E-Update for April 10, 2023

E-Update for April 10, 2023

The information covered below is from March 30, 2023, to April 6, 2023.

Highlights:

  • On April 6, the U.S. Department of Education released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on athletic eligibility under Title IX for transgender students.
  • On April 5, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) released a letter to the education community seeking a request for input on policies that the Committee should consider during the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA).
  • On April 4, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY), and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) sent a letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona requesting information regarding “the misuse of pandemic-era education funds intended to address students’ historic learning losses.”

Administration:

White House:

President Biden remarks on potential opportunities and challenges with Artificial Intelligence (AI): On April 4, President Biden met with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to discuss the “opportunities and risks” of AI. President Biden shared, “AI can help deal with some very difficult challenges like disease and climate change, but we also have to address the potential risks to our society, to our economy, to our national security.” President Biden acknowledged the possibilities of negative impacts , particularly without safeguards for children, adding “Absent safeguards, we see the impact on the mental health and self-images and feelings and hopelessness, especially among young people.” In March, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider published a blog post discussing how artificial intelligence (AI) can be integrated into student services. Specifically, Schneider highlighted the role that the AI Institute for Exceptional Education – a jointly funded IES/National Science Foundation AI institute – can have in supporting individualized interventions for students with speech and language needs and speech language pathologists.

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED releases proposed Title IX rule regarding transgender students’ participation in sports: On April 6, USED released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on athletic eligibility under Title IX for transgender students. A fact sheet on the NPRM notes that the “proposed rule would establish that policies violate Title IX when they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.” The proposed rule “recognizes … that some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation” and proposes a framework for “developing eligibility criteria that protects students from being denied equal athletic opportunity.” The fact sheet states that the “Department’s approach would allow schools flexibility to develop team eligibility criteria that serve important educational objectives, such as ensuring fairness in competition or preventing sports-related injury.” More specifically, the proposed rule requires schools to take into account a number of considerations, including the differences among students and school sports teams depending on grade and education level, the variations in level of competition, and the importance of minimizing harms to students whose participation on teams consistent with their gender identity would be limited or denied. The proposed rule will be open for public comment 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Following the NPRM’s release, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) issued a statement: “This proposed rule takes on a totally perverse interpretation of Title IX that completely ignores the biological differences between boys and girls and men and women.” Chairwoman Foxx added her support for the “common-sense” Republican legislation, the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023,” which would explicitly update the Education Amendments of 1972 to codify that “sex” shall represent a “person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth. House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) also issued a statement, which supported the proposed rule: “the proposed rule ensures that school sports are, above all, fair and safe for our nation’s children.”

Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten hosts roundtable with transgender students: On March 30, USED Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten hosted a roundtable with transgender students and their parents to learn about their experiences and advocacy efforts. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona shared his support through video remarks, stating, “We in the Biden-Harris Administration see you and we support you.” Five parents and four students participated, as well as Assistant Secretary for Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Roberto Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary for Office for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon. In sharing their experiences, students described facing bullying, misgendering, forced outing, and hateful comments from peers, teachers, and administrators. Some of the parents added their advocacy efforts, which included “filing complaints with school officials, meeting with leaders, and contemplating moving out of the country in order to make sure their children have a more quality experience in and out of the classroom.” Deputy Secretary Marten reaffirmed the administration’s support for transgender students, stating, “Feeling safe is a bottom line — they need to feel supported and seen.” On April 1, Domestic Policy Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy also hosted a roundtable with transgender kids and their parents, and “reiterated the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to standing up for the rights of transgender kids and their parents, and to challenging state laws that harm transgender kids.”

First Lady Jill Biden and USED Secretary Miguel Cardona visit four states to discuss career-connected programs in high schools and community colleges: During the week of April 3, First Lady Jill Biden and USED Secretary Miguel Cardona visited four states as part of the “Investing in America” Tour and highlighted the Administration’s efforts toward career-connected pathways. The First Lady  visited Colorado and Michigan, and Secretary Cardona joined her for visits in Vermont and Maine. In her remarks in Vermont, Dr. Biden shared that many high school students “don’t necessarily know how to get from earning their diplomas to earning a living,” and emphasized the importance of career-connected pathways. She continued, “It starts with free, high-quality universal preschool and goes through high school. It provides access to two years of affordable community college and connects to great jobs. And it helps students pursue four-year degrees if they want to continue their education.” The First Lady ended her speech by stating that community colleges and career-connected learning are “top priorities” in President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

Congress:

Senate:

Senate HELP Committee announce request for input (RFI) on reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA): On April 5, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) released a letter to the education community seeking a request for input on policies that the Committee should consider during the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). The joint request for comments indicates that, as expected, both the Chairman and Ranking Member are working together on a path forward to reach a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize ESRA. The Committee, in the letter, outlined a series of questions that it is specifically seeking input on to inform the ESRA reauthorization process. Additionally, the Committee noted that it is requesting input on a range of policies during ESRA reauthorization from early learning through postsecondary education. The Committee is also encouraging stakeholders to propose line edits or other legislative text as a supplement to comments.  Comments must be submitted to the Committee at ESRA2023@help.senate.gov no later than the close of business on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.

House:

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman Brad Wenstrup request information on “misuse” of pandemic-related education funds: On April 4, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY), and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) sent a letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona requesting information regarding “the misuse of pandemic-era education funds intended to address students’ historic learning losses.” They write, “Rather than use ESSER [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund] funds to help students recover from learning losses, some states and school districts that kept schools closed appear to have spent ESSER funds to push favored social agendas.” The Committee chairs list and describe some of these efforts as “restorative practices…and implicit bias training,” “anti-bias strategies, environmental literacy…ethnic studies, and LGBTQ+ cultural competency,” and “culturally responsive sustaining instruction.” The letter requests documentation and communications on USED’s memoranda and guidance, as well as information specific to the approval of states’ uses of funds in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York.

Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup invites American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten to testify on pandemic-related school closures: On April 5, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) invited American Federal of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten to testify at a hearing related to pandemic school closures. The hearing, titled, “The Consequences of School Closures, Part 2: The President of the American Federation of Teachers Ms. Randi Weingarten,” will “delve into the role Ms. Weingarten and the AFT played in editing the [Center for Disease Control’s] school reopening guidance and keeping schools closed longer than necessary.” The first hearing of the Select Subcommittee was held on March 28, and examined the consequences of COVID-19 school closures on student development. More information on the hearing can be found on the Select Subcommittee’s hearing page.

House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx requests information from USED regarding enforcement of foreign gift reporting: On April 5, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) led 21 House Republicans in a letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona requesting information on “whether colleges and universities are complying with reporting requirements under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, which requires schools to report foreign gifts and contracts.” The letter cites a 2020 report from USED’s Office of the General Council that found institutions “have received nearly all foreign funds, receiving billions . . . in assets using an assortment of related intermediaries, including functionally captive foundations, [and] foreign operating units.” The letter requests information “given the lack of detail in the administration’s recent budget

proposals, including the FY 2024 proposal,” and “inquire[s] about current Section 117 operations and enforcement activities of the Department,” naming 15 public and private universities. The letter asks a series of questions around the budgeted and expended amounts for all Section 117 activities, and the employees enforcing Section 117 compliance.

Congressman Andy Biggs introduces over 500 bills to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to pre-COVID levels, including twelve limiting the availability of funds for USED: On March 28, Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) introduced more than 500 bills that would cut non-defense discretionary spending to pre-COVID levels, including twelve that reduce spending for USED. The bills that pertain to USED funding would reduce funding for the USED Office of Inspector General, and cut funding entirely for the School Improvement Program, Innovation and Improvement, English Language Assistance, Rehabilitation Services, Student Financial Assistance, Student Aid Administration, Higher Education, College Housing and Academic Facilities Loans Program, Institute for Education Sciences, Program Administration, and the Office of Civil Rights. Upon the bill text release, Congressman Biggs stated, “It’s long past time to rein in spending and eliminate wasteful spending programs…[the] spending cut bills will save the nation money in the short and long term.”

Supreme Court:

Colleges request Supreme Court intervention in borrower defense claims: On April 5, Everglades College, Lincoln Technical Institute, and American National University appealed a federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals  ruling that would allow for USED to discharge more than 200,000 borrowers’ student loans. The appeal, made to the U.S. Supreme Court, argues that USED Secretary Miguel Cardona does not have the authority to cancel and refund federal student loans “en masse.” In June 2022, USED Secretary Cardona announced that the Biden Administration would fully discharge nearly $6 billion in federal student loan debt for about 200,000 borrowers who claim they were defrauded by their college or university – most of them for-profit institutions. The announcement was the result of a proposed settlement after a drawn-out lawsuit over the “borrower defense” law, which provides debt relief to federal student loan borrowers if their college defrauds or misleads them. The three colleges had asked the Ninth Circuit to immediately block USED from discharging the loans of students who attended their schools, while their appeal continues. The colleges’ appeal claims that USED’s discharge proposal failed to assess the validity of the borrowers’ claims. In responding to the request to block the immediate discharge of the loans for the colleges, the Ninth Circuit stated that, “Appellants fail to demonstrate a sufficient probability of irreparable harm to warrant a stay of the challenged settlement pending these appeals.”

Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On April 26, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will host a hearing titled, “The Consequences of School Closures, Part 2: The President of the American Federation of Teachers Ms. Randi Weingarten.” More information is here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 11 at 3:00 pm, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Overdeck Family Foundation will host a webinar titled, “Beyond the ESSER “Funding Cliff”: Local Supports to Sustain High-Impact Tutoring.” The webinar will feature education leaders and practitioners to spotlight innovative, high-impact tutoring solutions that are supporting student achievement. Panelists will explore how schools and tutoring nonprofits can partner to achieve meaningful impact on student learning, and what supports are needed at the local level to ensure that the most effective programs can be sustained in our schools. Presenters include: Horace Buddoo from Saga Education; Nick Erber from Uplift Education; and Mindy Sjoblom from OnYourMark. The webinar will be moderated by Pete Lavorini from the Overdeck Family Foundation. More information and registration here.
  • On April 11 from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm and April 12 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, the Aspen Institute will hold a hybrid event titled, “Forum on Children and Families: Taking Action for Family Prosperity.” The free two-day public convening will explore bold, equitable, and pragmatic strategies to support low-income families. It will focus on the current environment for families, as Americans “emerge” from the pandemic. More information and an agenda are here.
  • On April 12 at 3:00 pm, the Learning Policy Institute, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Science of Learning & Development (SoLD) Alliance will co-host a webinar titled, “Whole Child Policy: Investing Resources Equitably and Efficiently.” The webinar will focus on the strategies and lessons learned from experts and state leaders to ensure resources are invested equitably and efficiently for whole child design. Speakers include: Linda Darling-Hammond, President of the Learning Policy Institute; Representative William Davis from the Illinois General Assembly; and Zoë Stemm-Calderon, Senior Director Youth Serving Systems at the Raikes Foundation. More information and registration here.
  • On April 13 at 3:00 pm, the National Council of State Legislators will host a webinar titled, “Education Trends in States: K-12 Recovery and Innovation.” The webinar is the second in a series that explores how states are addressing student academic and mental health needs, while exploring innovative ways to rethink schools and education systems. More information and registration here.
  • On April 19 at 1:00 pm, the Learning Policy Institute and the National Institute for Early Education Research, co-sponsored by the Council for Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Association of State Leaders in Early Education, and National Conference of State Legislatures, will host a webinar titled, “Improving Access to High-Quality Preschool: Lessons from Five State Mixed Delivery Systems.” Mixed delivery pre-K systems, in which children are served through a combination of local education agencies (LEAs) and non-LEA providers, such as Head Start agencies, child care centers, private schools, and family child care homes, have a number of benefits and challenges. Such systems can add capacity through expanded staffing and facilities and provide families with choices of settings and environments, but they can often be challenging to coordinate and support the participation of myriad preschool providers across settings. This webinar will highlight policy and practices that support children’s access to consistent, high-quality learning in all settings. Speakers include: Barbara Chow, Director of Education at the Heising-Simons Foundation; Karin Garver, Early Childhood Education Policy Specialist at the National Institute for Early Education Research; and Hanna Melnick, Senior Policy Advisor at the Learning Policy Institute, among others. More information and registration here.
  • On April 20 at 2:00 pm, the Hunt Institute will host a webinar titled, “An Invisible Threat: Addressing Mental Health Concerns in K-12 Education.” The webinar will feature a conversation around the mental health challenges students are facing in and out of the classroom, and steps being taken across the country to ensure students have access to meaningful mental health services. Speakers include: Stephen Sharp, Director of the American School Counselor Association; Angela Jerabek, Founder and Executive Director at Building Assets Reducing Risks (BARR); and Jhone Ebert, Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Nevada. More information and registration here.
  • On April 25 at 3:00 pm, the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program will host a live event titled, “40 Years of A Nation at Risk: Where Are We and What’s Next for Public Education?” This public panel will commemorate the enduring contributions of the landmark “Nation at Risk” report, and feature lessons learned. Presenters will frame an agenda that will meet the future challenges and how to improve public education policy. Speakers include: Ross Wiener, Executive Director at the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program; Roberto Rodriguez, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at USED; Gerard Robinson, Fellow of Practice at the Institute for Advanced studies in Culture at the University of Virginia; Penny Schwinn, Commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Education; and Lorén Cox, Policy Director at the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program. More information and registration here.

Publications (Congress & Administration):

  • On April 4, the Government Accountability Office published a new report titled, “Employment Information for Key Grant Programs that Foster Expertise in World Languages and Cultures.” The GAO reviewed materials from 27 university grantees from USED’s Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship and National Resource Center (NRC) grant programs, which encourage students to pursue employment in certain fields by developing students’ language skills and knowledge about other cultures. The most common ways in which FLAS/NRC grants are used to support students include: helping students develop skills in languages such as Arabic or Chinese, offering career services, helping students develop knowledge about world areas and cultural competencies, and collaborating with community partners. Following a survey of program graduates, 38 percent indicated that they worked in the private sector, 24 percent worked in non-profit business, and 13 percent worked in state government. The GAO did not issue recommendations in this report.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 4, the Pew Research Center published a new report titled, “School District Mission Statements Highlight a Partisan Divide Over Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in K-12 Education.” The report studied 1,314 mission statements from public school districts across the country to identify themes and potential partisan divisions. The analysis found that 80% of all mission statements mention “future readiness,” which could include college and job readiness, developing lifelong learners and creating productive citizens. Additionally, about 56 percent of Democratic-area school districts mention diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their mission statements while 26 percent of Republican-area school districts include DEI.
  • On April 6, the American Association of University Professors released the results of their 2022–23 Faculty Compensation Survey. The analysis found that average salaries for full-time faculty members increased 4.1 percent, the greatest one-year increase since 1990–91. More specifically, average salaries for full-time faculty members increased 4.5 percent among public institutions, 3.8 percent among private-independent institutions, and 2.7 percent among religiously affiliated institutions. The report also adjusted the changes in salaries for inflation and found that average salaries for continuing full-time faculty members increased 4.8 percent in nominal terms, but decreased 1.7 percent in real terms, after adjusting for inflation.

Legislation:

Introduced in the House of Representatives:

H.R. 2457
A bill to ​​establish a National Science Foundation grant program to provide opportunities for and strengthen research capacity at institutions of higher education to stimulate sustainable improvement in existing research and development at such institutions, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA)

H.R. 2458
A bill to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to establish an emergency preparedness grant program for higher education institutions, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA)

H.R. 2470
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to authorize additional grant activities for Hispanic-serving institutions.
Sponsor: Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA)

H.R. 2476
A bill to keep schools safe using unobligated Federal funds available to the Secretary of Education to respond to the coronavirus.
Sponsor: Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

H.R. 2477
A bill to amend the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 to permit qualified law enforcement officers, qualified retired law enforcement officers, and persons not prohibited by State law from carrying a concealed firearm to carry a firearm, and to discharge a firearm in defense of self or others, in a school zone.
Sponsor: Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

H.R. 2478
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for an exclusion from gross income for compensation of certain school resource officers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

H.R. 2479
A bill to provide for safe schools and safe communities.
Sponsor: Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

H.R. 2483
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to strengthen school security.
Sponsor: Rep. John Carter (R-TX)

H.R. 2491
A bill to establish a grant program to improve school security, including by training and hiring veterans and former law enforcement officers as school safety officers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Chuck Flesichmann (R-TN)

H.R. 2495
A bill to require State educational agencies to hire and train school resource officers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA)

H.R. 2502
A bill to repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and amendments to that Act.
Sponsor: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

H.R. 2508
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to ensure that public institutions of higher education eschew policies that improperly constrain the expressive rights of students, and to ensure that private institutions of higher education are transparent about, and responsible for, their chosen speech policies.
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC)

H.R. 2519
A bill to support the education of Indian children.
Sponsor: Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA)

H.R. 2532
A bill to establish a Commission on Men’s and Women’s Fairness in College Sports.
Sponsor: Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ)

H.R. 2541
A bill to prioritize the hiring and training of veterans and retired law enforcement officers as school resource officers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ)

H.Res. 282
A resolution expressing that compelled political litmus tests used by public institutions to require individuals to identify with specific ideological views are directly at odds with the principles of academic freedom and free speech and in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC)

Introduced in the Senate:

S. 1092
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to make college affordable and accessible by expanding access to dual or concurrent enrollment programs and early college high school programs.
Sponsor: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

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