E-Update for January 19, 2018
- On January 16, U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos approved 11 consolidated state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
- On January 18, the House approved by a party-line vote of 230-197 the latest Continuing Resolution (CR), which would provide funding beyond the current expiration on January 19 through February 16. The Senate voted to proceed to consideration of the CR on the same day by a vote of 97-2. It is unclear if the Senate will have enough votes to pass the CR prior to a midnight deadline tonight.
- On January 17, the Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as HHS Secretary. The full Senate will now be required to consider and approve the nominations. A vote has yet to be scheduled on the nomination.
Budget & Appropriations
Congress Continues to Discuss CR: On January 18, the House approved by a party-line vote of 230-197 the latest Continuing Resolution (CR), which would provide funding beyond the current expiration on January 19 through February 16. The Senate voted to proceed to consideration of the CR on the same day by a vote of 97-2. The CR includes a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and a delay of Obamacare tax provisions known as the Cadillac tax and medical device tax. Of note, an agreement on a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) fix and top-level spending caps for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 has yet to be announced, which is key to completing work on a final appropriations package. Without an agreement, it is unclear if the Senate will have enough votes to pass the CR prior to a midnight deadline tonight. If a CR is not passed, there would be a shutdown. As of today, President Trump and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were meeting to discuss a possible path forward.
January 18, 2018
Azar Approved as HHS Secretary by Senate Finance Committee; Other Nominations: On January 17, the Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as HHS Secretary by a vote of 15-12, largely along party lines. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee, put out a statement that same day stating that she would oppose Mr. Azar’s nomination, and urged her colleagues to do the same. Senator Murray’s statement is available here. The full Senate will now be required to consider and approve the nominations. A vote has yet to be scheduled on the nomination. More information is available here.
On January 18, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee conducted an executive session to consider the nominations of Brigadier General Mitchell Zais to be USED Deputy Secretary, Kenneth Marcus to be USED Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, and James Blew to be USED Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. The Committee voted to approve Zais’s and Blew’s nomination by voice votes, and also advanced the nomination of Kenneth Marcus on a 12-11 vote, along party lines. The full Senate will now be required to consider and approve the nominations. Votes have yet to be scheduled on the nominees. More information is available here.
Senate HELP Committee Conducts Hearing on Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency: On January 18, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing titled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency.” This was the second hearing on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), and throughout the hearing witnesses testified on ways to simplify federal student financial aid, which currently consists of two grant programs, five loan programs, and nine repayment plans. During her opening statement, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) raised concerns with USED Secretary Betsy DeVos’ implementation of ESSA, and stated that the Department “is approving state plans that do not comply with all of ESSA’s guardrails and issuing waivers of the law before it is fully implemented.” She noted that this could have an impact on the ability to conduct bipartisan negotiations going forward on HEA reauthorization. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN)’s statement is available here. Ranking Member Patty Murray’s (D-WA) statement is available here.
January 18, 2018
153 House Democrats Send Letter to President on School Infrastructure: House Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 153 House Democrats sent a letter to President Trump urging him to invest in public school infrastructure. In the letter, the Representatives discussed H.R. 2475, The Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2017, which was introduced in the House in May of 2017. The letter stated that this bill would create a partnership between the federal government and states, “providing $100 billion for direct grants and low-cost financing to help states and local communities upgrade their school facilities.” The letter is available here.
January 17, 2018
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED Secretary DeVos Delivers Remarks at School Choice Rally and AEI Event: On January 18, USED Secretary Betsy DeVos joined Congressional leaders and over 200 students to deliver remarks at the National School Choice Week Rally. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) also spoke at the rally, which was organized by Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). National School Choice Week will take place from January 21-27, 2018. The effort recognizes all K-12 options, including traditional public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling. More information is available here. On January 16, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted an event titled, “Bush-Obama school reform: Lessons learned.” USED Secretary DeVos delivered the keynote address, discussing lessons learned from federal education reforms enacted under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Secretary DeVos stated that “federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped,” and that the return of decision-making authority to states through ESSA implementation and the expansion of school choice will yield positive results for students going forward. Specific topics discussed during the event included accountability policies, policy instruments, and the federal role in school reform. The USED press release can be found here and Secretary DeVos’s remarks here.
OCR Publishes Civil Rights Investigation Database: USED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) made available a database of thousands of schools that are under investigation for civil rights complaints. The new database takes the place of a list of institutions of higher education that were under investigation for the mishandling of sexual violence cases, which was updated weekly by the Department. This new database will be updated on a monthly basis, and will include schools under investigation for alleged violations of all civil rights cases, rather than strictly sexual violence cases.
January 17, 2018
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
HHS Waives Head Start Center-Based Service Duration Requirements: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published in the Federal Register a notice announcing that the acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services will waive the August 1, 2019 Head Start center-based service duration requirements, effectively lowering this requirement from 50 percent to 0 percent. Previous regulations required each Head Start center-based program, by August 1, 2019, to provide 1,020 annual hours of planned class operations over the course of at least eight months per year for at least 50 percent of its Head Start center-based funded enrollment. However, the Secretary has made a determination that there is not sufficient funding available to mitigate a substantial reduction in funded enrollment resulting from the requirement. The longer annual hour service duration requirement was based on a body of research that suggests individual disadvantaged children benefit from longer exposure to enriching early learning programs than what is provided by the part-day, part-year programs. The waiver is effective January 19.
January 19, 2018
HHS Forms New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). In the press release, the Department stated that the new Division was being formed “to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”
January 18, 2018
Senator Murray Sends Letter to HHS With Concerns Regarding Evidence-Based Policymaking: Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Patty Murray (D-WA), sent a letter to Acting HHS Secretary Hargan regarding the suspension of the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) – a program designed to “promote the adoption of scientifically established behavioral health interventions.” The letter was written following a post on the website of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stating that the current NREPP contract has been discontinued. Ranking Member Murray expressed concern that this is not the first time the Trump Administration has “withdrawn support from evidence-based work,” noting last year’s decision to shorten the duration of grant agreements for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program. Ranking Member Murray concluded her letter by asking the Department to respond to five detailed questions regarding HHS’s position on evidence-based policymaking by January 31. The letter is available here.
January 17, 2018
U.S. Supreme Court:
DOJ Files Petition with Supreme Court on DACA; Trump Administration Resumes DACA Renewal Process: The Justice Department filed a petition with the Supreme Court urging the justices to resolve a legal dispute over DACA during the current court term, in which cases are typically decided by June. On January 16, the Department announced plans to appeal the ruling of a San Francisco-based U.S. District Court judge who ordered the Trump Administration last week to resume accepting renewal applications for DACA recipients. While the decision does not require officials to accept new DACA applications, the ruling will allow former DACA recipients who failed to renew by the October 5 deadline the chance to submit renewal applications. The decision will also require the administration to allow renewal of applications expiring in the future, unless halted by a higher court. Lastly, the Trump Administration announced on January 13 that it will comply with the court order, saying that the renewal process for recipients of DACA will resume effective immediately.
January 18, 2018
- On January 19, the United States Commission on Civil Rights will conduct a meeting via telephone at 11:00 am to vote on the release of the outline and transcript of the Commission’s briefing on inequities in higher education funding. The meeting can be accessed through the call-in number: 1-800-479-9001; Conference ID: 6075575. The notice can be found here.
- On January 25, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Frank T. Brogan to be Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at 2:30 pm. If confirmed, Mr. Brogan would oversee USED’s work to implement ESSA, working with states on their plans under the law. Mr. Brogan is a former Florida teacher, principal, superintendent, state education commissioner and former Florida Lieutenant Governor. More information is available here.
- On January 25, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing at 10 am titled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Access and Innovation.” This will be the Committee’s third hearing during this Congress on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). The hearing announcement stated that the hearing will serve as an opportunity to “look at ways to encourage institutions to move beyond the traditional classroom mold to meet the needs of all students.” More information is available here.
- Next week, USED Secretary DeVos will participate in the Education World Forum in London, where minsters and advisers representing over two-thirds of the world’s population will gather to discuss education policy. More information is available here.
- On January 30, the President will deliver his State of the Union address.
- On February 5-8 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, USED will conduct a second session of the Gainful Employment Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. More information is available here.
- On February 7-9, National Advisory Committee meeting on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) will hold a meeting from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The agenda includes a panel on a student-level data network, among other issues. The notice can be found here.
- On February 12-15 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, USED will conduct a third session of the Borrower Defenses and Financial Responsibility Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. More information is available here.
- February 22 will be Digital Learning Day. The goal of the day is to highlight more examples of how great teaching paired with technology can improve student outcomes. More information is available here.
- On February 26, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a case which challenges the constitutionality of fees being paid by government employees who are represented by, but do not belong to, a union. More information is available here.
- On March 12-15 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, USED will conduct a third session of the Gainful Employment Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. More information is available here.
- On April 11-12, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute will conduct a summit to assess the American education landscape in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the seminal report: “A Nation at Risk.” The steering committee for the summit includes Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former USED Secretaries John King, Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings and Richard Riley, among others. Summit information is available here.
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to award institutions of higher education grants for teaching English learners.
Sponsor: Rep. James R. Langevin (D-RI)
A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the disapproval of any course of education for purposes of the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs unless the educational institution providing the course permits individuals to attend or participate in courses pending payment by Department, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL)
A bill to provide for grants from the Attorney General to local education agencies to purchase and install devices that would allow for the immediate notification of appropriate officials in case of emergency, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL)
A bill to fulfill the United States Government’s trust responsibility to serve the higher education needs of the Navajo people and to clarify, unify, and modernize prior Diné College legislation.
Sponsor: Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ)
A bill to provide relief from removal and adjustment of status of certain individuals who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States before reaching the age of 18, improve border security, foster United States engagement in Central America, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX)
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit unborn children to be account beneficiaries of section 529 education savings accounts.
Sponsor: Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)
A resolution designating the week of January 21 through January 27, 2018, as “National School Choice Week”.
Sponsor: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to encourage the use of 529 plans and Coverdell education savings accounts, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)