President Joe Biden has told the nation’s largest teachers union that the nation’s educators need “a raise, not just praise.”By COLLIN BINKLEY AP Education WriterJuly 3, 2021, 3:06 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSpeaking to the nation’s largest teachers union, President Joe Biden said Friday that the pandemic has given America’s parents the “ultimate education” on the challenges of the teaching profession. But even more, he said, the last year has proved that teachers across the U.S. deserve higher pay.“You deserve a raise, not just praise,” Biden said in remarks at the National Education Association’s annual meeting in Washington. “Every parent in this country who spent the last year educating their children at home understands that you deserve a raise.”Biden made the case while selling his proposed legislative priorities and budget for next year, which includes $20 billion in new funding that aims to spur states to increase teacher pay. A close ally of teachers unions, the president went on to describe educators as “the single most important component of America’s future.”Biden and first lady Jill Biden gave remarks at a mostly empty Washington Convention Center while union members watched virtually. Biden is the first president in recent history to address the labor group, whose 3 million members include his wife, a longtime community college professor.After a year in which some teachers unions were villainized for slowing the return to the classroom, the president and his wife had nothing but praise. Jill Biden called teachers heroes who adapted overnight to support students and families.“You spoke out for safely reopening schools and more student support,” she said. “You carried families through the darkest year in modern history with patience, compassion and care. And you did it all while you worried about your own families’ health and education and safety.”The president mostly used the speech to push his proposals. He made the case for the bipartisan infrastructure deal, including its plan to improve broadband access. He said the problem was laid bare last year as many children struggled to access remote classes offered by their schools.He promoted his American Families Plan, which would offer two years of free community college to all Americans, along with two years of preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children. And he pitched further investments for teachers, including a proposal to double the amount of a federal grant for aspiring teachers and to boost career training for current teachers.Both of the nation’s major teachers unions endorsed Biden as a presidential candidate, and he has kept close ties with them since his election. While introducing Biden, NEA President Becky Pringle applauded Biden for nominating Miguel Cardona, a former teacher and principal, to lead the Education Department.Some Republicans have accused Biden of being too close to the powerful unions, saying he should have taken stronger action to press teachers to return to in-person instruction. And some said his goal to have most elementary and middle schools reopened within 100 days — a goal he achieved in May — was not ambitious enough.Biden addressed the union days before a July Fourth holiday that he said should be celebrated as a “summer of freedom” as the nation recovers from the coronavirus. He drew attention to a recent survey by the teachers union finding that 84% of its members had been vaccinated. But he also looked forward to challenges as schools work to recover from the pandemic.“On Sunday we’ll celebrate our independence as a nation, as well as our progress against the virus,” he said. “In the days ahead, we have a chance to make another beginning, the beginning of a stronger, fairer education system. But it can’t be done without you.”
The U.S. Education Department on Wednesday expanded its interpretation of federal sex protections to include transgender and gay students, a move that reverses Trump-era policy and stands against proposals in many states to bar transgender girls from school sports.In a new policy directive, the department said discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity will be treated as a violation of Title IX, the 1972 federal law that protects against sex discrimination in education.The decision is based on last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling protecting gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment, according to agency officials. A legal analysis by the department concluded there is “no persuasive or well-founded basis” to treat education differently.In announcing the shift, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said gay, lesbian and transgender students “have the same rights and deserve the same protections” as workers.“Today, the Department makes clear that all students — including LGBTQ+ students — deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination,” Cardona said in a statement.The policy is not likely to bring immediate, sweeping change but carries the possibility of federal sanctions against schools and colleges that fail to protect gay and transgender students.Under the federal law, students who face sex discrimination can bring complaints to the Education Department or federal courts. Schools found to have violated Title IX can face a range of penalties as severe as a total loss of federal education funding, although the Education Department has never dealt that punishment.With its new stance, the department is taking a stand against legislative proposals in a growing number of states that aim to forbid transgender girls from participating on female sports teams. Legislators in more than 20 states are considering such bans, and some others have already enacted them.Although those bans appear to be a direct violation of the Education Department’s new policy, it’s not clear how the agency will respond. The new guidance does not explicitly address the question but says it will take action against if students are denied equal access to “academic or extracurricular opportunities” because of their sex.The update drew outrage from conservatives who have pushed to keep transgender girls out of girls’ athletics. Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, called it a “politically motivated change” that effectively rewrites Title IX.“Title IX exists precisely to ensure that women and girls have equal opportunities in education, including in sports,” Holcomb said. “Girls and women deserve better than having their opportunities stripped away in service of harmful ideology.”Democrats and civil rights groups applauded the change, however, saying all students deserve equal protections. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the department is right to extend the Supreme Court’s ruling to education.“As a result of today’s action, LGBTQ students will have strong and clear legal protections from discrimination in schools, and a safe learning environment,” he said in a statement.The decision reverses Trump-era policies that removed civil rights protections for transgender students. In 2017, the Trump administration lifted Obama-era guidance allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.At the time, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the issue was “best solved at the state and local level” and that the earlier guidance led to a spike in lawsuits seeking clarification.The new action does not reinstate the Obama-era policy but instead clarifies that the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate complaints of discrimination involving gay or transgender students. If the department finds evidence of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it will pursue a resolution to “address the specific compliance concerns or violations.”The new guidance was issued as a “notice of interpretation” and does not carry the force of law. But the shift could be cemented in a policy overhaul that President Joe Biden ordered in March.Biden’s order directed the Education Department to review all aspects of Title IX — including sweeping changes issued last year by DeVos — and “consider suspending, revising or rescinding” policies that fail to protect students.The subject of transgender athletes led to a tense exchange during Cardona’s confirmation hearing when Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said it’s wrong for transgender girls to compete in girls’ sports. Cardona pushed back at the March hearing, saying schools must “respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender.”
The U.S. Education Department says it’s erasing student debt for thousands of borrowers who attended a for-profit college chain that made exaggerated claims about its graduates’ success in finding jobsBy COLLIN BINKLEY AP Education WriterJune 16, 2021, 10:15 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe U.S. Education Department said Wednesday it’s erasing student debt for thousands of borrowers who attended a for-profit college chain that made exaggerated claims about its graduates’ success in finding jobs.The Biden administration said it is approving 18,000 loan forgiveness claims from former students of ITT Technical Institute, a chain that closed in 2016 after being dealt a series of sanctions by the Obama administration. The new loan discharges will clear more than $500 million in debt.The move marks a step forward in the Biden administration’s effort to clear a backlog of claims in the borrower defense program, which provides loan forgiveness to students who were defrauded by their colleges. Claims piled up during the Trump administration, which stalled the program and only started processing claims after a federal court demanded it. There are now more than 100,000 pending claims.In announcing the new action, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona vowed to continue standing up for students who are deceived by their schools.“Our action today will give thousands of borrowers a fresh start and the relief they deserve,” Cardona said in a statement. “Many of these borrowers have waited a long time for relief, and we need to work swiftly to render decisions for those whose claims are still pending.”It follows another round of loan discharges in March, when the Education Department cleared $1 billion in federal student debt for 72,000 borrowers. Those claims all came from former students of for-profit colleges.Borrower defense is among several education programs targeted for an overhaul by the Biden administration as it works to reverse Trump-era policies. Cardona is hosting a series of hearings this month as his agency considers changes to that policy and others.The program was rarely used until 2015, when the Education Department received thousands of claims from former students of Corinthian Colleges. The chain of for-profit colleges had recently shut down following findings that it lied to students about job placement rates.Following the collapse of Corinthian and other beleaguered for-profit colleges, the Obama administration moved to make it easier for students to get loans erased. But the overhaul was reversed by the Trump administration, which later wrote its own rules making it tougher to get relief. In changing the rules, then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said it had become too easy to get loans forgiven.Cardona began chipping away at DeVos’ rules in March when he rescinded a formula that allowed the Education Department to give only partial loan discharges to students whose claims were approved. All borrowers granted relief will now get their loans cleared in full.Many of the 18,000 claims from ITT Tech were approved after the Education Department found that the company lied about graduates’ job prospects. The agency said ITT made “repeated and significant misrepresentations” about its ability to help students get jobs. In reality, many students said it was harder to find employment when they listed ITT on their resumes, the department said.Other claims were approved after the department found that ITT misled students about their ability to transfer course credits to other colleges. Credits were rarely accepted elsewhere, the department said, leaving students with “little to no progress” in their academic careers.Borrowers will be notified about their claim approvals in the coming weeks, the agency said.