Who Is In Charge

‘We are extremely discouraged’: Reports of a federal fight on affirmative action already stoking anxiety

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder

Organizations aimed at helping more black, Hispanic, and poor students get to college are already worried about reports that the Trump administration plans to fight college affirmative action programs.

According to the Washington Post and the New York Times, an office of the Justice Department is looking to investigate and sue colleges and universities whose policies they believe discriminate against white students. Both the Justice Department and Department of Education have yet to comment.

If such investigations begin, Anthony Davis Jr. of the NAACP’s youth and college division said that they could scare some schools away from enforcing affirmative action in their admissions policies and discourage students of color from applying to schools, too.

“We are extremely discouraged by this news coming from the Justice Department,” Davis said. “It shows a lack of support for the African American community,” he added.

The director of KIPP New York City’s Through College program, Jane Dowling, is worried the move will “perpetuate the notion of a student of color or low-income kid getting into college without being qualified.”

“That [perception] is one of the things that these college students struggle with the most,” she said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”

Critics of affirmative action include the head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, Candice Jackson, as ProPublica has reported. Multiple lawsuits have accused schools of discriminating against Asian-American students using the policy, too.

Dowling noted that other specific admissions policies, like ones that favor children of alumni and athletes, disproportionately help white and affluent students — a point other advocates echoed.

“We would all like to live in a world where affirmative action was not necessary, but unfortunately we do have to live in a world where there is systemic racism, where there is unequal access to quality education, and where African American and Latino students are overrepresented in communities of poverty,” said Rhea Wong, the executive director of Breakthrough New York, which provides educational support to low-income students.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”