E-Update for the Week of August 22, 2022
- On August 12, Democratic and Republican leaders on the relevant education committees in the House and Senate submitted official comments on USED’s proposed changes to existing federal student loan discharge programs.
- On August 16, President Biden signed H.R. 5376, the Inflation Reduction Act.
- On August 17, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid published a new fact sheet with an overview about the Fresh Start initiative, announced in April 2022 as a way to eliminate the negative effects of default for borrowers with defaulted federal student loans.
President Biden signs H.R. 5376, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022: On August 16, President Biden signed H.R. 5376, the Inflation Reduction Act, after it passed in the Senate last week on a 51-50 vote. The Senate vote followed lengthy negotiations on a budget reconciliation package that initially sought to advance President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which included investments in education and child care. The final bill was scaled back to primarily include efforts to encourage and support renewable energy and address climate change, a new minimum tax on domestic corporations, the ability for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, and an extension of enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies – first passed as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his remarks, President Biden shared, “The Inflation Reduction Act locks in place lower healthcare premiums for millions of families who get their coverage under the Affordable Care Act. In the years ahead, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, 13 million people are going to continue to save an average of $800 a year on health insurance.” A one-page summary of H.R. 5376 is here and section summaries are here.
August 16, 2022
White House releases back to school fact sheet on protecting students and staff against COVID-19: On August 16, the White House released a fact sheet titled, “Back to School 2022: Giving Every School the Tools to Prevent COVID-19 Spread and Stay Safely Open All Year Long.” The fact sheet outlines key supports and guidance for protecting students, teachers, and school communities this upcoming school year, and managing and mitigating the risks of COVID-19 spread. It also provided more information about federal resources for schools that can help protect students against the spread of COVID-19. The fact sheet includes strategies for vaccinating students and staff against COVID-19 and other preventable diseases, providing robust access to COVID-19 testing, and improving indoor air quality in school buildings.
August 16, 2022
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED discharges $3.9 billion in loans from students that attended ITT Technical Institute: On August 16, USED announced that it will discharge all federal student loans that borrowers received to attend ITT Technical Institute (ITT), resulting in 208,000 borrowers receiving $3.9 billion in full loan discharges. The discharges apply to funds that borrowers received to attend ITT from January 1, 2005 through September 2016, and it includes borrowers who have not yet applied for a borrower defense repayment discharge. USED Secretary Miguel Cardona remarked, “The evidence shows that for years, ITT’s leaders intentionally misled students about the quality of their programs in order to profit off federal student loan programs, with no regard for the hardship this would cause.”
August 16, 2022
USED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) releases new information, website, and guidance for defaulted student loans eligible for the new Fresh Start Initiative: On August 17, FSA published a new fact sheet with an overview of the Fresh Start initiative, first announced in April 2022 as a way to eliminate the negative effects of default for borrowers with defaulted federal student loans. The Fresh Start initiative will provide about 7.5 million borrowers with defaulted federal student loans to begin loan repayment without any past due balance, just like every other borrower. Other benefits of the program include: providing borrowers access to other repayment options like Income-Driven Repayment; restoring borrowers’ eligibility to receive federal student aid and Pell Grants, allowing them to go back to school; and protecting borrowers from involuntary payment collection. FSA also issued guidance to institutions of higher education on awarding federal student aid to students with defaulted loans. The guidance states that the “Fresh Start initiative will remain available to previously defaulted borrowers for one year after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic student loan payment pause.” FSA detailed borrower eligibility for two borrower groups – those that defaulted before March 13, 2020, when the COVID-related federal student loan pause began, and those that defaulted after that date. USED has taken some immediate action for these defaulted borrowers, allowing them to be immediately eligible for new federal student aid. In a statement in response to the new initiative, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said, “If these individuals were unable to pay back their loans the first time they borrowed, how will giving them access to more debt help? This is a terrible gamble—one for which taxpayers will end up paying the price.”
August 17, 2022
USED invites applications for school safety grants for communities impacted by violence: On August 19, USED posted a Notice Inviting Applications for the Project Prevent Grant Program, which will award more than $6 million to local educational agencies (LEAs) impacted by community violence. Project Prevent grants will provide funds for LEAs to implement community- and school-based strategies and can be used to help increase student access to mental health services, support conflict management programs, and implement other community- and school-based strategies to help prevent violence and to mitigate the impacts of exposure to violence. In the announcement, USED Secretary Cardona stated, “When our students are exposed to community violence and experience trauma, their learning, their mental health, and their overall wellbeing are affected. The availability of these new federal dollars will be transformative for our children and our communities.”
August 19, 2022
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
HHS announces actions and guidance to strengthen care access and address the nation’s mental health crisis: On August 18, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at HHS announced three key actions to strengthen and expand access to high-quality, comprehensive health care for children to help address mental health needs. The Department issued new guidance to support states in their mandate to cover behavioral health services for children in Medicaid, reinforcing Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) statutory mandates for children’s health coverage, in particular mental health coverage. A second guidance document prompts states to work with schools to deliver on-site health care services to children enrolled in the Medicaid program. This document references how states can support access to Medicaid school-based health services, including actions to take to implement mental health provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Finally, HHS issued a proposed rule that would require states to report certain quality measures to strengthen Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to ensure that the millions of children and families enrolled in these programs have access to high-quality care. In the announcement, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “For the millions of children who are covered by Medicaid and CHIP, this [guidance] means working with states to ensure they are pulling every lever to strengthen and expand comprehensive access to mental health care for children.”
August 18, 2022
Congressional Democrats and Republicans submit comments to USED’s proposed regulations on borrower defense: On August 12, House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders of the relevant education committees submitted official comments on USED’s proposed changes to existing federal student loan discharge programs, including Borrower Defense to Repayment (BD), Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, Closed School Discharge, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and 22 Democratic colleagues wrote in support of the proposed changes and expanded relief for borrowers. They wrote, “The Department’s proposed rules will help to provide additional relief to struggling borrowers, protect students and taxpayers from fraud and abuse committed by institutions, and ensure our federal student loan program fulfills its promise to put higher education within reach for more students without subjecting them to complex, burdensome, or punitive requirements that make it harder to get the relief they are owed.” Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) and House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) also submitted a letter opposing the proposed changes. They commented on the 30-day response period available from the Department’s initial notice of proposed rulemaking, stating, “Allowing only 30 days for the public to comment on a rule of such magnitude is beyond the pale, and also inconsistent with the President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866, which calls for a 60-day comment period for rules with such a high price tag.” They added, “In this case, the Department lacks a clear authorization from Congress. The enabling statutes for the changes being made do not give the Department a clear authorization to make changes of this magnitude, or to spend $85.1 billion without Congressional approval.” A fact sheet on the proposed rules is here.
August 12, 2022
Senators Hassan and Cornyn introduce S. 4675, the Improving Early Childhood Data Systems Act: On August 15, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 4675, the Improving Early Childhood Data Systems Act. The bill would create a new grant for states to streamline the application process for low-income families seeking child care through federally-funded programs. Among other items, states could use these funds to upgrade state technology and data systems and improve data coordination between the child care system and other programs that help families, such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This would allow families to be notified about additional programs for which they are eligible, and their data could be used more effectively to coordinate program administration across the state. The legislation is currently supported by multiple national early childhood advocacy groups, including First Five Years Fund, the Bipartisan Policy Center, Early Learning New Hampshire, Save the Children, Center for American Progress, and Child Care Aware of America. Upon its introduction, Senator Hassan stated that the “bipartisan bill would help consolidate states’ early childhood education program applications so that parents can get their children the support that they need.”
August 15, 2022
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On August 23 at 2:00 pm, the White House will host a roundtable titled, “B.L.A.C.K. to School: Supporting Black Leaders and Creating K12 Systems that Attract and Retain Black Teachers.” Highlighting the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans, the roundtable will emphasize evidenced-based practices for supporting Black school, district, and state educational leaders and creating K-12 systems that effectively recruit and retain Black teachers. More information and registration here.
- On August 24 at 4:00 pm, USED will host a webinar titled, “Back to School Blitz: Strategies for Improving Attendance in the First 3 Months of School.” USED Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten and Hedy N. Chang, Executive Director at Attendance Works, as well as parents and students will highlight strategies to improve attendance in the first three months of school. Experts will discuss chronic absenteeism and proven strategies to help avoid it. More information and registration here.
- On August 24 at 8:00 pm, FSA will host a webinar titled, “A Guide To Submit The PSLF Form.” The webinar will feature information about the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program, the limited PSLF waiver, the PSLF Help Tool, and additional resources to help PSLF-eligible applicants navigate the submission process. More information and registration here.
- On August 24 at 2:00 pm, USED will hold a virtual meeting of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE). Participants will discuss, deliberate, and approve the 2022 Annual Report to Congress, recommendations from the Office of Indian Education (OIE) related to the activities of the OIE, and recommendations from NACIE. More information and registration here.
- On September 6 at 3:00 pm, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) will host a webinar with the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) to discuss implementation of best science, ideas and programs. Local leaders will share how they plan to leverage the resources from NPSS to expand programming in the 2022-23 school year. Speakers include Shital C. Shah, Senior Advisor at USED, and Bob Balfanz, Ph.D., from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. More information and registration here.
- From September 20-23, the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will host the National HBCU Week Conference. The agenda features sessions on recruiting and retaining staff, economic development, and creating career pathways. More information and registration here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On August 22 at 12:00 pm, The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Principal Recovery Network will host a panel discussion around the release of their Guide to Recovery, a collection of best practices to assist school leaders in the aftermath of a school shooting. Speakers include Frank DeAngelis, former Principal, Columbine High School, Colorado; Michelle Kefford, Principal, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida; and Elizabeth Brown, former Principal, Forest High School, Florida. More information and registration here.
- On August 25 at 10:00 am, AASA The School Superintendents Association, First Focus, and FRAC will host a webinar titled, “Re-thinking the Poverty Indicator: How FRPM Works.” The session is the first in a three-part series, and will cover how Free and Reduced-Price School Meal data is collected, used and why it is so prominent. More information and registration here.
- On August 25 at 3:00 pm, the Urban Institute will hold a discussion titled, “Using Model Estimates of Poverty in Schools” to discuss the challenges of using free and reduced-price lunch measures, explain how and how not to use the new poverty in schools measure, and demonstrate how to access the tool and explore the data in a hands-on workshop. More information and registration here.
Publications (Congress & Administration):
- In July, USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a report titled, “Safeguarding Students’ Civil Rights, Promoting Educational Excellence.” The report called attention to OCR’s core functions, including: responding to civil rights complaints that members of the public file and conducting proactive investigations to enforce Federal civil rights laws; monitoring institutions’ adherence to resolution agreements reached with OCR; issuing policy guidance to increase recipients’ understanding of their civil rights obligations and awareness of students and family members of students’ civil rights; responding to requests for information from and providing technical assistance to school communities and the general public; and administering and disseminating the Civil Rights Data Collection. Some of the policy guidance that OCR issued recently addressed topics clarifying the application of Federal civil rights laws to both remote and in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic; addressing the obligations of schools, public agencies, and postsecondary institutions to students and children with long COVID; and clarifying OCR’s interpretation of schools’ existing obligations under the 2020 amendments to the Department’s Title IX regulations, including the areas in which schools have discretion in their procedures for responding to reports of sexual harassment.
- On August 15, the What Works Clearinghouse released a new practice guide titled, “Preparing Young Children for School.” The practice guide uses contemporary early childhood and preschool education research to make seven easily comprehensible and practical recommendations. Recommendations include providing engaging instruction, strengthening children’s executive function through specific activities, and using shared book reading to develop children’s language skills.
- On August 16, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a new evaluation report titled, “The Effects of an Academic Language Program on Student Reading Outcomes.” The study, focused on English language learners and economically disadvantaged students, tested a program to improve fourth- and fifth-grade students’ ability to understand the academic language used in school and support their reading achievement. The report details findings that showed the training and support provided to teachers during the year did not change most aspects of instruction that were targeted by the program, which could explain why the program did not affect students’ academic language skills or reading performance.
- On August 16, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration, as well as several subagencies, released new communication titled, “Resource Leveraging and Service Coordination to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities.” The communication outlines how state and local offices can blend, braid, and sequence federal funds from different agencies to maximize their effectiveness and support to individuals with disabilities. The communication explains that utilizing these strategies can result in cross-system processes that are streamlined and more user-friendly for individuals with disabilities.
- In August, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released updates to the Common Core of Data relating to public school enrollment. Data shows that public school enrollment stayed at previously-identified lows, but remained nearly unchanged from fall 2020 to fall 2021. Trends showed that Pre-Kindergarten enrollment increased by 14 percent between 2020 and 2021, and Kindergarten enrollment increased by 5 percent. While enrollment of white students decreased slightly, the number of Black students enrolled remained relatively unchanged, and the number of Hispanic students enrolled increased slightly.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On August 3, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) released a new report titled, “Hidden Harms: The Misleading Promise of Monitoring Students Online.” CDT surveyed high school students and middle and high school parents and teachers to better understand the promise of technologies aimed at keeping students safe and the risks that they pose. The research showed that monitoring is used for discipline more often than for student safety, teachers bear considerable responsibility but lack training for student activity monitoring, and stakeholders demonstrate large knowledge gaps in how monitoring software functions. In conjunction with the release of this report, CDT and other groups sent a letter to USED’s Office for Civil Rights, calling for a policy statement that clarifies the ways that student monitoring technology violates civil rights laws, condemns surveillance practices that run afoul of these laws, and states its intent to take enforcement action against violations that result in discrimination.
- On August 15, Sallie Mae and Ipsos released a new report titled, “How America Pays for College 2022.” The national study of college students and their families found that families paid slightly less for college in Academic Year 2021–22, but continue to use similar approaches to pay for higher education. Additionally, nearly all families took active steps to make college more affordable, including reducing their own overall spending. Research showed widespread misunderstandings of scholarships, with 45% of families thinking that scholarships are only for exceptional students, and 36% of families believing that it is not worthwhile to apply for scholarships if a students’ parents make too much money. The report also indicated that FAFSA completion rates continue to decline, and there are many misunderstandings and confusion around how and when to apply for the FAFSA.
- On August 17, PEN American published a new report titled, “America’s Censored Classrooms.” The report analyzed the landscape of “educational gag orders,” or state legislative efforts to restrict teaching about topics such as race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities in K–12 and higher education. The analysis found that proposed educational gag orders, as of August 2022, have increased 250 percent compared to 2021, and have become more punitive. Additionally, While most gag order bills have continued to target teaching about race, a growing number have targeted LGBTQ+ identities.
- In August, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) released the results of their Survey of America’s School Leaders and High School Students. Results showed that half of school leaders claim their stress level is so high they are considering a career change or retirement, and 73 percent of school leaders report they needed help with their mental or emotional health last year. The survey also found that the majority of students report they are generally satisfied at their school, but there is an opportunity to involve them more in school planning and policies.