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Education Department Drops Fight Over School Money

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Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Education Secretary John B. King Jr. had been in a battle over Title I enforcement for some time.

LA Johnson/NPR

The U.S. Department of Education has withdrawn a proposal that could have fundamentally changed the flow of federal dollars to schools that serve low-income students.

“The law is clear that it is unacceptable to systematically underfund low-income schools and fill the hole with federal resources,” explained Dorie Turner Nolt, a spokeswoman for the education department. “While we worked tirelessly to put forward a regulation that implements that simple requirement and to incorporate the extensive feedback we received, we ultimately did not have time to publish a strong final regulation that lives up to the promise of the law.”

This brings to an end a long and bitter fight between the Education Department, led by Secretary John B. King, Jr., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, himself a former education secretary and current chairman of the Senate committee that handles education.

“This is an intolerable situation,” Alexander said of the Department’s so-called “supplement-not-supplant” proposal back in May, in a heated speech on the Senate floor. “If the regulations are not consistent with the law, I don’t believe [states] should follow them,” he said. “If the department persists, then the state should go to court to sue the department.”

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Trump’s Pick For Education: A Free Market Approach To School Choice

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Betsy DeVos, nominee for education secretary.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

The unofficial motto of a public charter school co-founded by Betsy DeVos — President-elect Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Education — could be “No Pilot Left Behind.”

Nearby a small maintenance hangar that’s part of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, one of the school’s two Cessna 172 airplanes chugs down the tarmac of Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The school is based on the airport’s grounds, just outside Grand Rapids.

Besty DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, led the effort to create this charter high school and got it off the ground — literally — in 2010. They donated the first Cessna. Delta Airlines’ foundation donated the second.

But few other Michigan charters have billionaire founder patrons and A-list connections. The school’s annual fundraising gala has included Apollo 13 astronauts as well as former president George W Bush and other luminaries.

The school’s principal, Patrick Cywayna, says there’s a long waiting list to attend this tuition-free, nonprofit high school. “I think the word choice says it all,” he says. “The philosophy of our school from Dick and Betsy, obviously, is to provide opportunities for all kids. So the word opportunity and choice to me go hand in hand.”

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Can More Money Fix America’s Schools?

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This winter, Jameria Miller would often run to her high school Spanish class, though not to get a good seat.

She wanted a good blanket.

“The cold is definitely a distraction,” Jameria says of her classroom’s uninsulated, metal walls.

Her teacher provided the blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District in an inner-ring suburb of Philadelphia.

The hardest part for Jameria, though, isn’t the cold. It’s knowing that other schools aren’t like this.

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No Child Left Behind: An Obituary

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LA Johnson/NPR

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday on replacing the nation’s big education law, known since 2001 as No Child Left Behind.

And President Obama is expected to sign the new version, ending an era marked by bitter fights between the federal government, states and schools.

So as it dies, we thought an obituary was in order.

Yup, an obituary. Because the law’s critics and defenders all agree on one thing: No Child Left Behind took on a life of its own.

Actually, they agree on one other thing, too: “If No Child Left Behind was a person, he or she should have died a long time ago.” That’s how outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan puts it. “It’s about time to finish it off and to bury it. And to do something much better.”

NCLB was expected to expire of old age in 2007, but Congress couldn’t find a replacement. So the law hung on.

While most folks are now happy to see it go, NCLB wasn’t always this reviled.

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The Outgoing Education Secretary Reunites With A Former Student

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Arne Duncan with Lawanda Crayton, whom he mentored when she was a child in Chicago.

Department of Education

As he prepares to leave office this month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reunited with a former student as part of a StoryCorps interview project.

More than 25 years ago Duncan took part in a mentorship program run by the “I Have a Dream” Foundation at Shakespeare Elementary School in Chicago. And Lawanda Crayton was one of the young students he mentored.

The “I Have a Dream” Foundation provides long-term support to students in severely under-resourced public schools and in housing projects: from tutoring in early elementary school all the way through help with college tuition.

Their conversation was part of a StoryCorps project called the Great Thanksgiving Listen, which asked high school students around the country to interview an elder over the holiday using the oral history project’s new mobile app.

Here are some excerpts from their conversation.

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Dual-Language Programs Are on the Rise, Even for Native English Speakers

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On one of the first days of class at Dos Puentes Elementary School in Upper Manhattan last month, a new student named Michelle peered up through pale blue glasses and took a deep breath.

“Can I drink water?” Michelle, 6, said.

“Diga en Español,” her first-grade teacher, Rebeca Madrigal, answered.

Michelle paused.

“Can I drink agua?” she replied.

It was a start.

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