E-Update for the Week of April 6, 2020
- On April 2, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the creation of a Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which will be chaired by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC).
- On April 1, U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary DeVos published proposed rules in the Federal Register that would govern distance learning for higher education students. The Department previously published a similar notice of proposed rulemaking in 2019; however, the Department notes that the coronavirus emergency “underscores the need for reform for all educational institutions to have a robust capacity to teach remotely.”
- On March 31, POLITICO reported that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of the proposed final rule on Title IX and has sent the rule back to USED. The Department is now authorized to publish the rule at any point but has not indicated when it plans to do so.
Coronavirus (as related to education issues):
Note that all information related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is up to date as of 1:00 pm on April 3, 2020. Given the fast-moving nature of congressional and Administrative actions to address the growing pandemic, we will do our best to update this information as quickly as possible.
OMB completes review of Title IX rule, Senate Democrats urge USED to delay publishing: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) led a letter to U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos urging the Department to postpone release of the final rule on Title IX, as related to sexual assault and harassment. The letter was also signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senators argued that while K-12 schools and institutions of higher education are “grappling with an unprecedented public health crisis” the release of the final rule would require that schools and institutions divert resources away from the coronavirus response. A press release is here. The letter is here.
Relatedly, POLITICO reported that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of the proposed final rule on Title IX and has sent the rule back to USED. The Department is now authorized to publish the rule at any point but has not indicated when it plans to do so. Meanwhile, OMB still has meetings scheduled with external stakeholders through April 16. The POLITICO article is here.
March 31, 2020
Speaker Pelosi announces new oversight committee on coronavirus crisis, Clyburn to chair: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the creation of a Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which will be chaired by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC). The Select Committee will be bipartisan and will be responsible for oversight of all federal response to the coronavirus, including implementation of previously adopted response packages. Membership of the Select Committee has not yet been announced. The Dear Colleague Letter is here.
April 2, 2020
Speaker Pelosi outlines potential Democrat priorities for Phase 4 coronavirus response bill: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) held a press conference to outline House Democrats’ priorities for a fourth coronavirus response package, referred to as “Phase 4.” The Speaker was joined by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ). During the press conference, House Democratic leaders shared they will be focusing on investments in infrastructure to address some of the “critical impacts and vulnerabilities…laid bare by the coronavirus.” Potential investments include community health centers, clean water, wastewater infrastructure, broadband, and mobility infrastructure, among other priorities. A readout of the conference call is here.
April 1, 2020
U.S. Department of Education:
USED proposes new distance learning rule, builds on previously published regulation: USED Secretary DeVos published proposed rules in the Federal Register that would govern distance learning for higher education students. The Department previously published a similar notice of proposed rulemaking in 2019; however, the Department notes that the coronavirus emergency “underscores the need for reform for all educational institutions to have a robust capacity to teach remotely.” According to the Department the proposed regulation would emphasize demonstrated learning over seat time; remove confusion over whether a course is eligible for student aid; clarify and simplify the requirements for direct assessment programs, including how to determine equivalent credit hours; add a definition of “juvenile justice facility;” allow students at foreign institutions to complete up to 25 percent of their programs at an eligible institution in the United States; encourage employer participation in developing educational programs; create a student-centric system for disbursing student aid to students in subscription-based programs; and require action by the Department on institutions’ applications to participate, or continue participation, as an eligible institution for student aid. Comments will be accepted until May 4. The Department intends to publish a final regulation prior to November 1, 2020. A press release is here. The proposed regulation is here.
April 1, 2020
USED, higher education stakeholders discuss coronavirus response: USED held a conference call with higher education stakeholders to provide them with an update on how the Administration is responding to the coronavirus national emergency. The call was attended by USED Secretary DeVos, Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) Mark Brown, and Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education Scott Stump. The Department highlighted recent actions including the increased, temporary flexibilities given to accreditors to complete virtual site visits; the suspension of student loan payments and the setting of student loan interest rates to zero percent; and the stopping of wage garnishments for those with defaulted student loans. A press release is here.
March 31, 2020
USED extends submission deadline for state CTE plans: USED announced states would have an extended window to submit their Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) three-year state plans. States will now have until June 15 to submit their plans, which were previously due on April 15. The Department also announced states can provide increased flexibilities to for local applicants, such as extending state-set deadlines for their application submission. A press release is here. The flexibilities are here.
March 31, 2020
Collections, wage garnishments on defaulted loans halted by Department due to coronavirus: USED Secretary DeVos announced that the Department has halted collection actions and wage garnishments on those students who are in default. “Americans counting on their tax refund or Social Security check to make ends meet during this national emergency should receive those funds, and our actions today will make sure they do,” stated the Secretary. The halt in collections also applies to private collection agencies that have been directed by the Department previously to collect on student loans. The Department has instructed private collection agencies to halt all proactive collection activities including making phone calls, issuing collection letters, and issuing billing statements. A press release is here.
March 25, 2020
Districts’ choice to forego distance learning due to IDEA concerns is ‘extremely disappointing’ to DeVos: USED released new information to clarify the expectations of states and districts in offering distance learning, including to those students with disabilities. The Department clarifies that federal law, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), should not be used as an excuse to not offer distance learning opportunities to all students. “It was extremely disappointing to hear that some school districts were using information from the Department of Education as an excuse not to educate kids,” stated USED Secretary DeVos. The fact sheet explains that the Department recognizes the circumstances most districts are facing and will offer some flexibility for how special education and related services are provided; that school districts must still provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, including the use of computer, Internet, or phone to provide services; and in the absence of technology, educators may still meet their legal obligations to provide service by providing equally effective alternate access to a curriculum. A press release is here. The fact sheet is here.
March 21, 2020
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- On April 2, the USED Office of Civil Rights (OCR) published a report titled, “Annual Report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress: Fiscal Year 2017-18.” The report summarizes actions by OCR over the course of the fiscal year. Key findings of the report include identifying that OCR received 25,277 complaints, initiated three proactive investigations, and resolved 31,937 cases; that OCR received an average of 12,638 complaints per year and resolved an average of 15,935 complaints each year; and that OCR obtained 3,503 case resolutions that required schools to implement substantive changes to address civil rights violations and concerns. The full report is here.
Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):
- Both the Senate and the House are in recess until April 20. As of now, it is expected that both chambers would return to session on that date; however, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has said that can be adjusted depending on what is in the best interest of members’ safety.
- On April 29, the House Appropriations Labor/HHS Subcommittee could hold a markup of its fiscal year (FY) 2021 Labor/HHS appropriations bill. Prior to the recent crisis, this possible date was circulated; however, it is unclear if the Subcommittee will move forward on this date.
- On May 13, the House Appropriations Committee could hold a markup of the FY2021 House Labor/HHS appropriations bill. Prior to the recent crisis, this possible date was circulated; however, it is unclear if the Subcommittee will move forward on this date.
- On June 15, states must submit their three-year Perkins CTE state plans. States previously submitted their one-year transition plans. More information is here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On April 6 at 1:30 pm, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation will hold an event titled, “Federal Resources for Early Childhood Education.” The webinar will be focused on how childcare businesses can stay afloat during the coronavirus emergency, what federal legislative response has already happened, and recommendations for how providers can leverage existing loan programs. Sarah Rittling, the Executive Director of First Five Years Fund, will be a speaker during the webinar. More information and registration are here. First Five Years Fund released a resource with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation outlining Small Business Administration loans that are available to child care providers, which is available here.