E-Update for the Week of August 23, 2021
Please note that the next edition of the E-Update will be published on September 6, 2021.
- On August 23, the House will return early from recess to vote on a $3.5 trillion fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget resolution, which includes instructions for budget reconciliation.
- On August 18, the White House published a memorandum to U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Miguel Cardona on “Ensuring a Safe Return to In-Person School for the Nation’s Children.”
- On August 16, USED, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), announced an initiative intended to support unemployment insurance (UI) beneficiaries who pursue postsecondary education, particularly those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
House to return this week for budget reconciliation vote, possible standoff between Democratic leadership and moderate Democrats: The House will return early from recess to vote on a $3.5 trillion fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget resolution, which includes instructions for budget reconciliation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) intends to have Members vote on a rule on Monday night that would include procedural motions for the FY2022 budget resolution and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was adopted by the Senate earlier this month. After consideration of the rule, the House on Tuesday is expected to consider the FY2022 budget resolution for final adoption, officially beginning the budget reconciliation process. However, the Tuesday vote is not expected to include the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Speaker Pelosi plans to withhold until the Senate passes the reconciliation package. The absence of the bipartisan infrastructure bill could set up a standoff between House Democratic Leadership and a group of moderate Democrats who have urged the Speaker to allow a full vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill next week. Last week, nine moderate Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi explaining that they would not vote on the FY2022 budget resolution without a full vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It is unclear if the procedural vote for the infrastructure bill on Monday will placate moderate Democrats or if they will hold firm in their opposition to the vote on the budget resolution Tuesday. If three Democrats vote against the FY2022 budget resolution – assuming no Republicans vote in support of the resolution – the resolution would fail. An article from Roll Call is here.
August 23, 2021
House Budget Committee details $3.5 trillion outline for budget reconciliation: The House Budget Committee released a report titled, “The 2022 Budget Resolution and Reconciliation: How We Will Build Back Better,” which outlines the reconciliation instructions for FY2022 budget resolution recently passed by the Senate. The report highlights the major proposals included within President Biden’s American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan, of which Democrats intend to pass through the budget reconciliation process. A press release is here, and the full report is here.
August 18, 2021
Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):
White House directs USED to explore legal options to block states choosing to prevent school mask mandates: The White House published a memorandum to U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Miguel Cardona on “Ensuring a Safe Return to In-Person School for the Nation’s Children.” The memo directed USED Secretary Cardona to “use all available tools” to ensure governors and other state officials are “taking all appropriate steps” to prepare for a safe return to in-person school this fall, and urged the Department to prevent state officials from “standing in the way of local leaders making such preparations.” The memo is here, and the Federal Register notice is here.
Relatedly, in an interview with the New York Times, Secretary Cardona signaled he could use the authority of USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to prevent states from restricting the use of on-campus mask requirements. Secretary Cardona has said the American Rescue Plan (ARP) requires schools to “adopt a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction,” which includes mitigation strategies like masking that are approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An article from the New York Times is here. See below for responses from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC).
August 18, 2021
Scott, Foxx take opposing stances on school mask mandates: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a statement in response to eight states – Texas, Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah – that have banned districts from implementing mandatory mask policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In the statement, Chairman Scott “implores” state leaders to “provide school districts the support they need to reopen safely and stay open safely.” “Given the importance of getting students back into classroom, there is no justification for punishing school districts that take action to protect their students and staff,” he said. The full statement is here.
House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), on the contrary, sent a letter to USED Secretary Cardona asking for confirmation that states are not required to allow mask mandates in schools as a condition of receiving ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds. She also asked whether local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to include mandatory mask policies in their reopening plans. In the letter, Ranking Member Foxx wrote that she hopes the Department will provide clarity on “our shared understanding of the authority you have to intervene in these and other states’ decisions so that all federal, state, and local entities have clarity on this subject.” A press release is here.
August 18 & 19, 2021
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED waives student loan interest for active-duty servicemembers: USED announced that the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) retroactively waived interest on loans held by more than 47,000 current and former active-duty service members. The action, which was made possible by a data-matching agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), “substantially improves” access to a student loan interest-waiver benefit for many service members with federal student loans. Prior to this new automation, service members had to make individual requests for the benefit and provide additional information confirming their eligibility. However, the announcement means that service members are not required to take any action to receive the interest rate benefit. A press release is here.
August 20, 2021
USED extends loan discharges for borrowers with total and permanent disabilities: USED announced a new regulation that will allow over 323,000 borrowers who have a total and permanent disability (TPD) to receive more than $5.8 billion in automatic student loan discharges. The change will apply to borrowers who are identified through an existing data match with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Additionally, the Department announced that it will “indefinitely” extend a policy to stop asking these borrowers to provide information on their earnings, and will pursue the elimination of the currently required three-year monitoring period. A press release from USED is here, and a press release from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here.
August 19, 2021
USED, DOL partner to support unemployed workers to access postsecondary education: USED, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), announced an initiative intended to support unemployment insurance (UI) beneficiaries who pursue postsecondary education, particularly those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The outreach includes updated USED guidance to financial aid administrators at institutions of higher education about their authority to exercise “professional judgment” for individual financial aid applicants and adjust recently unemployed applicants’ income to zero. Additionally, DOL will alert state workforce agencies that UI recipients, in many cases, are eligible for postsecondary education funding like federal student aid at institutions of higher education. A press release is here.
August 16, 2021
Deceased, former Rep. Mitchell urgest passage of College Transparency Act: A letter from former Rep. Paul Mitchell (I-MI) to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and House Education and Labor Committee leadership was posthumously published. In the letter, Rep. Mitchell advocated for the College Transparency Act, a bipartisan bill he first introduced in 2017 that overturns the ban on student-level data collection in the Higher Education Act (HEA) and would create a student-level data network within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). “Passing this bill is common-sense, long overdue and extremely timely as our nation works to recover from an economic crisis and Americans return to school to get the skills, they need to re-join the workforce,” Mitchell wrote. “I sincerely hope that you and your colleagues will possess the fortitude to put politics aside and pass overwhelmingly bipartisan bills such as this one, especially when you clearly have the votes to do so with ease.” Mitchell died on August 15 from complications related to renal cancer. The full letter is here.
August 20, 2021
Scott urges USED to hold defunct for-profit college executives liable for financial costs of school closures: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) sent a letter to USED Secretary Cardona, urging the Department to hold the executives of failed for-profit colleges and converted for-profit colleges “personally liable” for any funding the institution owes to the federal government. The letter cites a recent report on the defunct Dream Center Education Holdings that found, when fraudulent for-profit and converted for-profit schools have abruptly closed, college executives have “escaped financial liability at the expense of students and taxpayers.” In the letter, Chairman Scott highlights the Department’s authority under HEA to recover financial losses from individuals. “It is clear the Department has a responsibility to pursue any and all legal avenues available to recoup money that was allocated through financial aid programs,” wrote Chairman Scott. A press release is here.
August 17, 2021
Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):
- On August 23, the House will return early from recess and is expected to will vote on a rule that would, in effect, advance H.R.3684, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, H.R.4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the FY22 budget resolution. On August 24, the House is expected to consider passage votes on the voting rights bill and the budget resolution. More information from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is here.
- The Senate is on recess until September 13.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On August 24 at 3:00 pm, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy will hold an event titled, “Educating About Race: A Back-to-School Conversation.” The event will explore the current debate about critical race theory in schools and will feature a discussion with experts about the relevant law and policy questions. More information and registration are here.
- On August 25 at 2:30 pm, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will hold an event titled, “A Paid Leave Conversation with Top Philanthropic, Business, and Advocacy Leaders.” The event will feature a panel of leaders from business, advocacy, and philanthropy to discuss the need for paid family and medical leave, key elements of a potential federal program, and importantly, how to design a policy that works for employers and employees alike. More information and registration are here.
- On August 18, the U.S. Census Bureau published a report titled, “COVID-19 Adds to Economic Hardship of Those Most Likely to Have Student Loans.” The report analyzed data from Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and experimental Household Pulse Survey to predict that the pandemic and resulting spike in unemployment will exacerbate existing student debt for certain groups, leaving them “in even more precarious financial conditions than before.” Key findings include identifying younger adults, particularly those of color and in their late 20s and early 30s, held a disproportionate amount of debt; that those with some college education but no degree was more likely to have experienced a loss of employment income within their household since the start of the pandemic; and that, despite USED’s freeze on payments for federal student loans, student loan debt is still a heavy burden for many households during the pandemic. The full analysis is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On August 20, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) published a report titled, “Beyond the Mask: Promoting Transformation and Healing in School Reopening.” The report focuses on the current gap in support for young people’s mental health, and highlights school-based mental health services as a “promising” strategy to address this unmet need. Key findings from the report include identifying that during the pandemic, nearly two in three young people expressed that they were feeling down, depressed, or hopeless; that young people are six times more likely to seek mental health treatment in schools than in community settings; and that, before the pandemic, 90 percent of public school students attended schools with insufficient numbers of mental health professionals. The full report is here.
- On August 19, FWD.us published new data on K-12 undocumented students currently living in the U.S. Key findings include identifying that approximately 620,000 K-12 students in the U.S. are undocumented; that more than half of these undocumented students (54 percent) are from Central and South American countries; and that most states have at least 1,000 undocumented students in their K-12 schools, with the number of undocumented students significantly higher in Texas, California, and Florida. The full report is here.
- On August 19, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) published a report titled, “Disconnects in Perceptions of Data Use Threaten Recovery: State Leaders Must Act Now.” The report highlights the role of data as a critical tool for informing recovery efforts and urges state and local leaders to utilize data to address pressing issues. Key findings include identifying that while 80 percent of principals think teachers have the capacity to use data to support students, 49 percent of teachers disagree; and that while 67 percent of parents said that they value student growth data in the form of state assessments, 80 percent of principals trust locally designed assessments more, creating a potential barrier to parents getting the data they need. The full report is here.
- On August 19, the Center for Reinventing Public Education published a report titled, “How Has the Pandemic Affected Students with Disabilities? A Review of the Evidence to Date.” The report is part of a series that aims to provide an account of the best available evidence on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students. Key findings include identifying that students with disabilities experienced widespread and lengthy interruptions in their specialized services, which essentially “disappeared overnight” at the outset of the pandemic; that many students who typically receive more extensive supports and services regressed during long months at home; and that those with less-intensive needs made some progress but lagged behind the progress of their neurotypical peers in both engagement and academic growth. The full report is here.
- On August 18, RAND published a report titled, “Will Students Come Back? A July 2021 Parent Survey About School Hesitancy and Parental Preferences for COVID-19 Safety Practices in Schools.” The report provides the survey questions and weighted responses from a recent survey of parents concerning school hesitancy and preferences for COVID-19 safety practices in schools in the U.S. Key findings include identifying that 89 percent of parents, as of July 2021, planned to send their children to school in person in fall 2021 – an increase from 84 percent in May 2021; that 82 percent of Black and 83 percent of Hispanic parents planned to send their children to school in person in fall 2021, compared with 94 percent of White and 88 percent of Asian parents; and that parents with children under 12 (who are too young to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines) were just as likely to plan to send their kids back fully in person as parents with children 12 years and older. The full report is here.
- On August 16, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget published a report titled, “It’s Time to Wind Down the Student Loan Moratorium.” The report estimated that the federal student loan moratorium will cost roughly $52 billion a year, calling the policy “expensive and regressive” and no longer necessary. Other key findings include identifying that the moratorium’s cost is more than double the $23 billion the federal government spent on Pell grants in 2019; and that it is “far more expensive’ than “better-targeted alternatives to ease borrowers’ costs,” such as free community college or reducing payment caps for undergraduate borrowers on Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans. The full report is here.
A bill titled “Empowering Local Curriculum Act.”
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Good (R-VA)