Washington Did A Lot This Week And America’s Schools Will Feel It

Hello and welcome to another roundup of the top education stories. It has been a long week and a lot has happened. Here is our recap.

The FCC votes to repeal net neutrality regulations

The Republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal Obama-era rules that restrict the power of Internet service providers to favor specific websites and apps. This dramatic reversal in favor of providers has propelled the once-wonky issue of net neutrality into the mainstream, turning it into an increasingly political matter.

The 2015 rules were put in place to prevent Internet providers from controlling what people can access and how quickly they can access it by, for example, blocking websites or apps and meddling with loading speeds.

Educators rely heavily on technology in the classroom, so the repeal could dramatically impact the way students learn. Librarians across the country have also raised concerns about access.

Activists are next expected to push Congress for a vote under the Congressional Review Act that would block the FCC’s repeal from taking effect. Consumer advocacy groups and state attorneys general are also planning lawsuits.

Revisions to SALT

Last week, we used this space to explain how Republicans had proposed, as part of the tax overhaul, to limit federal write-offs that many Americans receive for paying their state and local income, sales and property taxes. As we reported, limiting those federal deductions would make it harder for state and local governments to raise money for schools.

This week, in an effort to reconcile their tax proposals, House and Senate Republicans tweaked their deduction plans for state and local taxes. Instead of the original pitch, which was to eliminate them for sales and income taxes entirely while capping property tax deductions at $10,000, the new compromise would reportedly allow all SALT deductions — for sales, income, and property taxes — but keep them under that $10,000 cap.

Is that a relief to folks who worry this will hurt states’ and communities’ ability to raise new public school dollars?

No.

For many taxpayers, especially in blue states, their state and local taxes would cost them more — perhaps much more — under this proposal. The potential effect isn’t abstract. Bloomberg reported the story of one New Jersey community that, just this week, voted against a property tax hike to help its overcrowded schools — in part because of these potential changes.

Higher ed bill hits the House

Members of the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee spent much of Tuesday arguing over an update to the Higher Education Act. That is the federal law that governs, among other things, student loans. It directly affects tens of millions of people, and, like the milk in your fridge, it’s well past its expiration date. But Democrats and Republicans found little common ground.

The 542-page PROSPER Act cleared the committee on a party-line vote and now heads to the full House. You can read it here and find a good summary here. Among the big-ticket items: The bill would limit the government’s financial aid offerings and repayment options, shut down Public Service Loan Forgiveness and scale back regulations on for-profit colleges.

Keep in mind, this is just the first step in what promises to be a long process for any HEA update. The Senate’s education committee is working on its own rewrite, one likely to be more bipartisan in its DNA.

Americans are getting more educated

The Census Bureau released new data showing that 90 percent of Americans 25 and older now have at least a high school diploma. That is an all-time high, increasing six percentage points this century. In addition, 35 percent of Americans now have at least a bachelor’s degree, up nine percentage points since 2000. NPR has reported on the various policies, both positive and questionable, that have helped increase the high school graduation rate.

Ballou High School’s principal is reassigned after NPR Ed and WAMU investigation

The D.C. public school district says it is reassigning Principal Yetunde Reeves after a NPR and WAMU investigation found half of the school’s graduates received diplomas with more than 60 unexcused absences last year. Twenty-six seniors, out of 164, graduated with more than 100 unexcused absences.

You can read and listen to the original investigation here.

What education stories we’re reading:

Five years after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, schools across America have changed how they approach security, and some have avoided a similar massacre. From The Washington Post.

How college students are coping with anxiety and how colleges can help them. From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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