With help from Caitlin Emma and Michael Stratford.
WHAT KAVANAUGH MEANS FOR EDUCATION: D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, has considered some of the most contentious issues in education throughout his lengthy legal career. He’s written on school prayer, the separation of church and state, and affirmative action.
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— Kavanaugh highlighted his connection to education during his speech Monday night, describing himself as a teacher’s son who tutors area children. He talked about his mother. "In the 1960s and ‘70s, she taught history at two largely African-American public high schools in Washington, D.C., McKinley Tech and H.D. Woodson," he said. "Her example taught me the importance of equality for all Americans."
— Kavanaugh has tutored at Washington Jesuit Academy, where he sits on the board of directors, and at J.O. Wilson Elementary School, according to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals website. He went to high school at Georgetown Prep — which Justice Neil Gorsuch also attended — and is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.
— Here’s a breakdown of Kavanaugh’s education record, dug up by Pro’s Michael Stratford:
— School prayer and religious freedom: Kavanaugh wrote an amicus brief in December 1999 in favor of a Texas high school’s policy allowing the use of a public address system for student-led and student-initiated prayers at school football games. The amicus brief, on behalf of Oklahoma Republican Reps. Steve Largent and J.C. Watts, argued that the policy passed constitutional muster — an argument the Supreme Court rejected. In a 6-3 ruling, the court declared the school policy allowing prayer unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
— Affirmative action: Kavanaugh in 1999 co-wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a group that opposes race-based affirmative action in college admissions. The brief argued that a Hawaii law allowing only Native Hawaiians to vote in elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was unconstitutional in prohibiting people from voting because of their race. (The Supreme Court agreed with that argument in a 7-2 decision.) When asked about the brief and its implications for affirmative action in 2004 as part of his confirmation for the D.C. Circuit Court, Kavanaugh said: “The Supreme Court has decided many cases on affirmative action programs and, if confirmed, I would faithfully follow those precedents.”
— School choice: Kavanaugh said during his 2004 Senate confirmation hearing that he had previously served as the co-chairman of the Federalist Society’s “School Choice Practice Group.” Kavanaugh also said, in response to written questions, that he had “worked on school choice litigation in Florida for a reduced fee.” He didn’t provide additional details about that matter. On private school choice, Kavanaugh predicted in a TV appearance in 2000 that school vouchers would one day be upheld by the Supreme Court.
— CFBP: Kavanaugh in a October 2016 opinion declared the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unconstitutional. The CFPB, which was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, pursued high-profile cases against for-profit colleges and student loan companies, during the Obama administration. Kavanaugh’s opinion said that Congress had wrongly placed “enormous executive power” in the CFPB’s single director. Supporters of the CFPB accused Kavanaugh of acting as a partisan activist, and the constitutionality of the CFPB’s structure was later upheld.
— Opponents of Kavanaugh’s nomination are already mounting their case. Civil rights groups and teachers unions were quick to blast the nominee within minutes of Trump’s announcement. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights decried him as “a direct threat to our civil and human rights,” adding that “he has consistently ruled for the wealthy and powerful.”
— National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said Kavanaugh will be a "rubber stamp" for the agenda of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, including on school choice issues like vouchers. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that a Supreme Court nominee “should be fair, independent and committed to protecting the rights, freedoms and legal safeguards that protect every one of us. Judge Kavanaugh does not meet this standard.” More from Pro’s Ben Wermund.
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STAFFING SHUFFLE AT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT’S OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL: Steven Menashi, a top attorney at the Education Department who served as acting general counsel, has moved over to the White House as part of a staffing shakeup in the department’s Office of General Counsel. Michael Stratford has more here.
— Menashi, the agency’s principal deputy general counsel and a former law professor at George Mason University, joined the White House Counsel’s Office on Monday, according to an internal announcement obtained by POLITICO and confirmed by the department.
— Hans Bader, a prominent conservative attorney who has long been critical of the federal government’s role in education, has left the Education Department. Bader joined the department in October from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank.
— Jed Brinton, another political appointee in the department’s Office of General Counsel, is also switching roles. He began a “short-term detail” to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy on Monday.
GROUPS PUSH DEVOS, SESSIONS ON DISCIPLINE GUIDANCE: Dozens of advocacy groups, charter school organizations and state and district education leaders are urging the Trump administration to maintain Obama-era guidance aimed at tackling racial disparities in school discipline.
— In a new letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the groups ask the Education and Justice departments to “remain partners in this critical work” and ask them not to “roll back the common sense guidance aimed at protecting students’ civil rights.” They cite “overwhelming evidence” of racial bias in school discipline policies.
— A White House school safety commission is weighing whether to rescind the Obama guidance, which has come under fire from conservatives since the shooting in Parkland, Fla., for possibly keeping violent students in school and placing a burden on school districts. Groups signing the letter include the KIPP Foundation, the Council of the Great City Schools and Educators for Excellence. Read the full letter here.
NO GO FOR PRIVATELY RUN CHARTERS, VOUCHERS IN PUERTO RICO: Key elements of the Puerto Rican government’s push to reform education through school choice suffered a blow in court over the weekend — one that leaders say they plan to appeal.
— Tribunal de Primera Instancia Judge Iris Cancio González ruled that privately run charter schools and publicly funded vouchers used in private schools run afoul of the Puerto Rican constitution, which says public funds should only sustain government-run schools. Cancio González wrote that even when regulated, charter schools more closely resemble “a private education system funded by the government, than the public schools we know today.”
— “Their framework creates a financing system that supports private institutions, which the government simply licenses with limited supervision,” Cancio González wrote. She added that the private donations charter schools are allowed to receive could influence their objectives and practice, and agreed with teachers union arguments that charter schools could “dilute” the funding that goes to traditional public schools.
— The ruling makes an exception for charter schools run by local governments and public universities.
— The challenge was brought by Puerto Rico’s largest teachers union in a lawsuit filed in April. The union has for months fought the reform plan pushed by Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, arguing that charter schools and vouchers are a threat to the island’s public schools. “We’ve always said, both charters and vouchers are unconstitutional,” Aida Díaz, president of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, said in a statement. “Justice has been served for our children and their right to a public education. We continue to fight for them and for our teachers.”
— Ramón Rosario Cortés, Puerto Rico’s secretary of public affairs and public policy, said in a statement that “great changes usually attract resistance” and that the government plans to appeal the ruling.
HEAD START MONITORING TO INCREASE EMPHASIS ON SCHOOL READINESS: Head Start program monitors will amplify their focus on how well programs are preparing students for Kindergarten, Head Start Director Deborah Bergeron said in a video posted Monday. Bergeron served as a local school principal before being tapped to lead the Office of Head Start and said that experience made her privy to the disconnect that sometimes exists between Head Start programs and the schools that will welcome the children they serve.
— “I was very disconnected from my Head Start classroom as an administrator, and I reflected on that, when I took this position, and it really struck me,” she said, adding that she’s begun asking program directors, “‘What is your relationship like with the public schools?’ Some people have really good, solid relationships, and others are finding this really challenging.”
— “So you’re going to see, when the new monitoring guidelines come out, some changes in terms of what we’re [going to] focus on in terms of school readiness,” she said.
— Bergeron said she plans to convene Head Start center directors and K-12 school principals to talk about the synergy between the programs at a meeting in D.C. on July 26. Bergeron, whose office is housed within the Department of Health and Human Services, said she also plans to reach out to the Education Department to “help break down these barriers.”
ITT EXECS OFFERED ‘SWEETHEART DEAL’: That’s how lawyers representing defrauded ITT students are describing the settlement reached late last week between the Securities Exchange Commission and two former senior executives of ITT Educational Services Inc., the company behind a troubled for-profit college that shuttered in 2016.
— “This sweetheart deal for ITT executives is yet another injustice for ITT students,” said Toby Merrill, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University. “While executives were handed a gift by the SEC, defrauded students are left fighting an actively hostile government that refuses to acknowledge the harm these corrupt executives inflicted on them.”
— As part of the settlement, former CEO Kevin Modany and former CFO Daniel Fitzpatrick neither admit nor deny fraud. They are barred from holding senior positions at public companies and have to pay penalties.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
— The Foundation for Excellence in Education and The Hunt Institute have joined States Leading, a coalition of education organizations looking to highlight progress in education nationwide. The Council of Chief State School Officers, the Education Commission of the States, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors Association are also part of the coalition.
REPORT ROLL CALL
— A new study from the University of Virginia Curry School of Education that tracked a sample of children from birth to age 15 finds that, when controlling for socio-demographic characteristics, enrollment in private school doesn’t improve academic outcomes for students. More in Educational Researcher.
— DeVos visits career center in Ohio: The Sentinel-Tribune.
— Legacy admissions complicate colleges’ diversity efforts: The Wall Street Journal.
— New Los Angeles superintendent with ties to philanthropy rakes in $3 million for district: Los Angeles Times.
— Net neutrality could force district leaders to advocate for their connectivity needs, experts say: The 74.
— Local, elected school board takes control of nearly all New Orleans public schools: The 74.
— NEA to set up “strike fund”: Education Week.
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