E-Update for the Week of October 7, 2019

E-Update for the Week of October 7, 2019

Highlights:

  • On October 4, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced new grantees for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) program. The program is designed to support school districts and universities in preparing and developing new and existing teachers and school leaders. According to the Department, 31 grants were awarded totaling $20.1 million, with most going directly to school districts.
  • On October 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published in the Federal Register a notice requesting public information on how to improve access to child care. ACF seeks information on identifying emerging and innovative practices to improve access, as well as what regulatory policies are causing costs to increase or limit choice to parents.
  • On September 30, the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts rendered a decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The district court rejected the claims of discrimination. Relatedly, on October 4, Students for Fair Admissions appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Federal Courts:

Harvard race-based admissions case ruled in University’s favor, decision appealed: The U.S. District Court for Massachusetts rendered a decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The plaintiff in that case (Students for Fair Admissions) challenged Harvard’s admissions policies and practices designed to advance its diversity goals as unlawfully discriminatory under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race and national origin by recipients of federal funds. The district court rejected the claims of discrimination. Although this decision is an important milestone in the landscape of cases addressing challenges to diversity-related admissions policies that consider race and ethnicity, this decision is highly-fact based, only reflects the conclusion of a single federal district (trial) court judge and binds only the parties involved.  The court decision is here. An EducationCounsel summary and analysis of the decision is here.

Relatedly, on October 4, Students for Fair Admissions appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
September 30, 2019

Congress:

The House and Senate will be on recess in observance of the Jewish holidays form September 30 through October 14. Both the House and Senate will return to session on October 15.

House:

Education Committee Chairman applauds decision in Harvard admissions case: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a statement in response to a recent federal district court ruling on the Harvard University admissions lawsuit. The district court judge ruled that Harvard’s use of race in making admissions decisions was Constitutional. “[The] decision sends an important message to schools across the country: Our courts still recognize that pursuing a racially diverse campus is both legal and in the best interests of students,” stated the Chairman. The full statement is here.
October 1, 2019

Administration:

White House:

Trump extends select number of President advisory committees related to USED: President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) on the “Continuance of Certain Federal Advisory Committees.” The EO extended the function of several advisory committees until September 30, 2021. Such advisory committees included in the EO are the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The EO is here.
September 27, 2019

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

Department awards $20 million in new TQP grants, focus on STEM and computer science training: The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced new grantees for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) program. The program is designed to support school districts and universities in preparing and developing new and existing teachers and school leaders. According to the Department, 31 grants were awarded totaling $20.1 million, with most going directly to school districts. The Department highlighted that the awards will “help foster meaningful professional development opportunities,” especially for STEM and computer-science training. “Nearly half” of the awards were given to programs that operate within Qualified Opportunity Zones. A press release from the Department is here.
October 4, 2019

Department awards over $4 million in CTE improvement grants: USED Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the recipients of the Innovation and Modernization (I&M) grant, which is authorized by Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The I&M grant is “designed to test new ideas to help prepare students for success in the workforce by identifying, supporting, and evaluating evidence-based strategies for improving [career and technical education (CTE)].” Nine recipients were awarded over $4.3 million, and according to the Department, all recipients will serve students located in Qualified Opportunity Zones. A press release from the Department is here.
October 3, 2019

DeVos continues to champion Education Freedom Scholarships program:  USED Secretary DeVos attended an event at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in which she discussed her Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) proposal. The EFS proposal is a $5 billion federal tax credit program that would create locally controlled scholarship programs for students to access in order to pay for tuition costs at any education option available to them. The event was focused on how school choice, including the use of voucher programs, can improve education across the country. “Education freedom is pro-parent and pro-student. It is not anti-public school. If your school is working for your child, stay put…Education freedom isn’t about elevating one type of school over another—it’s about trusting parents and believing in students,” stated the Secretary. A press release from the Department is here. A recording of the Secretary’s full remarks is here.
October 1, 2019

FAFSA application opens, USED announces key changes to online, mobile applications: USED announced it added new features to the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the myStudentAid mobile app. According to a release by the Department, key changes include improved synchronization between the myStudentAid app and the online FAFSA form; the inclusion of the Student Aid Report on the myStudentAid app; and new checklists for students and families to use in monitoring their application progress. A Department press release is here.
October 1, 2019

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

ACF seeking public input on improving access to high-quality child care: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published in the Federal Register a notice requesting public information on how to improve access to child care. ACF seeks information on identifying emerging and innovative practices to improve access, as well as what regulatory policies are causing costs to increase or limit choice to parents. “Improving access to safe, high-quality child care that enables parental employment and supports child and youth development is a top priority for ACF and this administration, and we have seen a record increase in the child care block grant to states,” stated Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary of ACF. A press release from ACF is here. The public notice is here.
October 1, 2019

Publications (Congressional and Administration):

  • On October 2, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled, “Foster Care: Education Could Help States Improve Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care.” The report examined efforts by USED to support students who reside in foster care and how states currently work to support such students in staying within their schools while transitioning foster homes. The report includes one major recommendation for USED to develop an online clearinghouse for states and districts to share documents, webinar recordings, and other resources that can help with sustaining educational stability for foster youth. The report is here. A statement by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) is here.
  • On October 2, the GAO published a report titled, “Head Start: Action Needed to Enhance Program Oversight and Mitigate Significant Fraud and Improper Payment Risks.” The report summarizes a study by GAO which explored if certain Head Start programs would enroll ficitious children using disqualifying application information. Key findings of the report include identifying that there was potential fraud at five of the 15 centers studied; that three centers encouraged attendance without following verification requirements; and that 7 centers correctly determined ineligibility. In response to the report’s findings, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to Committee Chairman Scott requesting that the Committee conduct a hearing to explore the findings further. “As policymakers we have a responsibility to ensure programs like Head Start are working efficiently and effectively. It’s not just taxpayer dollars that are on the line, it’s students’ futures,” wrote the Ranking Member. The GAO report is here. A release by Ranking Member Foxx is here. Her letter to Chairman Scott is here.

Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):

  • The House and Senate will be on recess in observance of the Jewish holidays form September 30 through October 14. Both the House and Senate will return to session on October 15.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On October 7 at 10:00am, the Brookings Institute is holding an event titled, “Student Loans: A look at the evidence.” The event will explore how student debt, which now tops $1.5 trillion, is impacting both student borrowers and political conversations about higher education. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 8 at 9:00am, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Fordham Institute are holding an event titled, “Getting the most bang for the education buck.” The event will focus on research regarding the impact of public-school financing and if current spending has been effective, or if it can be spent more effectively. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 10 at 1:00pm, the College Board Access and Diversity Collaborative is holding an event to preview the information in their forthcoming publication on race-neutral strategies for institutions to consider when setting or revising diversity-aimed, race-neutral policies. The webinar will include a brief overview of legal requirements associated with race-neutral practices and policies; discussion of the nine race-neutral strategies featured in their forthcoming The Playbook (2d. Edition); and considerations for institutions when identifying and implementing race-neutral policies. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 11 at 10:00am, the Brookings Institute is holding an event titled, “What does the 2020 election mean for education policy in the United States?” The event will discuss what will the 2020 election largely focus on related to education, including, but not limited to, issues of college affordability, student debt, teacher recruitment, and developing the workforce. The event will feature former USED Secretaries of Education Arne Duncan and John King, Jr. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 23 at 2:00pm, the College Board Access & Diversity Collaborative is holding an event titled, “Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard: Understanding What the Court Said and What It Means for Higher Education.” The webinar will address issues relevant to the federal court’s September 30 decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The court’s 130-page decision in favor of Harvard applies federal nondiscrimination law to Harvard’s consideration of race and ethnicity in its admissions program designed to advance its diversity-related interests. This webinar will unpack that decision, with a focus on key findings and lessons for other postsecondary institutions to consider as they develop and refine diversity-related policies and practices. More information and registration are here.

Legislation:

H.R.4584
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to repeal the suspension of eligibility for assistance under title IV due to drug-related offenses.
Sponsor: Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA)

H.R.4586
A bill to expand opportunity for Native American children through additional options in education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)

H.R.4587
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require certain institutions of higher education to provide notice of tuition levels for students.
Sponsor: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)

H.R.4590
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to terminate capitalization of interest after forbearance and certain deferment periods.
Sponsor: Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)

H.R.4596
A bill to improve service to students and other participants in the Federal student financial assistance programs, to establish the Office of the Borrower Advocate to replace the Student Loan Ombudsman, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)

Highlights:

  • On August 23, USED announced that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will work collaboratively to improve the information collected in the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The CRDC collects data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools. Under the new agreement, NCES and OCR will work together to support school districts by providing technical assistance resources, training and prompt feedback on identified issues.
  • On August 21, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum that will significantly streamline the process to erase federal student loan debt for totally and permanently disabled veterans.  The U.S. Department of Education (USED) anticipates notifying more than 25,000 eligible veterans and continuing the discharge process on a quarterly basis.
  • On August 20, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, conducted a community forum focused on preventing, treating, and healing childhood trauma in Baltimore City. The forum, which included a group of experts from Baltimore City Schools, the Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore Police Department and the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Services, explored how the community has worked to mitigate the impact of trauma.

Congress:

Both the House and Senate have adjourned for August recess. Both the House and the Senate will return to session on September 9.

House:

Cummings holds community forum on healing childhood trauma: Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Elijah Cummings (D-MD) conducted a community forum focused on preventing, treating, and healing childhood trauma in Baltimore City. The forum, which included a group of experts from Baltimore City Schools, the Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore Police Department and the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Services, explored how the community has worked to mitigate the impact of trauma. Video and an article on the forum are available here.
August 20, 2019 

Administration:

White House:

Trump directs USED to streamline disabled veteran student loan relief process:  President Donald Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum that will significantly streamline the process to erase federal student loan debt for totally and permanently disabled veterans. Prior to the announcement, only half of the roughly 50,000 disabled veterans who qualified to have their federal student loan discharged have received this benefit. Veterans will now have their student loan debt discharged unless they decide to opt-out of the process.  The U.S. Department of Education (USED) anticipates notifying more than 25,000 eligible veterans and continuing the discharge process on a quarterly basis. The Presidential Memorandum is available here. A fact sheet on the memorandum is available here. U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) press release is available here.

In response to the announcement, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee issued the following statement, “After years of pressure from Senate Democrats, [USED] Secretary [Betsy] DeVos will finally automatically cancel student loans of veterans disabled from service. Under federal law, veterans who have been “permanently and totally” disabled are eligible for student loan discharges.”
August 21, 2019 

Homeland security releases final rule terminating Flores agreement on migrant child detention limit: The Trump Administration issued a final rule, which “aims to change licensing requirements for family detention centers and remove a 20-day limit on the detention of children set by a judge enforcing the 1997 Flores settlement agreement (FSA),” according to Politico. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a press release that states, “the rule will allow for termination of the FSA, and allow [the Department of Homeland Security] and [the Department of Health and Human Services] to respond to significant statutory and operational changes that have occurred since the FSA has been in place, including dramatic increases in the numbers of unaccompanied children and family units crossing into the United States.” Department of Homeland Security press release is available here. Politico article is available here.
August 21, 2019 

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

OCR and NCES to partner on improving CRDC reporting: USED announced that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will work collaboratively to improve the information collected in the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The CRDC collects data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools. Under the new agreement, NCES and OCR will work together to support school districts by providing technical assistance resources, training and prompt feedback on identified issues. Through this partnership, OCR and NCES will also work together to review and revise data quality procedures when needed to reflect lessons learned during collection and review of CRDC data. The press is available here.
August 23, 2019 

DeVos cites recent poll on charter schools and school vouchers to justify Education Freedom Scholarships: USED Secretary DeVos issued a statement in response to an Education Next Poll, published jointly by the Education Next Institute and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, which found support for charter schools and private school vouchers for low-income students has increased — by nine and 12 points, respectively. The poll also found that respondents support for tax credits for donations to organizations that award education scholarships to low-income students increased from 53% in 2016 to 58% in 2019. The Education Next Poll is available here. USED Secretary DeVos’s statement is available here.
August 20, 2019 

Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):

  • Both the House and Senate have adjourned for August recess. Both the House and the Senate will return to session on September 9.
  • On September 10 at 10:00am, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing titled, “A $1.5 Trillion Crisis: Protecting Student Borrowers and Holding Student Loan Servicers Accountable.” No witnesses have been announced. More information will be posted here.
  • On September 8-12, the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will hold its annual HBCU Week Conference. The conference, titled, “Enhancing HBCU Competitiveness: Student Achievement, Quality Partnerships, and Institutional Performance,” will be held in Washington, DC. Registration and more information are here.
  • On September 10 at 10:00am, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing titled, “A $1.5 Trillion Crisis: Protecting Student Borrowers and Holding Student Loan Servicers Accountable.” No witnesses have been announced. More information will be posted here.
  • On September 30 through October 14, both the House and Senate are expected to adjourn for a two-week recess.
  • On October 28-30, the USED’s Green Strides Tour will return to the state of Washington, with the theme Whole Child, Whole School Sustainability. The 2019 Green Strides Tour will highlight how rebuilding schools with sustainable infrastructure cuts costs and creates healthier and safer learning environments that support the needs of the whole child. A tour agenda and more information is available here.

Publications (Congress and the Administration):

  • On August 21, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report titled, “Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the [National Assessment of Educational Progress Scales.” The 2017 report summarizes the results of applying a methodology for mapping state proficiency standards onto the NAEP scales. According to Politico, the report found that, “States over the last decade have moved to set higher proficiency standards in math and reading.” Report is available here. Politico article is available here.
  • This week, NCES released a report titled, “Characteristics of Public and Private Elementary and Secondary School Principals in the United States: Results From the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey.” The report found that among public school principals 78 percent were non-Hispanic White, 11 percent were non-Hispanic Black or African American, nine percent were Hispanic, and three percent were another race/ethnicity. Additionally, public school principals reported having an average of 6.8 years of experience as a principal, of which an average of 4.2 years was spent in their current school. The report is available here.

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