E-Update for February 3, 2017

E-Update for February 3, 2017

Highlights

  • On February 3, the Senate invoked cloture by a vote of 52-48 on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Education. The Senate is now debating the nomination for 30 hours following cloture being invoked with a vote likely on Tuesday.
  • On February 2, two resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) were introduced in the House related to the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) regulations. The resolutions would disapprove of regulations on the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) accountability and state plan provisions and regulations on teacher preparation issues.
  • On February 1, the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) was reported to the full Senate by a vote of 14-0.

U.S. Congress

Nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education Progresses: The Senate invoked cloture today by a vote of 52-48 on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Education. A simple majority was needed to invoke cloture. Under Senate Rules, the Senate is now debating the nomination for 30 hours following cloture being invoked. This will likely set up a vote on final confirmation of DeVos on Tuesday. While Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted to report the nominee out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee and to invoke cloture, they have stated that they will vote against final passage of DeVos’s confirmation. Given this, Vice President Mike Pence may be required to cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm DeVos. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) statement and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray’s (D-WA) statement following the cloture vote today can be found here and here.

  • On January 31, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee held a meeting to report the nomination of USED Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos to the full Senate. DeVos was confirmed by a party-line vote of 12-11. After the HELP Committee meeting, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a statement reaffirming his confidence that DeVos will be committed to public education and will be an excellent Secretary of Education. Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) similarly released a statement following the committee vote to report the nominee, criticizing Republicans for reporting the nominee to the full Senate given remaining questions about DeVos’s finances and potential conflicts of interest. Ranking Member Murray also asserted that she has not been persuaded that DeVos has the experience, skills, or understanding to serve as USED Secretary and she has concerns with DeVos’s work to privatize public schools. Her statements can be found here and here.
  • On February 2, Ranking Member Murray sent a letter to DeVos calling on her to announce her position on President Donald Trump’s executive order to halt immigration and refugee resettlement from a number of Muslim-majority countries, noting that the ban “has been devastating for schools and colleges nationwide.”

Nomination of Rep. Tom Price for U.S. Secretary of HHS Reported to Full Senate: The Senate Finance Committee reported to the full Senate the nomination of HHS Secretary-designate Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) by a vote of 14-0. This came after Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee boycotted the committee meetings to consider the nomination, and Republicans suspended the rules to allow a vote to approve Price’s nomination without a quorum being present. The full Senate also approved a procedural vote on the nomination by 51-48 along party lines on February 2. Final passage could occur in the coming weeks. Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Orin Hatch’s (R-UT) statements on the committee boycott and Rep. Price’s nomination are available here and here. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) statement following the vote to report the nominee to the full Senate is available here.
February 1, 2017

House Introduces Resolutions of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA): Two resolutions of disapproval under the CRA were introduced in the House this week. On February 6 at 5:00 pm (ET), the House Rules Committee will meet to set the rules for consideration of the resolutions of disapproval under the CRA on ESSA’s accountability and state plan provisions and teacher preparation issues. The full House will vote on the resolutions of disapproval on February 7.

The CRA allows Congress to follow simplified, “fast-track” procedures – 10 hours of debate with a 50-vote threshold – to disapprove of recently finalized regulations.  If a regulation is disapproved, USED is barred from issuing another regulation that is “substantially the same” as the disapproved regulation; however, statue would still apply.

  • The first resolution – H.J. Res 57 – would allow for disapproval of USED’s regulation on accountability and state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) is the sponsor of this resolution. The resolution can be found here and the USED final regulation here.
  • The second resolution – H.J. Res 58 – would allow for disapproval of USED’s regulation on teacher preparation issues. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) is the sponsor of this resolution. The resolution can be found here and the USED final regulation here.

House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Holds Hearing on School Choice: The House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing entitled, “Helping Students Succeed through the Power of School Choice.” During the hearing, Republican members stressed that school choice policies give every child an opportunity to attend a high-quality school that meets his or her unique needs, regardless of zip code. Democratic members raised concerns about the potential use of federal funding through voucher and scholarship programs to support private schools that lack accountability.
February 2, 2017

Members of the House and Senate Committee Address the Annual Conference of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation: The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CEHA) held its annual conference this week on the future of quality assurance and accreditation.  House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) addressed the conference noting that the relationship between accreditors and USED should be maintained as a critical balance between flexibility for institutions and accountability for students and taxpayers; however, she noted that there is room for improvement. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also addressed the CEHA conference calling for accrediting agencies to play a more active role in fighting fraud, waste, and abuse in higher education. She went on to say that accrediting agencies should be more aggressive and work with the federal government to share information and determine if schools are cheating students. More information regarding her remarks can be found here.
January 31, 2017

Chairman Alexander Addresses the National School Boards Association Conference: Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander addressed state and school board leaders at a National School Boards Association conference this week. In his remarks, Chairman Alexander assured the state and local leaders that it is likely that USED will approve state plans as submitted. He also noted that states should assume that USED will maintain state plan submission deadlines of April 2017 and September 2017. USED has also extended the deadline for individuals to apply to serve as state plan peer reviewers under ESSA. Applications are now due February 17th and the notice can be found here.
January 30, 2017

Subcommittee Assignments Announced for Senate HELP and House Education and the Workforce Committees: Senate HELP Committee Chairman Alexander announced the Subcommittee assignments for the Senate committee, including the Subcommittee Chairmen and Ranking Members. Chairman Alexander’s statement can be found here. Additionally, House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) announced the Democratic Subcommittee assignments for the House committee. Ranking Member Scott’s statement is available here.

  • Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families – Chairman Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety – Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Ranking Member Al Franken (R-MN)
  • House Committee on Education and the Workforce – Vice Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
  • House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education – Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Ranking Member Jared Polis (D-CO)
  • House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development – Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Ranking Member Susan Davis (D-CA).

January 31, 2017

Administration

Jerry Falwell, Jr. Will Lead New Higher Education Taskforce: It has been reported that the president of Liberty University – Jerry Falwell Jr. – has been asked by the Trump Administration to lead a new task force to identify changes that should be made to USED’s policies and procedures regarding higher education.
January 31, 2017

Upcoming Events

On February 6 at 5:00 pm (ET), the House Rules Committee will meet to set the rules for consideration of the resolutions of disapproval under the CRA on ESSA’s accountability and state plan provisions and teacher preparation issues.

On February 7 at 10:00 am (ET), the House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Education.” The witness list and a live stream of the hearing can be found here.

Publications

IES Releases Report on School Climate and Academic Performance: USED’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES) released a report on how middle school climate and academic performance are related across schools over time. The study compared the academic performance of different schools with different levels of school climate and examined how changes in a school’s climate were associated with changes in students’ academic achievement.

Legislation

H.J. Res. 57
A resolution to allow for disapproval of USED’s regulation on accountability and state plans under ESSA.
Sponsor: Rokita (R-IN)

H.J. Res. 58
A resolution to allow for disapproval of USED’s regulation on teacher preparation issues.
Sponsor: Guthrie (R-KY)

H.R. 480
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow qualified scholarship funding corporations to access tax-exempt financing for alternative private student loans.
Sponsor: Flores (R-TX)

H.R. 483
A bill to amend title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to prohibit the provision of funds under such title to institutions of higher education that violate the immigration laws, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Hunter (R-CA)

H.R. 496
A bill to provide provisional protected presence to qualified individuals who came to the United States as children.
Sponsor: Coffman (R-CO)

H.R. 500
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude from gross income any discharge of indebtedness income on education loans of deceased or disabled veterans.
Sponsor: DesJarlais (R-TN)

H.R. 529
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make improvements in the rules related to qualified tuition programs and qualified ABLE programs.
Sponsor: Jenkins, L. (R-KS)

H.R. 610
A bill to distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.
Sponsor: King, S. (R-IA)

H.R. 615
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to include student loan repayers as members of targeted groups for purposes of the work opportunity credit and to provide for a credit against tax for student loan program startup costs.
Sponsor: Ross, D. (R-FL)

H.R. 647
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to award grants to eligible entities to establish, expand, or support school-based mentoring programs to assist at-risk middle school students with the transition from middle school to high school.
Sponsor: Carson (D-IN)

H.R. 675
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand the coverage of qualified tuition programs and increase the limitation on contributions to Coverdell education savings accounts.
Sponsor: McHenry (R-NC)

H.R. 691
A bill to expand opportunity through greater choice in education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rokita (R-IN)

H.R. 795
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance to employer payments of qualified education loans.
Sponsor: Davis, R. (R-IL)

H.R. 799
A bill to authorize the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to establish a pilot program to make grants to historically black colleges and universities to provide educational programs to offenders who have recently been, or will soon be, released from incarceration, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Hill, F. (R-AR)

H.R. 813
A bill to restore access to year-round Federal Pell Grants.
Sponsor: Sanchez, L. (D-CA)

S. 127
A bill to provide provisional protected presence to qualified individuals who came to the United States as children.
Sponsor: Flake (R-AZ)

S. 128
A bill to provide provisional protected presence to qualified individuals who came to the United States as children.
Sponsor: Graham, L. (R-SC)

S. 148
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against tax for qualified elementary and secondary education tuition.
Sponsor: Rubio (R-FL)

S. 149
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide student loan deferment for victims of terrorist attacks.
Sponsor: Rubio (R-FL)

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