Category: Legal Issues


The U.S. Senate’s bipartisan “task force” committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), released its report on ways Congress and the U.S. Department of Education could streamline and hopefully reduce federal regulations now overwhelming America’s 6,000 colleges and universities–especially the nation’s approximately 4,000 private institutions–while still protecting students and holding schools accountable to taxpayers.

According to the committee’s press release, “The task force’s objective was to provide specific recommendations on reducing, eliminating or streamlining duplicative, costly or confusing regulations and reporting requirements to Congress and the administration in anticipation of the ninth reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

Senate education committee Chairman Alexander said, “The stack of federal regulations on colleges and universities today, which stretches as tall as I am, is simply the piling up of well-intentioned laws and regulations, done without anyone first weeding the garden. This report will guide our efforts to weed the garden and allow colleges to spend more of their time and money educating students, instead of filling out mountains of paperwork.”

Alexander announced a hearing on February 24 to discuss the findings of the report.

You can read the committee’s report here in pdf.

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According to Inside Higher Ed, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a surprise ruling last Thursday, barred the government from requiring Wheaton College to fill out a form in order to be exempt from the new federal requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage.

The Supreme Court order says that Wheaton needs only to inform the government that it has religious objections to parts of the health care law. Wheaton argued that requiring the College to fill out the form clashed with their religious freedom and the heath coverage in question violated its religious beliefs. The Obama administration tried to offer  a compromise on the health care law, but a number of religiously based colleges and organizations rejected the idea that they need not pay for contraception directly, but cover it indirectly under their insurance plans.

Read more at Supreme Court orders government not to require Wheaton College to fill out form on health insurance coverage.

The leaders of a good number of Christian colleges, universities, denominations, and other faith-based organizations have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to protect religious freedom in any executive orders (EO) he issues regarding homosexuality in America. The president has indicated in recent weeks that he is prepared to issue an EO to give protective status to homosexuals in employment and services, akin to the the protections dealing with race and gender.

Thanks to Stanley Carlson-Thies for taking the lead on this important appeal to the President.

The letter and its signers can be seen here.

 

The American Center for School Choice and the Commission on Faith-based Schools has released a disturbing report, Religious Schools in America: A Proud History and Perilous Future that notes faith-based schools are disappearing due to increased internal financial pressures and the external drains “free” (tax-funded) government alternatives, such as charter schools, are causing on school enrollments.

Funding continues to be the thorniest issue. For faith-based schools, however, the solution will not be found in direct financial support from state or federal government sources (other people’s tax dollars). That will only develop further dependency of faith-based institutions on government, which inevitably has unwanted and anti-faith strings attached.

What is needed, instead, is a new model of education funding, wherein the states do not privilege secular education with full funding from a state-based coercive tax system (which drains families of faith and others who prefer alternatives to the statist education system), but allows all families full educational choice to send their children to any schools they wish and can afford. The statist education system is threatened by that approach, but undoing the hegemony of state-based education is the only way to stop the continued decline in K-12 education in the U.S.

Allowing people the full freedom to vote with their feet and their pocketbooks (and not be forced to support the current statist system through coercive taxation) will result in a stronger, healthier and higher quality primary and secondary (and post-secondary) education system for all in the long run.

I wrote yesterday that the U.S. Supreme Court had punted on its recent affirmative action ruling, leaving key issues unanswered and passing the buck back to the appellate court with only narrowly construed legal guidelines to reconsider the case. That assessment (and the football metaphor) has been widely shared.

However, advocates and defenders of affirmative action are now voicing concerns that the court’s demands on the appellate court have so significantly narrowed the grounds for considering race in college admissions that it will likely undermine race-based affirmative action more than initially thought. As Scott Greytak, a lawyer, supporter of affirmative action, and author of West’s Education Law Reporter, said in an Inside Higher Ed report, “This is a very quiet death sentence for affirmative action that is race-conscious.”

If that’s the case, then the Supreme Court may have just kicked a very high, long, and unreturnable punt that effectively pins the affirmative action team deep against its own end zone. That would be worth cheering about. Go team!

Read more here:

Seems to me that if you have to pass such legislation, in a state as politically conservative as Idaho no less, you’re admitting that your government universities have already developed an institutional culture that fundamentally restricts and threatens religious freedom and religious expression. Such culture, promoted and protected by overwhelmingly a- and anti-religious faculty and administrators, won’t and can’t be changed by legislation. 

Idaho Passes Law Protecting Religious Pluralism on Campus – The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – FIRE.

The long suspected left-tilting biases of a Harvard law journal editorial board turned out to be more than conservative paranoia or speculation.  David Lat reports in an article in Above the Law that a Harvard law journal’s editorial team had its electronic deliberations go public accidentally this past summer. Much to the embarrassment of the Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal, that brief glimpse behind its editorial curtain showed that the editors’ scholarly judgment was hardly, well, scholarly.  Instead, correspondence between editors revealed an unabashed bias against legal and political conservatives. It also exposed a clear prejudice by the editors toward snob appeal over more fair, scholarly integrity.

As Lat reports, the correspondence included clear evidence of ideological bias against conservatives, such as these gems:

“In addition, I am a little concerned based upon [Author D]’s CV. He is incredibly conservative, clerked for [Conservative Justice A], worked in the White House under Bush, questioned [Liberal Justice B] during her confirmation hearings in Congress, and has written critically on [Liberal Justice C] in the wall street journal. Maybe that background isn’t important to all of you and I understand the need to have HHRJ be open-minded buuuuuuut, yeah, doesn’t make me want to take this article.”

A fellow editor replied to that message with the following thoughts:

“ok i trust [Editor Y]’s judgment — those all sound like major concerns and are enough to reject the article. i’m fine with rejection based on that — we really need to act quickly on all this. other thoughts?”

The article was rejected.

For more on this story, see “A Look Inside the Law Review Sausage Factory–and Possible Evidence of Bias Against Conservatives.”

The Department of Education has quietly announced that it will not enforce its very controversial state authorization rule, which required colleges to get government permission in every state where students enrolled in distance ed programs. The low key announcement with such a huge implications for colleges all over the country was probably due to the Obama administration wanting to downplay its embarrassment over the court’s recent rebuke of its gross regulatory overreach. The Obama ed department’s heavy handed push for state authorization threatened to cost colleges millions and throw the higher ed industry into turmoil. The only major beneficiaries of the fed action would have been government universities-no surprise there. Many small colleges faced closing or limiting their distance ed programs due to the high costs of meeting the new state authorization demands. But the biggest losers would have been distance ed students facing fewer low cost education options. For more on this major development, see today’s report in Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/07/31/education-department-wont-enforce-state-authorization-distance-education-programs

A federal court case, touching the new electronic books and resources world with lots of ramifications for college classrooms, bookstores and libraries, has gone in favor of the colleges and against the nation’s major publishers.

From Inside Higher Ed:  Court rejects many of publishers’ arguments on e-reserves.