E-Update for the Week of July 29, 2019

E-Update for the Week of July 29, 2019

Highlights:

  • This week, the White House and congressional leadership reached an agreement to raise overall spending levels for two years and to suspend the debt limit through July 31, 2021. The agreement increases the cap on non-defense discretionary spending by $24.5 billion (just over 4%) for fiscal year (FY) 2020 to a total of $621.5 billion (plus additional funds available through Overseas Contingency Operations for some domestic programs such as those within the Foreign Operations bill).
  • On July 26, USED published in the Federal Register a pre-publication notice announcing the Department is proposing to add a new priority for discretionary grant programs. USED proposes to establish a priority for discretionary grant programs that would align the USED discretionary grant investments with the administration’s Opportunity Zones initiative.
  • On July 25, the Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing titled, “Examining State and Federal Recommendations for Enhancing School Safety Against Targeted Violence.” Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) led Republicans in exploring recommendations from state school safety commissions, including those formed after attacks such as those in Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Columbine, and identifying recommendations that have broad support.

Budget and Appropriations:

Two-year budget deal reached, House approves topline spending for FY20 and FY21: This week, the White House and congressional leadership reached an agreement to raise overall spending levels for two years and to suspend the debt limit through July 31, 2021. The agreement increases the cap on non-defense discretionary spending by $24.5 billion (just over 4%) for fiscal year (FY) 2020 to a total of $621.5 billion (plus additional funds available through Overseas Contingency Operations for some domestic programs such as those within the Foreign Operations bill). For FY2021, non-defense, discretionary spending will be set at $626.5 billion (plus additional funds available through Overseas Contingency Operations). Reaching the agreement and increasing the spending levels ends the possibility of automatic spending cuts due to limits on spending set in the 2011 Budget Control Act, which were to begin at the end of this fiscal year.

Relatedly, on July 25, the House approved the budget deal – H.R. 3877, the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019,” with a largely partisan 284-149 vote. The Senate is expected to take up the bill for consideration this week before it adjourns for the August recess. Once approved by the Senate, the bill will be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature, which is expected. The bill is here. A statement by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey is here. A statement by House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) is here. A statement by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A statement by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is here.
July 25, 2019

Senate Appropriations Committee to move spending bills in early September: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (D-AL) stated that they would work through in committee the 12 appropriations bills for FY2020 shortly after Senators return from the August recess. “We’ll hit the ground running when we come back in September,” stated the Chairman. Due to the budget agreement reached by White House and congressional leadership – which has already been approved by the House and is expected to pass the Senate next week – the Senate Appropriations Committee can now move forward with its appropriations process. Over the recess, Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will receive their topline spending levels – referred to as 302(b) allocations – which they will use to draft their respective appropriations bills. It is expected the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will begin markups the week of September 9.
July 23, 2019

Congress:

Senate:

Senate Homeland Security Committee explores strategies to address school violence: The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing titled, “Examining State and Federal Recommendations for Enhancing School Safety Against Targeted Violence.” Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) led Republicans in exploring recommendations from state school safety commissions, including those formed after attacks such as those in Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Columbine, and identifying recommendations that have broad support. “We should also ask which recommendations from state commissions and federal commissions have been adopted or are being implemented today,” stated the Chairman. The Chairman was also interested in exploring the barriers for further, broader implementation. A recording of the hearing and witness testimonies are here. The full opening statement of Chairman Johnson is here. The full opening statement of Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI) is here.
July 25, 2019

Murray, Brown urge USED, CFPB to coordinate response to student loan complaints: Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Kathy Kraninger, and USED Secretary Betsy DeVos. The Senators urged the CFPB and USED to resume coordination regarding student loan complaints. USED had previously terminated agreements with CFPB. “Far too many student loan borrowers are being taken advantage of by predatory student loan companies and it is imperative that the Department and the CFPB coordinate to stop bad actors and ensure borrowers have the help they need to manage their student debt,” wrote the Senators. A press release is here. The full letter is here.
July 18, 2019

House:

House Appropriators investigate HHS practices for unaccompanied immigrant minors in custody: The House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) Subcommittee held a hearing titled, “Oversight of the Unaccompanied Children Program: Ensuring the Safety of Children in HHS Care.” The hearing was focused on the current conditions for unaccompanied minors currently being held in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The hearing featured testimony by Jonathan Hayes, ORR director, and Lynn Johnson, HHS Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families. A recording of the hearing and witness testimonies are here.
July 24, 2019

Chairman Scott to investigate USED role in for-profit college operator closure: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos formally requesting the Department provide information regarding the Department’s role and handling of the closing of the Dream Center, a for-profit college operator. “In light of the serious concerns raised by the newly-obtained documents, the Committee is requesting information from the Department regarding its handling of the Dream Center collapse and the accreditation of certain Dream Center schools,” wrote the Chairman. According to the Chairman, the reference documents reveal four major findings: (1) Dream Center executives hid the loss of accreditation from students; (2) the Department issued guidance that facilitated Dream Center’s accreditation misrepresentation; (3) the Department released funding to Dream Center executives at taxpayer expense; and (4) the documents raise questions about the Department’s statements about Dream Center to Congress and the public. A press release is here. The full letter is here.
July 23, 2019

Pallone to HHS – report and strategy for unaccompanied minors is late: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar directing the Department provide the Committee with a report on the agency’s plan to care for unaccompanied children in ORR custody. The Chairman cites that the report is required by the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019, which President Trump signed on June 24. The law required the Department to submit a report to Congress within 14 days detailing how the Department will enact a formal strategy regarding the oversight of and care for unaccompanied children within ORR custody. A press release is here. The letter is here.
July 23, 2019

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED announces new grant program priority, focuses on alignment to Opportunity Zones:  USED published in the Federal Register a pre-publication notice announcing the Department is proposing to add a new priority for discretionary grant programs. USED proposes to establish a priority for discretionary grant programs that would align the USED discretionary grant investments with the administration’s Opportunity Zones initiative. Opportunity Zones were created with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and are areas that have been identified as economically distressed. Investments made within Opportunity Zones receive tax incentives. Once finalized, the Department would have the flexibility to use the priority for any grant competition. The notice is open for public comment until on or about August 28, 2019. The pre-publication notice is here.
July 26, 2019

DeVos to Congress – reauthorize ability to verify income for IDR repayment plans: USED Secretary DeVos released a statement calling on Congress to provide the Department with authority to independently verify income data for student loan borrowers using data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Secretary’s statement was in response to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that indicated the Department needs to verify information for income-driven repayment plans, which are subject to a high level of fraud – according to the GAO report. “For years there have been deliberate efforts to make the maze of student aid more complex for students and less accountable to the American taxpayers who underwrite it,” stated the Secretary. The Secretary stated that only Congress can provide the Department the authority to verify the information. The full statement is here. The GAO report is here.

Relatedly, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a statement in response to the GAO report. “Fortunately, there’s a solution to this problem that the United States Senate has already passed once. Last Congress, my colleagues and I passed legislation that would automatically send borrowers’ IRS tax information to the Department of Education,” stated the Chairman. In the Chairman’s statement he referenced S.3611, the “Faster Access to Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Act,” which was approved by the Senate last Congress. The full statement is here. The bill is here.
July 25, 2019

USED to implement Obama state authorization rules for online colleges, California students at risk of losing federal aid: POLITICO reported that USED will soon begin to implement Obama-era “state authorization” rules related to the governing of online colleges. State authorization refers to the requirement that states must have a process for reviewing and taking appropriate action on student complaints about online programs that enroll students of the state, even if the online degree program is not physically located within the state. USED Secretary Betsy DeVos attempted to delay the rule but was prevented from doing so by a federal judge. The Department warns that implementation of the rule will negatively impact students in California, resulting in the loss of Pell Grants and federal student loans, because the state does not have a process for accepting student complaints regarding out of state public and non-profit colleges. It is expected the Department will publish an official notice in the Federal Register regarding the rule’s implementation soon. A POLITICO article is here.
July 22, 2019

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

USDA to limit SNAP eligibility, students may lose school meal access: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking titled, “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” The proposed rule will redefine eligibility for the program by limiting the granting of automatic eligibility for individuals who already receive other federal and state assistance, referred to as “categorical eligibility.”  “The proposed revisions would create a clearer and more consistent nationwide policy that ensure categorical eligibility is extended only to households that have sufficiently demonstrated eligibility by qualifying for ongoing and substantial benefits from [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)]-funded programs designed to assist households,” states the proposed rule. The proposed rule is available for public comment until September 23, 2019. The proposed rule is here.

Relatedly, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a joint-statement with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN). The three Chairman criticized the proposed rule and claimed the rule could “keep millions of Americans from the temporary food assistance they need.” Further, Chairman Scott indicated that the proposed rule could negatively impact access to free school meals. The full statement is here.  A statement in support of the proposed rule by House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) is here.
July 23, 2019

Publications (Congressional and Administration):

  • On July 25, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled, “Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools.” The report summarizes findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety, which was administered in the 2017-2018 school year. Key findings of the report include identifying that over 960,000 violent incidents occurred in public schools nationwide; that 66 percent of schools reported at least one physical attack or fight without a weapon; and that 35 percent of disciplinary actions in response to student involvement in the use or possession of a weapon involved an out-of-school suspension greater than 5 days. The full report is here.
  • On July 24, the GAO published a report titled, “School Districts’ Efforts to Address Lead-Based Paint.” The report summarizes information gathered from a survey of 549 school districts from across the country. Key findings of the report include identifying that 12 percent of school districts inspected their schools for lead-based paint in the 2016-2017 school year; that of the schools which conducted inspections, 50 percent found lead-based paint; and that larger school districts were more likely to inspect for lead-based paint compared to smaller districts. The full report is here.
  • On July 23, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (UCCR) published a report titled, “Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities.” The report summarizes an investigation of school discipline policies and practices and how such impact students of color with disabilities disproportionately compared to their White and fully-abled peers. Key findings of the report include identifying that the USED Office of Civil Rights (OCR) should continue providing guidance to communities as to how they can comply with federal nondiscrimination laws; that many schools still rely on discipline policies that allow for the disproportionate removal of students of color with disabilities from the classroom; and that such disproportionate discipline rates are more common in low-income and urban communities. The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On July 25, the College Affordability Coalition published a set of principles for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The Coalition argues that their principles will promote equitable outcomes within the higher education system and improve access for all students. The principles include securing and strengthening the Pell Grant; renewing the Federal-State partnership for college affordability; and creating a borrower-centered federal student loan program. The full set of principles is here.
  • On July 24, the Urban Institute published a report titled, “Charter School Effects on School Segregation.” The report summarizes a national, comprehensive examination of charter schools and their impact on school segregation in their local districts. Key findings of the report include identifying that increasing charter school enrollment leads to a small increase in segregation for cities and counties, as well as for school districts; that segregation impacts are higher in urban districts with higher shares of Black and Latino students; and that charter schools had no impact on the segregation of metropolitan areas. The full report is here.
  • On July 24, Third Way published a report titled, “The Playbook: 30 Solutions to Promote Faster Credentials.” The report provides 30 recommendations for how to improve the ability of an individual to receive a credential to pursue a higher-skilled, higher paying job. Key recommendations include the promotion of stackable credentials, which allow credentials to build upon one another; improve supports for adult learners; and encourage more credit for prior learning accomplished. The full report is here.
  • On July 23, the National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) published a report titled, “Principal Turnover: Insights from Current Principals.” The report summarizes qualitative research that was intended to better understand the challenges that principals face and highlight the strategies that best support them. Key strategies that were identified as most impactful include high-quality professional learning opportunities; support from strong administrative teams with adequate school-level resources; competitive salaries; appropriate decision-making authority within the school context; and evaluations characterized by timely, formative feedback. The full report is here.

Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):

  • The House begins its August recess on today, July 29. The House will return to session on September 9.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations)

  • On July 30 at 11:00am, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is holding an event titled, “An Unknown Landscape: Short-term Job-focused College Programs.” The briefing is sponsored by the offices of Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and will focus on H.R.3497, the “Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act fo 2019.” More information and registration can be found by emailing Liz Swarbrick at lswarbrick@opportunityamericaonline.org.

Legislation:

H.R.3887
A bill to discharge the qualified loan amounts of each individual, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC)

H.R.3891
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to make college affordable and accessible.
Sponsor: Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA)

H.R.3892
A bill to amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to award competitive grants for the purpose of developing, offering, improving, and providing educational or career pathway programs for workers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA)

H.R.3893
A bill to direct the Secretary of Education to establish a program that awards grants to State coalitions that build or expand career pathways programs in schools within the State, and to direct the Secretary of Education to establish a program that awards grants to eligible agencies to carry out career pathways programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA)

H.R.3901
A bill to amend the Education Sciences and Reform Act of 2002 to include racial subgroups in IPEDS data, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jody Chu (D-CA)

H.R.3913
A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to provide grants for education programs on the history of the treatment of Italian Americans during World War II.
Sponsor: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)

H.R.3921
A bill to require an institution of higher education to file a disclosure report with the Secretary of Education whenever such institution receives a gift from or enters into a contract with a foreign source, the value of which is $50,000 or more, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA)

H.R.3926
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 in order to improve the service obligation verification process for TEACH Grant recipients, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN)

S.2225
A bill to provide for the basic needs of students at institutions of higher education.
Sponsor: Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)

S.2250
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to establish State and Indian tribe grants for community colleges and grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

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