Education News Round-Up

Some important pieces of legislation have recently carried heavy implications for education reform. Read on find out more in this installment of “Education News Round-Up!”

Alabama Wants to Check Students’ Immigration Status
On June 25, the Supreme Court struck down three provisions in Arizona’s immigration lawSB1070. A ruling of 5 to 3 concluded that federal law preempted the provision making it a misdemeanor for immigrants to not carry their registration documents or to apply for work without authorization, and the provision allowing police to check the immigration status of people they believe are “removable.” This now raises questions regarding a similar law in Alabama that requires public schools to “determine whether the student enrolling was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States or is the child of an alien not lawfully present in the United States.”

Opinions are mixed about the impact of the ruling. “The upshot of the Supreme Court’s decision is that states have no business doing what Alabama has done,” said Michael K.T. Tan, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrant’s Rights Project. “The [education] provisions are aimed at attrition through enforcement, driving out certain groups of people from the state.” Michael M. Hethmon, general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, on the other hand, said the decision supports the Alabama law because the collection of data by state education officials aligns with the “mandated cooperation in information exchange” between state and federal authorities.

U.S. Department of Education Says Over 1 Million Students are Homeless

Picture by Elvert Barnes

The Department of Education reported the number of homeless students in America surpassed one million by the end of the 2010-2011 school year — 1,065,794 to be exact, which is an increase of 57 percent across 44 states since 2007, with 15 states have seen an increase of 1/5 or more. States experiencing particular economic hardships, like Michigan, where every single county reports homeless students, are in desperate need. Kentucky saw a 47 percent increase in one year, and one school district in Orlando reports as many as 25 homeless students in classes of 28.

Over 70 percent of homeless students list the homes of family or friends as their residence and, as a result, are not considered homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, leaving them ineligible for subsidized housing. Congress is currently considering a rewrite of the McKinney-Vento Act of 1987 that requires school systems to make sure homeless students have a quality education. The rewrite would give schools more resources to identify homeless students and accommodate their situations.

Pennsylvania Teacher Fired for Defending Gay Son

Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg, PA, is in the midst of a lawsuit filed by a former teacher, Sharon Wright. Wright claims she was fired for defending her son, who was suspended because he’s gay. After her son revealed his sexual orientation on a blog, Headmaster Joseph Sanelli told Wright he should remain home. She was told that she should force her son to “renounce his sin,” and until she did so, he would be permanently suspended.

“Your son is broken, and it’s your job to fix him.” said Rich Raynor, a board member. Even though Wright was told her job would not be affected, she endured harassment throughout the school year, and ultimately requested medical leave due to anxiety and depression. Instead, she was denied renewal of her contract.

Implications of “ObamaCare” for Education

On June 28, the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s affordable healthcare plan in a 5 to 4 ruling. The decision upholds mandatory enrollment in universal healthcare and enforces Congress’ taxing power. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — those justices against “ObamaCare” — released an opinion on the ruling and how it affects education.

According to the opinion, “Suppose, for example, that Congress enacted legislation offering each State a grant equal to the State’s entire annual expenditures for primary and secondary education. Suppose also that this funding came with conditions governing such things as school curriculum, the hiring and tenure of teachers, the drawing of school districts, the length and hours of the school day, the school calendar, a dress code for students and rules for student discipline.” They warn against Congress’ spending power and argue that Congress would be able to infringe on state-level education legislation, thus “obliterating distinctions between national and local spheres of interest and power by permitting the federal government to set policy in the most sensitive areas of traditional state concern.”

U.S. House of Representatives Forms New Anti-Bullying Caucus

Congressman Mike Honda launched a new Anti-Bullying Caucus last Thursday to affect change in the education system and pass new legislation regarding bullying in schools. Debates about possibly reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act to accommodate state contestations have halted federal anti-bullying legislation, such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, but Honda hopes that this effort will not go unnoticed by both parties. “This is a bipartisan and nonpartisan issue,” he said. The effort has already gained 46 members.

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