E-Update for the Week of August 31, 2020
- On August 26, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the Department to reverse its decision to not extend school meal flexibilities through the entire 2020-2021 school year.
- On August 26, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and 24 Republican Members sent a letter to USDA urging the Department to extend the flexibilities needed for schools to continue providing meals to students while schools remain closed.
- On August 26, a second federal judge blocked implementation of U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos’s interim final rule regarding equitable services provisions for funding received as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Coronavirus (as related to education issues):
Note that all information related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is up to date as of August 28. 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.
USDA facing bipartisan pressure to extend school meal flexibilities: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the Department to reverse its decision to not extend school meal flexibilities through the entire 2020-2021 school year. The Members argue that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, one of Congress’s first coronavirus relief bills, granted USDA the authority to issue waivers so that schools could provide meals to children during the pandemic, even with schools remaining closed. USDA has argued that the Department does not have the authority to extend the waivers significantly beyond the August 30, 2020 expiration date included in the bill. The Department has extended the flexibilities through September 30, 2020 but argues it cannot, without Congressional action, extend beyond that date. A press release is here. The letter from Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Stabenow is here.
Relatedly, on August 26, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and 24 Republican Members sent a letter to USDA urging the Department to extend the flexibilities needed for schools to continue providing meals to students while schools remain closed. ‘We know the flexibilities utilized at the beginning of the pandemic helped schools provide meals to families in need. With a new school year starting amid the pandemic, it is critical that schools have the flexibility they need to continue providing meals to their students,” wrote the Members. A press release is here. The letter is here.
August 26, 2020
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
DeVos rule on equitable services faces second set-back in court challenges: A second federal judge blocked implementation of U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos’s interim final rule regarding equitable services provisions for funding received as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The interim rule requires that public elementary and secondary schools provide funding to local private schools based on total enrollment instead of the typical federal formula of allocating based on the number of low-income students at the private schools. U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in California ruled that the interim final rule is unlikely to held up in court because the Secretary lacks the authority to impose her own conditions on the relief funding and the congressional intent was clearly violated by the rule’s implementation. Last week, a federal judge in Washington blocked the rule’s implementation as well. Judge Donato’s order is here.
August 26, 2020
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED issues final rule on higher ed distance learning and competency-based programs: USED Secretary DeVos issued final rules related to distance learning and competency-based higher education programs. “While we moved quickly at the start of the pandemic to provide temporary distance learning flexibilities for students, these new regulations provide a permanent upgrade to online and competency-based education,” stated the Secretary. The final rule is based upon previous language that was developed during a Negotiated Rulemaking process in 2019; however, the final rule does have some differences from the negotiated language. According to the Department, the final rule emphasizes demonstrated learning over seat time; defines “regular and substantive” interactions between instructors and students; adds a definition of “juvenile justice facility” to ensure that incarcerated students remain eligible for Pell Grants; and allows clock hour programs to utilize new types of learning models. The final rule will take effect July 1, 2021 but institutions can begin to voluntarily utilize the flexibilities earlier. A press release is here. The final rule is here. An article by the Education Dive is here.
August 24, 2020
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
ACF issues final rule on Head Start renewal system: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued a final rule on the Head Start Designation Renewal System (DRS). The DRS is a process for determining whether Head Start grantees may receive a new grant noncompetitively or if the grant will be subject to an open competition, based on the performance of the previous grantee. According to the National Head Start Association (NHSA), the final rule will remove the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) scores 10 percent trigger; will increase the number of deficiencies that trigger competition from one to two; and will expand the fiscal integrity measures. The final rule will take effect on October 27, 2021. A press release from ACF is here. A press release from NHSA is here. An overview of the final rule is here.
August 27, 2020
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On August 31 at 1:00 pm, the National Press Club will hold an event titled, “Crisis in the College Vote 2020.” The webinar will discuss the impacts of the pandemic on college voters and will feature Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and Paul Leob, founder of the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP). More information and registration are here.
- On September 2 at 12:00 pm, the College and Community Fellowship will hold an event titled, “Pell Restoration and Economic Justice: A Panel Discussion.” The webinar will discuss how restoring Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals can bring economic justice. The webinar will feature House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA); Allison Dembeck, Executive Director of Congressional and Public Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce; Satra Taylor, higher education policy analyst at the Education Trust; Tiffany Jones, Senior Director of Higher Education at the Education Trust; and D’Antonette Burns, scholar. More information and registration are here.
- On September 2 at 1:00 pm, the Brookings Institute will hold an event titled, “Charter school city: A book discussion with Douglas Harris.” The webinar will feature the named author as he discusses his new book “Charter School City: What the End of Traditional Public Schools in New Orleans Means for American Education.” The webinar will include a panel discussion featuring former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; and Andre Perry, Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program. More information and registration are here.
- On September 14 at 9:00 am, the Brookings Institute will hold an event titled, “Beyond reopening: A leapfrog moment to transform education?” The webinar will focus on how the coronavirus pandemic has upended education and what this may mean for the future of education systems. More information and registration are here.
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- On August 26, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled, “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: FY 18.” The report includes information of federal, state, and local education spending including per pupil expenditures. Key findings of the report include identifying that the national per pupil expenditure for fiscal year (FY) 2018 was $12,654; that total revenues increased by 1.9 percent (from $720.7 to $734.2 billion) from FY2017 to FY2018; and that total expenditures increased by 1.1 percent between FY2017 and FY2018. The full report is here.
A bill to provide for emergency education freedom grants, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to establish tax credits to encourage individual and corporate taxpayers to contribute to scholarships for students through eligible scholarship-granting organizations, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to ensure that public institutions of higher education eschew policies that improperly constrain the expressive rights of students, and to ensure that private institutions of higher education are transparent about, and responsible for, their chosen speech policies.
Sponsor: Rep. Gregory Murphy (R-NC)