How a soccer club won a $1.2 million grant from DeVos’s Education Department to open a charter school

Here’s a new, rather remarkable story about charter school grants recently awarded by the Education Department — including one for more than $1 million that went to a soccer club in Pennsylvania that had no experience running a school.



Betsy DeVos wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks Thursday at the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)


© Matt York/AP
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks Thursday at the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)

This is one of a number of pieces I have run in recent years about the Federal Charter School Program, which has invested close to $4 billion in these schools since it began giving grants in 1995.

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Charter schools, a key feature of the “school choice” movement, are financed by the public but privately operated. About 6 percent of U.S. schoolchildren attend charter schools, with California having the most charter schools and the most charter students.

Charters had bipartisan support for years, but a growing number of Democrats have pulled back from the movement, citing the fiscal impact on school districts and repeated scandals in the sector.

Charter supporters say the 30-year-old movement offers important alternatives to traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of U.S. students, and that the movement is still learning. Opponents say there is little public accountability over many charters and that they drain resources from traditional districts.

Research shows student outcomes are, overall, largely the same in charter and traditional public schools, although there are failures and exemplars in both.

This piece, like a number of earlier ones on charters, was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who serves as executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit group that advocates for public education.

Burris, who opposes charter schools, was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the National Association of Secondary School Principals named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year.

I asked the Education Department to comment on the grant to the soccer club, about which Burris writes, but did not get an immediate response. I will add it if I do.

By Carol Burris

In late September 2020, amid the covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education awarded nearly $6 million to five organizations to open new charter schools. One of the five awardees was “The All Football Club, Lancaster Lions Corporation,” located in Lancaster, Pa. The club had no experience running either a private school or a charter school, yet nevertheless pitched the AFCLL Academy Charter School for a grant from the federal Charter School Program (CSP).

The CSP awarded the football club $1,260,750 to be spent within its first five years, even though their submitted application only received 70 of 115 possible points by reviewers — a failing grade of 61 percent. And the club did not have permission from the local school board to actually open the school.

That award of tax dollars to an unauthorized charter school shines a light on how the

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DOD Awards $50 Million in University Research Equipment Awards > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Release

The Department of Defense (DOD) has announced awards to 150 university researchers totaling $50 million under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).  These grants will be provided to 85 institutions across 33 states in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. 

DOD has long championed the country’s scientific ecosystem.  Through DURIP, the department supports purchases of major research equipment to augment current and develop new capabilities.  This effort enables universities to perform state-of-the-art research that boosts the United States’ technological edge, while ensuring that our future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce remains second to none.  This year, the awards will support equipment and instrumentation to accelerate basic research, which is relevant across the department to include quantum sciences, materials design, development, and characterization, machine learning, hypersonics, and more.  

“DURIP awards help maintain the cutting-edge capabilities of our universities and provide research infrastructure to enable the most creative scientific minds in the country to extend the boundaries of science and technology,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, Director, Basic Research Office, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.  “The awards will facilitate scientific advances that will drive unparalleled military capabilities for our country and help train our future STEM workforce.”

The annual DURIP award process is highly competitive.  The program is administered through a merit competition jointly by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, and Office of Naval Research.  The Department seeks specific proposals from university investigators conducting foundational science and engineering research relevant to national defense. 

For the FY 2021 competition, the Service research offices received 742 proposals requesting $297 million in total funding.  Selections made by the Service research offices are subject to successful completion of negotiations with the academic institutions. 

The list of winning proposals can be downloaded here.

About OUSD(R&E)

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering is responsible for the research, development, and prototyping activities across the Department of Defense.  OUSD(R&E) fosters technological dominance across the DOD ensuring the unquestioned superiority of the American joint force.  Learn more at www.cto.mil or follow us on Twitter:  @DoDCTO.

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Education Department pauses bills for student loan borrowers amid uncertainty over relief

The Education Department has ordered the companies that collect federal student loans to temporarily postpone sending bills to borrowers as the Trump administration figures out how to handle the looming expiration of student loan relief.



a large brick building with grass and trees: Florida State University students leave Landis Hall on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., Friday April 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)


© Mark Wallheiser/AP Photo
Florida State University students leave Landis Hall on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., Friday April 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Unless Congress or the Trump administration takes action in the coming weeks, the freeze on monthly payments and interest for tens of millions of federal student loan borrowers is set to expire on Dec. 31.

The Education Department, which had been gearing up to collect payments starting in January, now appears to be trying to buy time to figure out how to go about collection. Department officials last week instructed federal student loan servicers to hold off on sending billing statements to borrowers until at least Dec. 8, according to a person familiar with the guidance.

Key context: It is not yet clear how the Education Department plans to restart the collection of student loans early next year. But the timing, just weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, could create confusion for borrowers. The department’s student aid office has warned that it faces a “heavy burden” to suddenly restart the monthly payments of more than 23 million accounts at once, potentially leading to a spike in delinquencies.

The postponement pushes up against the deadline by which servicers would need to begin sending notices to borrowers for payments due at the beginning of January. Under the terms of their contracts with the Education Department, loan servicers are required to send borrowers a billing statement at least 21 days before a payment is due — a requirement the Obama administration imposed as a consumer protection measure.

President Donald Trump, in announcing his extension of the loan benefits in August, said he would “most likely” further extend the relief at the beginning of December. But the White House has declined to say whether he is still committed to that plan.

Potential change in plans: Federal student loan servicers had been preparing to resume collecting payments in January. The Education Department also started directly notifying borrowers last month through emails and text messages that payments were set to begin “in January 2021.”

But internally, department officials have also discussed the possibility of effectively pushing the due date on federal student loans from January to February, even without further executive action from Trump. At issue is how the Education Department interprets a complicated array of federal requirements governing when monthly payments resume following a period of forbearance.

That option, which still remains in flux at the department, would provide the incoming Biden administration with more leeway to take its own action to suspend payments.

The strategy would not address the interest on federal student loans that is set to begin accruing on Jan. 1, though the Education Department previously retroactively forgave the interest that accrued on student

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Duquesne University Department Chair Linkov Named 2020 AAAS Fellow

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Duquesne University Department Chair Dr. Faina Linkov has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her contributions to biobehavioral cancer research, global health work and improving publishing opportunities for scientists in the developing world.

The AAAS, the world’s largest scientific society, elects fellows each year to recognize their efforts to advance science or its applications. A lifetime honor, fellows are selected by their AAAS peers. Linkov is believed to be the first female faculty member from Duquesne to receive this recognition, furthering the University’s reputation for expanding student horizons by creating opportunities for women in STEM fields. Linkov serves as a volunteer mentor for women in STEM programs.

“I’m honored to be selected as an AAAS Fellow at a time when the world needs science more than ever,” said Linkov, chair for the Department of Health Administration and Public Health at the university’s John G. Rangos, Sr. School of Health Sciences. “Whether it’s developing a vaccine for COVID-19, finding better ways to treat cancer or preventing infectious and chronic diseases, scientists are playing a critical role in improving global health.”

Linkov’s primary research interest has been gynecologic malignancies, where her work focused on investigating the connection between biological markers and cancer risk reduction. She also worked on health services administration research efforts focusing on benign gynecologic disease.

Her recent research interests included biomedical informatics, where she worked on several cancer registries-based projects with the aim of using existing reportable data to help improve medical efficiency and public health. Her most recent study found that ovarian cancer patients treated with intraperitoneal chemotherapy experienced improved 10-year survival rates.

Linkov, who joined Duquesne in July after serving as an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, also helped to shape global health education as a part of the Global Health Network Supercourse project.

She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research. In 2012, she received the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute Scholar Award for meritorious biobehavioral research. She has published over 100 peer reviewed papers and chapters on various aspects of gynecologic disease, epidemiology, education and public health and is the  founding editor-in-chief of the Central Asian Journal of Global Health.

Linkov received her doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and completed her post-doctoral training at Pitt in the School of Rehabilitation Science.

Duquesne University
Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation’s top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Written comments to state education department includes call to exempt school districts from Proposition 2-1/2

The Student Opportunity Act legislation approved nearly a year ago, intended to equitably distribute Chapter 70 state education aid, especially to districts most in need, is a hot issue.

Comments from numerous municipal state, and local school officials, released Wednesday morning by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, show concerns about losing thousands if not millions of dollars in Chapter 70 aid.

The comments also include advocacy for exempting municipalities from Proposition 2-1/2 -– as a means to ensure cities and towns have the money to fund their share of public education costs.

This state law says communities cannot raise taxes more than 2.5% annually unless voters approve the measure in a referendum vote.

One school superintendent says this should be raised to 4%.

Ludlow resident Elizabeth Zielinski is the school superintendent at Ralph C. Mahar Regional and School Union 73 districts. It comprises Orange, Wendell, Petersham and New Salem, with nearly 1,400 students and annual budget of about $23 million.

“I suggest that you please consider releasing municipalities and regional districts from the restrictions of Proposition 2-1/2,” a section of her comments to the DESE say.

“Allow education funding to be a stand-alone and the Town to increase taxes at 4% each year to fund its education portion. At the same time, the Legislature considers how to effectively provide Chapter 70 to meet the needs of poverty, language learners, and our brown and Black students,” Zielinski wrote.

According to a provision in the Student Opportunity Act, the department of elementary and secondary education is required to submit a report to legislators by Dec. 1.

The DESE asked for public comments, earlier this fall, on this issue, and received 158 letters.

The state Division of Local Services at Department of Revenue and the DESE are currently “examining the local contribution component” – what cities and towns contribute to public education for grades K-12 — which will be part of the DESE report.

The Chapter 70 formula, intended to be wealth-based by taking into account a municipality’s ability to pay education costs, is used to calculate aid disbursement.

Each year the state determines a baseline of how much each district must pay, to provide adequate education.

This translates to the local contribution, via Chapter 70 funding formula.

Chapter 70 money makes up the rest.

The state and local contributions, taken together, equals what is called the Foundation Budget.

The Foundation Budget idea came into being with passage of the landmark 1993 Education Reform Act.

Some of the comments say the state – by allegedly not disbursing enough aid — constitute the biggest problem.

They fear that, depending on how implementation of the SOA goes could reduce their Chapter 70 aid, and thus things could get worse instead of better.

“Put simply, the state aid pie divvied up to local school districts is too small to support student needs,” Amherst School Committee Vice Chairman Peter Demling wrote in his comments to DESE.

“That the state aid pie is not large enough

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Iowa Department of Education approves waivers for online learning ahead

Since Monday, 11 districts have submitted waivers to move schools online or to extend existing waivers, some of which have already been approved. 

Waiver requests for remote instruction are on the rise in Iowa

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On Tuesday, both Des Moines Public Schools and Johnston Community School District’s waivers to extend online learning were approved by the Iowa Department of Education. Des Moines school board members voted to apply for another waiver to go through Dec. 11 Sunday while Johnston board members unanimously voted Monday evening for a waiver through Dec. 13.



After having some schools in person for a little more than a month, Des Moines Public Schools will move back online temporarily, citing teacher absences and a high rate of COVID-19 in Polk County.


© Des Moines Public Schools
After having some schools in person for a little more than a month, Des Moines Public Schools will move back online temporarily, citing teacher absences and a high rate of COVID-19 in Polk County.

The Johnston School Board will meet Dec. 7 and discuss whether the online learning model will continue after Dec. 13.

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, all eyes are on Iowa. Get updates of all things Iowa politics delivered to your inbox.

Other large districts also applied for waivers. According to the television station KCRG, Cedar Rapids applied for and received a waiver for online learning through at least Dec. 11 to return to in-person Dec. 14. Waterloo and Davenport also applied for waivers in the last two days.

More: Gov. Kim Reynolds’ new mask mandate doesn’t apply to schools

Making it one of the only school districts in central Iowa without a waiver, the Bondurant-Farrar school board voted Monday night to extend its hybrid learning model through Jan. 4 — which coincides with the district’s return from winter break. 

The 5-0 vote follows the recommendation of the administration and also includes delaying all junior high activities and athletics until Dec. 11.

As of Nov. 20, the district reports four staff members and 25 students have tested positive for COVID-19 including 11 staff members and 152 students in quarantine. The 14-day COVID-19 positivity rate in Polk County Tuesday was 18%.

Sarah LeBlanc covers the western suburbs for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa Department of Education approves waivers for online learning ahead

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Iowa Department of Education grants online waiver for Southeast Polk Schools

The Iowa Department of Education granted a 14-day remote learning waiver to the entire Southeast Polk School District on Tuesday.

What happens if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19 at an Iowa school?

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The period approved for full virtual learning is Nov. 30 through Dec. 14.

The Southeast Polk School Board voted Nov. 19 to allow the district to apply for the waiver.

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, all eyes are on Iowa. Get updates of all things Iowa politics delivered to your inbox.

The vote followed the recommendation from the superintendent in response to the most recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Polk County.

“This is an extremely, extremely difficult decision for a recommendation. In fact, I can’t think of something more difficult. I can’t think of anything more difficult in this role that I’ve had to deal with,” said superintendent Dr. Dirk Halupnik.



a group of people in a living room filled with furniture and a tv: An elementary school classroom in Southeast Polk School District, with desks separated by larger margins to practice social distancing.


© Special to the Register
An elementary school classroom in Southeast Polk School District, with desks separated by larger margins to practice social distancing.

“There’s a ton of thought and work that goes into these recommendations. The idea would be to get back to in-person learning as soon as we can,” he said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds: Another 20 long-term care facilities in Iowa have coronavirus outbreaks

The district just transitioned to a hybrid learning model Nov. 16 after a special meeting Nov. 11. With the 14-day waiver, the shift to full virtual learning will coincide with the return from Thanksgiving break.

As of Nov. 18, 30 students and 21 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, 330 students and 32 teachers are in quarantine.

Virtual learning: Here’s which Des Moines area schools approved for online teaching after COVID-19 numbers increase

Melody Mercado covers the eastern Des Moines metro for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or Twitter @melodymercadotv

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa Department of Education grants online waiver for Southeast Polk Schools

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Is Gavin Williamson the worst education secretary ever? | Department for Education

Since 1900, 44 men and nine women have had charge of English education. They included one duke, two marquesses, two earls, two viscounts and three hereditary baronets. Eight were old Etonians; four were old Harrovians; 10 went to state schools but only two, including Gavin Williamson, the present incumbent, to comprehensives. Only four had ever been schoolteachers; about twice as many were barristers. One (you know who) went on to be prime minister.

Until recently, the job – not considered one of the great offices of state – rarely interested politicians of stature. Winston Churchill turned it down in 1905 because it involved “smacking children’s bottoms and blowing their noses”. It was a position mainly for has-beens, never-weres and political climbers who couldn’t wait to move on to something else. Another Tory education minister, Edward Wood (later the 3rd Viscount Halifax), was equally dismissive of education: state schools, he said, should train children up “to be servants and butlers”. Civil servants complained it was hard to discuss anything with him because he spent so much time hunting.

Is Williamson worse? Or worse than another Tory predecessor, John Patten (1992-4), who called Birmingham’s then chief education officer, Tim Brighouse, “a nutter” and a “madman”, was sued for libel and had to pay substantial damages? Worse than Sir Keith Joseph (1981-6), who made it all too plain that he didn’t like the idea of state schools and once said “I wish we’d taken a different route in 1870”? Is Williamson worse, indeed, than any of his predecessors?

Margaret Thatcher visiting a school, in 1971.
You know who: Margaret Thatcher, the only education secretary so far who went on to become prime minister Photograph: Tom Stuttard/The Guardian

Many think so. “What could have been in the prime minister’s mind,” tweeted Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s grandson and a former Tory minister, “… to appoint so mere, so unreliable, so wholly unsuitable a man?”

“He’s fucking useless,” was the crisper verdict of an unnamed vice-chancellor, speaking to the Guardian. And: “Any minister who makes children cry is not in a good place,” said a Tory MP.

All were referring to this summer’s A-level grading debacle. With exams cancelled because of Covid, Williamson decided that grades would be decided by a combination of teacher assessments and a mysterious algorithm that would correct for teachers’ over-optimism and generosity. When 40% of assessments were downgraded, some drastically, an outcry ensued, in particular because disadvantaged pupils were most commonly the losers. Williamson insisted there would be “no U-turn”. Two days later, he announced the re-instatement of the original teachers’ assessments, for GCSEs as well as A-levels, pleasing students and teachers but throwing universities, which had already filled many of their places, into crisis.

It was A-level grading that also did for a Labour education secretary, Estelle Morris (2001-2), who had been popular and had seemed well qualified for the job. Not only had she taught for 18 years in a comprehensive, she had spent four years in more junior positions at the education department. Alas,

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Stay-in-place order for University of Michigan students lifted by health department

ANN ARBOR, MI – The two-week emergency stay-in-place order for University of Michigan undergraduate students has been lifted by the Washtenaw County Health Department, which cited a decrease in university-associated cases.

The order will expire at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, as originally planned. County health department officials said the proportion of COVID-19 cases associated with UM has decreased, while the reduction in new, university-associated cases has allowed case investigators and contact tracers to catch up.

The order stated that students must remain in their current designated residence, except for things like going to in-person classes and labs, voting, getting food, seeing a doctor or working, with approval of the employer.

When the stay-in-place order was issued on Oct. 20, more than 60% of Washtenaw County cases were associated with UM students, and case investigators and contact tracers were unable to keep up, health officials said.

UM student cases now represent about 33% of countyCOVID-19 cases, health officials said, although local cases overall remain high and resources for investigating and tracing cases are still stretched.

Washtenaw County has reported more than 6,000 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, Nov 2. The weekly test positivity rate from MI Safe Start has increased to 3.8%.

Prompt case investigation and contact tracing decreases the spread of COVID-19 once positive cases are identified, health officials said, allowing them to keep up with the process and for recommended isolation or quarantine instructions to be effective.

Since most COVID-19 cases continue to be related to social gatherings and events without preventative measures, limiting social gatherings is critical to keeping new cases lower, health officials said.

“We are grateful for the cooperation of the university and its students on this order. We know this is incredibly difficult for all of us,” Jimena Loveluck, Washtenaw County health officer, said. “We’re thankful for this small bit of good news, but we all must continue to do everything we can to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on each of us and on our community.

“Recent weeks have left no doubt that the virus continues to circulate and have also confirmed that we can minimize its negative impacts by continuing to use face coverings and distance and cooperating fully with all public health guidance.”

Under existing state health orders, everyone must continue to separate themselves from others not already in their household by at least six feet and wear a face covering when out in public or in common areas. Limits on gatherings and at indoor facilities and other precautions are also still in place. A local order further limiting outdoor gatherings to 25 or fewer people in residential settings in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti remains in effect.

Violations of local or state orders are subject to the citations and penalties, ranging in fines of $500 to $1,000.

The health department is recommending limiting gatherings as much as possible during the upcoming holidays, noting that COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community and cases are increasing in non-campus

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MPS department heads share expansive list of needs to improve system’s education quality

With proper funding, there could be fewer students per class and more small-group instruction. There could be trauma-informed schools, where everyone in the building knew how to recognize when a student showed signs they needed help. There could be air conditioned auditoriums and walls without falling plaster. There could even be Korean classes.

MPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Moore discusses how the proposed property tax increase could help Montgomery Public Schools.

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Bernard Mitchell carries signs as Montgomery Public Schools leadership as well as educators and staff from across the school district canvass neighborhoods in Montgomery, Ala., on Sunday October 25, 2020 meeting with voters and asking for support of Amendment 382.


© Mickey Welsh / Advertiser
Bernard Mitchell carries signs as Montgomery Public Schools leadership as well as educators and staff from across the school district canvass neighborhoods in Montgomery, Ala., on Sunday October 25, 2020 meeting with voters and asking for support of Amendment 382.

Montgomery Public Schools’ department heads explained their list of needs to the Advertiser that they believe will improve the educational experiences for the district’s nearly 28,000 students. The system’s needs are massive, and necessary, they said.

Each explained their goals are almost entirely dependent upon the proposed property tax increase voters will consider on Election Day.

They fear that little will improve without the funding — about $33 million annually which will help the district secure a capital improvement bond and fund a lengthy list of additional offerings and resources. 

When Superintendent Ann Roy Moore first arrived in Montgomery, she set up visits to the schools and was surprised by the level of decay she saw. At that time — nearly three years ago — Moore was retired and anticipated she’d only spend about six months helping the district as the board searched for a permanent leader. 

That plan did not happen. Instead, she has dedicated herself to helping move the school system forward, despite the many hurdles she has faced.  And despite not initially being aware of the district’s low level of local funding, Moore said serving MPS has been a blessing. 

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