E-Update for April 25, 2023
The information covered below is from April 7, 2023, to April 20, 2023.
- On April 18, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) to expand access to affordable, high-quality care, including child care and early learning, and provide support for care workers and family caregivers.
- On April 18, U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Miguel Cardona testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee on the fiscal year (FY) 2024 President’s budget request for the Department.
- On April 20, the House of Representatives, in a party-line vote with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposed, passed H.R. 734, the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023.”
White House issues an EO on increasing access to high-quality care and supporting caregivers: On April 18, President Biden issued an EO, which includes more than 50 directives across the federal government aimed at expanding access to affordable, high-quality care, and providing support for care workers and family caregivers. The EO, which includes directives to USED and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), directs HHS to consider actions to lower costs for families benefitting from the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program by reducing or eliminating families’ co-payments for child care. Additionally, among other actions, the EO calls for federal agencies to identify which of their grant programs can support child care and long-term care for individuals working on federal projects and consider requiring applicants seeking federal job-creating funds to expand access to care for their workers. In signing the EO, President Biden stated, the EO “is the most comprehensive set of actions any administration has taken to date to increase access to high-quality child care and long-term care and support for the caregivers.” President Biden also noted, “The executive order doesn’t require any new spending. It’s about making sure taxpayers will get the best value for the investments they’ve already made.” A fact sheet on the EO is here.
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED releases updated FAQs on Bipartisan Safer Communities Act: On April 12, USED released an update to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document on the grant funding made available through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) and administered by the Department. BSCA, which was enacted with bipartisan support in June 2022, provides investments to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, institute safety measures in and around schools, and support school violence prevention efforts. Among other funding in the Act, the legislation included $1 billion through Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for grants to schools and districts to help prevent and respond to acts of bullying, violence, and hate — which USED now refers to as the Stronger Connections Grant Program. On March 30, following a school shooting in Nashville, TN, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) sent a letter to USED Secretary Cardona emphasizing the need to address the mental health of students is crucial. However, he went on to write, “States and district leaders need to know that they can and should use [BSCA] funds to harden schools. Any confusion about that fact could lead to dangerous delays in protecting our students.” Senator Cassidy also requested a written plan of action on how the administration plans to “issue explicit guidance and technical assistance to states and districts on using BSCA funds for school hardening…[and] remove federal administrative barriers to the spending of dollars by districts” under the law. In response, on April 14, Secretary Cardona wrote to Ranking Member Cassidy to note the release of the FAQs and detailed the Department’s efforts to share information and guidance on how BSCA funds can be used in schools to boost their security and hold security training sessions. (NOTE: A subscription to Politco Pro is required to view the letters written by Senator Cassidy and Secretary Cardona).
USED pushes back implementation of guidance for third-party servicers: On April 11, USED published a blog post announcing updates to its guidance on third-party servicers and pushing back its implementation. USED originally announced in February that it was seeking comments, recommendations, and suggestions for improving guidance around how colleges and universities outsource management of their online programs to unaffiliated, outside, and typically for-profit companies – known as Online Program Managers (OPMs). In the blog post, Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal wrote that the Department would take additional time to review the comments received, as well as allow more time for institutions and companies to come into compliance with the guidance. The guidance will be delayed, and the original date of September 1, 2023, will no longer be in effect. Additionally, the blog post wrote that the guidance would not consider third-party servicers contracts involving study abroad programs, recruitment of foreign students not eligible for Title IV aid, and dual or concurrent enrollment programs provided through agreements with high schools and local education agencies, among others. The blog post concludes with the Department’s commitment to reviewing public comments, stating, “doing so will help us ensure we ultimately strike the right balance between transparency, oversight, and institutional and third-party burden.”
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) responded to the announcement, stating, “It demonstrates incompetency, poor planning, a failure to think through the serious implications of its proposal, a lack of respect for the concerns of postsecondary institutions, and tone-deafness to private businesses and students.” On April 7, Chairwoman Foxx also published an op-ed criticizing the guidance, calling it “half-baked” and adding, “This is yet another move by an administration that misunderstands the operational dynamics on college campuses and the valuable role that technology plays in postsecondary education today.”
USED hosts listening sessions on a wide range of higher education policies: On April 11, 12, and 13, USED hosted listening sessions on a wide range of higher education policies. USED invited feedback as a first step in issuing new regulations, on a range of suggested topics including recognition of accrediting agencies and related issues, institutional eligibility (including state authorization), third-party servicers, the definition of distance education, return of Title IV funds, cash management, and federal TRIO programs. According to the Higher Ed Dive, several speakers urged USED “to beef up student consumer protections and better hold poorly performing institutions accountable,” while others criticized the agency’s proposed guidance on third party servicers (See above for additional information under “USED pushes back implementation of guidance for third-party servicers”). Additionally, Higher Ed Dive noted that consumer protection advocates spoke of the need to strengthen oversight of distance learning with Kyle Southern, Associate Vice President of Higher Education Quality at The Institute for College Access & Success, saying, “state regulation means little if colleges can bypass the rules.” The National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) also issued summaries of the listening sessions on April 11 and April 12. In the announcement about the listening sessions, USED shared that “Following the public hearings, the Department will finalize the issues to be addressed through rulemaking and solicit nominations for non-federal negotiators who can serve on the negotiated rulemaking committee(s), which will convene in fall 2023.” Further information on the public hearings is here and more on the negotiated rulemaking process is here.
Senate Majority Leader Schumer spearheads effort to draft legislation aimed at regulating Artificial Intelligence (AI): On April 13, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he is leading efforts to draft legislation to regulate AI technology and has been “discussing and circulating a high-level framework that outlines a new regulatory regime for artificial intelligence, engaging leading artificial intelligence experts to help inform the proposal.” Majority Leader Schumer describes the framework as one that outlines “a new regulatory regime that would prevent potentially catastrophic damage to our country while simultaneously making sure the U.S. advances and leads in this transformative technology.” As initially reported by Axios, Majority Leader Schumer’s framework is focused on transparency requirements for AI technology, and proposes “four guardrails” for this technology: “1. The identification of who trained the algorithm and who its intended audience is; 2. The disclosure of its data source; 3. An explanation for how it arrives at its responses, [and] 4. Transparent and strong ethical boundaries.” Citing the AI industry’s consequential and fast-moving impact on society, national security, and the global economy, the press release on the announcement emphasized that, “Sen. Schumer’s urgency to act is high,” and went on to note that he looks forward to working across the aisle on the proposed legislation.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) leads sixteen Senate Democrats in letter requesting a funding increase for the Office of Federal Student Aid: On April 10, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led sixteen Senate Democrats in sending a letter to the Senate Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee requesting $2.7 billion for the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) in FY2024. The Senators called for increasing funding to the level included in the FY2024 President’s budget request as funding is “particularly critical given that FSA’s FY 2023 funding was stagnant from the previous year, which severely undermines FSA’s ability to implement critical programs.” The Senators went on to note that increased funding is needed given that, “FSA is currently expected to make major improvements to student loan servicing, including an overhaul of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as Congressionally-required through the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act (FUTURE Act) and the FAFSA Simplification Act, which work together to expand access to federal aid and address longstanding concerns over the complexity of the application process.” The Senators also called attention to the risks of not increasing funding, stating, “Last year’s flat funding of FSA could jeopardize the implementation of significant reforms such as making long-overdue improvements to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, introducing a new and transformative income-driven repayment plan (IDR), and implementing President Biden’s historic student debt cancellation plan,” among others.
House passes legislation to prohibit transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports following USED release of NPRM on athletic eligibility under Title IX: On April 20, the House of Representatives, in a party-line vote with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposed, passed H.R. 734, the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023.” The legislation would update the Education Amendments of 1972 to codify that “sex” shall represent a “person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” and prohibit school athletic programs from allowing individuals whose biological sex at birth was male to participate in programs that are for women or girls.” The bill’s passage follows USED releasing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on athletic eligibility under Title IX for transgender students on April 6. 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.” House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), a cosponsor of H.R. 734, responded to the NPRM, stating, “This proposed rule runs counter to the goal of Title IX … Now more than ever, Republicans must step up and pass common-sense legislation like the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023 to restore the safety, privacy, and opportunities of women and girls in sports.” Ahead of the House vote, the Biden Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy that noted President Biden’s strong opposition to the bill, and that he would veto this legislation should it come to his desk.
Speaker of the House McCarthy releases Republican plan to address the debt limit: On April 18, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released the Republican plan to address the need to increase the debt limit titled the, “Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023.” The release of the plan followed a speech that the Speaker delivered at the New York Stock Exchange on April 18, where he spoke about the need for a “responsible debt increase” that would couple a debt limit increase with reductions in federal spending. The Republican plan caps federal discretionary spending at FY2022 levels, while allowing spending to annually grow by 1% annually through FY2033. Specific to education, the Republican plan would call for prohibiting President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and the Biden Administration’s IDR plan. Additionally, the Republican plan includes a rescission of unobligated COVID relief funding. In responding to the release of the plan USED Secretary Cardona said, “While President Biden, Vice President Harris, and I continue working to deliver much-needed relief to borrowers working to get back on their feet after the pandemic, Speaker McCarthy’s proposal tells us everything we need to know about what he and his allies value—tax cuts for the super-rich, special interests, and big corporations over support for hardworking Americans.” The House is expected to take up consideration of the Republican plan as early as the week of April 24.
House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee holds a hearing to examine the FY2024 President’s budget request for USED: On April 18, the House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing with USED Secretary Cardona to examine the FY2024 President’s budget request for USED. House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Robert Aderholt (R-AL) kicked off the hearing by raising concerns with the proposed 13 percent increase for USED above FY2023 levels saying the request, “will leave the next generation unprepared academically for competing in the 21st century and saddled with the highest national debt our nation has ever seen.” While the Chair noted his support for Pell Grants and the TRIO program, he also emphasized his concerns with “extreme executive overreach,” including President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and the Biden Administration’s IDR plan. Additionally, the Chair expressed his concerns with the “shift in focus away from teaching our kids to read, write, add, and subtract, and instead towards indoctrinating children with divisive ideology and achieving equity in areas outside of academic achievement,” as well as USED’s NPRM on athletic eligibility under Title IX for transgender students (See above for additional information under “House passes legislation to prohibit transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports following USED release of NPRM on athletic eligibility under Title IX”). Throughout the Subcommittee hearing, Republican Subcommittee members continued to express their concerns with the NPRM and federal spending broadly, as well as several members expressed the need for school choice.
Democratic Subcommittee members used their time during the hearing to lift up the specific impacts that reductions to federal spending to FY2022 levels would have on federal education programs, including Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Pell Grants, among other programs. Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also called attention to a recent vote for an amendment offered by Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) to H.R. 5, the Parents Bill of Rights, which called for eliminating federal spending for elementary and secondary education. The Ranking Member noted that only 60 Republicans opposed the measure saying, “My god! My fears of these cuts and eliminations are not hypothetical. Because there are those that already voted for them!”
House Education Subcommittee holds hearing on school choice: On April 18, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled “School Choice: Expanding Educational Freedom for All.” The Subcommittee heard first from a panel of three current House Members, including: Representatives Warren Davidson (R-OH), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Adrian Smith (R-NE). The Subcommittee then featured testimony from four witnesses, including: former U.S. Representative Luke Messer (R-IN), President of Invest in Education; Dr. Lindsey Burke, Director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation; Derek Black, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of South Carolina; and Denisha Allen, Senior Fellow at the American Federation for Children.
Subcommittee Chair Aaron Bean (R-FL), in his opening remarks, stated that “The traditional public school system has failed many families, particularly those in lower-income communities. School choice programs offer a way out of failing schools and provide access to high-quality education options that would otherwise be unavailable.” He cited COVID-related school closures that, in his view, “…showed the shortcomings of our public school system and the need for education reform. School closures left children trapped in unresponsive, rigid systems and created generational learning loss.” On the first panel, Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH) spoke in support of school choice, commenting that, “I think we can all agree that the status quo does not work ….[and] the surest remedy to accountability is to fund students, via their parents, rather than schools.” Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), in his remarks, noted that “…anyone who has looked at the data on school choice, in particular private school vouchers, knows that these programs drain resources away from our public schools – which serve the vast majority of students – in order to fund private and religious schools which aren’t held to the same educational standards nor are subject to many of the anti-discrimination laws that protect…vulnerable groups.” Highlighting a statewide voucher program in Wisconsin, Representative Pocan, said “vouchers give tax breaks to parents who already send their kids to private schools, defund the public education system, and are an abject failure when it comes to improving education outcomes for kids.”
On the second panel, former-Representative Luke Messer (R-IN), President of Invest in Education, a school-choice advocacy group, noted that “Today, our K-12 “system” continues to place the interests and agendas of adults above the learning and academic needs of students.” Highlighting the growth of school choice options, former-Representative Messer pointed out that “…there are 3.5 million students in public charter schools. There are around 700,000 students benefiting from a voucher, tax credit scholarship, or education savings account. Yet, the public school system is still standing and still educating the vast majority of our nation’s students. In other words, school choice hasn’t hurt public schools.” In her remarks, Dr. Burke from the Heritage Foundation, detailed the history and growth of school choice options across the country, and provided several recommendations for Congress, including making federal K-12 and special education funds “portable, following students to learning environments of choice.” Professor Black, argued strongly in opposition to school choice options, stating that “…rather than affording more educational opportunity, these private school tuition programs have the practical effect of further denying students who remain in public schools of their state constitutional right to education [and] do not ensure better opportunities for disadvantaged students who participate in the tuition programs.” The final witness, Denisha Allen, a fellow at the American Federation for Children, another school choice advocacy group, highlighted her personal story as someone who attended a private school under the Florida school voucher program. She said that “The public school system had failed me [and her] liberation came in the form of education freedom.”
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee holds hearing on role of data brokers and online privacy protections: On April 19, the House and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing titled, “Who is Selling Your Data: A Critical Examination of the Role of Data Brokers in the Digital Economy.” As background, data brokers are companies that collect personal information about consumers from a variety of sources and aggregate, analyze, sell, and share that information, or information derived from it, for purposes such as marketing products, verifying an individual’s identity, or detecting fraud. The focus of the hearing was to allow Subcommittee members to learn more about the data broker ecosystem from privacy experts and advocates as Congress continues to debate federal privacy and data security legislation. The hearing featured testimony from the following witnesses: Justin Sherman, Senior Fellow & Research Lead Data Brokerage Project at Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy; Marshall Erwin, VP & Chief Security Officer, for Mozilla Corporation; and Professor Laura Moy, Associate Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law Center.
During her opening remarks at the hearing, full House Energy and Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) noted that the hearing is the fifth in a series of hearings this Congress across the Committee examining the need for strong data privacy and security protections. The Chair went on to say, “We need a national data privacy standard that changes the status quo and ensures Americans regain control of their personal information. Right now, there are no robust protections and current privacy laws are inadequate, leaving Americans vulnerable.” Full Democratic Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) echoed the call of Chair McMorris Rodgers for the need to “pass a national comprehensive privacy bill,” emphasizing, “I think we can all agree on that.” The Ranking Member also stressed, “We have to make sure the [Federal Trade Commission] continues to receive the funding necessary to carry out its work and has its federal court authority restored and improved.”
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On April 26 at 10:00 am, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing to examine the FY2024 President’s budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan is expected to testify. More information is here.
- On April 26 at 10:00 am, the Senate HELP Committee will hold an executive session (markup) to consider the nomination of Julie Su to serve as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. There is not expected to be a livestream for the executive session. More information is here.
- On April 26 at 1:00 pm, USED will host a webinar titled, “Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Selecting Evidence-based Strategies to Support Adolescents in Middle and High School.” The webinar is the fifth as part of a series accompanying the BSCA’s Stronger Connections Grant Program. More information and registration are here.
- On April 26 at 2:00 pm, 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.” Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, is expected to testify. More information is here.
- On April 27 at 2:00 pm, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce will hold a hearing titled, “Addressing America’s Data Privacy Shortfalls: How a National Standard Fills Gaps to Protect Americans’ Personal Information.” The Subcommittee hearing will explore enhancing Americans’ privacy and data security protections and safety on online applications. More information is here.
- On May 3 at 10:30 am, National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will release the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results for U.S. history and civics. Patrick Kelly, Governing Board member and government teacher from South Carolina, will facilitate a discussion on the assessment results for eighth-grade students, as well as explore insights into students’ learning experiences. More information and registration are here.
- On May 11 at TBD, the Senate Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the FY2024 President’s budget request for USED. USED Secretary Cardona is expected to testify. More information is here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- 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 look at how to meet future challenges and 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 are here.
- On April 25 at 3:00 pm, the National Association of the State Boards of Education (NASBE), with partners National Council for State Legislatures (NCSL), National Governors Association (NGA), and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), will host a webinar discussion with Dr. Paul Manna, Professor of Government and Public Policy at William & Mary University, to discuss his recent report titled, “States as Leaders, Followers, and Partners.” The report, which was published by the Wallace Foundation, examines the pivotal role state policymakers can play in advancing effective school leadership. Additional speakers will include Alonna Berry, Education Advisor for Governor Carney of Delaware; Matt Blomstedt, former Nebraska Commissioner of Education; and Francisco Escobedo, Member, California State Board of Education, San Diego State University, and National Center for Urban School Transformation. More information and registration are here. The report is here.
- On April 26 at 11:00 am, the Center for American Progress (CAP) will hold a panel discussion titled, “Cashing in Our CHIPS: Community Colleges and the CHIPS and Science Act.” The discussion will explore how the United States can leverage the CHIPS and Science Act to invest in community colleges in order to meet workforce and educational needs. Jesse O’Connell, Senior Vice President of Education at the CAP, will offer introductory remarks. Speakers will include Adrienne Elrod, Director of External and Government Affairs, CHIPS Program Office, U.S. Department of Commerce; Dr. Anne M. Kress, President, Northern Virginia Community College; and Al Thompson, Vice President, U.S.-Canada Government Affairs, Intel Corporation. Jared Bass, Senior Director of CAP, will moderate the discussion. More information and registration are here.
- On April 26 at 3:00 pm, NCSL will host a webinar titled, “Education Trends in States: Part IV Postsecondary Education.” The webinar will include a discussion of higher education spending trends and how states are broadening the scope of access and opportunity for students in higher education and career and technical education. More information and registration are here.
- On April 28 at 9:00 am, Washington Post Live will hold a virtual discussion titled, “Bridging the Digital Divide in Education, Finance and Health Care.” Speakers will include Kristina Ishmael, Deputy Director of the Office of Ed Tech at USED; Tommaso Mancini-Griffoli, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Division Chief focused on monetary and capital markets; Gina Lucarelli, a Team Leader at the United Nations Development Programme’s Accelerator Labs Network; and Leana Wen, Professor of Health Policy and Management at George Washington University. More information and registration are here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On April 13, The Leadership Conference Education Fund released a new report titled Data for Equity: A Review of Federal Agency Equity Action Plans. The report reviewed 45 action plans that were released by federal agencies as a result of President Biden’s first day EO aimed at advancing racial equity. The analysis found that, due to insufficient baseline data on how equitable current programs are, it is difficult for agencies to measure improvements. Agencies lack disaggregated data, receive low response rates to surveys, and have limited capacity, making it difficult to implement and measure the success of agency action plans. The report suggests that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the National Science and Technology Counsel’s (NSTC) Subcommittee on Equitable Data, in conjunction with the White House Steering Committee on Equity, should offer technical assistance, connect agencies with experts in other parts of the government, and share knowledge and best practices on these topics. Additionally, the report identifies eight steps that these committees should take to improve data collection and measurements of equity.