Don’t Let DeVos Gut Title IX

Deadline for public comments: January 28, 2019 – 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed regulations that would modify the implementation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. Well, let’s call it what it is – Betsy DeVos has proposed a scheme to destroy an important part of Title IX. We have a chance to say NO.

The proposed regs, which have the outrageously misleading title “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” would gut Obama-era Title IX guidance for how schools address sexual violence. Among other changes, DeVos’s proposed regulations would specify how institutions covered by Title IX must respond to sexual harassment incidents, and would also revise the availability of remedies for violations. Hint: all the changes remove protections for women …

You have until Monday January 28 to protest the proposed changes by submitting a public comment. Go to this link and click the “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex…” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions to submit a comment. Be sure to reference Docket ID No. Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments (personalize the language because copied & pasted comments or overly similar comments may be grouped together and not counted separately). Several of these are adapted from the Equal Rights Advocates’ excellent comment guide. Submit your comments by the end of day January 28:

My name is _____ and I am [fill in relevant identifying info, if appropriate – such as teacher, student, advocate, sexual assault survivor, etc.] I am writing in reference to Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064.

I oppose the proposed regulations for the following reasons:

  • General:
    • They would allow schools to refuse to investigate online sexual harassment.
    • They provide for dramatically reduced liability for schools, allowing them to turn a blind eye to sexual assault or harassment and shielding them from responsibility if they ignore or cover up sexual misconduct.
    • They would drastically reduce the number of school employees responsible for addressing or reporting sexual harassment.
    • They would encourage schools to reinstate an antiquated mediation process rather than investigating.
    • They would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, requiring schools to investigate only the most “serious forms of harassment and assault,” and only act when the sexual violence or harassment completely denies a student access to education, forcing students to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse without being able to ask their schools for help.
  • Duty to Report:
    • I am concerned about how the proposed regulations narrow which school employees are required to act on reports of sexual harassment and misconduct in higher education settings (§§ 106.44(a), 106.30), as well as the regulations’ requirement of schools to dismiss reports of sexual violence that happen between students off campus (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)).
    • These rules would not balance the scales of justice between student complainants and student respondents, but would rather result in students’ reports and complaints being dismissed or ignored, which will very likely decrease reporting overall.
  • Burden of Proof:
    • Proposed regulation 106.45(b)(4)(i) requires schools to apply the higher standard of evidence to Title IX cases – Clear and Convincing Evidence. Application of this standard of evidence is inequitable and impractical, and contradicts decades of legal practice.
    •  The Department fails to consider and address the grave consequences to the victim of sexual assault when compared to other crimes. It is unfair for the Department to apply a higher standard of evidence based on its conclusion that the consequences to the respondent are “grave” without consideration of the grave consequences to the victim, whom the provisions of Title IX were designed to protect.
    • Application of this higher standard is impractical and seems intentionally designed to reduce the overall number of findings of sexual assault.
  • Deadline for comment period:
    • Please extend the comment period for these regulations for a minimum of 60 days beyond the currently scheduled public comment deadline. The proposed 60-day comment period is insufficient to receive meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process.
    • Please schedule public hearings at schools and colleges campuses throughout the country to encourage additional input from students, teachers, administrators, and advocates.

For more information, read the Equal Rights Advocates’ article. Also, this letter from the National Women’s Law Center, joined by more than 100 groups and 200 individuals, points out that the proposed changes are extensive and far-reaching and would drastically alter students’ rights and affect almost every aspect of schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment against students, and requests that the Department of Education extend the brief comment period.

Graphic © Equal Rights Advocates

 

 

Evolve California’s Plan to Reform Prop 13

By Ted Lam

On a school night – Tuesday, January 23 – over 20 people sat in El Cerrito High School’s auditorium for an hour to hear Ben Grieff, the campaign director for Evolve California, talk about the drive to reform Proposition 13.

Evolve California is working to reform the infamous Prop. 13 so that owners of commercial property valued at $2 million or more would pay the 1% market rate property tax.

Grieff reminded us that Prop. 13 passed in June 1978, almost 40 years ago, as part of an anti-tax/anti-government campaign by Howard Jarvis, a wealthy property owner. California voters were willing to vote for Prop. 13 even if it meant less money for schools, which it indeed did.

Before Prop. 13, California was tied with New York State in fifth place for spending on education. Forty years later, California is in the bottom ten states for educational spending, and the lack of funding strikes hardest in the communities that can least afford it. California’s Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) raise $600 million a year, sometimes to pay for basic needs in schools; and rich communities can raise large sums that poorer communities can’t. Rich communities can also afford to raise parcel taxes or establish private foundations to make up for revenue lost due to Prop. 13.

It’s more important now than ever to talk about reforming Prop. 13. The Trump tax cuts greatly reduce California’s ability to deduct property taxes, while Congress added another huge last-minute benefit to corporations that own commercial real estate. All of this means even less money for crucial services like education.

Proposals to reform Prop. 13 could make huge corporate beneficiaries of the Trump tax bill pay their fair share. They could restore $11 billion every year (approximately half for schools and half for special districts, like fire districts) through the county property tax process. Seventy-seven percent of revenue from this reform would come from the 8% of commercial properties in California that have owned land since 1978. It wouldn’t change Prop. 13 for any residential properties, AirBnB property owners, renters, or those with second homes. No small businesses ($2 million or less) would be affected. In fact, as recommended by small business owners, the reform would eliminate the small business taxes. The reforms would be phased in over time to allow businesses to adjust. The proposed 1% property tax rate is less than in New York and other states.

Grieff offered this thought in El Cerrito High: Disneyland has increased its ticket prices over 800% since 1978. Yet unless Prop. 13 is reformed to require corporations to pay their fair share, when Grieff’s hypothetical future grandchildren go to Disneyland, the park will be paying the same property tax as it did in 1978 – and the average homeowner will be paying more property tax than Disneyland.

Evolve California’s website has estimates for how much money each county in the state would receive if Prop. 13 was reformed to include corporate payments (for example, Contra Costa County would get $350 million every year through commercial property tax re-assessments).  

Evolve California and other coalition partners have submitted their proposition name and description to the California Attorney General, and will begin collecting signatures between February and early May to qualify for the November 2018 ballot. They are looking for signature collectors, and will train them. They need 585,000 signatures in total but hope to get 900,000 signatures by May.

If and when the proposition appears on the ballot in November, it will require only 50% plus one of the total votes cast. Three of the four declared Democratic gubernatorial candidates support Prop. 13 reform. If the facts about Prop. 13 and the need for reform are spread widely, we hope the public will, too.

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer.