Education, News, Trump Administration

Trump administration, Betsy DeVos, slash for-profit college regulations

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have made no secret of their support of for-profit colleges.

Today, they’re taking the next step to cut regulations for such controversial programs, Politico reports.

According to the report, DeVos will do away with an Obama administration rule.

From Politico:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos moved Thursday to eliminate Obama-era regulations that were meant to cut off federal funding to low-performing programs at for-profit schools and other career colleges.

The Education Department unveiled a proposal to rescind the “gainful employment” regulation, which was a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s crackdown on for-profit education companies.

The goal of the rule, which took effect in 2015, was to make sure that students who graduate from for-profit schools or other career-oriented programs make enough money to repay their student loans. But the schools, and congressional Republicans, have long criticized the regulation as unfair and overly burdensome.

DeVos’ proposal to kill the regulation goes further than other draft plans circulated by the Trump administration. Previous proposals would have gutted the penalties associated with the rule, but they would have kept mandatory consumer disclosures by colleges to prospective students.

The Trump administration said it plans to update the Education Department’s College Scorecard website with expanded data about the outcomes of students who attend all colleges and universities receiving federal aid. The department plans to calculate and publish the earnings and debt levels of graduates broken down by individual academic programs.

The Scorecard website is not required by any law or regulation, so the Trump administration’s promise to expand the data published on it isn’t binding on the department.

Consumer groups and Democrats have already sharply criticized the Trump administration’s plan to repeal the rule as a giveaway to the for-profit college industry. They say they’re worried DeVos’ plan will open up billions of taxpayer dollars to low-performing colleges.

Democratic attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia are suingDeVos over her previous delays in enforcing the “gainful employment” rule.

The Education Department said it would accept public comments on the proposed elimination of the regulation for 30 days.

The department must publish a final regulation by Nov. 1 for it to take effect in July 2019.

Commentary, Education, News

Editorial: Bill Cobey stands up for state board and public schools

State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey

In case you missed it this this morning, Capitol Broadcasting Company published an editorial over at WRAL that takes aim at state legislative leaders following the news that State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey is stepping down from the board next month.

Cobey, a longtime North Carolina Republican who once chaired the statewide GOP and served in Congress, has often been at odds with the Republican-controlled legislature in recent years.

The editorial notes the reaction from Republican lawmakers, or rather lack of reaction, to Cobey’s departure is telling.

From the editorial:

Last week Chairman Bill Cobey, announced his resignation from the State Board of Education six months before the end of his term. “I want to move on so that others can lead,” he said.

We hope he’d serve his entire term, but we are not surprised that he is leaving.

Who could blame Cobey, at 79, for taking a break from the daily attacks on our public education system by Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. They have been unrelenting in their efforts to dismantle the State Board of Education. Cobey fought the good fight on behalf of the board and is still fighting.

There are few North Carolinians who can claim Cobey’s conservative Republican pedigree. In 1982 (when Speaker Moore was 12 years old) he was Jesse Helms’ Congressional Club choice to unseat a four-term Democrat in the Fourth Congressional District. He fell short that year, but won the seat two years later.

Cobey was Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources under Gov. Jim Martin. He served as chairman of the state Republican Party. He was on the board of a private school and vice chairman of the Jesse Helms Center in 2013 when Gov. Pat McCrory named him to the State Board and he was elected its chairman.

It is certainly curious that, upon his resignation, Cobey received public words of appreciation for his service from Gov. Roy Cooper and former Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson while Republicans, including Berger, Moore and former Gov. McCrory who appointed him, were uncharacteristically muted.

It is the fact that Cobey isn’t a pushover; that he stands up for his principles and also works with Democrats to find common ground to strengthen public education; that he stands up for the constitutional role of the State Board of Education in the face of legislative efforts to weaken it. That infuriates Berger and Moore.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has been acquiescent to the legislative leadership and with newly-enacted powers from the legislature, worked to subvert the state board’s authority.

The current leaders of the General Assembly see every exchange as an opportunity for a confrontation, every issue is reason for ideological combat. Anyone who might have the moxie to suggest an alternative solution or competing idea is the enemy. Cobey has been under attack for several years. He fought hard.

Make no mistake about it, Bill Cobey believes in the strength of his ideas and positions. But he also has the confidence to let others challenge them and discuss them.

Most significantly, he has the patience to listen and work with those with different perspectives to seek common solutions. That’s not being a push over or liberal. That’s leadership.

It’s about putting the interests of the state, public schools and children first.

Cobey has the right priorities. They are sorely lacking among many members of the General Assembly.

We extend our admiration for, and thanks to, Bill Cobey and his service to North Carolina.

Courts & the Law, Education, News

North Carolina legislators say school boards should not have sued over state’s $730 million debt

State Rep. Nelson Dollar says local school boards should not have sued state agencies over a $730 million debt to schools.

Top lawmakers in the General Assembly say the N.C. School Boards Association (NCSBA) and 20 local boards of education should not have sued in their latest attempt to collect on a $730 million debt to schools, WRAL reported.

The response from legislators came shortly after school board leaders announced this week that they would sue to extend a 2008 Superior Court judgement that ordered state agencies to repay civil penalty funds that should have been diverted to K-12 technology.

The judge said agencies like the Department of Transportation, Department of Revenue and UNC kept that money for other purposes from 1996 to 2005, in violation of their constitutional obligation.

Officials with the NCSBA say they unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate repayment appropriated by lawmakers over the last decade.

From WRAL:

Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, the House’s senior budget writer, said he expects lawmakers will look for a way to begin paying back the judgment in next year’s legislative session. But he said filing another lawsuit wasn’t the best way to resolve the issue.

“I don’t believe that that was a very good use of their time and energy or a good use of the time and energy of the General Assembly,” Dollar said.

“We had no choice,” Bruce Mildwurf, a spokesman for the School Boards Association, said in an email, citing the expiration of the 2008 judgment next week.

Mildwurf said the association has worked with lawmakers for several years to address the debt, but legislation never passed.

Leanne Winner, the group’s director of governmental relations, sent a letter to House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger in March, advising that the association would go back to court and asking for a settlement discussion. There was no response to the letter.

“As they well know, just sending one letter is not the way you really go about it,” Dollar said. “That’s usually an opening, and then you start coming to the members who work on education appropriations and these issues and sit down and have the dialogue on that, you know, as opposed to rushing off to court.”

Dollar said the School Boards Association didn’t approach him about money owed, and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson said the group didn’t mention it to him, either.

“I will say that, in 10 years, I’ve never spoken to the School Boards Association about this issue. So, it is not something that’s been on the front burner,” said Jackson, D-Wake.

Still, he said, the constitution is clear that money from fines and forfeitures goes to public schools, and the state owes the districts the money.

“It’s certainly a large enough number. It’s something that we should take seriously and talk about, and it would be, I think, a good idea to do that in the interim so that we can come back in January with a plan,” Jackson said.

Read more

Education, News

State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey to step down from the board

State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey will step down from the board after his final meeting as chair in September, Cobey confirmed for Policy Watch Thursday afternoon.

The news was reported on Twitter by Triangle reporters like The News & Observer‘s Keung Hui and confirmed in a text to Policy Watch.

Cobey said last month that he would not be seeking another term as board chair following the September meeting. He declined to say then whether he would be stepping down altogether.

The board chair submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday to Gov. Roy Cooper.

From the letter:

This letter is to inform you that I am resigning from the North Carolina State Board of Education at the conclusion of the Thursday, September 6 board meeting. The Board will be electing a new chairman at that meeting.

It has been an honor to serve with such an outstanding group of board members who have faithfully made their first priority the interest of our public school children. I will miss serving with them.

His resignation comes after more than a few breaks with GOP leadership in the N.C. General Assembly for Cobey, a former Congressman and chair of the state’s Republican Party.

Cobey has also clashed with Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, taking lawmakers and Johnson to court after a 2016 vote to grant more powers to the conservative superintendent.

Former state superintendent June Atkinson responded to the news on Twitter Thursday afternoon.

Cooper will be tasked with finding a replacement for Cobey, whose term on the board was set to expire next March.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.   

Courts & the Law, Education, News

A decade after key court ruling, N.C. public school districts say they’re owed millions by the state

Nearly a decade after a Superior Court judge found that state agencies owed public school districts almost $750 million, local and state school leaders say they will file a new legal complaint against North Carolina Wednesday.

In that new complaint, which will be filed in Wake County Superior Court, the N.C. School Boards Association (NCSBA) and “many school districts” say they will argue that the state legislature and state agencies have yet to meet their obligations under that ruling.

“The plaintiffs are seeking a win/win and remain willing and eager to work with the legislature and defendants to reach a mutually beneficial resolution,” the NCSBA said in a statement.

School districts say state agencies have held onto millions in civil penalty funds that they were constitutionally obligated to spend on public school technology.

In 2008, Superior Court Judge Howard—a now retired judge who also played a leading role in the state’s landmark Leandro ruling over public school funding—agreed with local school district leaders, noting funds that should have been doled out to districts by state agencies like the Department of Revenue, the Department of Transportation and the UNC campuses.

From the NCSBA’s statement:

The NC Supreme Court ruled that the State Constitution entitles the public schools to civil penalties collected by various state agencies. The NC legislature declared in 1997 that those funds should be used exclusively for technology.

The courts determined that civil penalties collected by state agencies between 1996 and 2005 were diverted to other purposes in violation of the Constitution. A 2008 Judgment against the defendants totaled nearly $750M. The court noted at the time that “the ultimate responsibility for the satisfaction of this judgment will depend on the manner in which the General Assembly discharges its constitutional duties.”

Fast forward to 2018 – The legislature and defendants have still not fulfilled their constitutional obligation to provide funding to make up for the vast majority of funds that were diverted.

NCSBA leaders will reveal more details about the complaint at a press conference Wednesday morning, scheduled for 10 a.m. at George Watts Elementary in Durham.