Public School Policies

From unions to vouchers, school budgets to discipline policies, we cover some of the most controversial issues affecting public schools today. Learn more about education reform and how it impacts your family. Keep current on the latest controversies regarding religion, sex-education, civil rights and more.
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Updated June 19, 2017 |
School-to-Prison Pipeline Persists Despite Local, State and National Efforts
Inadequate funding and resources for schools, harsh zero-tolerance discipline policies, police presence in public schools, and de facto segregation continue to create school environments in which poor and minority students have little chance of succeeding. The result is a continuation of the school-to-prison pipeline that has been commonplace in the American education system for decades, despite federal, state and local efforts to curb the problem.
What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
In an era in which negative or violent behaviors at school – from bullying and harassment, racism and sexism, and school shootings – is commonplace, public schools have taken measures to beef up security in the name of protecting students and staff. Schools in urban areas have long been home to security guards and metal detectors, however, security measures in recent years at urban and rural schools alike have grown to include armed school resource officers (SRO), complex networks of surveillance cameras, and zero-tolerance discipline policies that have resulted in a substantial increase in the number of student suspensions, expulsions and school-based arrests. In fact, the number of disciplinary actions taken in schools is at an all-time high. However, this is just one component of the modern-day school-to-prison pipeline, in which students are forced out of school by Draconian policies that land them in the criminal justice system.
This begs the question, “How did we get to this point?” The American Civil Liberties Union has identified five primary factors in the development of today’s police-state schools that funnel children into courts and jails:

1.  Lack of funding and resources: Many discipline problems arise when students are disengaged and do not have support services to help them persist in their educational pursuits. Lack of textbooks, inexperienced teachers, and non-existent counseling and special education services all contribute to delinquency and high dropout rates.

2.  Alternative school environments: In some public

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Updated December 02, 2017 |
New Federal Guidelines Open School Doors to Immigrant Children
The Obama Administration recently warned states that refusing enrollment to students based on citizenship or immigration status violates federal law.
Immigration reform has been a hotly contested issue for decades. With Congress deadlocked on the issue, state legislatures across the country have passed strict anti-immigration bills, leaving millions of immigrants in fear of deportation. One source of fear for undocumented families is that local school districts that require birth certificates, social security numbers, and other vital information in order to enroll students will reveal the family’s undocumented status and lead authorities to apprehend them. The fear of legal retribution is so great that for many families, removing their children from school is their only choice.
Plyler v. Doe
The recent wave of state-based restrictions on enrollment of undocumented students is somewhat curious given that the Supreme Court ruled that these students have an equal right to education. In their 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe, the justices held that schools cannot:
  • Deny a student enrollment based on undocumented status;
  • Require different procedures to determine a student’s residency;
  • Engage in any activities that may discourage a student from enrolling;
  • Require students or their parents to document their immigration status;
  • Ask questions that may expose a student’s immigration status;
  • Require a student’s social security number for enrollment purposes.
Furthermore, as a result of the ruling, school officials involved in enrollment and intake of new students are not obligated to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Yet, despite these clear-cut guidelines regarding student enrollment, public schools keep finding ways to exclude immigrant and undocumented children.
Alabama – The “Show Me Your Papers State”
In 2011, Alabama, angry
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Updated March 03, 2015 |
Nation’s Public School Personnel Embroiled in Cheating Scandals
In today’s climate of high-stakes testing, some teachers and administrators are cheating the system by providing test answers to students, changing student answers, and reviewing test questions before state tests are administered in order to feign the appearance of student success.
As the pressure to demonstrate student achievement has increased over the last decade, some educators have begun bending the rules. While cheating scandals involving teachers are nothing new, with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, the stakes for teachers and students alike rose dramatically.
NCLB’s strict testing and performance requirements have gotten the most attention over the years. Students in elementary and middle grades are required to be tested annually in math and reading. High school students must be tested at least once between tenth and twelfth grade. Schools must also demonstrate “adequate yearly progress,” in which students show year-to-year improvement towards the eventual goal that 100 percent of students are proficient on tests in both subject areas.
Originally, districts had until 2014 to meet 100 percent proficiency. But by 2011 it became clear that thousands of schools across the country would not meet this goal. As a result, the Obama Administration agreed to award waivers to districts that could not reach the goal, however, districts had to agree to implement teacher evaluation systems that were directly tied to student test scores if waivers were to be granted. Thus, cheating scandals involving educators have since become much more commonplace.
Cheating Cases Reported Across the Nation
Educators in Philadelphia have been charged with “fostering a culture of cheating” after the state’s attorney general discovered in 2008 that teachers had provided test answers to students, improperly reviewed state assessments, and in some cases changed student answers.
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Updated October 14, 2016 |
Should Public School Students be Allowed to Pray Before Lunch?
A recent incident in a Florida elementary school in which a teacher allegedly told a student that she could not pray before eating her lunch has thrust the question of religion in public schools back into the limelight.
The presence of religion, and more specifically, prayer, in public schools has long been a hot-button topic in the United States. Religious parents maintain that their child has the right to pray and engage in other religious activities while at public school. Meanwhile, parents on the other side of the issue argue that their child should not be subjected to state-sponsored religious activities. Numerous court battles have more clearly defined the role religion can play in public schools, however, debate regarding the nature and extent of religious practices at school continues on.
Religion in Schools: A Brief Overview
In the late 1950s, the Board of Regents of New York’s public schools system composed a nondenominational prayer for students to recite at the beginning of the school day. The prayer was strictly voluntary. A group of parents, including Steven Engel, took exception to the practice and filed suit against the Board. After state courts sided with the Board, thus upholding the school’s right to hold the voluntary morning prayer, Engel appealed the case to the Supreme Court. In 1962 the Court handed down their decision in the landmark case, Engel v. Vitale, in which they declared the practice of school-sponsored prayer unconstitutional.
In the majority opinion, the justices argued that neither the voluntary nature, nor the nondenominational nature of the prayer prevented it from violating the Constitution. The fact that the state of New York composed the prayer and provided time for public school students
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Updated March 03, 2015 |
Editorial: Common Core Standards a Good Place to Start, but More Work is Needed
The Common Core Standards were created in order to facilitate greater academic progress among K-12 students, and seek to provide consistent academic benchmarks that students must meet. While Common Core is a step in the right direction, there are some concerns that need to be addressed before they reach their optimal effectiveness.
The Common Core State Standards began, in part, as the brainchild of Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona. As the chairperson of the National Governors Association in 2006-2007, Napolitano created a task force on education that released a report calling for standardized benchmarks in education. That report eventually formed the basis of the Common Core State Standards, which thus far have been adopted by 45 states, Washington, D.C., four U.S. territories and the educational branch of the Department of Defense.
Today, the Common Core is a set of high-quality, rigorous standards that outline what children should learn, know and be able to do at each grade level in the areas of math and language arts. The standards seek to address the variability between state-level educational standards that have for years produced high school graduates with widely ranging academic abilities.
The Common Core Standards are both relevant and rigorous. Students are engaged in activities that build higher-ordered analytical skills, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills that are necessary for success in today’s world. In that regard, the standards are not focused solely on acquisition of knowledge, but the application of that knowledge as well. Additionally, in states where the standards have been adopted, students receive comparable instruction no matter who their teacher is or what school they attend, which helps eliminate variability in student preparedness. Although teachers still have wide latitude in the delivery of lessons, they each have the same target in the end: student
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Public School Policies

Education Reform

Education reform is in the works, and you can stay updated on the latest changes, debates, and policies here. Learn more about No Child Left Behind and how it impacts your child. Explore how federal and state government is working to improve school performance, student achievement and education standards.

Teachers and Unions

A comprehensive look at teachers, tenure, and unions. Learn how unions impact school performance. Explore the impact of education reform on teaching qualification standards, traditional unions and controversial tenure rules.

Public School Budgets

We offer an overview of public school budgets; where the money comes from, how it’s spent and what schools are doing to get more funding. Learn how schools are cutting budgets and how the cuts will impact your child. Delve into some of the creative ways school districts are trying to raise money and where the extra money is spent.


Explore both sides of the school voucher debate. Learn what your options are, how those choices are funded and the impact on your local school district. From the latest government initiatives to results from recent studies, explore vouchers and the options they provide.

School Discipline Policies

Examine the various discipline methods being put to use in public schools. From detention to expulsion, spanking to handcuffing, school discipline can often be controversial. Does spanking work? Do police belong in schools? Learn more about what is being done to punish out of control students.

School Controversies

The most controversial issues impacting public school students today. From bullying to book bans, this is a comprehensive look at some of the most oft-debated issues. This section features articles on school segregation, religion, over-crowding, civil rights, and green technology.