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New Education Budget; Yale Discrimination Investigation; Faults In Loan Forgiveness

LA Johnson

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

A new education budget awaits approval

A new spending bill could add $581 million to the Department of Education's budget. The legislation would bolster career and technical training and programs that serve low-income students.

One specific program in the bill — Title IV, also known as The Every Student Succeeds Act— was questioned this week during a hearing of the Senate education committee. Lawmakers deliberated whether this billion-dollar pot of money could legally be used to arm teachers across the country. One senator, the committee's top Republican, Lamar Alexander, interpreted the law saying, "Title IV specifically gives states the decision about spending their money to create safe conditions, including drug and violence prevention." Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also expresseda hands-off approach recently, making it clear that this decision is up to states.

The spending package, which would give the Education Department a budget of $71.5 billion, still needs a signature from President Donald Trump to pass.

6 ways to talk to your kids about sex after Kavanaugh

The country watched this week as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave their testimonies of an alleged sexual assault that Ford said happened while the two were in high school over 35 years ago. NPR's Anya Kamenetz spoke to sex education experts about how you should talk to your kids, not just about sex, but also consent. Here are six things you can do to make the Kavanaugh story a "teachable moment."

Home schooling is growing and changing rapidly

The New America Foundation reports the number of home schooled students has doubled since 1999. With the growth of online learning in K-12, homeschooling looks different than it did in past generations. Families' motivations are changing, too: religion is no longer the primary reason for choosing home schooling. The top reason was dissatisfaction with public school offerings.

Report finds faults in student loan forgiveness program

A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that a popular student loan forgiveness program has been badly mismanaged. Public Service Loan Forgiveness was created in 2007 under a supposedly simple idea: Spend ten years in public service while making monthly payments on your student loans, and the government would forgive what's left at the end. But it's becoming clear the program is a muddle.

Last week, NPR reported that, since October of 2017, the first year borrowers could qualify for forgiveness, 99 percent of applications have been denied. And in a deeply critical reviewof the PSLF program, the Government Accountability Office found persistent communication problems between the Education Department and its student loan servicers. NPR's Cory Turner reported that many borrowers may have worked in public service, sometimes for years, without being told their loan payments wouldn't count towards PSLF. GAO recommends, among other things, that the Education Department provide clear information to its contractors and borrowers about a wide range of issues – like who actually qualifies.

In a response to the report, the Education Department agreed with GAO's findings and with all of its recommendations.

Yale under investigation for discrimination against Asian-Americans

The departments of education and justice are opening an investigation into whether the undergraduate admissions policies at Yale University "improperly discriminate on the basis of race, particularly in regard to Asian-American applicants," according to a university statement. Together with a similar investigation into Harvard, a separate lawsuit, the case against Yale challenges the current state of the law on affirmative action.

In related news, a national survey of nearly 500 college admissions directors, found that almost half believe some colleges hold Asian-American applicants to higher standards than other applicants.

Free preschool means more working mothers

That's according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress, which specifically looked at Washington, D.C.'s preschool expansion.

The nation's capitol began to expand funding in preschool in 2009 and by last year, 7 out of 10 3-year-olds and 9 out of 10 4-year-olds were enrolled. As a result, the rate of mothers with young children working rose dramatically. D.C. now has the highest maternal labor force participation rate of the 50 largest cities in the country.

This story has been updated to reflect a new statement from Yale University.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anya Kamenetz
Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.
Cory Turner
Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.
Sara Ernst