Ambiguous government writing sparked a debate over disabled students' "right" to sports.
Photo by Canadian Paralympic Committee
Two weeks ago I kicked up some dust when I wrote that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights had apparently created a right to wheelchair basketball via its new guidance about athletics and students with disabilities. Nor was I the only one to read it that way—the disability rights community saw it as a “landmark moment” too, akin to the passage of Title IX.
Not so fast, says the Department in a new Education Week article:
Seth M. Galanter, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, said that the guidance neither breaks new ground nor mandates new policy for the states that did not previously exist. During an interview, he pointed to a footnote in the guidance that says it is not adding requirements to applicable law.
Mr. Galanter also said that while the bulk of the guidance document offers examples of where the civil rights office would or would not find violations, the portion that talks about offering different or separate activities does not prescribe any penalties.
"The guidance does not say that there is a right to separate or parallel sports programs," Mr. Galanter said. Instead, the guidance
The more Republicans talk about education, the better they do with voters. But the party seems oblivious.
Photo by Photomatt28
As the Republican Party searches its soul and its ranks for policies, strategies, and leaders that can restore it to fighting strength at the national level, few expect education reform to loom large among the issues needing close attention. Yet it’s hard to get very far on such central challenges as economic growth and international competitiveness without paying close heed to the capacity of America’s workforce in the medium term—and to the prowess of our scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs over the long haul.
Keep this in mind, too, as any pollster will tell you: The more Republicans talk about education, the better they do with voters.
A number of GOP governors, past and present, have figured this out, among them Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Rick Snyder. And plenty of education reform is underway at the state and, sometimes, local levels.
The national party, however, appears somewhere between oblivious and brain-dead on this topic. Observe, for example, a Congress that’s many years overdue in revamping and reauthorizing such core federal education programs as No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
No, it’s not
School closures are traumatic.
Photo by Thomas Hawk
Secretary Duncan and his team were mobbed the other day by agitated parents and kids protesting the closing of public schools around the land. Though Uncle Sam has no real control over this, it's true that Duncan came to Washington promising to close (or overhaul) a thousand schools a year and, more recently, has been pressing for radical action in the lowest-performing 5 percent—i.e., about 5000 schools. Actual data in this realm are scarce, but NCES reports roughly a thousand closings a year among “regular” public schools (meaning that, in one sense, Duncan's promise is being kept, though not by him), as well as who knows how many charter and private schools that bite the dust. But even if the total is closer to 2000, in a country with 100,000 schools that's just 2 percent a year. Moreover, schools keep opening, too, hundreds of them every year in every sector.
Nobody likes to close schools. Secretary Duncan remarked to the crowd, “I don't know any educator who wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to close schools.’” And it’s self-evident that nobody likes to have his or her own school closed. It's traumatic for families, teachers, students, neighborhoods, communities, even entire villages and towns.
But there are three big reasons why schools close and will continue to close—while
The Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Program (MTO), the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s twenty-year attempt at a real-life Pygmalion, has failed. The department experimentally relocated low-income families and children out of poverty-stricken areas and into ones populated by the middle class. Unfortunately, these children did not achieve better schooling results. As said by the journal Cityscape, “MTO’s effects on achievement and related schooling outcomes were disappointing, particularly among the youngest cohort of children.” The results, while disappointing, are no big shocker. This program takes an approach that is far too hands-off for comfort. Imagine Pygmalion’s Mr. Higgins asking Eliza Doolittle to come live in his house but neglecting to provide her with lessons in grammar or etiquette.
MTO provided 4,600 families in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York with housing vouchers and additional housing counseling to help them move out of impoverished neighborhoods. The goal of the program is to help these families “choose modestly priced private housing in neighborhoods that can offer ample educational, employment, and social opportunities.” But there is no guarantee that the schools in the new neighborhood will be much better or more affluent than the ones in the school districts they left. The Cityscape analysis found that the socioeconomic makeup of the schools to which the program moved children was still very similar to the schools in their old neighborhood; for example, youth in the control group, on average, attended schools
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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