Free speech watch in Wisconsin

With help from Kimberly Hefling and Mel Leonor

FREE SPEECH WATCH: The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday in a case watched closely in higher education circles. At issue is whether Marquette University in Milwaukee was justified in indefinitely suspending political science professor John McAdams. McAdams criticized a graduate teaching instructor by name in his conservative blog in 2014, after she stopped one of her students from arguing against gay marriage during a class discussion.

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that the case involving the Jesuit university has become “something of a cause celebre for conservatives, who generally argue for giving universities more latitude to fire faculty and mock tenure.” Conservative columnist George Will has voiced support for McAdams’ cause, as has The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.

Marquette has maintained it was not what McAdams wrote that led to action against him, but rather his "doxing" of the instructor — a practice of publicizing someone's personal identifying information online to subject them to harassment. "Had he written the exact same blog post and not included the student-teacher's name and contact information, he would not have been disciplined," Ralph Weber, Marquette's attorney, told WISN. "He's being disciplined for his conduct, not any viewpoint."

Last year, a lower court judge ruled in Marquette’s favor, arguing that “academic freedom does not mean that a faculty member can harass, threaten, intimidate, ridicule, or impose his or her views on students.” Later, the state’s high court agreed to hear the case directly, bypassing an appeals court.

Speaking of free speech, university leaders this week are pushing back on a recent assertion by the White House that free speech on college campuses is a "crisis.” Multiple university groups have issued statements stressing their support for free speech. For example, the presidents and chancellors of the Association of American Universities, a group of 62 elite research schools, issued a statement from their spring meeting stressing that they are "unequivocally committed to preserving and honoring" free speech. Benjamin Wermund has more.

GOOD THURSDAY MORNING, APRIL 19. I’m a wimp when it comes to scary movies, so I was pretty nervous about seeing “A Quiet Place.” But if you share my anxiety, I recommend you go see it anyway. The movie is less about scaring you and more about building tension. You won’t regret it! Talk to me at or @caitlinzemma. Send events to: And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

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TODAY: DEVOS TO MEET WITH DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos today will meet with a Department of Defense official about the Department of Defense Education Activity, the agency that manages schools for military children, an Education Department official told POLITICO on Wednesday. The Education official didn't provide further details on whom DeVos is meeting with or the substance of the meeting. U.S. News & World Report first reported that DeVos is meeting with the Department of Defense. More.

DeVos' meeting comes as conservative groups are pushing members of Congress to include a proposal in the National Defense Authorization Act allowing military families to use Impact Aid funds for education savings accounts, which families can use to help pay for private school tuition, tutoring services, online courses and more. Impact Aid funds are used to supplement school district budgets because the districts sit on tax-exempt federal land like military bases.

The proposal introduced last month by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), H.R. 5199 (115), has proven wildly unpopular with organizations representing military families and schools that receive Impact Aid. DeVos, speaking at the Conservative Action Political Conference in February, expressed support for the notion of providing military families with education savings accounts.

TONIGHT: ARIZONA TEACHERS TO ANNOUNCE WALKOUT VOTE RESULTS: Teachers union leaders in the Grand Canyon State tonight will announce whether they’ll hold a statewide walkout, following the lead of teachers in other red states like Oklahoma and West Virginia. Arizona teachers are deeply skeptical of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to eventually boost teacher salaries by 20 percent. And they’re calling for $1 billion to make up for a decade of education funding cuts.

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, the statewide teachers union, told Morning Education that he speaks to teachers union leaders in Oklahoma and West Virginia about once a week. “We talk about themes and patterns, how to be proactive, how to sustain and focus the movement and keep it as strategic is possible,” he said. There are some teachers who don’t feel the time is right for a walkout, Thomas said. But “there’s a considerable amount of people who would walk out of their classrooms temporarily with the idea of coming back to their classrooms with more resources. … It’s up to them, it’s up to the movement. That’s why we’re doing this vote.”

TOMORROW: NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION ON GUN VIOLENCE: Students from Parkland, Fla. — where 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day — are preparing for a “National School Walkout” on Friday to protest gun violence. The demonstration is to be held more than two months after the Florida school shooting and on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. The walkout is expected to start at 9:50 a.m. and at 10 a.m., there will be 13 seconds of silence to honor the 12 students and one teacher killed by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine. The Parkland students are urging their peers across the country to wear orange, which has become a symbol for gun reform and in honoring 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013. They’re also urging their peers to register to vote after the moment of silence is held.

UNIVERSITY FACULTY PAY GROWTH SLOWS: A new graphic by POLITICO Pro’s DataPoint takes a look at how pay growth for university faculty is slowing down. Check out the DataPoint graphic here. Want to add DataPoint to your Pro account? Learn more.

BLACKOUT HITS PUERTO RICAN SCHOOLS: Shortened school days with no electricity or running water likely await hundreds of Puerto Rican students today as the island struggles to bounce back from a pervasive blackout that hit Wednesday morning. Puerto Rican education officials would not estimate how many schools will operate without electricity today, but advised school leaders at facilities without electricity or generators to shorten the school day by two-and-a-half hours. Some schools were also left without running water due to the power outage; those schools will operate three-hour school days today. Education Secretary Julia Keleher advised teachers Wednesday to retool their lessons to minimize the impact of the blackout on students.

Territory officials expect the electric system to recover by Friday. In the meantime, hundreds of students there will return to the conditions they endured during the early days of the island’s post-Maria recovery. More from El Nuevo Dia.

WHITE HOUSE PROPOSED SPENDING CUTS LOOM: A rescissions package that could cut as much as $60 billion from a $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last month could drop in the “next couple of weeks,” with aims of a House floor vote before July, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on Wednesday. Mulvaney told a House Appropriations panel that the proposal could target unused funding in existing accounts, as well as money the White House disputes in the $1.3 trillion omnibus, H.R. 1625 (115).

It isn’t clear which programs Mulvaney is eyeing. And Senate Republicans have largely ruled out the prospect of reeling back funding from the spending bill, which the White House itself helped negotiate and President Donald Trump signed into law, though he expressed unhappiness with the package. More from Pro Budget and Appropriations reporter Sarah Ferris.

ICYMI: SENATE CONFIRMS EDUCATION DEPARTMENT’S TOP LAWYER: The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Florida attorney Carlos Muñiz to serve as the Education Department's general counsel — overcoming objections from some Democrats who challenged his record protecting students. The vote was 55-43. Muñiz previously served as deputy general counsel under former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “After a protracted confirmation process, Carlos can at last get to work on behalf of our nation’s students,” DeVos said in a statement. “He has dedicated his career to upholding the law, and his insight and expertise will be invaluable as we work to advance educational opportunities for all students.” More.

Four other Education Department nominees await a Senate vote: Jim Blew, the nominee to serve as assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development; Kenneth Marcus, the nominee to lead the civil rights office; Mick Zais, the deputy secretary nominee; and Frank Brogan, the nominee to serve as assistant secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.


— The Education Department’s Office of Inspector General says in a new report that the agency’s financial aid office could bolster its security screening process for contractor personnel.

— EducationCounsel is out with a new analysis of the quality assurance entities that are part of the EQUIP pilot program to expand federal student aid to nontraditional education providers.


— Baltimore County community remains divided on new school superintendent Verletta White: The Baltimore Sun.

— Tennessee education officials: statewide exam running smoothly after “deliberate attack.” The Tennessean.

— Feds want to know: Did NC college discriminate against a student because she's white? The Charlotte Observer.

— Statewide testing halted as Ohio site reports login issue: Cincinnati Enquirer.

— Former investment banker Austin Beutner emerges as a top pick for L.A. schools superintendent amid last-minute jockeying: Los Angeles Times.

— Candidates backed by powerful coalition sweep Newark’s historic school board election: Chalkbeat.

— Inspector general finds lax enforcement of D.C. schools’ residency regulations: The Washington Post.

— Tennessee passes bill to ban spanking of disabled students: The Associated Press.

I haven’t had enough of the Pro Education team: @caitlinzemma (, @khefling (, @mstratford (, @BenjaminEW ( and @MelLeonor_ (