E-Update for the Week of March 18, 2019

E-Update for the Week of March 18, 2019

Highlights:

  • On March 12, the Senate HELP Committee held a full committee hearing titled, “Simplifying the FAFSA and Reducing the Burden of Verification.” The hearing examined methods in which the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be simplified in order to all for more students, particularly students from low-income families, to more easily complete and submit the application.
  • On March 11, the Office of Management and Budget released the first half of President Donald Trump’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 Budget Request (PBR). The PBR includes significant cuts to non-defense discretionary funding, including significant decreases in the budgets for the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The PBR outlines a USED discretionary budget of $62 billion, which is a $7.4 billion less (12%) than FY2019 enacted funding. The PBR outlines a HHS discretionary budget of $87.1 billion, which is $3 billion less (12%) than FY2019 enacted funding. OMB is expected to release the Congressional Justifications for department budgets on March 18.
  • On March 11, USED Secretary DeVos announced that the Department would no longer enforce a restriction barring religious organizations from serving as contract providers of equitable services solely due to their religious affiliation. Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), public schools have been prohibited from contracting with religiously affiliated organizations for services such as tutoring, teacher training, technical assistance, and other work.

Budget & Appropriations:

Senate likely to use FY19 funding levels as topline for FY20 appropriations: CQ reported that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is considering using spending levels for fiscal year (FY) 2019 as the topline for FY2020 appropriations, as a backup plan if no budget deal is reached that would lead to compromised spending levels. House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) stated, “I’ve talked to a couple Senate appropriators on our side, I think they’re mostly planning to mark to last year’s numbers.” Congress must address the spending caps for FY2020 prior to the end of this fiscal year or face severe automatic cuts to discretionary spending due to the Budget Control Act of 2011.
March 14, 2019

Enzi wants to release budget resolution, no commitment from McConnell for floor vote: POLITICO reported that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) is planning on drafting and releasing a proposed budget resolution, even though there is no commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that the resolution will be introduced on the Senate floor. “I’ve met with [House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY)] and I think he’d like to do a budget,” the Chairman stated.
March 13, 2019

Yarmuth ’50-50’ on releasing House budget resolution: POLITICO reported that House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) is contemplating not releasing a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Yarmuth is facing pressure to include Democratic proposals such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, which would significantly increase the budget resolution. According to POLITICO, Yarmuth is drafting a budget resolution, but it remains unclear as to if he will release the proposal before beginning negotiations with the Senate. Committee Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) stated, “I want you to know I feel your pain. I’ve been there,” referring to his unsuccessful release of a budget resolution during the 115th Congress.
March 12, 2019

OMB releases President’s FY2020 budget, significant cuts to discretionary funding: The Office of Management and Budget released the first half of President Donald Trump’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 Budget Request (PBR). The PBR includes significant cuts to non-defense discretionary funding, including significant decreases in the budgets for the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The PBR outlines a USED discretionary budget of $62 billion, which is a $7.4 billion less (12%) than FY2019 enacted funding. The PBR outlines a HHS discretionary budget of $87.1 billion, which is $3 billion less (12%) than FY2019 enacted funding. OMB is expected to release the Congressional Justifications for department budgets on March 18. Now that the President has released the FY2020 budget request, Congress will now consider the request as both the House and Senate develop their own budget outlines. The House Budget and Senate Budget Committees are expected to release their proposed FY2020 budgets in the coming weeks, which should lay the foundation for negotiating a budget deal that addresses the impending spending caps per the Budget Control Act of 2011. If no budget deal is reached by the end of this fiscal year, automatic spending cuts will be enacted, reducing discretionary funding by $126 billion for defense and non-defense programs. The full FY2020 PBR is here. The USED budget summary is here. The HHS budget summary is here. The following are notable items from the FY2020 PBR.

Early Childhood Issues:

  • The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is level funded to FY2019 level at $5.23 billion for discretionary funding. Head Start, which includes Early Head Start, was level funded to FY2019 level at $10.06 billion. The PBR proposed eliminating the $250 million Preschool Development Grants.

K-12 Issues:

  • The PBR proposes funding Title I programs at $15.86 billion, which is level to FY2019 enacted levels. The PBR also proposes level funding IDEA grants to states at $12.36 billion. The flagship school choice program – the Education Freedom Scholarships – that was recently announced by USED Secretary Betsy DeVos is noted in the USED budget brief; however, the $5 billion tax credit program will be funded through the U.S. Department of the Treasury budget.
  • The PBR proposes $300 million for Education, Innovation, and Research This is an increase of $170 million from FY2019 enacted levels. Of the $300 million, $200 million is reserved for demonstration projects to improve quality and effectiveness of classroom instruction by “empowering teachers to select their own professional development activities.” The remaining $100 million is reserved for field-initiated projects that promote innovation and reform in STEM education, including computer science.
  • The PBR proposes to eliminate the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (Title II-A), a $2.06 billion program. The proposal, however, proposes level funding for Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants (TSL) at $200 million. Of which, $110 million would be used for new awards focused on mentoring or residencies for novice teachers or increased compensation for effective teachers, particularly in high-need fields and subject.  The remainder of the funds would be for continuation grants for prior awards under TSL, which are competitive grants focused on human capital management systems (including teachers, principals, and other school leaders) or performance-based compensation systems.
  • The PBR proposes a $12.6 million increase in National Programs funds for career and technical education (for a total of $20 million – more than double the level funded in FY2019) to support Innovation and Modernization grants newly authorized under the 2018 reauthorization of the Career and Technical Education Act. These National Programs funds help would support grants focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, including computer science.
  • The PBR includes $200 million for School Safety National Activities, specifically for state and LEA grants to develop school emergency operation plans, offer counseling and emotional support in schools with pervasive violence, and implement evidence-based practices for improving behavioral outcomes. Of the total funding, $100 million will be used for a new School Safety State Grant program to help build capacity to develop and implement intervention that enhance school safety, including recommendations within the 2018 Federal Commission on School Safety report.

Higher Education Issues:

  • The PBR outlines a proposal to consolidate income-driven repayment (IDR) plans into a single plan, which would cap monthly payments at 12.5 percent of borrowers’ discretionary income. The PBR also outlines “eliminating inefficiencies in the student loan program” by eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, Subsidized Stafford loans, the payment of Account Maintenance Fees to guaranty agencies. By doing so, the proposal explains all new undergraduate student loans would be unsubsidized.
  • The proposal outlines includes a plan to increase postsecondary institution accountability for the repayment of student loans. This accountability initiative would require institutions to share a portion of the financial responsibility associated with student loans.
  • Additionally, the PBR proposals an expansion of Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality short-term programs that lead to a credential, certification, or license in a high-demand field. The proposal does not provide an increase in the maximum Pell Grant award (level funded to FY2019 levels at $6,195 per award), and includes a $2 billion rescission of the Pell surplus.

Notable Eliminated Programs:

The PBR proposes saving $6.7 billion by eliminating 29 programs USED deems having achieved their original purpose, duplicative, too narrowly focused, or unable to demonstrate effectiveness. Notable eliminations include (FY19 enacted levels in parentheses):

    • 21st Century Community Learning Programs ($1.22 billion)
    • Comprehensive Centers ($52 million)
    • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants ($840 million)
    • GEAR UP ($360 million)
    • Promise Neighborhoods ($78.25 million)
    • Regional Education Laboratories ($55.42 million)
    • Strengthening Institutions ($99.9 million)
    • Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants ($1.17 billion)
    • Supporting Effective Educator Development ($75 million)
    • Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants – Title II-A ($2.06 billion)
    • Teacher Quality Partnership ($43.09 million)

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 Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) is here.
March 11, 2019

Congress:

Senate:

The Senate will be in recess between March 18 and March 22. The Senate will return to session on March 25.

Murray applauds court ruling for USED to implement borrower defense rule: Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released a statement on USED implementing the Obama-era borrower defense rule. The rule provides protections for students who are defrauded by a for-profit college, as well as includes automatic student loan discharges for students who attend a university that closes. “Almost two years and one court order later, Secretary DeVos has finally implemented an important rule that would provide protections for students who have been targeted by predatory for-profit colleges and much-needed relief for those who have been cheated out of their education and savings,” stated the Ranking Member. The Department has begun to implement the rule after a federal court ruling in October 2018. The press release is here.
March 15, 2019

HELP Committee explores FAFSA simplification, Alexander optimistic progress can be made: The Senate HELP Committee held a full committee hearing titled, “Simplifying the FAFSA and Reducing the Burden of Verification.” The hearing examined methods in which the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be simplified in order to all for more students, particularly students from low-income families, to more easily complete and submit the application. During the hearing, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) highlighted the efforts to simplify the FAFSA, including the ability to transfer information from a previous tax return and the ability to complete the application on a mobile device. “… We now believe we can move forward with bipartisan legislation that would reduce the FAFSA to 15-25 questions,” stated the Chairman. HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) agreed the need for simplifying the application is necessary, but also addressed the issue of verification. “I believe one of most beneficial things we can do to help students receive their financial aid is to reduce the burden of verification. We’re asking our students to jump through hoops to provide the same financial information over and over again, and this immense burden is resulting in students leaving money on the table,” stated the Ranking Member in submitted remarks. This hearing is considered the first of this Congress that will address updating the Higher Education Act (HEA). A recording of the hearing and witness testimonies are here. The full statement from Chairman Alexander is here. The full statement from Ranking Member Murray is here.
March 12, 2019

House:

The House will be in recess between March 15 and March 22. The House will return to session on March 25.

Education & Labor Committee explores college cost: The House Education and Labor Committee held a full committee hearing titled, “The Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach.” The hearing was the first of five scheduled bipartisan hearings focused on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The hearing focused on potential solutions to the issue, including encouraging more state and local investment in public institutions; restoring the purchasing power of Pell Grants, including the expansion of eligibility and use of Pell Grants; and making college loan more affordable and easier to pay off. During his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) stated, “A college-educated workforce is also good for local economies. Evidence shows that for every $1 a state invests in higher education, it receives up to $4.50 in return in higher tax revenue and lowers spending on public assistance.” The Chairman’s full remarks are here. The opening statement from Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here. Witness testimonies and a recording of the hearing are here.
March 13, 2019 

DeLauro highlights practices of for-profit colleges, cites low graduation rates as rationale for increased regulation:  The House Appropriations Labor/HHS Subcommittee held a hearing titled, “Oversight of For-Profit Colleges: Protecting Students and Taxpayer Dollars from Predatory Practices.” The hearing featured testimony by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), as well as a panel of witnesses. The hearing was largely focused on the practices of for-profit colleges, including their recruitment techniques, how they support student borrowers, and how they are working to improve their student graduation rates. During her opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) cited data from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) identifying that for-profit institutions have a 6-year graduation rate of 26 percent (compared to 59 percent for public institutions) and account for 34 percent of all student loan defaults. The Chairwoman also highlighted the 90-10 loophole for for-profit institutions accessing federal funds, the gainful employment rule, and the borrower defense rule. The full statement from Chairwoman DeLauro is here. A full recording of the hearing and witness testimonies are here.
March 12, 2019

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED greenlights religious organizations providing equitable services, cites SCOTUS Trinity decision: USED Secretary DeVos announced that the Department would no longer enforce a restriction barring religious organizations from serving as contract providers of equitable services solely due to their religious affiliation. Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), public schools have been prohibited from contracting with religiously affiliated organizations for services such as tutoring, teacher training, technical assistance, and other work. In a press release, the Department cites the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. The opinion ruled that eligible recipients of contracts cannot be disqualified from a public benefit, such as a government contract, solely based on their religious character.” The Trinity Lutheran decision reaffirmed the long-understood intent of the First Amendment to not restrict the free exercise of religion. Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization,” stated the Secretary. The statement released did indicate the Department would ensure services offered by religious organizations were “secular, neutral, and non-ideological.” The press release is here. The draft non-regulatory guidance is here. The notification to Congress is here.
March 11, 2019 

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On March 15, the Urban Institute published a series of tools focused on children of immigrants. The tools, featuring data and mapping tools, focus on the 25 percent of children in the country that have at least one foreign-born parent. Data includes the diversity of children’s experiences, characteristics, and backgrounds; trend data on the children and their families including income, employment, and education data; and visualization tools for children of immigrant parents in all states. The tools can be found here, here, and here.
  • On March 15, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers published a report titled, “Reinvigorating the Pipeline: Insights into Proposed and Approved Charter Schools.” The report is considered a “first-ever look into the national charter school pipeline – what schools are being proposed and by whom.” Key findings of the report include identifying that the proportion of applications for “No Excuses” schools fell by 50 percent in the last five years; that 55 percent of proposals were unaffiliated with a network of any kind in 2017; and that only 15 percent of proposals were philanthropically supported. The full report is here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On March 19 9:00 am, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is holding an event titled, “Preparing people to reenter society: The role of education inside prison.” The event will highlight the First Step Act and how it relates to correction education and workforce programs. The event will also focus on the AIE publication titled, “Education for Liberation: The Politics of Promise and Reform Inside and Beyond America’s Prisons.” More information and registration are here.
  • On March 20 at 8:30 am, the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA) is holding an event titled, “Equity in the Schoolhouse: The Policies and Practices.” The event will feature various school district leaders and researchers as they discuss how equity can be improved through federal and state policy. More information and registration are here.
  • On March 22 at 8:30 am, Women in Government Relations (WGR) is holding an event titled, “Education Legislative Forum.” The event will feature education committee staff from both the Senate and the House, as well as appropriations staff, during which they will discuss the priorities of the education authorizers and appropriators. More information and registration are here.

Legislation:

H.R.1662
A bill to direct the Secretary of Education to establish a pilot program to provide grants to secondary schools for assistive technology devices and assistive technology services and to create programs to benefit students with autism or apraxia, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX)

H.R.1665
A bill to direct the National Science Foundation to support STEM education research focused on early childhood.
Sponsor: Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI)

H.R.1672
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to ensure that public institutions of higher education protect expressive activities in the outdoor areas on campus.
Sponsor: Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL)

H.R.1676
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to expand access to school-wide arts and music programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)

H.R.1688
A bill to help provide relief to State education budgets during a recovering economy, to help fulfill the Federal mandate to provide higher educational opportunities for Native American Indians, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)

H.R.1691
A bill to require the Secretary of Education to provide assistance to the immediate family of elementary or secondary school staff members killed in an act of violence while performing school duties.
Sponsor: Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)

H.R.1707
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain Federal student loans, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)

H.R.1724
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve the financial aid process for homeless and foster care youth.
Sponsor: Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)

H.R.1739
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against tax for charitable donations to nonprofit organizations providing workforce training and education scholarships to qualified elementary and secondary students.
Sponsor: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)

H.R.1766
A bill to establish a postsecondary student data system.
Sponsor: Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI)

H.R.1794
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide an exclusion from gross income for AmeriCorps educational awards.
Sponsor: Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

H.R.1798
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the deduction allowed for student loan interest and to exclude from gross income discharges of income contingent or income-based student loan indebtedness.
Sponsor: Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY)

S.737
A bill to direct the National Science Foundation to support STEM education research focused on early childhood.
Sponsor: Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

S.752
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for teacher and school leader quality enhancement and to enhance institutional aid.
Sponsor: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

S.759
A bill to help provide relief to State education budgets during a recovering economy, to help fulfill the Federal mandate to provide higher educational opportunities for Native American Indians, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

S.768
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain Federal student loans, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

S.784
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to expand the military student identifier program to cover students with a parent who serves in the reserve component of the Armed Forces.
Sponsor: Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

S.789
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve the financial aid process for homeless and foster care youth.
Sponsor: Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

S.800
A bill to establish a postsecondary student data system.
Sponsor: Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

S.808
A bill to ensure that certain incidents involving a covered employee that are reported to the Title IX coordinator at an eligible institution of higher education have been reviewed by the president of the institution and not less than 1 additional member of the institution’s board of trustees, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)

S.830
A bill to amend the Federal Work-Study program to permit institutions of higher education to use their Federal work-study allocations for full-time, off-campus cooperative education and work-based learning.
Sponsor: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

S.839
A bill to extend Federal Pell Grant eligibility of certain short-term programs.
Sponsor: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

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