The Obama administration has hit another milestone with less than two months left in office.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs as the unemployment rate dropped from 4.9 percent to 4.6 percent in November, the lowest since August 2007.
The 9-year low, which came as a surprise to analysts who predicted the unemployment rate would remain unchanged last month, puts the economy on the edge of full employment which is reason for many Americans to celebrate.
The Obama administration has settled lawsuits with 17 Native American tribes that accused the federal government of long mismanaging their funds and natural resources.
With these settlements, the administration will have resolved the majority of outstanding claims, some dating back a century, with more than 100 tribes and totaling more than $3.3 billion, according to the Justice and Interior departments.
“This is an important achievement that will end, honorably and fairly, decades of contention that not only sapped valuable resources but also strained relationships,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates.
The settlements announced Monday, totaling $492.8 million, come at the same time that thousands of Native Americans representing tribes from across the country have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota to protest the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, which they say threatens their water supply and traverses sacred Indian burial grounds.
The Obama administration is asking schools and colleges to clarify the role of law-enforcement officials who serve campuses, the Washington Post reports.
According to the report, the recommendations come after several violent encounters between school police and students, sparking debate about whether authorities are actually keeping children safe or arresting them for no reason. “The goal here is to give people a resource to do better,” Education Secretary John King told reporters during a call Wednesday, the Post notes.
The departments of Education and Justice sent letters to school nationwide encouraging school districts and colleges to make their expectations for school police explicit and clear by signing memorandums of understanding with local law-enforcement agencies. The departments recommend that the memorandums require training for school officers and also explicitly state that their role should not involve meting out day-to-day discipline, as well as other specifications.
Although the initiative is essentially guidance from the federal government, the Post notes, agencies will be required to follow it in order to qualify for federal grants that pay for the hiring of up to 150 school resource officers a year. The Post also notes, however, that the officers supported by those grants are a minority of the 31,000 school resource officers who work in public schools across the nation.
(CNN) The Obama administration issued guidance Friday directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
A joint letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice went to schools Friday with guidelines to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment,” the Obama administration said Thursday.
The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life, which includes a legal standoff between the administration and North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2. The guidance goes beyond the bathroom issue, touching upon privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics, all but guaranteeing transgender students the right to identify in school as they choose.
“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.”
The letter does not carry the force of law but the message was clear: Fall in line or face loss of federal funding. Justice and Education Department officials have repeatedly made clear that under their interpretation of Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law in education, schools receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.
“The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX,” the administration said Thursday.
LGBT groups praised the announcement, calling it a validation of transgender rights and a repudiation of so-called “bathroom bills” that ban people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex.
“These groundbreaking guidelines not only underscore the Obama administration’s position that discriminating against transgender students is flat-out against the law, but they provide public school districts with needed and specific guidance guaranteeing that transgender students should be using facilities consistent with their gender identity,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.
“This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools.”
The letter emphasizes the departments’ shared position that schools must treat transgender students the way they want to be treated based on their gender identity, regardless of how others may feel about it.
The Justice Department sued North Carolina on Monday to stop what it called discrimination against transgender individuals, raising the stakes in a cultural and legal battle that has ramifications for other states and the 2016 election.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch personally announced the lawsuit, which argues that North Carolina’s so-called bathroom law violates parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws, and that the state is engaging in a “pattern or practice of sex discrimination.”
Lynch stepped in hours after North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, had sued the Justice Department to prevent it from blocking implementation of the state law, which requires public agencies to deny transgender people access to multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing rooms consistent with their gender identity.
At a news conference, Lynch linked the dispute to past civil rights struggles over equal access to housing, water fountains and other facilities. “This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms,” she said. This is “about the respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we … have enacted to protect them.”
She added, “This is not the first time we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation.”
The federal lawsuit names the state of North Carolina, McCrory, the state’s Department of Public Safety, the University of North Carolina system and its Board of Governors as defendants.
Each state currently uses its own method of determining “significant disproportionality” in special education. Federal education officials believe the rule change would likely cause more states to fall under that category, according to Education Week.
That’s significant because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires school districts to set aside 15 percent of their federal funds for special education students.
The site points out that a 2013 Government Accountability Office report (PDF) says just 2 percent of school districts nationwide were identified as having minorities represented disproportionately in special education. “This figure fails to represent the true scope and breadth of significant disparities we currently see in special education,” says the report.
“The data we’ve seen makes it very clear that we, as a country, are not living up to the intent of the law,” said acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr., according to Education Week.
Federal education officials also suspect that minority students with learning disabilities are disproportionately disciplined at schools nationwide.
In an effort to combat HIV infections in girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African nations hit hardest by the virus, the Obama administration recently announced a $300 million program to help reduce the growing numbers according to The Associated Press.
The administration hopes to see a “25 percent infection reduction in females between ages 15-24 by the end of next year and a 40 percent reduction by the end of 2017,” the report says.
“No greater action is needed right now than empowering adolescent girls and young women to defeat HIV/AIDS,” said National Security Adviser Susan Rice of the program credited with saving millions of lives in Africa, writes The AP.
The new goals represent the next phase of the program, which was started by President George W. Bush and broadened by President Barack Obama, the report says.
The Obama administration releaased the new targets before “a U.N. summit on development goals for lifting people around the world out of poverty. Obama is scheduled to address the development meeting on Sunday,” writes The AP
About half of all new HIV infections among girls and young women last year are from the 10 countries countries targeted by the new initiatives, including Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, The AP says.
An Obama administration official confirmed that President Barack Obama will sign an executive order today to set the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers under federal contract. Low-wage workers who called on Obama to issue the order are expected to be present when the signing takes place at the White House. Exactly who will be covered under the new order will be made public during the event as well as other details, according to the official.
The signing of executive order confirms the policy proposal Obama explained during his recent State of the Union address. In light a minimum wage bill not being passed by the Senate or the House since he initially proposed raising the wage last February, the commander-in-chief took matters into his own hands with a vow to hike the wage-floor himself regarding workers under federal contracts.
“I’m eager to work with all of you,” Obama shared with lawmakers during the State of the Union. “But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The minimum wage increase won’t be the only thing put into effect by the executive order. An outline released by the White House earlier this month states the order will tie the contractors’ minimum wage to an inflation index.
The signing caps off a history of struggle by labor groups and progressive members of Congress to get the president to sign such an order in the months leading up to his State of the Union address. The effort hit home for workers employed by federal contractors, who participated in one-day walkouts to protest low pay.
WASHINGTON (AP) — With website woes ongoing, the Obama administration Monday granted a six-week extension until March 31 for Americans to sign up for coverage next year and avoid new tax penalties under the president’s health care overhaul law. The move had been expected since White House spokesman Jay Carney promised quick action last week to resolve a “disconnect” in the implementation of the law. It comes as technical problems continue to trouble the website designed as the main enrollment portal for people who don’t get health care at work.
As a consequence, Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats as well, are calling for a one-year delay in the penalties most Americans will face starting next year if they remain uninsured. Monday’s action by the administration stops well short of that, and amounts only to a limited adjustment. Under the latest policy change, people who sign up by the end of open enrollment season March 31 will not face a penalty. That means procrastinators get a grace period.
Previously you had to sign up by the middle of February, guaranteeing that your coverage would take effect March 1, in order to avoid fines for being uninsured. The extension – granted for 2014 only – addresses confusion that was created when the administration set the first open enrollment period under the law from Oct. 1-March 31. The problem was that health insurance coverage typically starts on the first day of a given month, and it takes up to 15 days to process applications. So somebody signing up March 16 – well within the open enrollment period – wouldn’t get coverage until April 1, thereby risking a penalty for being uninsured part of the year.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to strike down California’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, staking out a legal theory that would forbid states from banning same-sex marriage if it were adopted by the court.
In an amicus brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the administration particularly said those states which allow civil unions but not same-sex marriages — Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island — were violating the 14th Amendment’s right to equal protection.
“The designation of marriage,” wrote Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., “confers a special validation of the relationship between two individuals and conveys a message to society that domestic partnerships or civil unions cannot match.”