Journal of Educational Controversy


Friday, December 4, 2020

HR 40: Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act


Because our upcoming issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy is devoted to the theme of “The Ethics of Memory: What Does It Mean to Apologize for Historical Wrongs,”  I was alerted to an email that was sent out by the American Civil Liberties Union today.  They reminded us  that the bill H.R. 40 , Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, is still before the 116th Congress (2019-2020) and stress the urgency for action because there is a chance the final draft might be reported out of the judiciary committee before the end of the year.  Although the bill was first introduced on January 3, 2019 and subcommittee hearings were held on June 19, 2019, the ACLU writes: “Over the course of 2020, our country has gone through what many are calling a national reckoning on race. This was sparked by the tragic but all-too-familiar killings of Black lives – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others – at the hands of police.”  To achieve racial justice, they continue, we must “examine the impact of slavery and its legacy, and make strides toward reparations---and H.R. 40 is a path forward on that.”


The following is the bill summary:


This bill establishes the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. The commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.


Earlier, we published on our blog a transcript of the testimony by Ta-Nehisi Coates that was delivered before the congressional hearing on HR 40 on June 19th.  His influential 2014 article “The Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic revived the issue of reparations for slavery and its legacy. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett and Education: Where Does She Stand?

 Editor: The following article was published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.   We thank them for permission to reprint this article for our readers.


Amy Coney Barrett and Education: Where Does She Stand?


With the memory of Merrick Garland’s thwarted nomination resonating and the rank hypocrisy fouling the Senate air, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues quickly ushered then-judge Amy Coney Barrett through a performative confirmation process. The U.S. Supreme Court’s newest member will soon begin to rule on cases with the potential to affect generations of students, teachers, and schools. Barrett’s writings, positions, and track record so far suggest that her education-related decisions may be the antithesis of those of her predecessor, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was known for supporting LGBTQ rights, appreciating the separation of church and state, and developing jurisprudence advancing gender equity.

Unlike Ginsberg, a graduate of New York City’s school system, Barrett has limited personal experience with public education. A graduate of a Catholic girls’ school in Louisiana, she has also sent her own children to religious schools. For nearly three years, she served on the board of trustees of a network of private, Christian schools that discriminated against LGBTQ parents, students, and employees.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Barrett said that she had “been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg's seat, but no one will ever take her place.” Barrett will indeed be a very different judge, including in the realm of education. She described Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision that required the state to allow public fiscal support for religious schools even though its constitution banned the practice) as an example of the court’s view that “religious institutions cannot be discriminated against or excluded from public programs simply because they are religious.” And she called Brown v. the Board of Education a “super precedent” that would be “unthinkable” to overrule, even though an article she coauthored notes that full adherence to her doctrine of originalism (strict adherence to the original meaning of the constitution’s words) would require its reversal. Barrett has also publicly expressed doubt that Title IX protects transgender students who want to use school restrooms or locker rooms that align with their gender identities.

As a judge appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Barrett has been involved in several notable decisions involving education. Here’s a sample, culled from an article in Education Week:

Doe v.Purdue University (2019) was filed by a male former student at Indiana’s Purdue University, which had suspended him for a year after he was accused of sexual violence, leading to a discharge from the ROTC and the loss of a related scholarship. Barrett’s opinion, in favor of the student, concluded that he was “denied an educational benefit on the basis of his sex” because of a fundamentally unfair hearing and decision process that was biased in favor of the female accuser. Since that time, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has taken steps to further protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct. “Many universities and advocates for survivors of sexual assault state that these changes will make it harder to convince people to come forward and file reports, as the new guidance offers little protection and support for survivors of sexual assault,” NEPC Fellow Elizabeth Meyer said last year in an interview for this newsletter.

Consider also two cases concerning alleged discrimination based on the plaintiff’s disability. In both cases, Barnett signed onto opinions affirming the granting of so-called summary judgment (dismissing the lawsuit because the plaintiff is not entitled to win based on the facts that the plaintiff does not dispute). In Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School (2018), the plaintiff was an instructor at a Jewish private school. The panel held that the school was protected by a “ministerial exception,” based on a 2012 Supreme Court case that found that churches were exempt from discrimination claims made by their ministers.

In P.F. v.Taylor (2019), Barrett joined her colleagues in rejecting claims of Wisconsin students with disabilities who had unsuccessfully attempted to use the state’s open enrollment laws. The students were denied transfers to new school districts because those new districts said they could not meet the students’ needs. Wisconsin’s open enrollment statute, in fact, allows for denial of transfer requests by special education students due to capacity – specifically the availability of the needed “program or services” in new district. Students with disabilities have often faced discrimination or denial of services when they have tried to participate in school choice. But the Seventh Circuit panel of judges reasoned that the Wisconsin program denies services based on a district’s capacity to serve a given student with a disability (allowed) rather than denying admission by reason of the disability (not allowed).

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Biden’s Election Will Bring Back Credibility to Governance


It has just been announced that Joseph R. Biden will become the 46th President of the United States.  Over the next few days, there will be many analyses of this moment in history.  At this time, I would like to make just one observation.  Although President-elect Biden may still have many problems passing policy with a divided Congress, it will be comforting to see an administration that has credibility again.   Whenever I would look for credible medical sources for information, especially during this pandemic, I would often seek out government institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Recently, I was distrusting anything that came out of the CDC with the censorship by the current Trump administration that the news media were reporting.  It was beginning to be increasingly difficult to know what to believe on their website. Credibility is important; truth and its search are important; facts are important; science is important.  Most importantly, they are the virtues and skills that we pass on to our students.  I often wonder what our students have learned from what they experienced over the last four years.

Note: November 26th Update.   The CDC is currently sending out good advice for the holidays with warnings not to travel during the recent surge of Covid19.  Still millions are ignoring the warning.   What explains this reckless and defiant behavior in the face of such stark reality.  Even the U.S. Supreme Court is devaluing human lives with their new rulings that prioritized actions based on religious freedom over public health concerns.


Friday, October 2, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Education and Equity

 Editor: The following article was published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.   We thank them for permission to reprint this article for our readers.


RGB and Education: A Legacy of Equity

From the National Education Policy Center

During her 27 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left behind a distinctive legacy on education issues by developing the jurisprudence extending constitutional protections concerning gender equity, desegregation, student and LGBTQ  rights, and the separation of church and state even as an increasingly conservative court relegated her opinions to minority dissents. As attention understandably turns to the abrupt political machinations concerning her replacement, it’s important not to forget the ways she shaped — or attempted to shape — some of the core educational issues of our time. Here are just four examples of her education-related opinions.

Missouri v. Jenkins, 1995. In Justice Ginsburg’s first opinion in an education case, she opposed the decision to end Kansas City’s desegregation plan, joining the main dissent in the 5-4 case and also writing a dissent of her own. “The Court stresses that the present remedial programs have been in place for seven years. . . . But compared to more than two centuries of firmly entrenched official discrimination, the experience with the desegregation remedies ordered by the District Court has been evanescent,” she stated. In 2007, Justice Ginsburg also dissented in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle SchoolDistrict, where the Court’s majority prohibited school districts from considering students’ race as a way to avoid segregation that occurs through their school choice plans.

United States v. Virginia, 1996. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion striking down the Virginia Military Institute’s admissions policy that prohibited females from attending. Her opinion explained that Virginia’s creation of a separate women’s-only academy did not cure the violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, since women did not receive same benefits as men. “‘Inherent differences’ between men and women, we have come to appreciate, remain cause for celebration, but not for denigration of the members of either sex or for artificial constraints on an individual’s opportunity,” she wrote. “Sex classifications may be used to compensate women ‘for particular economic disabilities [they have] suffered.’ But such classifications may not be used, as they once were, to create or perpetuate the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women.” Justice Ginsberg applied the standard that she had helped developed when she was a litigator and advocate for women’s rights: in order to survive equal-protection scrutiny, sex discrimination must “serve important governmental objectives” and be “substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.”

Safford Unified School District #1 v. Redding, 2009. Justice Ginsburg sided with the majority in finding that school officials’ search of a 13-year-old girl’s underwear, based simply on having earlier found the equivalent to two Advils and one Aleve, violated her Fourth Amendment right to be protected from unreasonable government searches and seizures. During oral arguments, she spoke out when some male justices minimized the student’s discomfort. “They have never been a 13-year-old girl,” she later told USA TODAY. “It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.”

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, 2020. This past term, the Court ruled that the state of Montana had discriminated against religious schools by applying a state constitutional provision prohibiting public funding for religious institutions through a neovoucher scheme. Previously, to avoid the potential for such discrimination, Montana’s state supreme court, had eliminated the tax credit program for all private schools, not just religious schools. In a dissent from the conservative court majority, written just months before Justice Ginsburg’s death, she pointed this out and chastised her colleagues for over-reaching when there was no actual controversy or discrimination to be addressed:

Nearing the end of its opinion, the Court writes: ‘A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.’ . . . Because Montana’s Supreme Court did not make such a decision — its judgment put all private school parents in the same boat — this Court had no occasion to address the matter.

In addition to participating in legal decisions impacting education, Justice Ginsburg also expressed the hope that her presence on the court alongside Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, would be an inspiration to future generations. “When the schoolchildren file in and out of the court and they look up and they see three women, then that will seem natural and proper—just how it is,” she told The Washington Post.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18th at her home in Washington. She was 87.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

In Memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the Legacy of an “Activist Intellectual”


We are once again honoring the memory of another giant in our fight for equal justice for all – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Only a few weeks ago, we were mourning the death of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis on this blog.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Of course, it bends only because people make it bend through their movements, sacrifices, and daunting belief that we can bend it.  Having formerly served on our local ACLU Board for several decades and our state board for one year, I and my colleagues were so influenced by Justice Ginsburg’s life and work.  Her work on the ACLU especially with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project was well known. 

We are reprinting the ACLU’s obituary below so our readers can see the full legacy she has left. Her work fighting for gender equality is particularly poignant in this year when we recognize the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  One hundred years after the expansion of suffrage, Justice Ginsberg was fighting many of the laws that continued to discriminate on the basis of sex and there were many — in education, employment, reproductive rights, mortgages, credit cards, loans, house rentals, prison, the military and sections of the Social Security Act.  Here is the legacy she has left us as an “activist intellectual” as Eleanor Holmes Norton once put it.

ACLU Obituary of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice who first rose to national prominence as an ACLU lawyer fighting for equal rights for women, has died at 87 years old.

She began Harvard Law School as a young mother and one of only nine women in her class, and became the architect of a legal strategy to eradicate gender discrimination in the United States. She modeled her approach after that of Thurgood Marshall on race discrimination, planning for a series of cases at the Supreme Court, each precedent paving the way for the next that would further expand rights and protections. In 1993, she joined the court as an associate justice, and over the decades became a cultural icon beloved for her vision and passion in defending the rights of women.

Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn in 1933 to Jewish parents with roots in Eastern Europe. Her mother Celia, who died shortly before Ginsburg graduated from high school, instilled in her a sense of independence and a love of learning. She went on to Cornell University, where at 17, she met her future husband, Martin Ginsburg. They married after graduation, and soon had a daughter, Jane.

 Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School, where women were barred from living in the dorms and from using certain campus facilities. When the dean hosted a dinner for the first-year women, Ginsburg recalled, “He asked each of us to stand up and tell him what we were doing taking a seat that could be occupied by a man.”

Discrimination dogged her early career. After transferring to Columbia Law School, she graduated first in her class, but she had trouble getting a job. She later accepted a position teaching civil procedure at Rutgers Law School, where her employers informed her that she would be paid less than her male colleagues because she had a husband who earned a good income. She and other female professors filed a federal class-action discrimination case against the university, and won. For fear of demotion, she hid her pregnancy with her son, James, until after her contract renewal. Simply living her personal and professional life at a time of openly discriminatory policies for women had positioned her to fight.

In the late 1960s, Ginsburg began volunteering for the ACLU, and soon wrote a brief in the case Reed v. Reed. Sally Reed had separated from her husband, and when their son died, both parents sought to be appointed the executor of his estate. Idaho law automatically appointed the father because he was a man. Ginsburg named as co-authors on the brief two women lawyers whose ideas had helped build her arguments: Dorothy Kenyon, an early advocate for women’s rights, and Pauli Murray, a brilliant African American activist who had pioneered the argument for applying the 14th Amendment to women’s rights. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled for Sally Reed, the first time it would strike down a law for treating men and women differently. The court ruled that giving a mandatory preference to one sex is “the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” In an ACLU memo, Ginsburg called the victory “a small, guarded step.”

In 1972, Ginsburg joined the ACLU as the founding director of the new Women’s Rights Project. That same year, she also accepted a job as the first female tenured law professor at Columbia. 

 In the early ‘70s, gender discrimination affected most aspects of life. The Women’s Rights Project tallied hundreds of federal laws that discriminated on the basis of sex — in education, employment, reproductive rights mortgages, credit cards, loans, house rentals, prison, and the military. Most legal scholars believed the law should treat women differently, to protect them. For instance, some laws prevented female employees from lifting more than 15 pounds, or working at night. Some lawyers were beginning to take on cases of sex discrimination, often to help a specific woman, not necessarily with a view toward changing the law on gender equality. Ginsburg wanted to do just that.

In 1973, Ginsburg took on another Supreme Court case. Sharron Frontiero was an Air Force officer whose husband, Joseph, had been denied the housing and medical benefits that female spouses of male Air Force officers received automatically.

In writing both muscular and spare, Ginsburg expanded the scope of her brief to encompass the history of women’s subjugation, with references to Alexis de Tocqueville and Alfred Lord Tennyson, and pared down the language to a precise and devastating argument. “That’s when it dawned on me how brilliant she is,” said Brenda Feigen, then co-directing the Women’s Rights Project with Ginsburg. “She was at her most creative and profound,” she said. “She told the story of sex discrimination — how it had been and how it had to end.”

It was in Frontiero that Ginsburg gave her first oral argument before the Supreme Court. “I knew that I was speaking to men who didn’t think there was any such thing as gender-based discrimination and my job was to tell them it really exists,” she has said. To make the point to the nine men who were sitting on the bench, she quoted the nineteenth-century women’s-rights advocate Sarah Grimk√®: “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” She apparently succeeded. Feigen, who was by Ginsburg’s side in the court, recalled, “There was not a single question from any of the justices. They must have been transfixed.”

 Ginsburg’s team won the case. Yet they did not convince a majority of the justices that sex discrimination should be treated exactly like racial discrimination. “My expectation, to be candid, was that I would repeat that kind of argument, maybe half a dozen times. I didn’t expect it to happen in one fell swoop,” Ginsburg later said.

 While at the ACLU, Ginsburg played a role in 34 Supreme Court cases, and won five of the six cases she argued before the court — Frontiero, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, Califano v. Goldfarb, Duren v. Missouri, and Edwards v. Healy. Many of her cases involved sex discrimination against men, which she felt might rouse more sympathy among the male justices, and show that discrimination hurts everyone.

Ginsburg sometimes said that one of her favorite cases involved a man whose wife died in childbirth, leaving him alone to care for their newborn son. Stephen Wiesenfeld’s wife had been the primary breadwinner, and upon her death, he went to the local Social Security office to inquire about survivors’ benefits for a parent and learned that he didn’t qualify because he was a man. Ginsburg convinced the Supreme Court that the section of the Social Security Act that denied fathers benefits because of their sex was unconstitutional. She won a unanimous decision.

 “Ruth was careful to build brick upon brick,” said Aryeh Neier, then executive director of the ACLU. “She wanted to create a stable structure. She wasn’t interested in reaching for the roof right away. In my tenure at the ACLU, this was the most clearly planned litigation strategy.”

 Ginsburg’s legacy would be felt at the ACLU long after her departure in 1980 to become a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

 President Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993. She was introduced at her confirmation hearing by Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington D.C., who had served as the assistant legal director at the ACLU. “When Ruth Ginsburg founded the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, today’s axiom that the 14th Amendment applies to women was not axiomatic at all,” she said. “Judge Ginsburg has spent her life making things how they ought to be. Using her gifted mind, honed by indefatigably hard work, she has used the law, always carefully, always defensibly, for all of those left at the margins, for want of a lawyer or a judge with the brilliance and commitment to pull them mainstream. As a lawyer, she was an activist intellectual who brought grace to both roles.”

 The last to testify at her confirmation hearing was Stephen Wiesenfeld, the widower for whom Ginsburg won Social Security benefits some 20 years earlier when she was at the ACLU. He described his experience of being a newly-widowed father struggling to raise his son without his wife’s Social Security benefits and how Ginsburg “saw immediately the gains, the consequences, and the long range effects and the logistics of revising this inequity in the Social Security system.”

 Sen. Joe Biden, then the Chairman of the U.S Senate Committee on the Judiciary, thanked Wiesenfeld for his testimony and added, “I shared a similar fate that you did in 1972 and raised two children with a professional wife who had passed away, and it is amazing how much has changed.”

Ginsburg was confirmed to the court in a vote of 96 to 3.

 On the court, Ginsburg continued her efforts to push for full gender equality under the 14th Amendment. In 1996, she wrote the decision in United States v. Virginia, which struck down the male-only admission policy at the Virginia Military Institute and established a new standard of review for sex discrimination cases.

 Over time, as the court became more conservative, Ginsburg also became more pointed in her dissents.

 In 2006, the court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter, who had been paid less than male colleagues in comparable jobs at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. In a rare move, Ginsburg, then the sole woman justice on the court, read her blistering dissent aloud from the bench. “The court does not comprehend…the insidious way that women can be victims to discrimination,” she accused. “The ball is in Congress’ court.” A few years later, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.

 Then in 2013, the court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “Race-based voting discrimination still exists,” she rebuked her colleagues, again reading her dissent. Dismantling the act, she said later, was “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

 In a country hungry for integrity and for leadership fighting the erosion of civil rights, a new generation of young women branded Ginsburg “The Notorious RBG” on social media, and showed their esteem for her in unexpected ways. Children dressed up as Ginsburg for Halloween, her face appeared on tattoos, pillows, and shower curtains, and her story was told in a documentary and a feature film, multiple biographies, and several children’s books.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Countdown to Mars: A Researcher at Our University Shares some Good News about her Work

Look to the Stars -- some good news to contemplate.   Melissa Rice,  a researcher at our university, Western Washington University, tells our readers about the Mars launch in which she is participating.  Brad Johnson, Dean, College of Science and Engineering at Western wrote,  “We are so excited that Western’s Mars Lab, led by Dr. Melissa Rice, is part of this groundbreaking experience to explore the geology of Mars. This mission will deepen our understanding of the red planet, set the stage for future missions, and may even uncover signs of life."  The lift off to Mars took place on July 30 as part of NASA’s Perseverance Rover launch!

Melissa Rice talks about her hopes for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission

Link to video:

Today is also the anniversary of  the birthday of Maria Mitchell, (born August 1, 1818, Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.—died June 28, 1889, Lynn, Massachusetts), first professional woman astronomer in the United States.

Friday, July 17, 2020

In Memory of Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

We are saddened to hear of the death of U.S. Congressman John Lewis today.  To honor his life, his lifelong fight for civil rights, and his struggle for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we must assure that no one is denied the right to vote in the upcoming November elections.  Keep his memory and struggle alive and teach the Movement!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Personal Reflection on our Journal amidst the Events Across our Nation

As the nation erupts with demonstrations and protests against the police killing of George Floyd and the long years of systemic and institutional racism that it represents, I have been thinking about the role each of us has in trying to form a more perfect union.  Since 2006, the Journal of Educational Controversy has been trying to shed light on the inequalities in education by examining topics like “The School to Prison Pipeline,” “Black Lives Matter and the Education Industrial Complex,” “The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty: Rethinking Poverty and Education,” “Challenging the Deficit Model and the Pathologizing of Children: Envisioning Alternative Models,” “Schooling as if Democracy Matters,” “Who Defines the Public in Public Education?” and “Jonathan Kozol's Nation of Shame: the Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America Forty Years Later,” among others.

We cannot examine the tensions in our schools without understanding their roots in our larger political philosophy and history.   How do institutions like schools reproduce the larger inequities in society?  How does the socializing experience of the hidden curriculum contribute to the reproduction of class and racial injustices? How are taken-for-granted assumptions rooted in history experienced at the level of our commonplace understanding?  How does such understanding provide categories that tacitly accept an ideology about what counts as “normal”? How do the values embedded in school culture contribute to the powerlessness of students of dominated cultures?  How does the way we define our problems contribute to the ways we construct our solutions?

At this time, our efforts seem so small and insignificant when you watch the moral courage of protesters on the streets and all the pain and suffering that is being experienced.  Still I have to believe that there is some power in the pen. The late philosopher Maxine Greene who fought tirelessly for social justice wrote the words that we have used as our logo:  “This journal opens and reopens spaces for thoughtfulness and concern.”  Perhaps, in some small way, we can face boldly the controversies, injustices and tensions of our time and help to clarify and deepen an understanding of their moral significance.  Hopefully, this will contribute in some small way to the understanding and solutions we seek.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Attorney General Bob Ferguson Challenges DeVos from blocking Dreamers and other Washington students from accessing money in the CARES Act intended to help college students impacted by COVID-19

Editor:  Below is the latest action by our Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson who has challenged the U.S. Department of Education decision to block aid for Dreamers and other Washington students from funds made available in the CARES Act.  For readers who would like to read about other ways to support undocumented youth, check out our earlier article, "A DREAM Deported: What Undocumented American Youth Need their Schools to Understand."

AG Ferguson challenges Department of Education decision blocking coronavirus aid for thousands of Washington students
May 19 2020
DeVos blocking Dreamers and other Washington students from accessing money in the CARES Act intended to help college students impacted by COVID-19
*Updated 5/20/20 with link to Washington's motion for preliminary injunction
SPOKANE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today challenged aU.S. Department of Education decision that deprives thousands of Washington college students from receiving critical aid included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Under its Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, the CARES Act appropriated more than $12 billion to higher education institutions across the nation to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act required that at least 50 percent of the funds be disbursed to students as emergency grants for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations.
On April 21, without congressional authorization, the Department of Education announced that only students who are eligible for federal financial aid may receive CARES Act grants. No such requirement is in the text of the CARES Act itself.
The Department of Education’s restriction excludes many students in need, including students without a high school degree, adult basic education students, students who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status and more.
“Betsy DeVos is unlawfully trying to deny Dreamers and other Washington students the assistance they need — and that Congress intended,” Ferguson said.
“The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption for all of Washington’s students without regard for the arbitrary, harmful lines the Department of Education has drawn,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Congress intended this aid to be distributed to all students struggling to cope with the COVID-19 emergency, not only those Betsy DeVos deems eligible for assistance. All higher education students in Washington state deserve to be part of our recovery.”
Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in Spokane, asserts that the department’s decision is unlawful and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which gives exclusive “power of the purse” to Congress.
Ferguson asserts that the department’s actions violated the Administrative Procedure Act because they exceeded the department’s statutory authority, lacked any reasoning or explanation and therefore were arbitrary and capricious, and were adopted without proper procedures.
Ferguson also filed a motion for apreliminary injunction, asking a judge to immediately block the Department of Education’s restrictions on the grants. 
Impacts to Washington students
As a result of the department’s decision, thousands of Washington higher education students who desperately need financial assistance have been excluded from the program.
These are among the students whose financial survival and lifeline to higher education is most threatened by COVID-19, because, for example, they worked part-time to pay for tuition, health care and childcare, or they did not have high school diplomas. They include:
·        Adult basic education students at Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges who are acquiring reading, writing, math and language skills to leverage a job, college degree or a trade certification
·        Many of Washington’s roughly 17,000 “Dreamers,” individuals brought to the country at an early age, who have been educated by Washington schools, and are protected under the DACA program
·        Students whose academic progress has fallen below a C average
For example, according to the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges, nearly 52,000 of the state’s 363,000 community and technical college enrollees are adult basic education students, the majority of which are not eligible for CARES Act funding. Adult basic education students account for about 14 percent of community and technical college enrollment.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 85 Washington universities, community and technical colleges and cosmetology schools have received more than $113 million for emergency grants to students.
Assistant Attorneys General Jeff Sprung, July Simpson, Paul Crisalli and Spencer Coates are handling the case for Washington.
Ferguson has now filed 61 lawsuits against the Trump Administration. Ferguson has 28 legal victories against the Trump Administration and one defeat. Eighteen of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727;

NEWS RELEASE from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Today is the 66th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

May 17, 1954 marks the landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that ended legally mandated racial segregation in schools.  Since 2006, the Journal of Educational Controversy has tried to contribute to the ongoing conversation this nation has had with itself over the inequalities of education, the intractable problems of segregated schools, and the creation of a public capable of sustaining a democracy and continuing the conversation.

Volumes from the Journal of Educational Controversy focused on the legacy of the Brown v. Board decision:

Volume 2, Number 1 (2007) Jonathan Kozol's Nation of Shame: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America Forty Years Later

Volume 7, Number 1 (2012) The School-to-Prison Pipeline

Volume 12, Number 1 (2017) Black Lives Matter and the Education Industrial Complex

Volume 14, Number 1 (2019) The Ethics of Memory: What Does it Mean to Apologize for Historical Wrongs

Friday, May 1, 2020

Working with Children at Home during the Time of COVID-19

We would like to pass on this resource for all the families working with their children at home during this crisis.  Professor Gail Coulter teaches in the Special Education Program at Western Washington University. 

 Professor Coulter writes: “In the spirit of being of service to families during COVID-19, who have children out of the traditional school setting, I have created a blog that has suggestions and ideas that might be helpful for some faculty and students. Please feel free to share this blog with family or friends who are struggling with schooling issues. The name of the blog is the Accidental Teacher: Homeschool Now.”  

Thank you Gail for your caring concern.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Executive Power in the Era of COVID-19: An eLesson

As our students are at home with their school or home lessons, they are exposed everyday to the press briefings of our president, governors and mayors on actions taken on the spread of the coronavirus.  To help them see deeper into what they are viewing, the Bill of Rights Institute has created an eLesson on “Executive Powers and the Coronavirus.”

In their eLesson, “students will explore the role of the executive in times of crisis and analyze the history of some executive agencies that are especially important during this challenging time.”

Editor: Use the small group activity only online.

Monday, March 9, 2020

How do the Educational Plans of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Differ?

Editor: Below is an article from Inside Higher Ed on some of the differences between the educational plans of democratic primary candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.  We thank Inside Higher Ed for permission to reprint their analysis for our readers.

Big Differences in Biden and Sanders's Plans

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have different ideas about college affordability and higher education policy, both in their approaches and the specificity of their plans.

Federal policy reporter

Inside Higher Ed
March 9, 2020 

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Elizabeth Warren’s departure from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has left two candidates with different approaches to dealing with college affordability and other higher education policy issues. In addition to having different price tags, the plans released by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders differ in how much detail they provide.
Price Tag:
Biden: $750 billion
Sanders: $2.2 trillion
Debt Forgiveness:
Sanders: Would cancel the entire balance of $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt in the U.S.
Biden: Would take a more targeted approach, enrolling all existing and new borrowers in income-based repayment plans, except for those who choose to opt out. Borrowers who make $25,000 or less per year would not owe any payments on their undergraduate federal student loans and wouldn't accrue any interest on those loans. Others would pay 5 percent of their discretionary annual income above $25,000 toward loans. The plan would forgive 100 percent of any remaining debt for those who have made payments for 20 years. It also would change the tax code so that debt forgiven through income-based repayment wouldn’t be taxed.
Biden's plan also would revamp the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, giving $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate debt relief for every year of national or community service worked, up to five years. Individuals who work in schools, government and other nonprofit settings would automatically be enrolled in the forgiveness program. It would seek to address the problem of applicants for PSLF being rejected for not enrolling in the right repayment plan. Adjunct professors would be eligible for forgiveness, depending on the amount of time devoted to teaching.
Free College:
Sanders: Would spend $48 billion per year to eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs. His plan would create a federal-state partnership in which the federal government would pay two-thirds of the cost of providing free tuition, with the state responsible for the other third.
Participating states and tribes must meet several requirements to be eligible, including reductions of their reliance on low-paid contingent faculty members. Funds generated by the program could not be used for administrator salaries, merit-based financial aid or the construction of nonacademic buildings such as stadiums and student centers.
Biden: Would make up to two years of community college free for all students, including those who attend part-time, the children of undocumented immigrants and those who did not graduate high school recently. The program also would be created through a federal-state partnership, in which the federal government would provide 75 percent of the cost, with states picking up the remainder. The federal government would cover 95 percent of the cost of eliminating tuition at tribal community colleges that serve low-income students. Those who would receive two years of college tuition-free could then get another free two years at historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions.
Other Student Aid:
Sanders: Because tuition would no longer exist at public institutions, low-income students would be free to use federal Pell Grants for books, transportation, housing and other costs. The plan would require states and tribes that participate in the federal-state partnership for free college cover any costs that are left over, after grants, for low-income students. It also would triple spending on Federal Work-Study, with a focus on institutions that serve large numbers of low-income students.
Biden: For community college students, the federal-state partnership for free college would be so-called first dollar, meaning that student aid grants could cover other costs of attending college besides tuition.
To help students at four-year institutions pay for costs other than tuition, the plan would create a new grant program to provide support services for students, especially veterans of the U.S. military, single parents, low-income students, students of color and students with disabilities. The grant could be used for public benefits, textbook and transportation costs, and childcare and mental health services. Institutions also could use the money to create emergency grant programs for students who experience an unexpected financial challenge that threatens their ability to stay enrolled in college.
The plan would double the maximum award amount of Pell Grants, increasing the number of middle-class students who’d be eligible for the program. It would allow Dreamers and the formerly incarcerated to receive the grants. Biden would prioritize the use of Federal Work-Study dollars for jobs that either provide skills that are valuable for students' intended careers or that contribute to their communities by mentoring students in K-12 classrooms and community centers.
For-Profit Institutions:
Sanders: The plan does not mention for-profit colleges or debt cancellation for students who were deceived by for-profits.
Biden: The plan would require for-profit institutions to prove their value to the U.S. Department of Education to be eligible for federal aid. It also would eliminate the 90-10 loopholethat, according to several veterans' groups, gives for-profits an incentive to aggressively market to service members and veterans. The plan would empower the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take action against private lenders who mislead students about their options and do not provide an affordable payment plan during times of financial hardship. It would restore the Obama administration’s borrower-defense rule, making it easier for people deceived by for-profit institutions to have their student debt forgiven. It also would allow private student loans to be discharged through bankruptcy.
Improving College Performance:
Sanders: His plan would create a federal-state partnership that would differ from the one eliminating tuition. That program would provide a dollar-for-dollar federal match for states and tribes to increase academic opportunities for students, hire new faculty members and provide professional development opportunities for professors.
Biden: His plan would create a grant program to help community colleges implement evidence-based practices to increase student retention and completion of credential programs. It would invest $8 billion to help community colleges improve the health and safety of their facilities and acquire new technology. It would provide grants to states that work to accelerate students’ attainment of bachelor's degrees and other credentials, such as through offering dual-enrollment programs for community college and four-year degree tracks.
HBCUs and Other Minority-Serving Institutions:
Sanders: The plan would spend $1.3 billion per year to eliminate or significantly reduce tuition and fees for low-income students at roughly 200 HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. To be eligible, at least 35 percent of students at the institution would have to be low income.
Biden: The plan would invest $18 billion in grants to provide two years of free tuition to low-income and middle-class students at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. In return colleges must invest in lowering prices, improving retention and graduation rates, and closing equity gaps for students of color.
It would spend another $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect underrepresented students in career fields like climate change, globalization, inequality, health disparities and cancer. Would boost funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities, including HBCUs and tribal colleges or universities, and would dedicate additional federal funding or grants and contracts for HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. The plan would require any federal research grants to universities with an endowment of over $1 billion to subcontract with an HBCU, tribal college or minority-serving institution. It also would spend $20 billion to build research facilities and labs at HBCUs, tribal colleges and minority-serving institutions. And the plan would invest $10 billion in programs at HBCUs, tribal college and minority-serving institutions that increase enrollment, retention, completion and employment rates.
Biden: He would pay for the $750 billion plan by closing the “stepped-up basis” loophole, which lowers the capital gains tax liability for property passed on to an heir. Biden also would cap itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers at 28 percent.
Sanders: He would pay for the $2.2 trillion plan by taxing Wall Street trades.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Author Sam Chaltain Responds to President Trump's State of the Union Address Tonight

Author Sam Chaltain writes an insightful analysis in anticipation of tonight’s State of the Union address by President Trump. We reproduce it here for our readers.  Readers can read a previously published article by the author in our  Volume 3 issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy, entitled, Ways of Seeing (and of Being Seen): Visibility in Schools.  

Feb. 4, 2020

In his State of the Union address tonight, President Trump will renew a call for tax breaks in order to provide more scholarships for students to attend private schools.

The Education Freedom Scholarships would provide up to $5 billion in federal tax credits to individuals and businesses who donate to scholarships for families to use at private, faith-based schools or to fund homeschooling. “For decades,” Trump explained, “countless children have been trapped in failing government schools. We believe that every parent should have educational freedom for their children.”

To which I say, buyer: beware.

And: it’s complicated.

As a resident of Washington, D.C., site of one of the country’s most ambitious school voucher plans to date, and a city in which half of the city’s students attend public charter schools, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. And, for what it’s worth, I even support school choice. I helped launch a charter school here. My sons attend another one, and the city is beginning to see some real collaboration between its charter schools and the district. Good things are happening.

At the same time, I worry about what could happen if too many of us simply assume that the invisible hand of the modern school marketplace — or, worse still, the incentivizing hand of the federal official — is a sufficient strategy for ensuring that all children receive equal access to a high-quality public education.

One sees, for example, the horror stories from Michigan — aka Ms. DeVos’s former laboratory — where four out of five charter schools are run by for-profit entities (read that again). One sees the sizable discrepancy between the expulsion rates of charter and district schools in D.C. and elsewhere. And so one should take seriously the warnings of scholars like Harvard’s Michael Sandel, who urges us to think much more carefully about the role market-based thinking should have — scratch that, does have — in our lives.

“Markets don’t just allocate goods,” Sandel writes in What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. “They also express and promote certain attitudes towards the goods being exchanged.” And what has occurred over the past thirty years is that without quite realizing it, we have shifted from having a market economy to being a market society. “The difference is this: A market economy is a tool — a valuable and effective tool — for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It’s a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market.”

Anyone who has closely followed the sturm und drang of American school reform over the past decade has seen evidence of what Sandel is describing. Our growing reliance on — and resistance to — data-driven decision-making is a direct result of an ascendant technocratic faith in applying scientific rigor to the previously opaque art of teaching and learning. Economist Gary Becker sums up this thinking well when he asserts: “The economic approach is a comprehensive one that is applicable to all human behavior, be it behavior involving money prices or imputed shadow prices, repeated or infrequent decisions, large or minor decisions, emotional or mechanical ends, rich or poor persons, men or women, adults or children, brilliant or stupid persons, patients or therapists, businessmen or politicians, teachers or students.”

That’s a mouthful, and it captures the sea change Sandel wants us to see. Whereas in the not-too-distant past, economic thinking was restricted to economic topics — inflation, investment, trade — today it is being used to outline a new science of human behavior: one that assumes modern society will work best when human beings are allowed to weigh the costs and benefits of all things (including where to send their children to school), and then choose whatever they believe will yield the greatest personal benefit.

The part of me that agrees with that logic is the part that supports the basic idea of school choice. After all, we have tolerated a system of unequal opportunity in this country for too long, and there’s real merit in the argument that one’s zip code should not become one’s destiny. School choice in cities like mine gives everyone the same chance at a high-quality education, and empowers each family to set its own “shadow prices” — the imaginary values that are implicit in the alternatives we face and the choices we make — and then make their own decisions about where to send their children to school. As the rally cry goes, MY CHILD, MY CHOICE.

Who could argue with that?

Certainly not Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of the legislative sponsors for the new plan. “Competition improves,” he asserted. “And in this case, injecting new money to give that freedom, to give that competition, to give that power of choice, will enhance the quality of education to kids all across the country.”

But here’s where it gets complicated.

In the end, should we define public education as a public good, or a private commodity? Will our efforts to unleash self-interest (which is, after all, what the economist seeks to economize) strengthen or weaken the connective tissue of our civic life? And will the current trajectory of the school choice movement unleash a virtuous cycle of reforms that improves all schools, or merely add another layer in our historic apartheid system of schooling?

On these questions and others, I agree with former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, who, when asked by reporters in 1971 to offer his assessment of the impact of the French Revolution of 1789, said: “It is still too soon to say.” But I also agree with British sociologist Richard Titmuss, who argued that “the ways in which society organizes and structures its social institutions can encourage or discourage the altruistic in man, foster integration or alienation,” and strengthen or “erode the sense of community.”

President Trump’s myriad other amoral tendencies notwithstanding, our changing notion of community should be the central concern of anyone who cares about school choice. How can greater choice bring us closer to each other, and to a revitalized notion of civic virtue and egalitarianism? How can we ensure that school choice does not contribute to an even wider divide between the haves and the have-nots, and an even wider discrepancy between those who know how to negotiate the increasingly commodified assets of modern life, and those who are merely left to take whatever comes their way? And how can school choice reflect this basic truth about democracy — that while it does not require perfect equality, it does require that citizens share in a common life, one that is grounded as much in the “we” as the “me”?

These are the questions we must explicitly ask — and answer — if we want school choice to become a force for good. And we can’t do that without explicitly debating the extent to which market-based thinking can get us there. As Michael Sandel reminds us, “when market reasoning is applied to [an issue like] education, it’s less plausible to assume that everyone’s preferences are equally worthwhile.

“In morally charged arenas such as these, some ways of valuing goods may be higher, more appropriate than others.”

Check out Sam Chaltain’s  four-part short film series, Diverse by Design  (produced in partnership with Pigeon Roost), that provides a different picture of what school choice can (and must) resemble.

Permission granted to reprint.