Is DeVos Planning Assault On Latino Student Services?

Dr. Rose Castro Feinberg (FIU) and Dr. Deb Palmer (University of Colorado) recently contacted me and expressed concerned that Betsy DeVos’s team is mulling a significant assault on the organization of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), the main K-12 arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

EdWeek writes (Although, I must say, I am NOT a fan of EdWeek. NOT A FAN),

The effort would be part of the Trump administration’s overall push to “streamline” government. The department signaled earlier this year that it would merge the OESE, which oversees programs like Title I grants to help districts serve disadvantaged students, with the office for innovation, which deals with charters, programs for private schools, and more.

As part of that merger, the department is considering a reshuffling of OESE itself… grouping together employees with similar skills, as opposed to having separate offices focused on particular programs, said Elizabeth Hill, a department spokeswoman. The possible overhaul of the office was first reported by Politico.

That could mean consolidating and reconfiguring the eight smaller offices within the broader OESE, according to a draft plan explaining the changes. Those are: the offices of Academic Improvement, Early Learning, Impact Aid, Indian Education, Migrant Education, Safe and Healthy Students, School Support and Rural programs, and the Office of State Support.

Part of DeVos actions in OESE would reportedly be to abolish the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). What is OELA?

OELA provides national leadership to help ensure that English Learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and achieve academic success. In addition to preserving heritage languages and cultures, OELA is committed to prompting opportunities for biliteracy or multiliteracy skills for all students. OELA accomplishes this in the following ways:

  • Providing national leadership by informing policy decisions
  • Administering discretionary grant programs to prepare professionals for teaching and supporting English Learners
  • Investing in research and evaluation studies that have practical applications for preparing English Learners to meet college and career learning standards
  • Disseminating information about educational research, practices, and policies for English Learners through our National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA)

Source: U.S. Department of Education

English Learners are clearly one of our most vulnerable special populations. The destruction of OELA in the name of “streamlining” would be a travesty and is outright hostile action towards the Latino community. (Click here for all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts about English Learners) To save OELA, the time is now for action. EdWeek writes,
The broader effort to overhaul the department already has its critics in the field. For instance, 18 groups, including the American Federation of Teachers, Californians Together, League of United Latin American Citizens, Migration Policy Institute, National Association for Bilingual Education, TESOL International Association, and UnidosUS, wrote to DeVos earlier this month, asking her not to merge the Office of English-Language Acquisition into the broader OESE, a possibility floated earlier this year.
This budding assault on OELA is problematic and personal. I was honored to speak at OELA in DC on December 9, 2012. OELA hosted Laurie Olsen, researcher and author from California, and myself to discuss our research and work on English Learners. I discussed my paper that I published in the Teacher College Record entitled Understanding the Interaction Between High-Stakes Graduation Tests and English Learners.
What can you do? Call your Representative and Senators in Congress. Also, call or write to Secretary DeVos at 800-872-5327, Betsy.devos@ed.gov.
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