DeVos Testifies on the Hill
On May 22nd, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos found herself defending the Trump Administration’s education priorities on Capitol Hill. She faced criticism from House Democrats on a range of issues from civil rights to for-profit colleges.
Most importantly, from the point of view of music education, DeVos’s team is mulling a significant reorganization of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), the main K-12 arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The effort would be part of the Trump administration’s overall push to “streamline” government. The Department signaled earlier this year that it would merge the OESE, which oversees programs like Title I grants to help districts serve disadvantaged students, with the office for innovation, which deals with charters, programs for private schools, and more. As part of that merger, the Department is considering a reshuffling of OESE itself. The revamp would be aimed at grouping together employees with similar skills, as opposed to having separate offices focused on particular programs. Many public school advocates see the combination of choice options within Title I programming as a red flag to potentially divert policy and funds from public schools. Congress disapproved of such restructuring in their March budget agreement. NAfME is monitoring this closely with regard to the any potential restructuring that could have an impact on administration of music as a subject essential to a well-rounded education.
DeVos also took questions on her school safety commission, on immigration policy in the nation’s schools, on the agency’s Office for Civil Rights and her commitment to the rights of LGBTQ students, and on what Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson (FL-24) characterized as the effect of “resegregating” the nation’s schools by expanding school choice programs. NAfME is monitoring this area, as well, as decisions in this area have an overwhelming impact on Inclusion and Equity in music education.
In discussion of teacher walkouts across the nation, DeVos supported the notion that teachers should be paid more, but defended budget cuts to professional development programs for teachers. The Secretary was previously critical of the walkouts, saying that teachers should keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served. DeVos said, “I think great teachers need to be supported. I think they should be better compensated, and I think they should be treated as professionals. And I contend that the system, as it exists today, doesn’t treat them really as professionals. I think that’s an area that really we need to rethink when it comes to education — is honoring and respecting great teachers and treating them as the professionals they are.” In this context, DeVos defended the president’s budget, which eliminates both Title II, Part A, and Title IV, Part A. NAfME strongly opposes the elimination of both programs.
NAfME will continue to monitor DeVos’s comments, potential changes within the Department of Education, and rules and regulations that may pertain to music education.
Tooshar Swain, Public Policy Advisor, June 4, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)