FAFSA & College Application TOOLKIT- A collaboration with Georgetown University! For High School Students & Parents.

CLICK HERE—>>>  Proud of Our New Product: College Application & Financial Aid TOOLKIT for High School Students and Parents


Student Loan Forgiveness 2017- Don’t Panic (YET)


Last week, the Student Loan Ranger heard from a lot of panicked student loan borrowers who had read about a lawsuit that several borrowers and the American Bar Association filed against the Department of Education. These individuals had submitted employment verification certificates under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and were initially told that their employers, including the ABA, were considered eligible under the program.

Unfortunately, upon the Department of Education’s further review, their eligibility approval was rescinded, meaning that eligible payments they made while working for these employers would no longer count toward the 120 they needed to obtain forgiveness under the PSLF program.

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Short Synopsis of 58 page Court Opinion- Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. Army Corps of Engineers #nodapl

Civil Action No. 16-1534 (JEB)

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in Indian or Environmental Law. I am a Lawyer/ Activist/ Educator with a sincere interest in the rights and struggle of Native American/ First Nation people. In our social movements, especially in the current fight against the Dakota Access pipeline, there are many serious issues. U.S. Treaty rights (such as the Treaty of Fort Laramie signed with the Sioux in 1868), Indigenous Rights, Human Rights, International Law, and land ethics are all important and relevant to this movement and the big issue of oil pipelines on or near tribal reservations.

I am writing this to outline the Judge’s rationale in his final 58-page decision regarding a court challenge to permits for the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. This is a “friendly” document to get clear on factual background and legal issues. We should understand how the law may (or may not) help us in future. Social media posts, conversations and rhetoric have spread about this lawsuit mentioning law that does not necessarily apply to this case.

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Enforced Assimilation- “English Only versus “Dirty Spanish”

Education for Autonomy Speaker Collective member, Irene Monica Sanchez, shares spectacular insight into the importance of preserving and celebrating our children’s second language.  Excerpt below…link to full article at end. Published on TeleSUR  September 7, 2016. 

The video of a school bus driver’s violent outburst against a Latino child shows that we are still the target of attempts to strip us of our humanity

I don’t understand Spanish. I’m not going to learn it. I live in America and it’s an English-speaking country … so if you want to speak to me, speak to me in English.”

-Mary Black, former school bus driver in Idaho, after pouring water on a Latino boy

Video recently surfaced of a school bus driver in Idaho, Mary Black, saying the above to Miguel Martinez, a young 8th-grade Latino boy riding the bus, She added in disgust “I wouldn’t want to touch you” as she proceeded to pour water on him. This is infuriating. As a second generation Xicana mother raising a young Brown boy of Mexican and Guatemalan descent who speaks two languages, because I have known for far too long how our Brown children have been told they are “dirty” for simply speaking and existing.



Federal Rights of English Language Learners- Are Teachers Following the Law?

The Obama administration released guidelines Wednesday that highlight the civil rights of students learning English as a second language, who under federal law are guaranteed targeted help and a high-quality public education.

There are about 5 million English-language learners in the United States, or about 9 percent of all public school students, and the number is increasing. So, too, are the number of civil rights complaints concerning English learners, according to the Education Department, while national test scores and other data show a persistent achievement gap between native English speakers and those learning English as a second language.

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The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?




Teaching for Relevance: CENTRAL AMERICA

Teaching Central America

FREE RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS, COMMUNITY, PARENTS!!!  Anyone can form political education groups.  Check it out….

More than four million Central Americans reside in the United States today, yet the lack of resources in most schools on Central American heritage make the rich history and literature of the region invisible. Also missing from the curriculum is the direct connection between U.S. foreign policy and Central American immigration to the United States. People from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras moved in large numbers to the United States during the 1960s-1990s, when U.S.-supported military dictatorships waged repressive wars against their populations.

Therefore, Teaching for Change has launched a campaign to encourage and support teaching about Central America. We have collected lessons, book lists, biographies of noted historical figures, and readings for free use by classroom teachers.

EDUCATION, INCARCERATION & HOME “Educated While Incarcerated- Opportunities For Federal Law to Help Youth Re-enter The Educational Community”

By: Jennifer Laskin, MS, JD



Educated While Incarcerated- How Can Federal Law Help Youth Reenter Their Home Educational Community and Experience Success?


In 2011 there were more than 60,000 young people detained in juvenile justice facilities on any given day. In 2012-13 over 16,000 of those youth received special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to the National Disability Rights Network more than 65 percent of youth in the justice system meet the criteria for a disability, not all students who qualify for IDEA services are identified and assessed prior to detention. Under the “Child Find doctrine” schools have a legal duty to make special and unique efforts to work with any student suspected of an educationally related disability under IDEA.[1] There are ongoing and shifting challenges for schools to come into compliance with Child Find. In some communities Special Education students make up a large majority of the student population requiring a large portion of school resources.

The IDEA is a comprehensive, ‘wraparound” law mandating guidelines for educational assessment, parental notification/consent, school record transfers, and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Once a student qualifies for Special Education services, a student’s IEP is developed may include academic, social, behavioral and post-education or workforce preparation goals and objectives. For students in the juvenile justice system, especially those over 16, the transitional plan is one of the most important, proactive and underutilized aspects of IEP planning and implementation. Often, transitional plans are written very generically using boilerplate language such as “practice job interview skills” or “create a resume.” A reason for this generality is a dire lack of culturally relevant, transformational, therapeutic and effective schools, community programs and public services.

English Language Learners (ELLs) are also entitled to educational rights, and students who do not speak English as their first language are woefully under serviced and under resourced in juvenile detention facilities. Under federal law ELLs are entitled to “equal and meaningful access” to a school district’s program. A school district must “take action” if programs fail to enable students to overcome language barriers and produce results. The bilingual education program must be: 1) based on sound educational theory, 2) be “implemented effectively with resources for personnel, instructional materials, and space, and 3) must be proven effective in overcoming language barriers/handicaps after a trial period.[2]


Transition services are clearly described and mandated via IDEA. The mandate is child-centered, strength- based, and contains a variety of community and school based options to provide services and programming extending to youth in secure detention. Protections and procedures for detained youth under the law include the following.

  • A shared responsibility of non educational public agencies for the education of students with disabilities in correctional facilities.[3]
  • School records must be transferred in a timely fashion with efforts from both schools to request and transfer records quickly.[4]
  • Students also have the right to required assessments, observation, development and implementation of plans and strategies to assist students in preventing their behavior from interfering in his or her learning or the learning of others. [5]
  • Students must be trained as their own advocates. Students participate with their IEP team but they should be encouraged to actively participate in the creation of a transition plan that truly reflects their skills, talents, and a reasonable/ productive program post-release.[6]
  • Under ESEA juvenile detention- based schools have a legal obligation to provide opportunity for meaningful and equal participation for ELL students.[7]
  • Agencies share the responsibility to act and overcome language barriers that impede equal participation in instructional programs.[8]

Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and IDEA parental communication and notification is mandated. However, when a child is deemed in detention or custody, the parental rights may switch to the court.

Barriers to education post-detainment were well documented as early as 2003 by the Youth Law Center.[9] This report describes the same issues in existence today.


In the Prince George’s County Public School System a student transition from a residential or custodial placement back to the home school district is not simple. When a student is registered in a school located in a state institution or secure placement, educational records are requested and student is automatically “withdrawn” from their home school. Regardless of the student’s length of stay in custody, the parent or guardian is forced to go through a full school re-enrollment process upon return to the home school. This includes producing numerous documents such as student’s vaccination record, proof of residence, utility bills and picture ID.

Students who have failed classes required for graduation face an additional challenge. Making up lost high school credits in the Prince George’s County Public Schools self-funded “credit recovery” program is cost-prohibitive for many parents and guardians. Students who failed once or more classes required for graduation can “recover” the lost credit through after school or summer school classes. The fee is $225.00 per class. A 25% fee waiver is available for students on free and reduced lunch but many parents are not informed the waiver exists. Summer school costs $450.00 per class. Parents cannot pay the credit recovery fees and students realize they may never earn enough academic credits for graduation. Many students fail 9th grade two or three times and eventually leave school with no academic or workforce opportunities.


  • Create comprehensive lists of all local school-based services, community organizations, trade unions, professional associations or private business who will contribute to a “transition-network” for students. Disseminate information to Special Education teachers, Probation Officers and Juvenile Court staff. Lobby, advocate and do outreach.
  • Coordinate “special programs to meet the unique needs of participating children and youth…”[10] Prohibit charging fees for credit recovery and all academic related opportunities.
  • Conduct student rights workshops. Encourage and develop self-advocacy skills for post-release programming and plans.
  • Streamline and make it EASY for parents and students to re-register in school post-detention. For example, when a student is released from detention and is returning the their home school, they should have an updated transcript IN HAND and the school should accept the address listed with DJS Probation as the correct residence for student.
  • Students who hold or earn a GED or high school diploma while in custody should be encouraged and trained to research and apply for community college, trade school and Pell grants while still in detention to develop educational goals upon release.
  • Create a cadre of advocates who are certified teachers or committed volunteers with legal knowledge and classroom/education experience.

Federal law mandates all above recommendations.[11] [12] In spite of the law, the same setbacks and obstacles persist for court-involved youth and the full attainment of their educational rights. Law and policy dictate remedies. However, the majority of available programs are failing our youth. A lack of stable housing and reliable transportation (both public and personal) are fundamental issues intricately woven into the educational challenges of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth. “Previous approaches to effectuate educational rights, including court-ordered remedies, have failed to account for circumstantial factors relating to the socio-economic conditions within particular school districts. State and federal policy-makers may need to adopt programs that integrate educational policy with housing and planning policy in order to protect and fulfill each child’s educational rights.”[13] Solutions should be strategic in order to maximize collaborative, mutli-systemic transformation and outcomes.

[1] 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(3).

[2] Casteneda v. Pickard, 781 F. 2d 456, (5th Cir. 1986).

[3] 34 C.F.R. § 300.2 (b)(1)(iv).

[4] 34 C.F.R. § 300.323 (g).

[5] 34 C.F.R. § 300.324 (b)(2).

[6] 34 C.F.R. § 300.321(b).

[7] 20 U.S.C. § 1703 (f).

[8] 20 U.S.C. § 6801-6871.

[9] YOUTH LAW CENTER, Getting Out Of The Red Zone- Youth From The Juvenile Justice And Child Welfare Systems Speaks Out About The Obstacles To Completing Their Education And What Could Help (October 2003), available at http://www.cclp.org/documents/Getting%20Out%20of%20the%20Red%20Zone.pdf.

[10] Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Subpart 2 §1424(3).

[11] ESEA Subpart 2 §1421-1425.

[12] Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act § 223(9)(A-S).

[13] Michael R. Hilton, Literacy, Poverty, and Brain Development: Toward a New, Place-Based Educational Intervention, 17 Rich. J.L. & Pub. Int. 623 (2014).