General Assembly overrides four vetoes issued by Bevin; education bill headed for signature

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Four vetoes issued by Gov. Matt Bevin in recent days were overridden by the Kentucky General Assembly, allowing the legislation to pass into law.

The governor had vetoed Senate Bill 91, Senate Joint Resolution 57 and House Bill 540, as well as a portion of House Bill 471. The Senate and House voted to reject the vetoes by wide margins earlier today, the second-to-last day of the General Assembly’s 2017 regular session.

SB 91, also known as “Tim’s Law”, sponsored by Senate Health and Welfare Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, will allow court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for certain mentally ill Kentuckians who have previously been involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness at least twice in the past year. Bevin vetoed the law, saying it “is well intentioned, but would set a dangerous precedent…” in his veto message. The Senate voted 35-1 and the House voted 91-0 today to successfully override that veto.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, (left) listens to Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, in the Senate. (LRC Public Information Photo)

SJR 57, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, designates honorary names and sign placements on roads throughout the Commonwealth. In his veto message on the measure, Bevin said provisions of SJR 57 naming portions of roads in McCreary and Whitley counties as “Copperhead Trail” fell outside of state policy. The General Assembly disagreed, with the Senate voting 34-2 and the House voting 92-0 to override the veto.

HB 471, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, is widely known as the funding bill for public charter schools legislation. Bevin vetoed other parts of HB 471 that would require the General Assembly to approve spending of any funds the state receives from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Agreement, a multi-billion national agreement that settles allegations of emissions test cheating by the automaker. The General Assembly voted 89-0 in the House and 37-0 in the Senate to override the veto.

The final veto overridden by the General Assembly today was the veto of HB 540, a bill sponsored by House Small Business and Information Technology Committee Chair Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park. Bevin vetoed the bill – a bill dealing with the regulation of drones – calling HB 540 “a well-intentioned, but premature piece of legislation that is preempted by federal law” in his veto message.

The veto was overridden by a vote of 35-1 in the Senate and 93-0 in the House.

Comprehensive education reform bill heading to Governor’s desk

A wide-reaching education reform bill that would change how Kentucky public schools are held accountable for student progress, as well as how teachers are evaluated, has achieved final approval from the state’s General Assembly.

Among other goals, Senate Bill 1 is designed to place more control and accountability in the hands of local school districts, enabling them to have a stronger voice in how to improve performance by both students and teachers, and to turn low-performing schools around.

The sweeping new law requires regular reviews of academic standards in Kentucky schools, makes schools accountable for success indicators such as graduation rates and college admissions exam scores, offers state-funded opportunities to assess students’ academic progress through taking early college admissions tests, returns responsibility for teacher evaluation back to local school boards, and reduces the amount of paperwork that now takes time from teachers and administrators.

Noting that the measure had widespread support from numerous education associations across the state as well as bipartisan support in the General Assembly, Sen. Mike Wilson, D-Bowling Green, the bill’s sponsor, said, “We can now provide significant guidance to the state Board of Education. This bill will increase the post-secondary readiness of Kentucky graduates, and it significantly impacts every classroom and future generations of Kentuckians.”

Referring to it as the “Let Teachers Teach Bill,” Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, added his support, noting that the legislation “gives local control back to Kentucky schools.”

Senate Bill 1 now heads to Gov. Matt Bevin’s office for his signature.

From LRC Public Information Office

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Trump seeks deep cuts in education and science programs

The Trump administration today unveiled its “America First” budget — a plan that would make deep cuts to some student aid programs and science agencies on which colleges, their students and their researchers depend.

In the U.S. Department of Education, the budget pledges level funding for Pell Grants, the primary federal program to support low-income students. Funding for historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions would remain at current levels under the budget. The Trump administration has pledged to provide help for historically black colleges, and some leaders of HBCUs have been hoping for increases.

But the budget plan says work-study would be cut “significantly.” Further, the administration is calling for the elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which go to low-income college students. Eliminating the program will “reduce complexity,” the budget proposal says, and produce $732 million in savings. In addition, the administration wants to eliminate GEAR-UP and reduce funding for TRIO programs, which prepare disadvantaged students for college and help them succeed once enrolled.

Some programs are slated for complete elimination, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Community and Public Service, which runs AmeriCorps.

Past Inside Higher Ed articles (on the NEH here and AmeriCorps here) note concerns in academe about these programs potentially being eliminated. William D. Adams, chairman of the NEH, has been silent amid reports of the planned elimination of the agency. But this morning, he issued a statement in which he said he was “greatly saddened” by the proposal and said the NEH would continue normal operations for now.

The budget plan would also kill the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center, both of which support the work of scholars. Here is a background article from 2011, when Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives tried to kill the peace institute.

In the State Department budget, the document says the Fulbright program will be protected, but other educational exchange programs will be slated for cuts. The international education programs run by the Department of Education — which provide funding for foreign language and area studies — are also included on a list of programs slated for reductions or elimination.

As expected, the science budget seeks cuts across a number of agencies that support research on climate change and the environment.

But the budget also proposes to cut funding for the National Institutes of Health by nearly 20 percent, to $25.9 billion. The budget plan states that savings will come in part from “consolidations and structural changes across NIH organizations and activities. The budget also reduces administrative costs and rebalance[s] federal contributions to research funding.” The NIH is the largest federal supporter of research and development, and its grants support research at universities nationwide. (Most NIH research is done through grants, and not at the NIH.)

Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, issued a statement Thursday in which he said that the Trump budget plan “would cripple the science and technology enterprise through shortsighted cuts to discovery science programs and critical mission agencies alike.”

The budget’s targets include some programs, like the NIH, that have enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. But the current Republican congressional leadership and President Trump have vowed to push large increases in military spending, build a wall on the border with Mexico and resist tax increases. Such an agenda requires large cuts in many domestic programs.

Early Criticism of Impact on Low-Income Students

New America, a Washington think tank, released an analysis early this morning that suggests the cuts to work-study and SEOG may help protect Pell spending, although the analysis suggested that Pell may still be vulnerable down the road.

The analysis notes that the programs being proposed for cuts or elimination serve low-income students — with evidence that work-study has a positive impact on graduation rates of the most needy students.

“SEOG recipients’ income levels are comparable to Pell recipients. Seventy-one percent of dependent undergraduate recipients [are] from families making less than $30,000 per year, and 76 percent of independent recipients earn less than $20,000,” the analysis says.

As to work-study, New America noted concerns it finds legitimate, such as more aid going to private than public institutions and two-thirds of aid going to those with family incomes over $30,000. (Of course plenty of those with family incomes over $30,000 would have great difficulty paying for college.)

The New America analysis differentiated between reforming work-study and other programs (as others have proposed before Trump) and making deep cuts in the program. “Studies of the work-study program have shown students receiving work-study are more likely to graduate and be employed after graduation. And these positive effects are larger for low-income students who attend public institutions. One-third of American undergraduates are working 35 hours per week and half are working at least part time. Finding ways to help these students balance their jobs with their studies is more needed than ever. Reallocating the work-study allocation makes sense; cutting it significantly does not.”

Graduation date isn’t always guaranteed

By LAURA TAYLOR 

From electives and general education classes to in-major classes, choosing classes is one of the most exciting times in your college experience. The University of Mary Washington offers more than 60 majors and minors with an array of classes, and most students can find flexible accommodations for alternate courses they might have to take. However, for sophomore Nicole Lamb, choosing classes for the fall of 2017 is going to be more frustrating than anticipated and it’s all because of a ballet class she decided to take.

Ballet was offered at UMW to fulfill requirements, yet the class that actually counted for the general education requirement had a prerequisite.

“I took ballet because it fulfilled the arts, literature and process requirement,” Lamb said. She took Ballet 121 in the fall of 2016 with hopes that Ballet 301 would be offered in the spring of 2017. However, she found out that Ballet 301 would not be offered in the spring, so she was never able to fulfill the requirement.

General education courses should not have prerequisites for several reasons. They are designed to be taken during freshman year, but having prerequisites can force freshmen to have to wait until sophomore year to begin them.

“I would be concerned about graduating on time if I had to use a whole year dedicated to prerequisites for general education courses alone,” Lamb said. Not only are prerequisites more of a hassle for students, but they jeopardizes their chance of graduating on time.

Lamb also had a similar experience with her biology class that went towards her quantitative reasoning requirement. She chose to pursue the Biology 260 option yet there were two biology classes that she had to take that would prevent her from taking the Biology 260 course until her junior year.

Some prerequisite courses should remain, for subjects such as language in which students need a fuller vocabulary and more experience with the language. However, prerequisites should be reserved for classes that focus around requirements for the major, not general education courses that everyone has to take. 

What the UP president thinks of fewer GE units in college

GENERAL EDUCATION. UP President Danilo Concepcion says he allowed the University Council of UP Diliman to 'decide democratically' on its General Education curriculum. Rappler screenshot

GENERAL EDUCATION. UP President Danilo Concepcion says he allowed the University Council of UP Diliman to ‘decide democratically’ on its General Education curriculum. Rappler screenshot

MANILA, Philippines – Last March 20, the University Council of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman voted in favor of a new General Education (GE) curriculum with a minimum of 21 units.

It was the last UP constituent unit to decide on the issue which has spurred much debate on campus. Critics say March 20 was the “twilight of general education,” and a day when university education was narrowed down “to mere specialization and employability.”

The group UP Sagip GE continues to oppose the shift to a new GE curriculum, coming out with position papers from different faculty members of UP Diliman.

UP President Danilo Concepcion, who assumed office just a month before Diliman voted on the issue, said he understands where the critics are coming from. (READ: New UP president urges concern, not just honor and excellence)

“On the one hand, I agree with the proponents or the people who are against the decrease. The UP… has to ensure that its graduates are well-rounded. But somehow we also have to make sure that our students are competitive, not only locally, domestically, but also globally,” he said in a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, March 29.

Concepcion said he did not take any side in the debate and allowed the University Council to “have a full debate” and to “decide democratically.”

“I was informed a big majority of the members of the University Council approved the proposal to lower the minimum requirement of GE units that a student must complete in order to graduate. I think they agreed to lower it to 21 units,” he added.

One of the arguments for the new GE curriculum is the “need” to reduce 5-year courses like engineering to 4 years.

Concepcion said with Southeast Asian countries now reducing engineering to a 4-year course, the Philippines “will be producing graduates who are less competitive” if it does not follow suit.

“Because they’ll be getting work one year after their contemporaries in other countries have finished their courses. And not only that, it will also be a great expense on the part of the student to stay in school for one year more,” he explained.

He cited a study in the United States about law students, and the debts they have to pay after taking loans to finance their 8-year college education.

“According to this study, because of the amount of debts the student has accumulated to finish law, the amount of the cost of legal service in the United States has gone up, because that lawyer has to recover everything that he has invested, he has to pay all the loans that he incurred in order to finish the course,” Concepcion explained.

He added: “And that may also be true in the case of engineering: another year of stay in college will entail lots of expenses, and that may be a gamechanger in the global market.”

On Tuesday, March 28, UP Sagip GE called for the “revaluation and resurrection” of Diliman’s GE program. They wore a “black sablay” – sablay refers to the sash worn by UP graduates – as they “mourned the death” of general education. – Rappler.com

AP EXPLAINS: Could Pell Grants work year-round?

WASHINGTON — Pell Grants have been a fixture of federal financial aid since the 1970s, helping about 8 million low-income students attend college each year.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is now considering allowing students to use the grants year-round, rather than just for two semesters in any given year. She raised the possibility during a visit last week to a community college in Florida.

A look at the program, its past and its future.


WHAT ARE PELL GRANTS?

Pell Grants are a federal aid program aimed at helping low income students fund post-secondary education, including four-year college programs, community colleges, associate degree and certificate programs. Currently, Pell Grants benefit some 8 million students across the country and the maximum annual grant is about $5,800. Funded at around $29 billion a year, Pell Grants are a key tool for the federal government to fund college education for the disadvantaged.

The program gets its name from former Democratic Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, one of its key champions.


YEAR-ROUND PELL GRANTS

Pell Grants have traditionally been used to fund a student’s fall and spring semester studies. When the spring semester was over, the student had to reapply for the next academic year, which started in the fall. But as more and more students now opt for taking classes over the summer in order to graduate and get a job more quickly, there is demand for year-round Pell Grants, also known as summer Pells. “If someone who is eligible for a Pell Grant is going full time and wants to continue to pursue their education for the third semester, there is no good reason the program should not allow them to access another grant,” said Jason Delisle, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.


PELL EXPANSION

The Obama administration sought to expend Pell Grants even further. Last year, the Department of Education piloted a program that allowed some 10,000 young people who are attending high schools, but are also taking college-credit classes, to access $20 million in grants. The department also piloted the $30 million Second Chance Pell pilot program that lets 12,000 prison inmates enroll in post-secondary education courses at the correction facilities. The future of those programs is uncertain as the full budget proposal for next year has not yet been released.


BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

Historically, Pell Grants have enjoyed support on both sides of the aisle. Democrats favor Pell Grants because they mostly benefit the poor, while Republicans back them because they provide students with the flexibility to study at their own pace and graduate earlier. Year-round Pells existed briefly in 2009-2011, but were eliminated mostly due to funding shortages. Last year, Democrats and Republicans joined forces to introduce a bipartisan Senate bill on year-round Pell Grants, but the House blocked it. With DeVos now considering the measure, experts are cautiously optimistic that Summer Pells may be reintroduced. In a statement to the AP, Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, called year-round Pell Grants “one of the most important things” that can be done for college students and vowed to make extending the program his priority. “We are more hopeful now about the possibility of reinstating year-round Pell Grants than we have been in five years,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education.


FUNDING

Hartle estimated that offering students the summer grant would cost an additional $2 billion per year and it is unclear where the money would come from, given that the Trump administration has proposed to slash overall Pell Grant funding by $3.9 billion in the next year’s budget and an additional $1.3 billion this year. “It is at a very basic level a no-brainer,” Hartle said. “The challenge is that there is a financial cost associated with it.” Experts said that the necessary funding could come from either making fewer students eligible for the grants, or making the grants smaller or at the expense of some other program at the Education Department or some other agency. Patty Murry, the top Democrat on the Senate committee, said she is glad that DeVos will consider expanding Pell Grants, but she is unsure how that idea squares with the budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

Why students flunk classes

Not seeking help, disinterest contribute to failure rates

By Jenna Fracassi
| 3/29/17 10:07pm

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Every year, a portion of Grand Valley State University students fail their classes, and some even fail out of the university entirely.

According to statistics provided by the Office of Institutional Analysis (OIA), from the fall 2015 semester to the winter 2016 semester, there were a total of 26,850 students enrolled at GVSU. Of that number, 2,888, or 10.75 percent, received a failing grade in at least one course.

Caleb Baird, a senior theatre major at GVSU, said throughout his college experience, he has only failed two classes, both being general education requirements.

“In many of my general education classes, I noticed a trend of overpowering busy work and limited cognitive thinking,” Baird said. “I found it very difficult to apply myself to assignments that I felt were not applicable to the curriculum and more designed to give us something to do to fill time.”

Baird said although general education courses were necessary to earn credits, they added little to his college experience.

“They felt more like a continuation of high school classes than college-level classes,” he said. “I couldn’t get interested, partially because the subjects weren’t related to my major but also because the material was not mentally stimulating.”

Every student at GVSU must have a cumulative GPA of 2.000 or higher to be in good standing. Freshman students with a cumulative GPA between 1.501 and 1.999 will be placed on probation, as well as sophomores with a cumulative GPA between 1.801 and 1.999.

Baird said he was placed on academic probation during the 2015-16 academic year, during which time he was taking mostly general education courses.

Freshmen with a cumulative GPA of 1.500 or lower, and sophomores with a cumulative GPA or 1.800 or lower, will be placed in jeopardy of dismissal. Juniors and seniors with a cumulative GPA below 2.000 will also be placed in jeopardy of dismissal.

From the fall of 2015 to the winter of 2016, 568 (2.11 percent) of students were put on academic probation, while 298 students, or 1.11 percent of students, were dismissed.

“There is not a particular major that stands out to have more students that are dismissed or have failed grades,” said Rachael Passarelli, research analyst for the OIA, via email. “It is pretty dispersed among majors.”

Once a student is placed on academic probation, is it recommended that they meet with an academic advisor to complete an assessment plan. This allows students to identify areas where they need extra support.

Len O’Kelly, assistant professor of multimedia journalism at GVSU, said the primary reason students fail is because they don’t ask for help.

“Whether it’s because they don’t know where to go or don’t feel they can ask, I don’t know,” O’Kelly said via email. “I think that in every case where I have had to fail a student in a class, it was a situation that could have been avoided through time spent talking through it during office hours. Help is there if students are willing to seek it.”

GVSU has a variety of campus resources designed to help students succeed. The university offers disability support resources, tutoring centers and learning skills services.

“Take advantage of services such as the Knowledge Market,” O’Kelly said. “Students can get help from other students who are trained to give assistance in writing, speech, research and data.”

Professors are also an important resource for students on campus. O’Kelly said visiting and meeting with professors early on can help to prevent a student from failing.

“Seriously, visiting with and meeting their professors is important,” he said. “Generally, the students that spend the most time talking with me are the ones that need it least, if that makes sense. If by the end of the semester I still have a hard time putting a name to your face, it’s going to be harder for me to understand your circumstances.”

Trump’s Education Department nixes Obama-era grant program for school diversity


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reads to second grade students at Carderock Springs Elementary School in Bethesda, Md., on March 23. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

President Trump’s Education Department has decided to nix an Obama-era grant program meant to help local districts devise ways to boost socioeconomic diversity within their schools, a program that some advocates considered a barometer of the new administration’s commitment to integrated classrooms.

An Education Department official said the $12 million grant program was discontinued because it would not be a wise use of tax dollars, in part because the money was to be used for planning, not implementation. The decision says nothing about the administration’s interest in diversity, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, speaking at the Brookings Institution Wednesday, said she believes socioeconomic and racial diversity is “a real benefit in schools.” But advocates say her words don’t match her actions.

“This was the secretary’s first opportunity to show her commitment to school diversity, and she failed to come through,” said Philip Tegeler of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, one of nearly two dozen scholars and advocates who wrote a letter to DeVos earlier this month, urging her to move forward with the program.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus had also urged the secretary to maintain the program, calling it a “small, but meaningful, federal investment in school diversity,” and pointing out that successful modern integration efforts often rely on expanding choice for parents — something DeVos heartily endorses.

Research has shown that poor children who go to mixed-income schools fare better academically than poor children who go to high-poverty schools, and that such integration doesn’t hurt the performance of affluent kids. And yet U.S. public schools have become more segregated by race and class over the past two decades, according to a federal analysis released last year.

The diversity grants, called “Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities,” were announced in December by then-Education Secretary John B. King Jr., who used his yearlong tenure at the helm of the agency to bring new attention to the advantages of integrated schools. Many advocates, who had been disappointed by federal inaction on school diversity issues during much of President Barack Obama’s administration, cheered the grants as a small but symbolic move.

The Trump administration’s decision to pull the grant money feels similarly symbolic, they said. “I’m very concerned that if the Trump administration is not willing to continue even a small program for school diversity, then it’s clearly not much of a priority for them,” said Richard Kahlenberg, an expert in school integration and senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

Trump and DeVos have made clear that they believe the Education Department is too big, and has its hands in too many issues that should be handled by states and local districts.

In January, 26 school districts from across the country said they intended to apply for the grants, which — according to a Federal Register notice — were designed to help local officials boost student achievement by devising blueprints for “innovative, effective, ambitious, comprehensive, and locally driven strategies to increase socioeconomic diversity in schools.”

The money came from funds set aside for improving student achievement at the nation’s lowest-performing schools.

The dollars were authorized during fiscal year 2016, and so moving forward with the program would not have required new spending by the department, which faces $9 billion in cuts under President Trump’s proposed budget. It is not clear how or whether the Education Department intends to spend the money now; if it hasn’t been spent by the end of September, it will be returned to the general treasury.

Tanya Clay House, a former Education Department official who played a key role in designing the grant program, said the decision to do away with the program feels like a “slap in the face.” The money is there, she said. “Why not allow the districts to use it?”

Gen Eds – Are They Worth It?

In addition, cohorts of student Learning Communities at COD focus on two or more courses connected by a common theme. Examples include “Cruise the Caribbean,” a virtual cruise that satisfies GenEd requirements in mathematics, physical science, and social and behavioral science. Service Learning courses, which combine community service with classroom teaching, are also available to fulfill GenEd requirements in sociology, English, health science, humanities and speech.

UM-Flint Launches Online Inclusive Education Grad Program

Pending final approvals, the University of Michigan-Flint School of Education and Human Services will launch a new Master of Arts in Inclusive Education degree program in Fall 2017.

The completely online program (10 classes/30 credits) aims to help general and special education teachers and early childhood professionals to better meet the academic, behavioral, and social needs of all students by building a successful, inclusive classroom environment, working collaboratively with multidisciplinary professionals, and implementing research-based practices.

Bethlehem Area superintendent: Betsy DeVos dead wrong in saying federal grants don’t work on struggling schools

Earlier today, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said School Improvement Grants have not produced significant improvements in schools, The Associated Press reported.

But Bethlehem Area Superintendent Joseph Roy says DeVos is wrong. An economically disadvantaged Bethlehem Area elementary school that has received a School Improvement Grant has closed the achievement gap, he said.

The School Improvement Grants were implemented in 2010-2015 under then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan and aimed to improve struggling schools.

“At what point do we accept the fact that throwing money at the problem isn’t the solution?” Devos asked at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s not policy making.”