E-Update for the Week of April 5, 2021

E-Update for the Week of April 5, 2021

Highlights:

  • On April 1, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona joined a roundtable discussion with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and students to discuss the impact of student loan debt.
  • On March 31, President Joe Biden released details of his American Jobs Plan, which would invest an estimated $2 trillion this decade in traditional infrastructure, such as school and child care facilities, roads, bridges, and research and development.
  • On March 26, USED issued determination letters to the states of Colorado, Georgia, and South Carolina, amongst others, related to the states’ waiver requests for administering statewide summative assessments for the 2020-2021 school year.

Biden Administration:

Biden releases $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, will include funding for schools, child care facilities, community colleges, and HBCUs:  President Joe Biden released details of his American Jobs Plan, which would invest an estimated $2 trillion this decade in traditional infrastructure, such as school and child care facilities, roads, bridges, and research and development. Additionally, the president released a Made in America Tax Plan, which is focused on corporate tax changes and if passed alongside the American Jobs Plan will be fully paid for within the next 15 years, according to the fact sheet. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is aiming to have the House pass the American Jobs Plan by July 4; however, passage of an infrastructure package through regular order in the Senate would require the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate. This means that Democrats will likely turn to use of the budget reconciliation process, which allows legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes needed to overcome any effort to block legislation in the Senate known as a filibuster. With a closely divided Congress in the House and Senate, passage of an infrastructure package using the reconciliation process will require the support of both moderate and progressive Democratic members, which could prove challenging. A White House fact sheet on the American Jobs Plan is here. A statement by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is here. A statement by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is here.

Within the American Jobs Plan, the proposal would provide $100 billion for school modernization and construction; $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities and increase access; $100 billion to support workforce development programs; $12 billion for community college facilities; and $45 billion for research and development facilities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The plan would also provide $100 billion to support national access to broadband and would provide $111 billion to replace all lead pipes across the country, significantly reducing lead exposure for children and families. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A statement by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is here.

President Biden is also expected to release an American Families Plan in the coming weeks. This next plan is expected to focus on “human infrastructure” investments, including possibly tuition-free community college, universal pre-kindergarten, an expansion of the child tax credit, etc. A Washington Post article is here.
March 31, 2021

White House outlines approach to centering equity within policy: The White House published an article titled, “Approaching Policy with Equity in Mind.” The article discussed the work of the White House Gender Policy Council and the Domestic Policy Council to advance equity. Specifically, the article outlines that the White House will approach policy with both racial and gender equity in mind and cites the experiences of Black girls and their disproportionate rates of suspension, as well as those of LGBTQ+ students and their increased likelihood to receive detention, suspensions, and expulsions. The article concludes with examples of how the Biden-Harris Administration is infusing laws, norms, and policies with a strong focus on equity, including the American Rescue Plan Act, the president’s Executive Order that directed all federal agencies to implement federal laws that prevent discrimination, and a whole-of-government approach to equity. The full article is here.
March 29, 2021

Coronavirus Updates (as related to education issues):

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED to discharge $1.6 billion in HBCU capital financing debt: The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced that it would discharge $1.6 billion of debt owed by 45 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), who participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. The Capital Financing Program provides low-cost loans to HBCUs to finance and refinance infrastructure improvements. USED Secretary Miguel Cardona cited the authority provided in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, which permitted the discharge and provided funding to do so. “This relief will further support these mission-critical institutions and help to ensure they have more resources to educate and graduate students during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” stated the Secretary. A press release is here.
April 2, 2021

USED provides additional student loan relief for borrowers with federally backed loans, borrowers with total and permanent disabilities: USED announced that it has expanded the 0% interest rate and paused collections activity for 1.14 million borrowers who defaulted on a privately-held defaulted Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL). Under the previous pause in interest and collections, student loan borrowers with privately-held FFELs were still required to make payments and interest accrued. The Department will apply this relief retroactively to March 13, 2020, the start of the COVID-19 national emergency. A press release from the Department is here. A statement by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here.

USED also announced it is providing relief for certain borrowers with student loan discharges due to total and permanent disability. According to the Department, these changes will ensure no borrowers are at risk of having their loans reinstated, meaning they would have to repay their debt, for failure to provide earnings information during the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. This change is also being made retroactively to March 13, 2020. Under previous requirements, which USED is waiving, borrowers with permanent and total disabilities were required to submit earnings documentation to ensure their earnings did not exceed certain thresholds or risk having their loans reinstated. This action is expected to impact approximately 230,000 borrowers, including 41,000 borrowers who had previously had their loans reinstated. A press release from the Department is here. A statement by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here.
March 29 & 30, 2021

Cardona denies assessment waivers for South Carolina, Georgia; allows Colorado to use grade-span testing this spring: USED issued determination letters to the states of Colorado, Georgia, and South Carolina, amongst others, related to the states’ waiver requests for administering statewide summative assessments for the 2020-2021 school year. The Department denied the waiver requests of Georgia and South Carolina, both of whom requested to substitute their statewide summative assessments with local assessments. The Department did, however, approve the waiver request from Colorado which requested to reduce the number of assessments administered this spring. Specifically, Colorado requested to administer the math summative assessment to only students in grades 4, 6, 8, and high school, while the state would administer the English language arts assessment to students in grades 3, 5, 7, and high school. The Department notes that the “specific circumstances” in Colorado are compelling reasons for approving the state’s waiver request. Several other states have submitted waivers to the Department to forgo administering statewide summative assessments this school year. The Department has yet to issue determinations for all requests. The Department’s letters to state chiefs regarding the waiver decisions are here.
March 26, 2021

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

Cardona, Schumer, Warren discuss student loan debt: USED Secretary Miguel Cardona joined a roundtable discussion with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and students to discuss the impact of student loan debt. “What I am hearing from you all is not only that there is this cloud hanging over your heads, but also that there is this great emotional impact which has severely interrupted your lives. This burden has created a generational impact of distress,” stated the Secretary during the discussion. The Secretary did not make any announcements regarding how the Department would address student loan debt. A press release is here.
April 1, 2021

Congress:

Senate:

Democratic Senators introduce bill to increase mandatory child care funding: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that they plan to introduce a new bill allocating “mandatory funding to build child care availability over the long term and treat child care like critical infrastructure.” The bill aims to help close the child care gap by providing new permanent federal funding to help child care providers invest in facility upgrades, support new child care providers to open, help existing providers expand or upgrade their programs, train and invest in the child care workforce, and provide other technical and financial support to child care providers. More specifically, the bill would provide a permanent increase in mandatory funding (or funding authorized by statue rather than set during the annual appropriations process) to the Child Care Entitlement to States (CCES) program and create permanent grants to improve child care supply, quality, and affordability, particularly in areas that lack options for affordable child care. “Child care is an essential building block of society, and it must be shored up with resources so that working families can access the affordable, quality child care in their neighborhoods that they need” Chairman Wyden said. A press release is here.
March 30, 2021

Murray, Burr seeking public input on how to improve workforce development programs, seek to advance bipartisan legislation by summer: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) announced a bipartisan effort to “update and expand workforce training programs, support and expand the National Apprenticeship Act, and encourage innovation,” by early summer. The committee is also seeking public comment on how to enhance or improve workforce training, including how to respond to the pandemic; how to reform programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA); ways to develop, modernize, and diversity the national apprenticeship system; and strategies to encourage innovation. Public input should be submitted to HELPWorkforceComments@help.senate.gov by April 9. A press release is here.
March 25, 2021

Supreme Court and Federal Courts:

SCOTUS considers case on student athlete compensation: The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) v. Alston, et. al. The case revolves around whether the NCAA’s prevention of student-athletes from receiving compensation beyond academic scholarships violates anti-trust law. The NCAA is appealing a lower court decision that ruled the association must allow schools offer educational benefits and cash payments to student athletes. The case docket is here. A POLITICO article is here. A New York Times article is here.
March 31, 2021

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 5 at 2:00 pm, Third Way will hold an event titled, “Lessons Learned: A Year of Online Learning.” The webinar will discuss how the shift to online learning exacerbated issues of inequity in higher education for some, while providing opportunities to others. The discussion will also explore what lessons can be learned and what it may mean for institutions. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 6 at 12:00 pm, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and AASA will hold an event titled, “Accelerating Learning: Strategies for Whole Child Summer Learning and Beyond.” The webinar will discuss how districts can support schools in creating high-quality summer learning experiences that focus on acceleration rather than remediation and explore what strategies can be best employed to create such experiences. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 7 at 3:00 pm, the American Institutes of Research (AIR) will hold an event titled, “Addressing Equity Through Social and Emotional Learning.” The webinar will discuss how social and emotional learning (SEL) is associated with positive academic and life outcomes for students, and how SEL can support equity and help students thrive during this challenging time. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 7 at 8:00 pm, New America and Arizona State University will hold an event titled, “Brave New World: The Next Wave of Higher Education.” The webinar will discuss the future of higher education and contemplate issues such as closing the gaps between elite schools and other institutions, the decrease of the role of standardized testing in admissions, and the rise of online and hybrid learning. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 8 at 1:00 pm, the Heritage Foundation will hold an event titled, “Redlining and Education: How 20th Century Practices Impact 21st Century Kids.” The webinar will discuss how underperforming public schools are often located in areas “redlined” by government agencies in the 20th century and how modern-day attendance zones have not shifted to account for this legacy. Redlining refers to the discriminatory practice of denying services to residents of certain areas based on their race or ethnicity. The discussion will also explore what this means for students, especially for students from low-income communities. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 13 at 12:00 pm, the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) will hold an event titled, “The Untapped Potential of the Principal Supervisor.” The webinar will discuss how principal supervisors can strengthen principals’ abilities to provide high-impact instructional support to teachers and develop the leadership capacity of other educators in schools. More information and registration are here.
  • On April 13 at 1:00 pm, the Wallace Foundation will hold an event titled, “Reconsidering the role of the assistant principal: Findings from a new study and implications.” The webinar will discuss new research that explored 79 studies since 2000 and found that assistant principals are uniquely positioned to help make progress toward a number of school improvement goals, ranging from promoting equitable outcomes for students to contributing to a diverse pool of high-quality principals. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Congressional and Administration):

  • On March 31, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled, “Sustained Federal Action is Crucial as Pandemic Enters its Second Year.” The report, which was mandated by a provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), examines the federal government’s continued efforts to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and found that USED tracking of federal COVID relief money for K-12 education paints an “incomplete” picture of how states and schools are actually using the money. Other key findings from the report include identifying that USED’s current approach to tracking the relief funding captures only when states request reimbursements for funding, but not when school districts legally commit to spend it; that this method can result in a significant gap between when a state reports it has spent the funds and the actual rate at which the funds are being obligated; and that as of February 28, USED reported states and schools as having spent about $6.1 billion of the $16.7 billion for K-12 schools in the CARES Act. The full report is here.
  • On March 31, the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) released a report titled, “Averting Targeted School Violence: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools.” The report examines 67 disrupted plots against K-12 schools from 2006 to 2018 to enhance public safety and strengthen the security of schools. Key findings from the report include identifying that targeted school violence is preventable when communities identify warning signs and intervene; that schools should seek to intervene with students before their behavior warrants legal consequences; that students were most often motivated to plan an attack because of a grievance with classmates; and that students are best positioned to identify and report concerning behaviors displayed by their classmates. The full report is here.
  • On March 30, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a report titled, “Pre-COVID Ability Grouping in U.S. Public Schools.” The report uses data from the 2017-18 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) to examine whether ability grouping, also known as “tracking,” was used to organize classes or students in public schools, and presents information about the prevalence of ability grouping and the characteristics of schools using this method during school year 2017–18. Key findings include identifying that one third (32 percent) of public schools reported assigning students based on their ability; that nearly half (48 percent) of middle schools assigned students based on ability, compared to 40 percent of high schools and 24 percent of elementary schools; and that the percentage of schools that track students showed little to no difference based on the percentage of low-income students or students of color. The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 1, the Education Trust published a report titled, “Re-Imagining Outcomes-Based Funding.” The report analyzes how well existing state policies and funding allocations address equity concerns and makes recommendations for designing and implementing outcomes-based funding (OBF) policies that better advance equity. Key recommendations for OBF implementation include recommending to diversify state officer ranks with equity advocates, who are people of color and graduates of underrepresented institutions like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs); to seek the input of institutions that serve students of color and students from low-income backgrounds in OBF design and changes; and to provide technical assistance to better address and plan for equity issues. The full report is here.
  • On April 1, Third Way released a report titled, “Providing Low-Income Students the Best Bang for Their Educational Buck.” The report focuses on some of the most vulnerable students who attend institutions of higher education and the Price-to-Earnings Premium (PEP) that institutions provide them. Key findings from the report include identifying that the schools with the quickest return on investment (ROI) often enroll the least amount of low-income students; that while the majority of institutions provide their low-income students the opportunity to recoup their educational investment quickly, over 500 schools show little to no ROI whatsoever; and that 60 percent of for-profit institutions show their low-income students earning less than the average high school graduate within 10 years of entering their institution. The full report is here.
  • On March 31, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released a report titled, “Funding High-Quality Pre-K for All.” The report outlines how to implement universal, high-quality pre-K by calling for additional federal support, and estimates the annual cost to federal and state and local governments for a plan that enrolls all 3- and 4-year-olds under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Key takeaways from the report include recommending a proposal for a 50-50 federal match for states’ investment in high quality pre-K for eligible children; that this proposed federal and state/local partnership would have a cumulative cost of $21 billion over the next four years (with the federal share totaling $7.7 billion and state/local share totaling $13.3 billion); and that after 30 years, when the goal is reached of public funding for all 3- and 4-year-olds, the annual added cost would be about $74.1 billion (with the federal share totaling $15.5 billion and the state/local share totaling $58.6 billion). The full report is here.
  • On March 30, Results for America (RFA) released a report titled, “2021 Moneyball for Education Policy Recommendations.” The report updates RFA’s previous recommendations for how federal education can and should advance the use of data, evidence, and evaluation. Key recommendations include recommending that USED strengthen existing guidance to clarify the current definition of evidence, and encourage state educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), and schools to more deeply consult the evidence base as they select and implement evidence-based interventions; that USED should prioritize evidence of effectiveness in all of its competitive grant programs through tiered-evidence frameworks, evidence preference points, and other evidence-driven strategies; and that Congress should require the Department to invest 1 percent of federal education program funds in evaluations. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R.2274
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve education opportunities for physician assistants, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA)

H.R.2283
A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to award grants to eligible entities to carry out educational programs that include the history of peoples of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the settling and founding of America, the social, economic, and political environments that led to the development of discriminatory laws targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders and their relation to current events, and the impact and contributions of Asian Americans to the development and enhancement of American life, United States history, literature, the economy, politics, body of laws, and culture, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)

H.R.2303
A bill to authorize funding to expand and support enrollment at institutions of higher education that sponsor construction and manufacturing-oriented registered apprenticeship programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN)

H.R.2315
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require the disclosure of agreements between institutions of higher education and certain foreign sources, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)

S.1026
A bill to assist States in and pay for the Federal share of the cost of, defraying the cost of pre-apprenticeships or related instruction associated with qualified apprenticeship programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

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