The Big Education Issues Ahead for 2018
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The Big Education Issues Ahead for 2018

– The coming year could
be an important one for America’s K through 12 public schools. And, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will be a key part of that. She’s made it clear she wants to expand school choice options,
and she may go further in rolling back some Obama-era guidelines. William Brangham has our
look ahead of what you need to know, it’s part of
our weekly education coverage, Making the Grade. – The Trump Administration
will also play a key role, deciding what happens to students
who are eligible for DACA. That’s the policy that
protects immigrant children. But first, let’s talk
about one of the changes that’s happening because
of the new tax law. Parents will now be able
to use up to $10,000 from their tax-free 529
college savings accounts to help pay for private
or religious schools, for any grade, not just college. So here to help us walk
through all of this and other changes, is Alyson
Klein, of Education Week, and Anya Kamanetz of NPR. Alyson, I’d love to start with you. Let’s talk about these 529s. These were the systems set up so that people
could sock away some money, tax-free, for college. It’s now changed under the tax law. What’s the implication
for public education? – Sure, so parents will
now be able to save money in these funds, which were
previously, as you said, just to use for college savings,
for private school tuition, as you said at both private
schools and religious schools. You mentioned before that school choice is U.S. Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos’ favorite policy. So this is her biggest win
so far on school choice. But it’s not gonna really help the kids that she has said need
school choice the most, poor children from low-income families, because those families don’t
tend to pay a lot in taxes, or their parents may
not have a ton of money to sock away, as you said. So in the future, Betsy DeVos, I think, is going to continue to
push on some other fronts on school choice. She’s called this a good start, but she knows that this
isn’t going to help the poorest kids in the country. – Anya, there’s another
impact that you mentioned in the tax bill, that might
also have a big impact on public education, and that’s the state and local tax deduction
that people can now take, or the changes to that. Can you explain what happened and what impact that might have? – Yes. So public schools get the
vast majority of their money from state and local taxes. And up until this bill, those taxes could be deducted in full from your federal taxes. So that amounted to a very large subsidy by the federal government,
towards public schools. Now there’s a state and local tax cap of $10,000 for the total deduction, and that is going to especially affect high-property-value areas
where they are directing a lot of that money to schools, where schools are often very
coveted, very well-regarded. And what it’s also going
to do, some public school advocates fear, is it’s going
to limit the amount of money that’s available that states can use to try to level the playing
field for school funding. And so, down the road
when states are trying to raise money to pay for public schools, among other very important
functions of the states. They’re going to have
a hard time doing that because that cap on the
deduction is going to be felt by some of the highest
taxpayers in every state. – Okay, another thing that
I had mentioned in the intro was this issue of DACA, which is again, not something that we tend to think of with regards to education. Alyson, can you explain, obviously DACA applies,
this was a sort of granting of some legal status to immigrant children who were brought here by their parents without documentation. What does DACA have to do
with public education though? – So right now there are
thousands of teachers, the Migration Policy
Institute actually estimates it’s 20,000 teachers, who
are protected by DACA. – Teachers themselves?
– Teachers themselves, sure. So if this initiative
is rescinded by Congress and by the Trump administration, then it’s an open question
what happens to those teachers. They could lose their jobs, they could end up being deported. Some school districts, like Miami-Dade, and Los Angeles, have said that they’re gonna do
what they can to protect these teachers but
there’s a lot of anxiety out there, among them. Also, 250,000 school children have become eligible for
DACA since President Obama put the initiative in place in 2012. So this affects both sides
of the education equation, both the educators and their students. – Anya, there’s another issue, the law called ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Can you explain what that is all about and what might be happening
in 2018, with regards to it? – So ESSA is the big federal education law that governs K-12 schools. It’s the update to the more
famous No Child Left Behind law, and it has to do with how states evaluate both their students’ and
their schools’ performance. And what’s been happening so far last year is that states have been
submitting their plans to the Education Department,
for how they’re going to update how they evaluate both
schools and students. And there’s been some back and forth about this about whether Betsy DeVos is rubber-stamping these
plans, or in some cases being too tough, but
what we’re going to see is more emerging trends around how states might be treating their students. One of the issues I’m most interested in is the non-academic indicators. So the states are now able to include, or actually they’re required to include a non-academic measure of success. That could be something like attendance, or something more broad-based like social and emotional skills. And so that’s something
that’s very interesting in terms of what schools and states are trying to pay attention to now. – Alyson, one of the things
that you had mentioned to me was that the argument that
the Secretary of Education, one of their great sources of power is using their department
as a bully pulpit. This is something the
Obama administration did. And I know that it issued
guidance to a lot of schools, saying the evidence is clear that you are disproportionately
punishing black and brown kids in schools and we’re
gonna keep an eye on that. Is that something that Secretary DeVos is likely to roll back or continue? What do you know about that? – So that’s an open question. She’s met with both
supporters and detractors of the Obama administration’s guidance, which was intended to make
sure that school discipline practices are fair to
all groups of students, including minority students. She hasn’t tipped her hand
yet, one way or the other, on how she’s gonna approach that issue. – Anya, same thing on
this issue of Title IX. I understand Secretary DeVos, she caused a bit of a stir
with regards to the guidance on sexual assault. Can you tell us what happened there? – Absolutely. So the Obama-era guidance was very clear on the idea that sexual
assault and sexual harassment is a violation of Title
IX of civil rights, and a right to an equal education for students of both sexes. What DeVos did was hailed by some people as rebalancing, as the
reinstatement of due process and the rights of the accused. And others said this is really sweeping sexual assault and sexual
harassment under the rug. What I’ve heard on campuses is that no campus, whether K-12 or higher ed, is necessarily going
to walk back the steps that they’ve made to try
to root out sexual assault and sexual harassment. But the change in emphasis
is certainly going to be seen when we think of some of
those high-profile cases on both sides, where sometimes people turn out to be wrongfully accused, other times there are offenses that really go to an egregious level. – Alright, lots of
things to keep an eye on. Anya Kamanetz, Alyson Klein. Thank you both very much. – Thank you. – Thanks. (upbeat theme music)

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