Sessions: Parents ‘recklessly’ send unaccompanied migrant kids to U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to avoid separating families at the border, but took a jab at parents who "recklessly" send children to the United States on their own.

Sessions defended the administration’s immigration policies in a speech in Reno, Nev., before the National Association of School Resource Officers school safety conference. He said the unaccompanied minors in the U.S. care cost $1 billion annually, and that word "got out that this country was not prosecuting adults who illegally came to this country so long as they brought a child with them."

Sessions said "predictably" the number of people illegally entering with children surged from 14,000 in 2013 to 75,000 in 2017.

"If we refused to prosecute these adults for illegal entry — as many of our critics want us to do — that would be Continue reading “Sessions: Parents ‘recklessly’ send unaccompanied migrant kids to U.S.”

Michigan State unveils $500M settlement with Nassar victims

Michigan State University announced Wednesday that it has agreed to pay out $500 million to settle hundreds of claims filed against Larry Nassar, the disgraced university doctor who treated Olympic gymnasts.

Under the terms of agreement, which still must be finalized, $425 million will go to 332 individuals, while $75 million will be set aside in a trust fund to protect any future claimants, the university said.

The terms agreed to in principle top the more than $109 million that Penn State University paid to settle claims by at least 35 people that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused boys, according to the Associated Press.

"Michigan State is pleased that we have been able to agree in principle on a settlement that is fair to the survivors of Nassar’s crimes,” Robert Young, the special counsel to the university, said in a statement. “We appreciate the hard work both Continue reading “Michigan State unveils $500M settlement with Nassar victims”

Shooting reported at Southern Maryland high school

A shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland’s St. Mary’s County forced the school into lockdown Tuesday morning, authorities said.

The school district said later in a tweet that the school had been contained. It was not yet clear how many people had been injured.

Parents were told by officials to report to a separate high school for "reunification."

"We are closely monitoring the situation at Great Mills High School. @MDSP is in touch with local law enforcement and ready to provide support. Our prayers are with students, school personnel, and first responders," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted.

The incident comes four days ahead of a "March For Our Lives" rally scheduled Saturday in Washington that’s expected to draw thousands of students, parents and others.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill this morning, where she’ll likely be asked about steps the Trump administration Continue reading “Shooting reported at Southern Maryland high school”

Thousands of students, teachers march on White House to call for better gun control

Thousands of students and teachers marched Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and across the nation as they left school to call for stricter gun control measures.

The protests come on the one-month anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead.

A few hundred mostly high school students gathered in demonstration at the White House, bearing signs and chanting for tighter gun control laws. They then walked to the U.S. Capitol, where they were greeted by members of Congress who back their cause.

The students criticized the Trump administration’s response to the shooting by turning their backs to the White House for 17 minutes — marking the 17 students killed in Parkland on Valentine’s Day.

President Donald Trump has asked the federal government to assist states in training school staff to carry guns, in addition to a package of Continue reading “Thousands of students, teachers march on White House to call for better gun control”

West Virginia governor sacks Gayle Manchin, head of arts and culture agency

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice fired Democrat Gayle Manchin — the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin — Monday from her role as secretary of the state’s Department of Education and the Arts after she issued a statement calling on him to save her agency.

Justice, a former Democrat and close ally of President Donald Trump who switched to the Republican Party last year, is weighing whether to sign legislation passed by the Republican-led legislature that would close the agency. Justice said in a press release that Manchin made her views on the legislation known in a press release, even though she’d been asked not to.

"In her press release, she offered to resign and remove any political cloud. If there weren’t any earlier political cloud, now there surely is one. She was very critical, made it political, and put me in a very, very bad position," Justice said in his Continue reading “West Virginia governor sacks Gayle Manchin, head of arts and culture agency”

DeVos says school districts could arm teachers trained to high standards

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Wednesday that school districts could opt to arm teachers by following the example of programs in Texas and Polk County, Fla., that stress extensive training and safety.

“I think that’s a model that can be adopted and should be an option for schools, for states, for communities," DeVos said. "But it’s certainly not one that needs to be required or mandated for every community.”

Her comments came during a brief press conference following a visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the site of a mass shooting last month that left 17 dead and 14 injured.

In the aftermath of the shooting, President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for armed and trained teachers in the schools, but to describe that push as just "arming teachers" is "an oversimplification and a mischaracterization, really," DeVos said.

DeVos called her visit "sobering Continue reading “DeVos says school districts could arm teachers trained to high standards”

West Virginia moves to end statewide teacher strike

West Virginia lawmakers today are expected to approve a deal that would end a teacher walkout that has shuttered the state’s public schools since Feb. 22.

Under a tentative agreement announced by Gov. Jim Justice earlier in the day, all of West Virginia’s state employees — including striking teachers — would receive a 5 percent raise.

"We have reached a deal. I stood rock solid on the 5% Teacher pay raise and delivered. Not only this, but my staff and I made additional cuts which will give all State employees 5% as well. All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school," Justice said in a tweet.

The West Virginia House passed the pay raise and it was set to be considered by the state Senate this afternoon.

Kym Randolph, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Education Association, said the announcement was being Continue reading “West Virginia moves to end statewide teacher strike”

School safety money would be slashed in Trump budget

Two days before the school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead, the Trump administration proposed cutting millions in federal education programs meant to help prevent crime in schools and assist them in recovery from tragedies.

Funds targeted for reduction or elimination in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 request have helped pay for counselors in schools and violence prevention programs. Such funds were used for mental health aid for students and teachers in the Newtown, Conn., school district following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

When asked about the proposed cuts, Liz Hill, an Education Department spokeswoman, said the department is "committed to providing resources, direct support and technical assistance to schools who have suffered unthinkable tragedy."

The budget request calls for a $25 million reduction in funds designated for national school safety activities, compared with 2017. President Donald Trump’s budget would eliminate altogether a Continue reading “School safety money would be slashed in Trump budget”

School safety money would be slashed in Trump budget

Two days before the school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead, the Trump administration proposed cutting millions in federal education programs meant to help prevent crime in schools and assist them in recovery from tragedies.

Funds targeted for reduction or elimination in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 request have helped pay for counselors in schools and violence prevention programs. Such funds were used for mental health aid for students and teachers in the Newtown, Conn., school district following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

When asked about the proposed cuts, Liz Hill, an Education Department spokeswoman, said the department is "committed to providing resources, direct support and technical assistance to schools who have suffered unthinkable tragedy."

The budget request calls for a $25 million reduction in funds designated for national school safety activities, compared with 2017. President Donald Trump’s budget would eliminate altogether a Continue reading “School safety money would be slashed in Trump budget”

Justice Department backs conservative student groups in Ann Coulter free speech case

The Justice Department sided in court Thursday with two conservative student groups in a high-profile case involving conservatives Ann Coulter and David Horowitz and free speech policies at the University of California, Berkeley.

The conservative groups have challenged what they describe as “discriminatory” free speech policies at the university, and the Justice Department move ratcheted up the Trump administration’s support on an issue that has rattled the higher education community.

“The United States has a significant interest in the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms in institutions of higher learning,” the brief said. “As the Supreme Court has noted, ‘teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.’"

Conservative organizations have accused the university of “discriminatory imposition of curfew and venue restrictions” that ultimately resulted in the cancellations of events in April Continue reading “Justice Department backs conservative student groups in Ann Coulter free speech case”

Universities fear a violent 2018

After a year marked by campus confrontations between white nationalists and anti-fascist extremists, university administrators are preparing for a combative and potentially violent 2018 by beefing up security and examining the boundaries of their own commitment to free speech.

Administrators at many campuses told POLITICO that they are struggling to balance their commitment to free speech — which has been challenged by alt-right supporters of President Donald Trump — with campus safety, as both white nationalists and left-wing provocateurs vowed to continue the types of confrontations that led to violence in Berkeley, California, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, the white-nationalist leader who organized free-speech rallies on many other campuses, told POLITICO that he plans to take his movement to more universities in 2018. He said he knows of efforts underway on at least seven campuses to get him to speak, and that he will use the full extent of Continue reading “Universities fear a violent 2018”

DeVos offers advice to Trump on ‘Pocahontas’ comment

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Wednesday, "We can all do well to reflect on the things we say before we say them" when questioned about President Donald Trump’s "Pocahontas" nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

DeVos was asked whether the president could be considered a good role model for children, given his "Pocahontas" comment, as she spoke to reporters in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, after touring career and technical education programs, according to the Tennessean.

"I think the president continues to lead in an important direction in our country," DeVos said, the newspaper reported. "And I think that we can all do well to reflect on the things we say before we say them."

Trump took a jab at Warren (D-Mass.) at the White House on Monday while hosting the Navajo code talkers, who were recruited into the U.S. Marine Corps to communicate in the Pacific region during World War Continue reading “DeVos offers advice to Trump on ‘Pocahontas’ comment”

How the Kochs are trying to shake up public schools, one state at a time

With school choice efforts stalled in Washington, the billionaire Koch brothers’ network is engaged in state-by-state battles with teachers’ unions, politicians and parent groups to push for public funding of private and charter schools.

One of the newest campaigns is the Libre Initiative, a grassroots drive targeting Hispanic families in 11 states so far, under the umbrella of the Charles and David Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, a powerful conservative and libertarian advocacy group.

While the Koch network has long been involved in school choice battles, the push by Libre represents a new front in the fight by targeting Hispanic families — and a recognition that with Congress gridlocked, it’s on the ground at the state level where the network can disrupt the educational status quo. The Koch message on schools is shared by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime ally.

“Across the [Koch] network, there’s a greater commitment to advancing Continue reading “How the Kochs are trying to shake up public schools, one state at a time”

Red-state school leaders vent frustrations with GOP health bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health care bill is getting failing grades from red-state school leaders — even in his home state of Kentucky.

Fleming County Schools Superintendent Brian Creasman was taken aback when he discovered the bill would make cuts that could devastate his ability to provide health services to needy and disabled kids.

Here in rural Kentucky, the heart of Trump country where three out of four voters cast ballots for Donald Trump and many regard McConnell as their political protector, Creasman initially thought the bill’s potential cuts to school districts must be a misunderstanding.

Only they weren’t.

About $4 billion in annual Medicaid spending goes to U.S. schools to pay for school nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, and school-based screenings and treatment for children from low-income families, as well as wheelchairs and even buses to transport kids with special needs.

The funds make up just Continue reading “Red-state school leaders vent frustrations with GOP health bill”

Commission on Civil Rights to probe Trump administration’s handling of civil rights

An independent watchdog group on Friday approved an investigation of civil rights enforcement in the Trump administration, saying it has "grave concerns" about signals coming from federal agencies — calling out comments by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in particular.

The 6-2 vote by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights approving the statement calling for a two-year review followed a dispute between two commissioners over the language that calls out DeVos. That language cites that the Education secretary’s "repeated refusal in Congressional testimony and other public statements to commit that the department would enforce federal civil rights laws" is "particularly troubling."

The commission, an independent body authorized by Congress, serves as a watchdog on civil rights issues, but has no authority to force change in the government.

Commissioner Gail Heriot, a political independent and law professor at the University of San Diego, said the line about DeVos was "utterly Continue reading “Commission on Civil Rights to probe Trump administration’s handling of civil rights”

Attorney for man charged in Trump hacking attempt says Trump encouraged it

The attorney representing a Louisiana private investigator charged with attempting to hack President Donald Trump’s tax returns notes that Trump himself had invited a foreign country to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In a new filing aimed at persuading a judge to dismiss the felony charge against his client, attorney Michael Fiser notes that Trump, "ironically, openly encouraged Russia to hack his opponent." Last summer, Trump encouraged Russia to help find “the 30,000 emails that are missing” from the personal server Clinton used during her time as secretary of State.

Authorities have charged Jordan Hamlett, 31, with using an online federal student loan application tool on Sept. 13 in an unsuccessful attempt to pull then-candidate Trump’s tax information. The tool, which allows students and families to automatically input their tax information when applying for federal financial aid, was taken offline in March after identity thieves used it as part of Continue reading “Attorney for man charged in Trump hacking attempt says Trump encouraged it”

Top Education Department official resigns

The head of the Education Department’s student financial aid office has resigned after more than seven years on the job following an apparent dispute with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over his scheduled testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

James Runcie, chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, “submitted his resignation to the department last night,” effective immediately, the agency said in a press release. Runcie had been slated to testify on Thursday before the House Oversight Committee regarding the department’s rising improper payment rate for federal student aid programs.

An Education Department official, who declined to be named, said Runcie’s resignation came abruptly at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday after DeVos directed him to testify before the House oversight panel. The department official said Runcie also refused requests to testify made by the committee and Jim Manning, the department’s acting undersecretary.

Runcie’s name is included on a committee Continue reading “Top Education Department official resigns”

Louisiana man charged in attempt to look up Trump’s tax records

A Louisiana man has been charged with using a federal student loan application tool in an unsuccessful attempt to look up then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s tax records.

The man, Jordan Hamlett, is a private investigator, according to the publication, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which first reported the arrest. The alleged attempt occurred on Sept. 13, in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. Hamlett pleaded not guilty, according to court records.

Hamlett, 31, was indicted Nov. 10 on a federal felony charge of false representation of a social security number. Days earlier, on Oct. 27, he had been interviewed by federal agents in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Baton Rouge, La., according to the court records.

“Mr. Hamlett looks forward to presenting his case and motives to a jury of 12 citizens to let them decide whether any offense was committed," his attorney Michael Continue reading “Louisiana man charged in attempt to look up Trump’s tax records”

Texas Southern cancels Cornyn’s commencement address

Texas Southern University said Friday that Sen. John Cornyn will no longer speak Saturday during the historically black college’s commencement ceremony.

The announcement — two days after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was booed during a commencement address at a historically black college in Florida — comes in the wake of opposition to the Texas Republican’s appearance by many graduates. A petition signed by some students expressed opposition to Cornyn’s votes for DeVos’ and Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmations, among other issues.

The Houston-based university said in a Facebook post that “every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion.”

“We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep the focus on graduates and their families,” the post said. “We, along with Senator Cornyn, agree that the primary focus of commencement should be a Continue reading “Texas Southern cancels Cornyn’s commencement address”

Trump praises D.C. voucher program with mixed record

President Donald Trump on Wednesday celebrated Washington, D.C.’s voucher program despite findings that it had a negative impact on children’s reading and math scores — saying it makes an "extraordinary difference" to students in the nation’s capital.

Flanked by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Vice President Mike Pence and several D.C. student participants, Trump said that 98 percent of scholarship recipients get "their high school diplomas and they’re really very, very special, they go onto tremendous successes."

“This is what winning for young children and kids from all over the country looks like," Trump said. "The Opportunity Scholarship Program that we’re funding allows families in the inner city of our nation’s capital to leave the failing public schools and attend a private school, making an extraordinary difference in these incredible young lives.”

The president’s praise for D.C.’s voucher program comes just days after a Continue reading “Trump praises D.C. voucher program with mixed record”