E-Update for the Week of September 30, 2019

E-Update for the Week of September 30, 2019

Highlights:

  • On September 26, the Senate voted on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to maintain government funding to avoid a shutdown before the current fiscal year (FY) funding expires on September 30. Relatedly, on September 27, President Donald Trump signed the short-term CR effectively extending federal funding until November 21.
  • On September 26, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced the “Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019.” The bill is Chairman Alexander’s proposal to move forward a package of bipartisan higher education provisions. It is unclear as to how Chairman Alexander will attempt to move his bill.
  • On September 24, U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos released non-regulatory guidance to state and local education agencies regarding Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) report cards. The guidance outlines and clarifies responsibilities that state educational agencies (SEAs) have when preparing report cards and what information should be included on their state ESSA report cards.

Budget and Appropriations:

Government shutdown avoided, current funding levels extended until Nov 21: The Senate voted on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to maintain government funding to avoid a shutdown before the current fiscal year (FY) funding expires on September 30. The Senate approved the measure by a mostly bipartisan 82-15 vote. The measure was adopted in the House last week. Moving forward, congressional Appropriators must continue negotiating in order to provide long-term funding for FY2020.  The bill is here.

Relatedly, on September 27, President Donald Trump signed the short-term CR effectively extending federal funding until November 21.
September 26 and 27, 2019

Congress:

Senate:

Alexander introduces HEA package, Murray decries blocking of MSI funding extension bill: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced the “Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019.” The bill is Chairman Alexander’s proposal to move forward a package of bipartisan higher education provisions. The bill includes eight major provisions, including a permanent extension of funding for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs); simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); elimination of prohibitions for certain incarcerated individuals (e.g. parole eligible) to access Pell Grants; an expansion of Pell Grant eligibility for short-term skills and job training programs; simplification of financial aid award letters; a $20 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award; and improved FAFSA completion through data sharing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); and a pay-for using the income driving repayment (IDR) program that would require high-income borrowers pay the full 10 percent of their discretionary income.

Upon introduction, the Chairman stated, “I am committed to continuing to work with Senator Murray to develop a larger, more comprehensive bipartisan bill, but right now, we have an opportunity to enact a package including several of the bipartisan proposals that have come from our process.” In response, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) stated, “I believe that we have a real opportunity to reach a comprehensive agreement that helps students in need, and we ought to take it. In the meantime, there is no excuse for playing politics, holding up the FUTURE act, and exposing students and schools nationwide to uncertainty and to dysfunction.” It is unclear as to how Chairman Alexander will attempt to move his bill. A statement from Chairman Alexander is here. A statement from Ranking Member Murray is here. The bill is here.
September 26, 2019

Grassley explores campus free speech concerns: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the presidents of Duke University, Harvard University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Villanova University requesting they provide information on the “current culture of academic freedom” on their campuses. “A fundamental piece of this democracy-enabling purpose is that college and university professors should be free to teach and research – and students should be free to learn – to the best of their abilities in defiance of an undiscerning ’instinct to believe what others do,'” wrote the Chairman. In a release, the Chairman outlined a number of incidents from the named universities in which students or professors were reprimanded for taking certain positions or teaching certain content. Additionally, the Chairman requested more information on the creation and responsibilities of “Bias Response Teams” at both Duke and Villanova. A statement by Chairman Grassley is here. The letters are here.
September 26, 2019

Scalia confirmed as Labor Secretary: The Senate confirmed Eugene Scalia as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Scalia was confirmed on a 53-44 partisan vote. Relatedly, on September 24, the Senate HELP Committee favorably reported Scalia’s nomination out of Committee on a 12-11 partisan vote. A statement from HELP Committee Chairman Alexander is here. A statement from HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray is here. The roll call is here.
September 26, 2019

House:

House Budget Committee Republicans call foul on Democratic loan forgiveness proposals: The House Budget Committee Republican staff published an article titled, “Budget Buster: Debt Forgiveness.” The article discusses various Democratic proposals to forgive outstanding student loan debt and past-due medical bills. According to the article, forgiveness of both student loan debt and past-due medical bills would equate to costing about $5,000 per person across the country and would “disproportionately benefit the upper-middle-class.” Instead of debt forgiveness, the article outlines that Republicans support “streamlining higher education programs and financing, and providing financial stability to grant programs targeted towards low-income students.” The full article is here.
September 27, 2019

Education Committee Democrats denounce SNAP proposed rule, highlight expected loss of access to school lunch program: House Education and Labor Committee Democrats submitted a public comment letter on the proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule regarding changes to eligibility standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “According to your staff’s analysis, [the proposed rule] would result in more than 500,000 children losing their automatic eligibility for free school meals,” wrote the Committee Democrats. The Members described that changes in SNAP eligibility would also impact students who have access to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). A press release is here. The full comment letter is here.
September 24, 2019

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED awards new round of EIR grants, major focus on STEM, rural areas: U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that 41 new grants were awarded through the Education, Innovation, and Research (EIR) program. “Through the EIR program, grantees have the opportunity to rethink education and approach student learning in new ways. I’m excited to see states, school districts and nonprofits proposing more creativity, innovation and personalization on behalf of students,” stated the Secretary. Of the awards granted, over $30 million was awarded to grantees in rural areas, and over $78 million to grantees focused on STEM education, with the majority of such focusing on computer science. A release from the Department, including a list of all grantees, is here.
September 27, 2019

DeVos issues guidance on school safety planning: USED released a planning guide titled, “The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.” The Department notes that the guide is in response to a recommendation from the Federal School Safety Commission final report, which was released in December 2018. “We want local leaders to have the resources and support they need to help prevent school violence and effectively respond and recover should tragedy occur,” stated the Secretary. The guide outlines that Districts are responsible for coordinating with schools and community partners to make emergency operations plans (EOPs) a collaborative effort; laying out planning parameters for use by schools throughout the entire district; and supporting schools as they develop their EOPs. A press release is here. The guide is here.
September 25, 2019

Student loan cohort default rate falls, more than 10 percent of borrowers still default: USED announced that the FY2016 national federal student loan cohort default rate (CDR) decreased by 6.5 percent since FY2015. Nationally, about 10.1 percent of student loan borrowers default on their loan payments. In that same announcement, the Department outlined 15 schools that are subject to losing access to federal student aid due to their high student default rates. A press release is here, including the list of 15 schools who face potential loss of access.
September 25, 2019

DeVos outlines responsibilities of states, districts for ESSA school reports: USED Secretary DeVos released non-regulatory guidance to state and local education agencies regarding Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) report cards. “State and local report cards should be a rich source of information for parents to understand exactly how their child’s school is performing, how much is being spent on their child, and how it compares to other schools in their community,” stated the Secretary. The guidance outlines and clarifies responsibilities that state educational agencies (SEAs) have when preparing report cards and what information should be included on their state ESSA report cards. Further, the guidance detailed how local educational agencies (LEAs) should prepare their report cards and inform parents and families of the information included on the report cards. According to the Department, the guidance reflects received public comments that emphasized the need to improve transparency of school performance and that information included on the report cards is easily understandable by the general public. A statement by the Department is here. The guidance is here.
September 24, 2019

Publications (Congressional and Administration):

  • On September 25, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled, “School Choice in the United States: 2019.” The report summarizes research of enrollment trends in public charter schools, private schools, traditional public schools, and homeschooling. Key findings of the report include identifying that between 2000 and 2016 traditional public school enrollment increased to 47.3 million students; public charter school enrollment increased to 3.0 million students from 0.4 million; and that private school enrollment fell to 5.8 million students. The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On September 26, the Fordham Institute published a report titled, “Rising Tide: Charter School Market Share and Student Achievement.” The report summarizes a study to determine the relationship between the “charter market share” (or how many students in an area attend a charter school compared to a traditional public school) and the academic achievement of all students in a given community. Key findings of the report include identifying that in urban areas, a higher charter market share is associated with achievement increases for Black and Hispanic students; that in suburban and rural areas, a higher charter market share is associated with increased achievement for Black and Hispanic students; and that in all areas a higher charter market share is not associated with any achievement increases for White students. The full report is here.
  • On September 25, the Education Trust published a report titled, “If you Listen, We Will Stay: Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt Teacher Turnover.” The report summarizes a series of focus groups of teachers of color to determine themes of why they leave districts at a disproportionately higher rate than their peers. Key findings of the report include identifying that teachers of color report a high degree of an antagonistic school culture; a high degree of feeling undervalued; and a high degree of navigating an unfavorable working environment. The full report is here.
  • On September 24, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) published a report titled, “Schooling During the Great Recession: Patterns of School Spending and Student Achievement Using Population Data.” The report summarizes research to determine the impacts of the 2008 recession on school spending and student achievement. Key findings of the report include identifying that children who attended school during the recession years had lower math and English achievement scores; and that decreases in student achievement were higher in districts serving more low-income and minority students. The full report is here.
  • On September 24, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published a report titled, “Children Living in High Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods.” The report summarizes a study to identify relationships between low-income neighborhoods and impacts on child well-being. Key findings of the report include identifying that Black children and Native American children are seven times more likely to live in a high-poverty neighborhood compared to White children; that states in the South and the West have the highest rates of children living in concentrated poverty; and that children living in urban areas are more likely to be living in concentrated poverty. The full report 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 1 at 9:00am, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is holding an event titled, “A conversation with Secretary Betsy DeVos and state decision makers: Understanding Education Freedom Scholarships.” The event will feature USED Secretary DeVos as she discusses her Education Freedom Scholarship tax credit proposal. The event will also feature a number of state decision makers including Molly Spearman, Commissioner of the South Carolina Department of Education. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 2 at 8:30am, the American Council on Education (ACE) is holding an event titled, “College Unbound: A Regional Accreditation and Innovation Journey.” The event will focus on how regional accreditation can help with improving college completion rates, and how socially responsible, mission-driven, non-profit innovation is possible in American higher education. More information and registration are here.

Legislation:

H.R.4465
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow local educational agencies to use certain grant funds provided through the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program for school security measures, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO)

H.R.4475
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to determine the expenditures of an institution of higher education on instruction, student services, marketing, recruitment, advertising, and lobbying, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ)

H.R.4478
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to remove barriers for students seeking Federal financial aid by reducing the complexity and length of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and increasing support for working students and vulnerable populations.
Sponsor: Del. Gregorio Kilili Sablan (D-MP)

H.R.4497
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to make improvements to the Federal Student Aid Office, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL)

H.R.4502
A bill to eliminate the time limitations on federally subsidized student loans, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL)

H.R.4517
A bill to direct the Secretary of Education to carry out an apprenticeship loan forgiveness program.
Sponsor: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI)

H.R.4525
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to make grants to States for assistance in hiring additional school-based mental health and student service providers.
Sponsor: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

H.R.4528
A bill to increase the participation of historically underrepresented demographic groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and industry.
Sponsor: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

H.J.Res.76
A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to “Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability”.
Sponsor: Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV)

S.2548
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to address and take action to prevent bullying and harassment of students.
Sponsor: Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

S.2549
A bill to allow nonprofit child care providers to participate in the loan programs of the Small Business Administration.
Sponsor: Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

S.2557
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve the financial aid process for students, to provide continued support for minority-serving institutions, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

S.2559
A bill to establish certain requirements for institutions that participate in the Federal Direct loan program, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Rick Scott (R-FL)

S.2578
A bill to increase the participation of historically underrepresented demographic groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and industry.
Sponsor: Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

S.J.Res.56
A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to “Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability”.
Sponsor: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

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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