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President Trump and U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary DeVos have consistently emphasized and promoted the idea of “local control” in education. However, what does local control really mean? Power to the states? Power to the local school boards? Until now, many have believed that local control applied to all non-federal government involvement in education. The question continues to loom regarding the power struggle and what to do when the state government is in conflict with school boards and school districts. Continue Reading The Locus of Local Control: What Do Politicians Mean by Local Control in Education?

On Wednesday, July 13, 2017, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (the “Eighth Circuit”) made a significant decision regarding states’ ability to impose requirements for special education services to students.  The Eighth Circuit ruled that although under federal law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does guarantee nonpublic school students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE), states are not prohibited from granting that right to private school students. Continue Reading Decision by Eighth Circuit Panel Clarifies States’ Ability to Impose FAPE Requirements

In Krueger v. Appleton Area School Dist. Bd. of Educ., No. 2015AP231, 2017 WI 70, (Wis. 2017), a parent of a child who attended school in the Appleton Area School District (District) alleged that a school board advisory committee meeting was improperly closed because it was a governmental body subject to Wisconsin’s open meetings law.  Reversing the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that the committee meeting improperly excluded the public from attending. Continue Reading Curriculum Meetings and Public Concerns Collide in Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision on Open Meetings Law

Legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly this term will have a significant impact on Missouri schools. First, the General Assembly quickly passed a right-to-work bill that Governor Greitens signed into law less than a month after his inauguration. Second, on June 30, 2017, Governor Greitens signed a bill into law changing the requirements for state employment discrimination claims and providing a statutory basis for whistleblower suits. Continue Reading Missouri Schools Face Changing Employment Laws This Year

playground117320779This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. The Court considered whether excluding churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program administered by a state agency violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.  The Court held a Missouri program funding safety material for playgrounds at public and on non-secular private institutions but not religious ones violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status. Continue Reading Update: Supreme Court Issues Decision in Favor of Trinity Lutheran Church

Complaints Key Shows Complaining Or Moaning OnlineOn June 8, 2017, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Candice Jackson, sent a memorandum to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regional directors, outlining immediate changes to the investigative practices to be used when investigating alleged violations of civil rights by public school districts in the United States.  The memorandum applies to pending complaints and newly filed complaints, but does not apply to complaints previously resolved by OCR. Continue Reading Change is Upon Us: Trump Administration’s OCR Issues Memorandum Regarding Changes to Investigation Practices

American football players in action on stadiumSchools may have fewer choices in purchasing cheerleading uniforms in the future.  Varsity Brands, Inc. (“Varsity”) and Star Athletica, LLC (“Star”) have been battling over the design of cheerleading uniforms and whether the designs of the uniforms are protectable under the Copyright Act.  For background information about the case, please view my previous blog post.

On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. (Case No. 15-866) that Varsity’s designs might be eligible for trade secret protections.  The Court found that decorative elements of cheerleading uniforms could be protected by copyright law if they “can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article.” Continue Reading Supreme Court Finds Stripes and Zigzags Eligible for Copyright Protection

question-marksiStock_000015706066_LargeIt has been over one month since Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate. Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration have already had a lot of impact on schools during the past month in office, including withdrawing Obama-Era Transgender Guidance and providing guidance on consolidated state plans related to the Every Student Succeeds Act.

However, one item on Secretary DeVos’ agenda that she has not accomplished—identifying a nominee for the important position of Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. This person ultimately would head the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), including its twelve offices nationwide. Continue Reading Playing the Waiting Game: Trump Administration Has Yet to Nominate an Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

Friends doing the Tug of war - teamworkYesterday, the U.S. Senate, by a narrow vote of 51-50, confirmed President Trump’s nomination for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos.  Initially, the vote was a 50-50 tie.  All 48 Democratic Senators opposed the nomination, and two Republican Senators, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) who both sit on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, joined the opposition.  However, Vice President Michael Pence, as President of the Senate, came to DeVos’ rescue and cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of her nomination.  This was the first time a cabinet level nominee was confirmed by the vote of the Vice President. Continue Reading VP Pence Swoops in to Break Tie in DeVos Confirmation

Definition: LegislationNewly elected Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has announced that K-12 education reform will be one of his top priorities.  He has called for more prudent use of public funds, and for a broader range of educational options for parents.  The Missouri General Assembly has answered the call with a slew of bills addressing everything from education savings accounts to technical certification programs in high-schools.  It is too soon to tell which, if any, of the bills will become law, but the sheer volume of “education reform” legislation moving through the process speaks volumes about the general assembly’s appetite for reform. Recent legislative activity includes:

  • Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery (R-Lamar), would create Education Savings Accounts for students with learning, development or physical disabilities.  Sen Emery presented a revised version during a hearing before the Senate Government Reform Committee which would include all students in Missouri.  Beginning on or after January 1, 2017, a taxpayer may make a qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization and claim a tax credit. Educational assistance organizations must meet certain requirements.  The tax credit is capped at $25 million; funds are administered by the State Treasurer and distributed through education assistance programs that will award the funds to parents of qualified students through a debit account.  Many education groups voiced their oppositions to the measure citing lack of funding for the current foundation formula, lack of financial oversight of the schools receiving the funds, and lack of accountability.  Opponents testified schools receiving funds should be held to the same standards as public schools.

Continue Reading Missouri Governor Announces K-12 Education Reform as Top Priority