONE says two previous studies that suggested the show “had deadly consequences” were based “on a faulty premises, and the show really isn’t to blame for suicide rate increases. Still, study author Dan Romer told Insider, the potential dangers of the show were very real.”


The AP (1/16) reports searching for “an explanation” about their 12-year-old’s recent suicide, Carol Deely and her husband “scoured the computers and phones at their Lincoln Park home.” The parents found nothing but later, they learned Gabe had “used a school iPad to research suicide.” Today, Carol Deely is “on a mission to encourage schools and parents to use technology-monitoring software that would alert adults if children search for certain keywords, like suicide or guns.” To that end, she “founded a nonprofit organization, Gabriel’s Light, to raise awareness for the issues and work with schools on monitoring their technology.”


Education Week (1/22, Hill, Loeb) reports that it is launching a new series of articles called “What Works, What Doesn’t” focused on how educators can best make us of research. While education research “brings to bear facts that have been collected and analyzed in purposeful, systematic, and often public ways,” only rarely “does a single research study provide irrefutable evidence that one choice is better than another, because each study takes place with a particular set of schools, teachers, and students, and because each study tests a specific policy or program.” In the series, “we will piece together the evidence on issues facing state and district policymakers, principals, and teachers. Look for topics such as having teachers examine student data, homework management, principal leadership-development programs, parent engagement, social-emotional learning, school finance, and STEM instructional improvement in these pages and online.”


The New Orleans Times-Picayune (1/15) reports a “week after Orleans Parish school officials gave the city’s charter schools an ultimatum over bus safety, Superintendent Henderson Lewis’ office said Wednesday that 13 charter school operators – more than a third of the charter organizations authorized by the district – are still using buses without proper city inspection permits.” Violators include some of the city’s “largest charter organizations operating multiple schools,” and the district “cited those organizations for ‘level 1’ noncompliance, a low-level warning.” Meanwhile, in a statement released Wednesday, Lewis “touted progress on school bus safety in the last month, announcing that 86% of the buses serving local public school students have passed the city’s inspection and safety rules.”

Education Week (1/15, Ujifusa) reports that “twice in nearly the past 30 days, a group of New Hampshire legislators have taken the unusual step of essentially rejecting federal charter school grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education last year.” The funding comes from ED, but “the state legislature’s joint fiscal committee signs off on whether the state education department can begin disbursing the grants.” The committee has since delayed releasing the funding, with Democrats in control of the legislature arguing “that once the grant support for the expansion of new charter schools runs out after five years, the state would be on the hook for keeping the charter schools up and running without the grants.”