E-Update for the Week of August 8, 2022
Note: With limited Congressional activity throughout the month of August, EducationCounsel may send E-Update on a reduced schedule. The information covered below is from July 29 through August 4.
- On July 29, the White House announced actions that the Biden-Harris Administration is taking aimed at strengthening school-based mental health services and addressing the youth mental health crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
- On August 1, Democratic Members of Congress, led by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), wrote to USED urging the Department to issue guidance to ensure that funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is used to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments and not to increase discipline or criminalization of marginalized student populations.
- On August 2, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 64 House Democrats filed an amicus brief in the case of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College.
White House announces actions to address the youth mental health crisis: On July 29, the White House announced two new actions that the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to strengthen school-based mental health services and address the youth mental health crisis. First, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) is beginning the process of making available $300 million to expand access to mental health services in schools, funded through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and the FY2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The funding will be allocated through the Mental Health Service Professional (MHSP) Demonstration Grant Program, which will support a strong pipeline into the mental health profession, and the School-Based Mental Health (SBMH) Services Grant Program, which will provide grants to states and school districts to increase the number of qualified mental health services providers delivering school-based mental health services. Building on this announcement, USED issued two notices on August 2 requesting comments on proposed priorities, requirements, and definitions for both the MHSP Demonstration Grant Program and SBMH Services Grant Program, which can be found here and here, respectively. The Administration’s second action encourages governors to invest more in school-based mental health services. USED and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter to governors across the country to highlight federal resources available to states and schools to invest in mental health services for students.
July 29 and August 2, 2022
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) releases framework for community engagement and opportunities for youth with disabilities to find meaningful employment: On August 3, OSERS issued a paper highlighting the importance of community engagement in providing opportunities for employment for individuals with disabilities, as it leads to economic opportunity, equity, and independence. The paper titled, “A Framework for Community Engagement – A Pathway to Competitive Integrated Employment,” was released jointly with the Office of Disability Employment Policy within the U.S. Department of Labor and the Administration for Community Living and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within HHS. Specifically, the framework highlights that community engagement is particularly important for the success of youth with disabilities transitioning from school to post-school activities. The letter suggests “by having staff, including job developers and job coaches, trained in customized employment strategies, [service] providers may use discovery methods to better understand an individual’s interests, skills, and abilities, which may lead to exploring potential employment opportunities in their community.” Some of the systems that community engagement can strengthen to help youth with disabilities include pre-vocational services, volunteer opportunities, apprenticeships, customized employment services, workforce development, and financial literacy services. The framework also provides multiple examples of best practices for community engagement and outlines how services can provide individuals with an increased sense of confidence and purpose, employment opportunities and promotions, and skill development.
August 3, 2022
Senators Burr, Paul, and Cruz launch oversight investigation of the National Science Foundation: On July 29, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) launched an oversight investigation into the use of funds at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Senators wrote a letter requesting answers to a number of questions, including a summary of NSF’s Strategic Budget Plan, information about the NSF’s approval for new programs, and the grant review and award process. The Senators wrote, “We have a growing concern that tens of millions of dollars have and continue to be spent on studies of questionable value. While not all of these studies are obvious wastes of taxpayer dollars, many still raise major concerns about the importance of your agency’s mission.”
July 29, 2022
House Education and Labor Ranking Member Foxx writes op-ed on parental rights in education: On July 27, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) wrote an op-ed in The Daily Signal titled, “Time to Stand for Parental Rights.” In the op-ed, Ranking Member Foxx raises concerns with school districts resisting curriculum transparency, the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) and gender politics in the classroom, and parents’ rights to have a say in their children’s education being disregarded. She goes on to use the op-ed to call attention to legislation authored by Republican Members of the House Education and Labor Committee known as the Parents Bills of Rights. According to Ranking Member Foxx, the bill will “protect parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children rather than letting schools usurp that authority” and “create transparency around school expenditures.” Ranking Member Foxx expresses that “safeguarding parental rights is the line drawn in the sand.”
July 27, 2022
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Democratic House members call for oversight of school safety funding in Bipartisan Safer Communities Act: On August 1, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and 13 Democratic Members of Congress sent a letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona urging the Department to provide states with comprehensive guidance to ensure that funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is used to develop evidence-based programs that create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments and not to increase discipline or criminalization of marginalized student populations. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides federal funding for school improvement, school-based mental health services, and safe and healthy students programs, and prohibits the use of funds for the purchase of weapons or training school staff members in the use of weapons. The Democratic Members of Congress wrote, “These additional federal dollars are designated specifically to foster safe and healthy schools, and to develop positive school climates that support learning for all students. Although we welcome the additional federal investment in school safety and remain grateful for the bipartisan work to pass this important law, we are committed to making sure that the funding Congress authorized and appropriated serves students, schools, and communities equitably and effectively.” The letter urges USED to define clearly “high-need” when awarding competitive subgrants to local educational agencies (LEAs) under Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act and to conduct and make publicly available a report of how states and LEAs allocate and use their additional school safety funding.
August 1, 2022
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott and House Democrats file amicus brief in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard: On August 2, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 64 House Democrats filed an amicus brief in the case of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, urging the Supreme Court to “uphold narrowly tailored race-conscious college admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.” The brief details the need for race-conscious admissions policies in higher education given the continued underrepresentation of African Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, and many Asian Americans at institutions of higher education. The members also call attention to the interest in advancing diversity in higher education to help address racial disparities in education. “As it has for decades, the Supreme Court must continue to recognize that pursuing racially diverse campuses is both constitutional and in the compelling interest of our nation. These admissions policies are critical for achieving the promise of equal educational opportunity that remains unfulfilled more than 65 years after the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education.” The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear oral arguments for Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard on October 31. On October 31, the Supreme Court will also hear a separate lawsuit from Students for Fair Admissions against affirmative action policies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
August 2, 2022
House Education and Labor Ranking Member Virginia Foxx, along with House leadership, introduces legislation to benefit student borrowers in higher education: On August 4, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced the Responsible Education Assistance through Loan (REAL) Reforms Act. According to the bill sponsors, the legislation is being offered as an alternative to student loan forgiveness that is currently under consideration by the Biden Administration. The bill sponsors go on to say that the legislation is aimed at addressing the federal student loan system and offering “commonsense and fiscally responsible reforms to benefit students and borrowers in our country’s federal student loan system.” A fact sheet explains that that the legislation will target relief for the borrowers most in need, offering a way for borrowers to pay down their principal if they previously made payments for 10 years but those payments only covered interest. The bill also prohibits the Secretary of Education from issuing regulations without Congressional approval, and would limit borrowing, particularly for graduate borrowers who currently have no borrowing cap. The REAL Reforms Act also would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program as the bill sponsors assert that the loan forgiveness program was intended to help public servants, but it now favors high-income, graduate student borrowers. Reps. Foxx, Stefanik, and Banks shared, “Our reforms are fiscally responsible, practical solutions to help students and borrowers. This bill provides targeted relief for borrowers in the greatest need and helps Americans who have been excluded from postsecondary education access high-quality short-term programs. This will allow individuals to gain quickly the skills needed to fill in-demand jobs.” A section-by-section summary is here.
August 4, 2022
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On August 9-11, USED’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) will host a webinar titled, “Smart Beginnings.” The three-day event will feature helpful resources for those working with infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities, including parents and families, teachers, service providers, administrators, districts, and agencies. More information will be posted on OSEP’s Twitter.
Publications (Congress & Administration):
- On August 4, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released new findings from its 2022 School Pulse Panel, which collects information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through a national survey of elementary, middle, high, and combined-grade public schools. The new findings showed that school leaders reported nearly 50 percent of their students began the 2021-2022 school year behind grade level in at least one subject, which is 14 percentage points higher than the percentage of students previously estimated to be behind grade level in at least one subject at the beginning of a typical school year before the pandemic. School leaders estimated that around 36% of students ended the 2021-2022 school year behind grade level in at least one academic subject. Data from the School Pulse Panel also shows findings in areas such as summer programs, staffing, and learning modes, and can be found at IES’s COVID-19 dashboard here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On August 2, the First Five Years Fund (FFYF) released its 2022 Child Care & Early Learning State Fact Sheets. The state-by-state analyses found that in almost all states Child Care Development and Block Grants (CCDBG) reaches less than 15% of eligible children, and Head Start reaches less than 1 in 5 eligible children. Data also shows that in roughly half of all states, only 20% of 3- and 4-year-olds are being served by publicly funded pre-K programs, and that the majority of residents are living in a child care desert.
- On August 2, the Postsecondary Data Partnership at the National Student Clearinghouse released a new report titled, “Credit Accumulation and Completion Rates among First-Year College Students.” Key findings provide important insight into students’ first-year credit completion ratio and credit accumulation rate. Data shows that students earn roughly 75% of the credits they attempt, and that this rate varies widely by race/ethnicity, enrollment intensity, college readiness, degree sought, and institutional type. For example, black males earn the equivalent of one 3-credit hours course less than their White and Asian peers across their first year of study. The report also shows that only 51% of full-time students earned 24 or more credit hours in their first year and only 28% earned 30 or more hours of credit. This shows that the average full-time student does not attempt enough credits to complete a bachelor’s degree in four years. The largest gaps between students attempting and earning credits are across dimensions of gender, race/ethnicity, and enrollment intensity. Contrary to prior assumptions that transfer students are less prepared or successful that their institution-native peers, transfer and non-transfer students attempted and earned credits at relatively similar rates, with transfer students earning higher credit completion rates.
- On August 3, the Center for American Progress (CAP) published a report titled, “After President Biden Cancels Student Debt.” Should President Biden answer the continued call to cancel some or all student debt, the report explores two questions that remain: How do we prevent a student debt crisis from happening in the future? And what do we do about any student loan debt that may remain? The report provides information on a series of issues causing student debt to continue and makes recommendations for Congress and the Administration to consider. Some of these recommendations include expanding the availability of financial aid programs, increasing grant aid and work-study opportunities, and working with institutions to control the cost of college.
- In August, the National Association of State Boards of Education published a policy update titled, “Investing in Early Childhood Workforce Recovery.” The brief provides examples of how state policymakers have made investments in the early childhood education (ECE) landscape in order for the industry to recover from impacts of the pandemic. Specific examples include using funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to supplement workforce compensation and benefits and providing resources to aid in supporting workers’ mental health and well-being. The policy update also includes steps state boards of education can take to increase understanding and guide actions around recovering the early childhood workforce. The recommendations include asking for an implementation report, ECE workforce data, and establishing an aligned ECE vision for the state.
- In August, the Hildreth Institute issued a report titled, “Losing Interest: No Interest Student Loans with a Cost Offset.” In response to growing concerns over borrowers’ ability to pay off loans, the report proposes a few solutions that could aid borrowers: issuing no-interest loans, limiting borrowers to only paying principal loan amounts over a set period of years, investing principal repayment in risk-free assets to generate a return over time, and using funds to cover administrative costs and issue new loans. The report provides comparisons of the current standard and income-based repayment plans, and what a potential no interest repayment plan could look like under a 20-year repayment plan. Hildreth proposes that eliminating the interest payment burden would bring substantial relief to millions of student loan borrowers across the country and benefit the entire economy.
A bill to amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to authorize a study to review specific outcomes of entrepreneurial skills development programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA)
A bill to establish a grant program for States to fund community-based nonprofit student loan consumer assistance programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
A bill to support the preparation and retention of outstanding educators in all fields to ensure a bright future for children and youth in under-resourced and underserved communities in the United States, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Tina Smith (D-MN)
A bill to allow the use of unspent educational funds under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to address pandemic learning loss through Child Opportunity Scholarships.
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)