Ending the Expulsion of Preschoolers in Illinois

Photo © 2009 by Sarah Gilbert under Creative Commons license.

“Expelled from preschool” sounds like a headline from a humor website like The Onion, but in fact preschoolers are expelled nationwide at more than three times the rate of students in K-12 classes. More significantly, these expulsions are disproportionately given to boys and to African-American and Hispanic students. Preschool education is critical to preparing students for success in school, especially for students from low-income families, students learning English as a second language, and students with special needs. Preschool expulsion jeopardizes the foundation of those students’ education, making them less prepared to enter kindergarten.

Illinois passed a law last year requiring K-12 schools to improve their suspension and expulsion practices. This year, the Illinois General Assembly has passed HB 2663, which currently awaits the governor’s signature. HB2663 would:

  • Prohibit the expulsion of children from preschool programs that receive money from the state.
  • Requires documentation of steps taken when a child exhibits persistent and serious challenging behaviors to ensure that all available interventions, supports, and community resources are applied.
  • Provides for the creation of a transition plan if there is documented evidence that all available interventions and supports recommended by a professional have been exhausted to move the child to another preschool program. The plan must be designed to ensure continuity of services and the comprehensive development of the child.
  • Requires the state to recommend professional development training and resources to improve the ability of teachers, administrators, and staff to promote social-emotional development, address challenging behaviors, and to understand trauma and trauma-informed care, cultural competence, family engagement with diverse populations, the effect of implicit bias on adult behavior, and the use of reflective practice techniques.
  • Requires the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, in consultation with the governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and the Illinois State Board of Education, to adopt rules similar to those above for licensed day care centers, day care homes, and group day care homes.

Illinois PTA is urging Governor Rauner to sign HB2663 into law.

Revamped FERPA|Sherpa Provides More on Student Privacy

Online access and technology plays an increasing role in classrooms, and with that increase comes concerns about student data and privacy. Illinois PTA highlighted this issue a few years ago when National PTA partnered with the Future of Privacy Forum and ConnectSafely to create the Parents’ Guide to Student Data Privacy.

The guide was part of FERPA|Sherpa, a website and resource center to help students, families, educators, school districts, and legislators understand and navigate federal education privacy laws. In the past three years since FERPA|Sherpa was first launched, over 100 new laws have passed in 40 states regarding student privacy, new resources have been published, and best practices regarding student data protection continues to grow.

To reflect all those changes, FERPA|Sherpa has relaunched with a new design. Sections for families, schools and districts, education technology companies, and policymakers have been revamped. New sections for students, educators, state education agencies, and higher education have been created. A searchable resource bank of over 400 education privacy resources has been complied.

For families, the resources include not just the Parents’ Guide to Student Data Privacy, but also short videos and information on the role of student data in education, how student data empowers parents, how student data is used, and parent and student privacy rights. Of special interest to PTAs is the video on “directory information” and student privacy. There is also a section on keeping kids safe online outside of school as well.

National PTA Statement on President Trump’s Budget Proposal

National PTA released the following statement on Wednesday regarding President Trump’s proposed budget.

President Trump’s Cuts to Public Education Devastating for America’s Children

President Donald Trump released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018. The proposal cuts funding for public education programs by $9.2 billion.

“Equitable, high-quality public education for all students is essential to children and the nation’s long-term success,” said Laura Bay, president of National PTA. “Federal funding for education has remained at 2% of the federal budget for decades. Cutting funding for public education programs by an astounding $9.2 billion would further undermine opportunity for all children. Greater investments in public education are critical to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential and to improve our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

In addition to cutting vital funding for public education programs overall, President Trump’s budget proposal does not include funding for educator professional development or for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, which help ensure students receive well-rounded educational opportunities, learn in healthy and safe school environments and have opportunities to use technology in the classroom. Funding for Title I—which aids schools with high percentages of children from low-income families—as well as for special education grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) remains at the current level in the proposal. The proposal also does not include investments for family engagement in education through the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) program.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative to invest in family engagement programs as well as special education and Title I to ensure all children are provided the best opportunities to thrive and learn,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA Executive Director. “Across the country there are great disparities in available resources as well as the quality of and access to educational opportunities. National PTA remains steadfast in our belief that robust federal investments must be made in public education programs that promote equity and opportunity for all children.”

While making significant cuts to public education funding, President Trump’s budget proposal includes a new $250 million competitive grant program that would allow public dollars to be used for private and religious school tuition. Additionally, the proposal allocates $1 billion in Title I for the creation of a new grant program that would allow those funds to “follow” a child to any public school.

“National PTA has strong concerns about any proposal that would significantly affect the distribution of funds across and within Title I districts and create division and separation within communities. Our association also opposes any private school choice system—tax credits, vouchers or deductions—that drains critical public school resources,” added President Bay. “Public dollars must remain invested in public schools and not be diverted for the benefit of all students and the future of our nation.”

Bullying Doesn’t Happen Where You Think It Does

Where does bullying take place? Most parents would answer out on the school grounds, in the cafeteria, or perhaps in a bathroom or locker room—all places where teachers are less likely to be present or where there are a lot of kids. A new report from the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shines a surprising light on where bullying takes place.

The most commonly reported place to be bullied for students ages 12 through 18 was actually in a hall or stairwell, with 41.7%. The figure was nearly identical for boys (41.8%) and girls (41.6%). This finding is somewhat surprising, as students only spend a tiny fraction of their day moving between classes. It also provides important information on how schools could potentially reduce bullying by having teachers in the hallway outside their classrooms during passing periods as well as monitors in the stairwells.

The second most common location was actually in a classroom, with 33.6% of students reporting being bullied there. In an article about the study on Edutopia, author and former teacher Stephen Merrill speculated that such bullying might be more common during the transitional moments in the classroom when students are arriving, moving between activities, or leaving the classroom—all more chaotic times that are more difficult for a teacher to manage.

The remaining locations for bullying that were surveyed were in the cafeteria (22.2%), outside on the school grounds (19.3%), online or by text (11.5%), on the school bus (10.0%), and in a bathroom or locker room (9.4%).

If your PTA would like to address the bullying issue in your school, take advantage of PTA’s Connect for Respect program. This turnkey program provides your PTA with all of the materials and resources needed to assess your school’s current climate, to engage the school community in dialogue, and to develop and implement an action plan.