With help from Juan Perez Jr.
BILLS ON BILLS ON BILLS — Hundreds of bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country this year to restrict gender-affirming healthcare, drag performances, and the ability for transgender people to be referred to by their personal pronouns and play on sports teams or use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
— Nearly a dozen states ban gender affirming medication and surgical care for transgender youth, according to the Movement Advancement Project. At least 19 states have laws banning transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity, and seven states bar transgender students from using school facilities that align with their gender identity. Several states are also considering more restrictive measures that define sex.
— “We know many transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students face challenges that can impact their mental health and their ability to thrive in school — not because of who they are, but because of the hostility directed at them,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement in response to Transgender Day of Visibility.
“Unfortunately, this hostility is what follows when politicians are among those attempting to bully transgender students and their families, and use state laws to limit who they can be in our school communities,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.”
— Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy hosted a roundtable at the White House about challenges transgender children and their parents experience. The Education Department also hosted a group of transgender students and their parents, where Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon told students and their parents, “Federal law is in place to protect your rights. That is the mission of our office.”
— The administration is pushing forward on its agenda to codify protections for transgender students. Last week, the Education Department sent its proposed Title IX rule on athletics participation to the White House Office of Management and Budget, a key procedural step to unveiling the policy that’s expected to safeguard transgender students’ right to play on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. And, the administration’s Title IX final rule on sexual misconduct, which would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, might be released as early as May.
— OMB is expected to start setting up meetings with groups interested in the sports rule to provide input, but the public is unable to view the draft of the proposed rule. The proposal also comes as House Republicans are expected to imminently bring their restrictive transgender sports bill — H.R. 734 (118) — to the floor for a vote.
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DFER’S NEW LEADER — Jorge Elorza, the former two-term mayor of Providence, R.I., is the new CEO of Democrats for Education Reform and its affiliate Education Reform Now think tank.
— Elorza brings a lengthy record to DFER. He supported then-Gov. Gina Raimondo’s bid to have the state government take over his city’s troubled school system, sued state education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green’s administration over school funding in 2021, and (along with two former Providence mayors) pushed his successor to work with the city’s teachers union to fix an “unworkable management structure” or instead scrap the city’s school model and replace it with an all-charter system.
— He also made headlines as he was leaving office when he declared his family would not send their young son to the city’s public schools. Now he’s taking over DFER as it pursues its policy agenda amid a highly politicized climate surrounding charters, school choice and education overall.
— “Charter schools are firmly established throughout the education landscape right now,” Elorza told our Juan Perez Jr. “I think that’s an incredible foundation and a launching pad for the next phase of the movement.”
— Yet support for charters is not universal among Democrats, leaving liberal boosters for the independently-operated schools to face party infighting and conservative momentum to enact school choice systems that favor private and religious entities through rapidly-expanding voucher programs, plus ongoing efforts to create publicly-funded religious charter schools.
— Elorza argued his party offers a “clear distinction” from Republican visions of choice.
— “We support public school choice, and there’s a lot of ways to do that,” Elorza said. “Republicans have a very different vision of school choice. It’s not so much public school choice as it is private school choice, and that’s very different.”
— And Elorza said he sees “complete alignment” between the values that animate the education reform movement and those at the core of the Democratic Party. But he acknowledged the headwinds.
— “There are differences of opinion within the Democratic Party as to the best way to deliver for our kids, and that’s part of the challenge that we take on and that I take on as a leader of this organization,” he said.
— “We need to lift and elevate the voices of those Black and brown families on the front lines, families that frankly have been and continue to be the core of the Democratic Party,” Elorza said. “It’s our job to put them front and center, and I’m confident that our party will gravitate more and more towards the space as we highlight the work that’s being done and the faces of the kids and families that this is helping.”
BIDEN AND CARDONA HIT THE ROAD — First lady Jill Biden is headed to Colorado and Michigan today as part of the administration’s “Investing in America Tour,” which looks to tout President Joe Biden’s economic policy agenda. The first lady is expected to highlight career-connected learning and workforce training programs, a key part of Biden’s “Beyond High School” education platform.
— Today, she will join Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver to highlight the state’s investments in community colleges and workforce training programs. In the afternoon, Biden will head to Delta College in Saginaw, Michigan to visit their workforce training programs.
— Biden will be joined by Cardona for trips to Maine and Vermont on Wednesday. In the morning, they will join Democratic Gov. Janet Mills to visit Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, Maine to tout the state’s free community college program. Biden and Cardona will head to Burlington, Vermont in the afternoon to join Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, on a visit to BETA Technologies, an electric aerospace company. The visit is expected to also highlight federal and state investments in high school career and technical education programs related to electric vehicles.
CTU FLEXES IN MAYOR’S RACE — The Chicago Teachers Union, one of the most powerful political institutions in the city, is using its political might to push one of their own into the city’s top role. They’re backing Brandon Johnson, a former CTU organizer and teacher, in the Tuesday mayoral runoff against former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas.
— The labor group wants to remake how the city government addresses housing, poverty and education, and it has built an independent political organization to push that mission. It has supported winning campaigns of progressive Democrats to the Chicago City Council, Illinois General Assembly and Congress — even though its picks for mayor in 2015 and 2019 lost to Rahm Emanuel and Lori Lightfoot.
— In Johnson — a progressive county commissioner whose soaring oratory has been a hallmark of rallies and contract fights — the union’s critics see a takeover of the city’s politics. The possibility of Johnson as mayor has some education watchers concerned he would be controlled by the CTU and realign the mayor’s office to the union’s causes.
— Many Democrats are split on the race. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rank among a list of progressives backing Johnson. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and former Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), along with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan have endorsed Vallas. More from Juan Perez Jr. and Shia Kapos.
— Nicole Siegel is the Gates Foundation’s new senior program officer of postsecondary communications. She was previously the director of advocacy for social policy, education and politics at Third Way.
— Emmi Navarro has been promoted to senior education advocacy adviser at Third Way, and Ben Cecil has joined the think tank as a senior education policy adviser. He was formerly an associate analyst at the American Council on Education.
— A Montgomery County parent still pushes for schools to ban the ‘R-word’: The Washington Post
— Dan Crenshaw wants to solve school shootings with ‘more guns’: Rolling Stone
— Last students graduate: School closures spread in aging Japan: Reuters
— Americans are losing faith in college education, WSJ-NORC poll finds: The Wall Street Journal
— One in four college applicants avoids entire states for political reasons: The Hill