Have You Heard talks with legal scholar Derek Black about his new book Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy. Despite the title (not to mention the charred pencil imagery) this is a deeply optimistic book. That’s because as Black immersed himself in a people’s history of the post-civil war years, he encountered a commitment to public education that astonished and inspired him. Public education, argues Black, is as central to American democracy as the right to vote.
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In the latest episode of Have You Heard, Jack and Jennifer dig into five—make that six—education news stories that deserved more attention in 2018. From Betsy DeVos’ surprising (to some) longevity to the GOP’s realignment as the *anti-college* party, these are some of the stories that we’ll be hearing more about in 2019. Complete transcript of the episode available here. And if you’re a fan of the high-quality content that Have You Heard serves up, consider becoming a supporter on Patreon.
What does the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, have to do with the teacher walkouts that are sweeping across the land today? Everything, explains law professor Derek Black in the latest episode of Have You Heard. Short version of the history: all 50 states have language enshrining their responsibilities to provide public education to their citizens. The deep spending cuts, and the expansion of charter schools and private school vouchers, represent an effort to hack away at the states’ obligations. If you’re wondering why so many protesters in Arizona, Colorado and [insert name of next state here] have been citing their state constitutions, well, here’s your answer!
The rollback of civil rights enforcement in education is underway, says law professor Derek Black…
Jennifer Berkshire: The Trump Administration has just rescinded guidelines to schools banning discrimination against transgender students. There’s a lot of speculation about just how *joint* the joint letter from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions actually was. But you seem unconvinced by the portrayals of DeVos as a fierce protector of civil rights.
Derek Black: The stream of bad news over the past few months has been steady. The Trump transition team said the administration would scale back the civil rights work in education. At her confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos was reluctant to take an affirmative stance on enforcing students’ disability rights. Since taking the post, she has remarked that she could not *think of any* current pressing civil rights issues where the federal government has a role to play; things like racial segregation and exclusion of females were things of the past in her opinion.
Now reports are coming out that Gail Heriot is likely to be the next head of the Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Heroit has been critical of the Office’s aggressive civil rights stance in recent years. With these individuals in place, it is hard to imagine much good happening at the federal level. Even if they do not rescind other Department positions on integration, school discipline, English Language Learners, and school resources, they are very unlikely to enforce existing regulations and policy guidance. Disparate impact enforcement, for instance, will be non-existent. Rather than take on traditional civil rights concerns, I would expect they will identify fringe issues to pursue. Continue reading →