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This Week in Education Politics: Congress Returns to School Safety Debate, SCOTUS Hears Arguments In Janus Union Dues Case

By Carolyn Phenicie | February 25, 2018

THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION POLITICS publishes most Sundays. (See previous editions here.) You can get the preview delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter; for rolling updates on federal education policy, follow Carolyn Phenicie on Twitter @cphenicie.

INBOX: GUNS — Expect lawmakers, largely out of the D.C. media spotlight last week, to face questions about President Trump’s controversial proposals to combat school shootings — in particular, his idea to allow educators to carry concealed weapons on campus and end gun-free school zones.

An armed teacher “would have shot the hell out of” the Douglas High gunman if concealed carry were permitted on campus, Trump told the CPAC conference Friday. It was the third day in a row he raised the idea, after discussing it in listening sessions with victims of gun violence Wednesday and state and local government officials Thursday.

The proposal to arm teachers was one of several raised in the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. Douglas High students have pushed the issue of gun control, advocating at the Florida state capitol and inspiring school walkouts across the country.

Educators have panned the idea of carrying guns in the schoolhouse, and it was the least popular among several floated in a CBS News poll released Friday. Though nearly two-thirds of Americans support increased gun control generally, up eight points since December, only 44 percent backed arming teachers.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: GOVERNORS TALK EDUCATION — The 74, in conjunction with news site Axios and the Walton Family Foundation, held a town hall in D.C. on education with Govs. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Roy Cooper (D-NC), and Jeff Colyer (R-KS). All three discussed gun control and the president’s proposal to arm teachers.

MONDAY: UNION DUES — The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case of Janus v. AFSCME. Petitioner Mark Janus, an Illinois child support specialist, argues that forcing him to pay union dues that support positions he doesn’t agree with violates his First Amendment rights. Union officials say the dues prevent “free riders” from benefiting from union-negotiated contracts and make it easier for governments to negotiate with one employee representative. A decision is expected in late June.

TUESDAY: JANUS 2.0 — The Center for Individual Rights, a libertarian nonprofit law firm, holds a panel discussion on Yohn v. CTA, a successor case to Janus. Ryan Yohn, a California middle school teacher, and two other plaintiffs will discuss why they, like Janus, oppose mandatory union dues, and why teachers and other public employees should have to opt in to union membership, rather than opt out, as they do now. It’s one of several pending cases that raise that issue; lawyers expect that second question to continue before the courts even if the Supreme Court overrules mandatory dues in the Janus case.

TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY: CIVIL RIGHTS — In 1968, the Kerner Commission released a landmark report on racial division and disparities in the U.S. This week the Learning Policy Institute, the Eisenhower Foundation, and the Economic Policy Institute hold a day-and-a-half-long event to release a 50-year update of that report, including a half-day focused specifically on education.

WEDNESDAY: IMMIGRATION & SCHOOLS — Four researchers will present new papers on the impact of immigration enforcement on students and schools, including a survey of how it is affecting teaching and learning, consequences for educators, federal and state policies affecting children of immigrants, and what happens to young U.S. citizens when their family members are deported. National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García will make remarks at the event, which will be held at the Wilson Center and is co-sponsored by the Civil Rights Project and Migration Policy Institute.

WEDNESDAY: CRIMINAL JUSTICEThe Atlantic holds a half-day event on criminal justice reform, focused in particular on the experience of women and children behind bars. The Obama administration placed particular attention on the school-to-prison pipeline, though it hasn’t been a focus in the Trump era. Sen. Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, and Sen. Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, will participate.

WEDNESDAY: GRANDPARENTS — The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will consider a bill that would create a task force to better help grandparents raising their grandchildren, including how to best meet the children’s educational needs. Sponsor Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, discussed the issue at a hearing earlier this month about how to best support children in the midst of the opioid crisis.

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