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Teachers Press DeVos; Questions About Koch Brothers' Gifts To Universities

LA Johnson

This week in our roundup, we travel from Arizona to the United Kingdom to the Philippines to bring you the education news.

Teachers in Arizona head back to class

The weeklong Arizona teachers walkout ended Thursday after lawmakers passed a state budget that included raising their pay. Still, not all of their demands have been met, and some vowed to keep organizing through the November elections.

This was the fifth state that has seen teacher action since February. Our NPR/Ipsos Poll found that teachers across the country are struggling to make ends meet. At times, 59 percent have worked a second job.

Teachers of the Year confront DeVos

Each state's Teacher of the Year was feted in Washington, D.C., this week, and the walkouts in several states hung over the festivities. NPR spoke with Lindsey Jensen, a high school English teacher and 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year who said she was once apolitical, but not anymore. "Teacher protests, strikes and walkouts across the country are not so much out of anger but out of necessity," she said. "We've had enough."

Oklahoma's teacher of the year, Jon Hazell, who said he is a Republican, confronted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a private meeting, according toHuffPost, over school choice policies that he said are draining money from public education in his state. And in answer to a question from Arizona's Josh Meibos, DeVos expressed opposition to teacher walkouts.

Teachers recruited from overseas

The New York Times reported that school districtsacross the country have recruited thousands of teachers on temporary visas from countries like the Philippines because, like food service or farm work, the jobs are too low-paid to attract qualified candidates in the U.S.

Private college discounts get deeper

It was "College Decision Day" this week as prospective students committedto their dream, reach or safety schools.

And for full-time freshmen, private colleges are discounting tuition through grants and scholarships by just about 50 percent. That is the highest discount ratein history, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, which puts out an annual study.

The large discounts speak to the limits of colleges' ability to raise additional revenue by raising tuition. In an era of declining enrollment, net tuition is rising, but much more slowly than the sticker price.

Want to help students of color? Help part-time students, report says

Speaking of college students, at community colleges, they are now majority nonwhite. Seven out of 10 have jobs, 36 percent are first-generation students, and 17 percent are single parents. More than 8 out of 10 enroll part time or take a pause at least once before graduation. A new report by EAB, an education research and services company, advocates targeting part-time students for services and intervention and redesigning programs to simplify their paths to graduation.

Starbucks controversy ends in education

Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, two young black men, were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia last month while waiting for an associate to begin a business meeting.

Their arrest and detainment without charges caused a national furor. The two men announced settlements this week with the city for a symbolic $1 and a promise to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs from area high schools. Starbucks paid an undisclosed amount and also offered Robinson and Nelson free tuition in an Arizona State University online program created for Starbucks employees.

Questions about Koch money at George Mason University

The Koch Foundationhas donated more than $50 million to George Mason University, a public institution in Virginia, since 2011. Documents provided to an activist groupunder a Freedom of Information Act request show that the money came with agreements about recommending conservative candidates for certain faculty positions. The foundation and the university have said the language about faculty positions was contained in older agreements and not in more recent grants.

Still, the revelations brought widespread media coverage, and amid the criticism, Angel Cabrera, the university president, has ordered an inquiry. He said the agreements "fall short of the standards of academic independence I expect any gift to meet." The Koch Foundation has increased its giving to more than 200 universities over the past decade.

University of Montana president seeks to cut 50 faculty

The new president of Montana's flagship university, Seth Bodnar, has proposed eliminating 50 full-time faculty positions to help address a $10 million deficit and a near-decade of declining enrollment. Humanities would be hardest hit.

Protest at Pearson shareholder meeting

On Friday in London, activists, teachers union members and members of the Kenyan Parliament protested the annual shareholders' meeting of Pearson, one of the world's largest education companies. They object to Pearson's investment in Bridge International Academies, a for-profit primary school company with locations in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Officials in Kenya and Uganda have sought closure of Bridge schools for violations of local regulations regarding teacher qualification, safety and hygiene. The company says that its methods are innovative and that its students outperform their peers on national tests.

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Corrected: May 4, 2018 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly say an NPR/Ipsos Poll found that 58 percent of teachers have worked a second job. The poll reported 59 percent.
Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.