E-Update for the Week of April 25, 2022

E-Update for the Week of April 25, 2022

Highlights:

  • On April 19, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced changes to federal student loan repayment plans, including public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) and income-driven repayment (IDR) programs, in a move to improve existing avenues for borrowers to have loans forgiven.
  • On April 18, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to USED expressing concern over its proposed rule regarding the charter school programs (CSP) grants.

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED announces reforms to improve student loan forgiveness programs, including through income-based repayment plans: On April 19, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced changes to federal student loan repayment plans, including public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) and income-driven repayment (IDR) programs. The Department explained the changes are intended to improve avenues to student loan forgiveness for millions of borrowers, and would address “historical failures” in the administration of the federal student loan program. In its announcement, the Department said it would make a one-time adjustment to borrowers’ accounts to count credit toward loan forgiveness under IDR and PSLF programs for any month in which a borrower made a payment, including months borrowers were considered to be in forbearance. In a press release, the Department estimates the changes will lead to “immediate debt cancellation” for at least 40,000 borrowers under the PSLF program and “several thousand” borrowers under IDR programs. “Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,” USED Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. The action “will begin to remedy years of administrative failures that effectively denied the promise of loan forgiveness to certain borrowers enrolled in IDR plans.” In addition to these actions to provide immediate relief, the Department also announced it will enact reforms to “ensure that borrowers receive these benefits in the future.” A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here, and a statement from Committee Ranking Member Foxx (R-NC) is here. A statement from Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) is here.

Relatedly, on April 18, Chairman Scott and Chairwoman Murray wrote a letter to Secretary Cardona, urging the Department to extend the existing student loan payment pause until 2023 and use the intervening time to adopt “meaningful and lasting reform” to the IDR program. More specifically, the Members urged the Department to create a new, more generous IDR plan that would be available to all federal student loan borrowers and would protects income equal to at least 250 percent of the poverty line so borrowers can meet basic needs.
April 18 – 20, 2022

Congress:

Senate:

Chairwoman Murray pushes plan to address child care crisis through budget reconciliation: During a visit to a child care center in Seattle on April 21, Senate HELP Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) reiterated her proposal to address the child care crisis through budget reconciliation. Chairwoman Murray was joined by Deeann Burtch Puffert, CEO of Child Care Aware Washington; Loria Yeadon, President and CEO for the YMCA of Greater Seattle; and Alicia Teel, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. “We can—and must—get this plan across the finish line,” said Senator Murray. “Because it’s as clear as day that we’ve got to do something big to support child care providers and finally lift the stress of finding and affording high-quality child care off families’ shoulders.”
April 21, 2022

House:

Ranking Member Foxx submits comment letter on proposed new rule for charter school program: On April 18, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a comment letter to USED expressing concern over its proposed rule regarding the Charter School Programs (CSP) grants. In the letter, Ranking Member Foxx wrote the proposed rule would “prevent the CSP from achieving the primary purpose of the program: to provide educational opportunities for students, particularly traditionally underserved students.” Ranking Member Foxx also called into question the Department’s authority to create new priorities and requirements for the CSP. “In addition to the legal concerns, there are ample policy concerns to justify rescinding this notice,” she wrote. “Taken as a whole, these priorities are intended to limit severely the ability of state and local authorities to utilize the appropriated money for these programs to faithfully meet the intended purposes of the law.”

The comment comes in the context of the Department publishing a Federal Register notice on March 14 that proposed a series of new requirements for the CSP program, including a disclosure that applicants would be required to submit describing the charter school’s involvement with for-profit operators, as well as a “community impact analysis” to ensure any new charter schools are racially and socioeconomically diverse. Opponents of the proposed rule, such as Ranking Member Foxx, argue the new requirements would make it more difficult for charter school start-ups to get federal support.
April 18, 2022

Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On April 27 at 4:00 pm, USED, in partnership with the National Public Education Support Fund, will host the “From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students” summit. The summit will bring together education leaders, advocates, and philanthropic partners to discuss how to help students and schools recover from the pandemic. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 27 at 11:00 am, the National Science Foundation’s STEM Education Advisory Panel will meet. The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice to the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (CoSTEM) and to assess CoSTEM’s progress. The meeting will include reflections on the STEM Strategic Plan. The Federal Register notice announcing the meeting is here.
  • On April 28 at 10:30 am, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing to examine the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget, during with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra will testify. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
  • On April 28 at 10:00 am, the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the FY 2023 budget request for USED, during which USED Secretary Miguel Cardona will testify. The hearing will be livestreamed here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 24 to 30, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) will hold National Student Leadership Week. The theme for the week is “Trailblazing Leadership.” During the event, the 2021 State Principals of the Year and the top 25 National Honor Society (NHS) Scholarship recipients will celebrate their accomplishments and meet with USED officials to discuss pressing education issues. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 25 at 1:00 pm, the Bipartisan Policy Center will hold an event titled, “Understanding Sovereignty & Tribal-State Collaboration – Making them Work for American Indian/ Alaskan Native Child Care.” The webinar will feature a discussion of tribal sovereignty and what it means for states serving indigenous child care. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 28 at 1:00 pm, the Progressive Policy Institute will hold an event titled, “Tell Them We Are Rising: Parent Choice in America.” The webinar will feature a discussion of the “power of parents to access educational options for their children” and the impact the federal government has on those options. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Congress and Administration):

  • On April 20, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled, “Federal Student Aid: Education Needs to Take Steps to Ensure Eligible Loans Receive Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness.” The report found USED has not done enough to ensure all eligible borrowers receive the forgiveness they are entitled to, and there are thousands of borrowers still in repayment who could be eligible for forgiveness. Amongst other recommendations, the report suggests the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) develop and implement procedures to identify loans that are at higher risk of having payment tracking errors for IDR forgiveness, and take steps to ensure eligible borrowers with such loans receive timely forgiveness. The full report is here.
  • On April 21, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published new data from the School Pulse Panel, a monthly survey that collects data about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools from a nationally representative sample of public primary, middle, high and combined-grade schools. The panel found the overwhelming majority of parents and school staff are concerned about students meeting academic standards during this school year. Additionally, there was a 62 percent decrease in the number of public schools reporting a mask requirement for students compared with February, and there was a 58 percent decrease in the number of public schools that needed to quarantine students. The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 22, Gallup and the Lumina Foundation released a report titled, “State of Higher Education in America 2022.” The report surveyed more than 11,000 students to help inform institutions of higher education about how they can better support current and prospective students, allowing them to achieve additional education and training that can lead to better jobs and lives. Key findings include reporting that over a third of bachelor’s degree students and 39 percent of associate’s degree students say it was difficult or very difficult to remain enrolled in school heading into fall 2021. Additionally, 32 percent of bachelor’s degree students and 41 percent of associate’s degree students also reported they considered stopping school in the past six months. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.J.Res 81
A resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services relating to “Vaccine and Mask Requirements To Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs”.
Sponsor: Rep. David Joyce (R-OH)

H.Con.Res 86
A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of GLSEN’s 2022 Day of Silence in bringing attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, Two-Spirit, intersex, and questioning (LGBTQ+) bullying, harassment, discrimination, and other forms of victimization faced by individuals in schools.
Sponsor: Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)

Highlights:

  • On April 14, USED released its inaugural equity action plan, fulfilling a requirement of President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.
  • On April 12, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) published a notice in the Federal Register extending the comment period for a proposed rule related to the Charter Schools Program (CSP). Comments will be accepted until April 18.

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED releases equity action plan fulfilling part of President Biden’s racial equity Executive Order: On April 14, USED released its inaugural equity action plan, fulfilling a requirement of President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The plan outlines efforts USED says it will take to both advance ongoing pandemic recovery efforts and remedy long-standing disparities underserved communities and students face in achieving equal education opportunities. These efforts include prioritizing access to and completion of an education beyond high school; ensuring equitable impact of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to support K-12 students; investing in resources to help advance civil rights; and advancing equity in contracting, procurement, and grant process strategies. “We need to keep the focus on transforming our education system so it truly expands opportunity for all students, no matter their race, background, zip code, age, or family’s income,” USED Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “Together, we must take bold action to ensure our nation’s schools are defined not by disparities, but by equity and excellence, especially as we recover from the pandemic and reemerge stronger than before.” On May 17, the Department will hold a listening session led by senior agency officials to hear feedback on the plan. More details on the listening session are to come.
April 14, 2022

USED extends deadline to comment on proposed Charter School Program rule: On April 12, USED published a notice in the Federal Register extending the comment period for a proposed rule related to the Charter Schools Program (CSP) until April 18. The initial notice, which was published on March 14, proposed a series of new requirements for charters applying for federal funding, including a disclosure that applicants would be required to submit describing the charter school’s involvement with for-profit operators, as well as a “community impact analysis” to ensure any new charter schools are racially and socioeconomically diverse. Opponents of the proposed rule argue the new requirements would make it more difficult for charter school start-ups to get federal support, and a group of Republican Senators recently demanded the Department extend the comment period for at least 30 days to give stakeholders sufficient time to weigh in. The proposed rule laid out potential priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria, and would apply to CSP Grants to State Entities (SE Grants); Grants to Charter Management Organizations for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools (CMO Grants); and Grants to Charter School Developers for the Opening of New Charter Schools and for the Replication and Expansion of High Quality Charter Schools (Developer Grants).
April 12, 2022

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

CFPB warns 15 million borrowers may be at risk when student loan freeze ends: On April 14, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a new analysis using data from the CFPB’s Consumer Credit Panel to identify which types of borrowers may struggle to make their scheduled loan payments when the student loan freeze ends at the end of August. The analysis found 15 million borrowers are at risk of delinquency, and 5 million of the most at-risk borrowers live in low-income or high-minority census tracts. Additionally, the analysis found the end of the loan freeze will require student loan borrowers to resume making roughly $6 billion per month in aggregate payments. Though the CFPB notes some borrowers “are likely to resume payments without serious issues,” it warns “many borrowers may struggle.”
April 14, 2022

Congress:

Democrats urge Biden Administration to address early education crisis through reconciliation: On April 7, more than 150 congressional Democrats signed a letter to President Biden urging him to use budget reconciliation to reform the country’s child care and pre-kindergarten systems. “We stand ready to work with you to enact legislation through reconciliation that ensures middle-class and working families do not spend more than 7 percent of their income on child care, expands access to pre-K, and invests in the early childhood workforce and infrastructure,” the Members wrote. “Now is the time to make additional comprehensive, long-term investments in affordable, high-quality child care to build on the critical but largely short-term investments made through the American Rescue Plan.” Signatories included 33 Senate Democrats but did not include Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) or Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who have both withheld support of a broader reconciliation bill.
April 7, 2022

House:

House Republicans accuse USED and CFPB of improper collusion on student loans: On April 14, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) sent two letters to Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray and CFPB Director Rohit Chopra expressing concern about the relationships between the agencies, which have increased their coordination during the Biden Administration. In the letter to Cordray, the Members accuse the agencies of “colluding in the dark to advance policies that will result in a gross expansion of federal control over student loan programs.” The Members explained they have requested information in the past to “clarify the relationship between the CFPB, [USED], and FSA,” but they argue the agencies have provided “conflicting information and vague responses.” As a result, the Members request the CFPB and FSA provide a wide range of materials, including information on meetings and documents shared between the two agencies over the past several years.
April 14, 2022

House Democrats request GAO study on caregiving youth: On April 13, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Members of the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) Subcommittee sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting the agency conduct a study on minors under 18 years of age who serve as a primary or secondary caregiver for a family member, also known as caregiving youth. “Many caregiving youth assist parents or other relatives who are also caregiving,” the Members wrote. “These youth face challenges balancing their caregiving responsibilities with their education, mental health, and wellbeing, yet they often do not have access to the resources and services available to adult family caregivers or other vulnerable youth populations, which are already limited.” In the letter, the Members ask the GAO examine issues such as the number and characteristics of caregiving youth, the extent to which the substance abuse crisis and COVID-19 have increased the number of caregiving youth, the challenges they face and resources that would help address those challenges, and the extent to which existing federal programs assist caregiving youth.
April 12, 2022

House Oversight Subcommittee holds hearing on book bans and academic censorship: On April 7, the House Oversight Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee held a hearing titled, “Free Speech Under Attack: Book Bans and Academic Censorship.” During the hearing, two panels of witnesses examined the ongoing efforts across the country to ban books from schools and public libraries. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) argued the vast majority of books being targeted for censorship are “simply because they address racism or white supremacy as historical or sociological realities or address LGBTQ+ issues – because the protagonist or author is gay or a person of color, or for some other allegedly objectionable reason.” The first panel featured testimony from multiple high school students from Pennsylvania and Washington, who testified regarding efforts to remove books from schools and public libraries can further stigmatize marginalized students. “Many kids find refuge in going to school and being within an inclusive community,” said Olivia Pituch, a high school student from York County, Pennsylvania. “But as education on inclusion slips away, the safe haven does too.”

The second panel featured testimony from Ruby Bridges, civil rights activist and author; Samantha Hull, a librarian from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Jessica Berg, a teacher from Loudon County, Virginia; Mindy Freeman, a parent from Bucks County, Pennsylvania; and Dr. Jonathan Pidluzny, Vice President of Academic Affairs, American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Bridges, Hull, Berg, and Freeman all characterized the efforts to ban books as part of a broader attack on free speech in the classroom. These witnesses spoke to why, in their view, combatting these efforts is crucial to protecting the First Amendment rights of students and teachers. However, Dr. Pidluzny, the Republican witness, joined Republican Committee Members in emphasizing the importance of academic freedom and free expression in higher education. In their questions, Republicans attempted to paint Democrats’ concern about book bans as hypocritical, given the perceived “stifling” of free speech on college campuses. “While progressive activists shut down speech on college campuses, they are trying to hyper-expose our young school children who are still learning to read, write, add, and subtract,” Subcommittee Ranking Member Nancy Mace (R-SC) said in her opening statement.
April 7, 2022

Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On April 27 15 4:00 pm, USED, in partnership with the National Public Education Support Fund, will host the “From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students” summit. The summit will bring together education leaders, advocates, and philanthropic partners to discuss how to help students and schools recover from the pandemic. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 27 at 11:00 am, the National Science Foundation’s STEM Education Advisory Panel will meet. The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice to the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (CoSTEM) and to assess CoSTEM’s progress. The meeting will include reflections on the STEM Strategic Plan. The Federal Register notice announcing the meeting is here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 21, The Wilson Center will hold an event titled, “Finding Firmer Ground: The Role of Higher Education in U.S.-China Relations.” The event will feature a discussion of the history and future course of higher educational relations between China and the U.S. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 11, the Education Trust published a report titled, “How Black Women Experience Student Debt.” The brief, which is the first in a four-part series, uses qualitative data from the National Black Student Debt Study to paint a picture of how Black women experience student debt and how “the existing repayment system often fails them.” According to the brief, Black women hold more student debt than any other group a year after completing their bachelor’s degree. The brief concludes the high cost of college is particularly burdensome for Black women because they have fewer financial resources to pay for a higher education and little choice but to borrow higher amounts. The full report is here.
  • On April 11, the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) published a report titled, “How Reforming Income-Driven Repayment Can Reduce the Burden of Student Debt.” The report analyzed the income-driven repayment (IDR) system and argues policymakers should focus on increasing the amount of a borrower’s income that is “protected” from the IDR payment formula and shortening the maximum repayment period. The report concludes this move will reduce the burden of student debt for borrowers enrolled in IDR. The full report is here.
  • On April 12, FutureEd published a report titled, “Leaning In: The New Power of Parents in Public Education.” The report explores the rise of “new parent activism,” particularly in the context of pandemic-related school closings and online learning. The report also examines the rise of conservative parent groups, which are increasingly organizing around school board agendas and district budgetary issues. “Disenchanted by their schools’ performance during the pandemic and forced to shoulder more of the burden of their children’s learning, many parents won’t go back to a hands-off attitude toward public school,” the report concludes. The full report is here.
  • On April 13, New America published a report titled, “Educating English Learners During the Pandemic: Insights from Experts, Advocates, and Practitioners.” The report presents findings from interviews of advocates, experts, and researchers about how the pandemic impacted English learners. More specifically, the report found the educational experiences of English learners during the pandemic were “complicated, even conflicting at times, which can make it difficult to understand opportunity gaps.” However, their report concludes the barriers faced by English learners before the pandemic “will persist unless there is a fundamental shift in how these students are viewed by policymakers and other local leaders.” The full report is here.
  • On April 14, the Center for American Progress (CAP) published a report titled, “How Colleges and Universities Can Bring Pell Grant-Funded Programs Back to Prisons.” Following the Department’s recent drafting of a new approval process for the Prison Education Program (PEP), the report details the four steps institutions of higher education can take to accept Pell Grants from incarcerated students: (1) create higher education programs that meet the new requirements or adapt existing programs to the new requirements; (2) get approval from their institutional accrediting agency; (3) get approval from the entity that oversees the correctional facility where the program will be offered, such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons or a state corrections agency; and (4) get approval from the U.S. Department of Education. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R. 7491
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to establish notification and reporting requirements relating to unlawful acts and significant emergencies faced by students in public elementary and secondary schools.
Sponsor: Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

H.R. 7492
A bill to prohibit the Department of Education from punishing States, local educational agencies, or elementary schools for failure to implement or carry out certain Federal policies relating to sex education in elementary schools, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX)

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