E-Update for April 28, 2017

E-Update for April 28, 2017

Highlights:

  • Today, the House and Senate passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 until May 5, 2017. An omnibus appropriations bill is expected to be introduced early next week.
  • On April 27, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on “Strengthening Accreditation to Better Protect Students and Taxpayers.” The hearing focused on ways in which the accreditation process can be improved to ensure strong accountability for students and taxpayers.
  • On April 26, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled, “Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education,” which requires the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to review the Department’s K-12 regulatory policies over the next 300 days and ensure “strict compliance” with legislation passed by Congress relating to K-12 education and state and local control.

Congress:

Members of Congress Send Letter Urging USED Secretary DeVos to Reinstate Student Loan Protections: Over 130 members of Congress, including Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee Patty Murray (D-WA), sent a letter to USED Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to reverse her recent decision to rescind memos on student loan servicing reforms from the Obama Administration. The members argue that the Secretary’s decision will put borrowers and taxpayers at risk and will allow federal contracts to go to servicers who have previously violated consumer protection laws. The letter can be found here.
April 26, 2017

House:

House Education and the Workforce Committee Holds Hearing on Accreditation Process: The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on “Strengthening Accreditation to Better Protect Students and Taxpayers.” The hearing focused on ways in which the accreditation process can be improved to ensure strong accountability for students and taxpayers. During the hearing, Chairwoman of the Committee Virginia Foxx (R-NC) emphasized the importance of refocusing accreditation on academic quality and student learning instead of compliance and of reducing federal regulations that discourage innovation. Chairwoman Virginia Foxx’s statement can be found here.
April 27, 2017

House Democrats Send Letter to GAO on PSLF Program: Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee Bobby Scott and Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development Susan Davis (D-CA), along with other Democratic members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting additional information on USED’s implementation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. In the letter, the members cited concerns over USED’s capacity to adequately process applications for the program. Ranking Members Scott and Davis also sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos asking her to ensure that USED’s implementation of the program is consistent and impartial for all student-loan borrowers. The letters can be found here and here, respectively.
April 24, 2017

Senate:

Group of Bipartisan Senators Sends Letter to USED Secretary DeVos on Dual Enrollment Pell Grant Pilot Program: A bipartisan group of 16 Senators, including Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos asking her to maintain a pilot program that allows high school students to use Pell Grants for college courses as part of dual enrollment and early college high school programs. The Senators noted the effectiveness of these programs for low-income students and asked the Secretary to also identify a method for evaluating the pilot program.
April 26, 2017

Administration:

Transition:

Personnel Announcements for USED and HHS: On April 24, USED Secretary DeVos announced that Liz Hill has been hired as the Department’s press secretary. Ms. Hill formerly served as communications director for Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN). Additionally, on April 21, President Donald Trump announced the nomination of Brett Giroir to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Health. Dr. Giroir is currently the President and CEO of ViraCyte, LLC and an Adjunct Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Press releases can be found here and here, respectively.
April 24 and April 21, 2017

White House:

President Trump Signs Executive Order on USED K-12 Regulatory Policies: President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled, “Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education,” which requires USED to review the Department’s K-12 regulatory policies over the next 300 days and ensure “strict compliance” with legislation passed by Congress relating to K-12 education and state and local control. President Trump’s remarks can be found here and the press call transcript here. Chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee Virginia Foxx’s statement can be found here, and Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) statement can be found here.
April 26, 2017

Tax Reform Plan Released by Trump Administration: The Trump Administration released a tax reform plan, outlining proposed tax cuts for businesses and individuals as well as tax relief to assist families in paying for child and dependent care expenses. A statement from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) can be found here. House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) and House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy Ranking Member Llyod Doggett’s (D-TX) statement can be found here. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) statement can be found here. Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee John Yarmuth’s (D-KY) statement can be found here. A blog post from Gary Cohn, chief economic advisor to President Trump and Director of the National Economic Council can be found here.
April 26, 2017

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

New Flexibilities and Updates on FAFSA: On April 25, USED’s Office of Federal Student Aid announced the decision to continue listing colleges in the order a student chose to list them on the FAFSA when providing this information to state grant agencies, instead of listing them in a random order as the Office had previously announced in June 2016. The notice can be found here.  Additionally, on April 24, USED Secretary DeVos announced new flexibilities for institutions to use when verifying Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) information. This decision was made in response to the suspension of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool which is used to fill out the FAFSA. Institutions can now accept a signed copy of the 2015 IRS tax return and no longer need to verify that the applicant did not file a 2015 tax return. The press release can be found here and the letter to institutions here. In response to the announcement that the FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool was disabled due to concerns over security risks, on April 28, a group of bipartisan members, including Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Ranking Member of the Committee Richard Neal (D-MA), sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to communicate their concerns about IRS’s ability to prevent data breaches for IRS online tools. The letter can be found here. Lastly, USED recently began including 19 year olds in its weekly calculation of high school seniors who have completed the FAFSA, after advocates argued that many high school seniors turn 19 before they graduate and it is important to have a more accurate estimate. FAFSA completion is widely considered an indicator of college enrollment.
April 2017

President Trump’s and USED Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Schedules For This Past Week:

  • On April 26, President Trump delivered remarks at the National Teacher of the Year event, during which he congratulated the 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee and emphasized the importance of teachers. President Trump’s remarks can be found here.
  • On April 27, USED Secretary DeVos met with members of Congress, including members of the House Republican Policy Committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), to discuss education issues, with a focus on school choice policies.
  • On April 27, USED Secretary DeVos held a listening session for Autism Awareness Month and attended events to celebrate this year’s state and national Teachers of the Year.
  • On April 26, USED Secretary DeVos visited Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Maryland in honor of National Reentry Week. During the visit, the Secretary learned about the facilities’ onsite education and career development services. The press release can be found here.
  • On April 24 & 25, USED Secretary DeVos met with state education chiefs to discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and other education issues. State chiefs included in these meetings were: Melody Schopp of South Dakota; Carey Wright of Mississippi; Tony Evers of Wisconsin; Molly Spearman of South Carolina; Matt Blomstedt of Nebraska; Kirsten Baesler of North Dakota; MaryEllen Elia of New York; Steve Canavero of Nevada, Tony Smith of Illinois; Jillian Balow of Wyoming; Mitchell Chester of Massachusetts; Margie Vandeven of Missouri; Steve Staples of Virginia; and Glen Price, chief deputy superintendent of California.
  • On April 24, USED Secretary DeVos visited Ashland Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia “to mark the end of Month of the Military Child.”

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

CFPB Identifies Student Loan Issues: On April 26, the CFPB announced that it has found that some student loan servicers are failing to provide borrowers with required legal protections and are thus in violation of the law. The CFPB specifically found that some of these servicers did not refund charges imposed on borrowers who were wrongly denied their right to defer loan payments while enrolled in school. The press release can be found here. Additionally, on April 25, CFPB released a monthly complaint snapshot focused on consumer complaints about student loans. The snapshot describes borrowers’ complaints about frequent servicing breakdowns that impact borrowers’ ability to repay their loans. The snapshot can be found here.
April 2017

Events:

  • On May 3, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on “Reviewing the FAFSA Data Breach” at 9:30 am. More information can be found here.

Publications:

GAO Releases Report on 21st Century Community Learning Centers: The GAO released a report entitled, “Education Needs to Improve Oversight of Its 21st Century Program,” which calls for increased oversight of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The Centers provide after-school and summer programs to students. The report indicates that USED should revise the program’s performance measures to provide better data on the program’s effectiveness.
April 26, 2017

IES’ NCEE Releases Report on DC Voucher Program: The Institute of Education Sciences’ (IES) National Center for Education Evaluation (NCEE) and Regional Assistance released a report entitled, “Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After One Year” which compares children who were chosen for a scholarship to those who were not, one year later. The study finds negative impacts on student achievement for children who did receive scholarships, among other findings.
April 27, 2017

IES Releases Results From NAEP Arts Assessment: IES released results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2016 arts assessment for eighth-grade students. The results indicate that average scores did not change significantly from 2008, but fewer students are reportedly involved in music or art activities outside of school.
April 25, 2017

IES’ NCES Releases Brief on Debt Burden: The Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a brief entitled, “The Debt Burden of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients,” which analyses student loan repayment status and outstanding debt for a cohort of bachelor’s degree recipients.
April 20, 2017

Legislation:

H.Res.276
A resolution expressing the sense of the House that more should be done to instill Holocaust education in school curricula around the country.
Sponsor: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA)

H.R.2140
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the credit for employers establishing workplace child care facilities, to increase the child care credit to encourage greater use of quality child care services, to provide incentives for students to earn child care-related degrees and to work in child care facilities, and to increase the exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance.
Sponsor: C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)

H.R.2151
Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment ActA bill to prevent harassment at institutions of higher education by requiring colleges and universities receiving federal student aid funding to enact anti-harassment policies prohibiting harassment of enrolled students by other students, faculty, and staff based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.
Sponsor: Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)

H.R.2155
A bill to amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to authorize funds to identify and eliminate excessive occupational licensure.
Sponsor: Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)

H.R.2160
A bill to improve the safety of school buses, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

S.954
Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment ActA bill to prevent harassment at institutions of higher education by requiring colleges and universities receiving federal student aid funding to enact anti-harassment policies prohibiting harassment of enrolled students by other students, faculty, and staff based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.
Sponsor: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

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