E-Update for the Week of December 21, 2020

E-Update for the Week of December 21, 2020

NOTE: In observance of the holiday season, EducationCounsel will not publish the next E-Update until Monday, January 4. 

Highlights: 

  • On December 17, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivered separate remarks on the Senate floor to discuss the current state of negotiations on a next pandemic relief package. Both leaders expressed optimism that a final package could be reached and said they would ensure that the Senate does not recess until a deal is finalized. Relatedly, on December 20, it was announced that a final deal was reached and Congress would vote on the package on December 21.
  • On December 16, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in the spring regarding an appeal filed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and one of its member conferences of a lower court decision, which found the group’s limits on player compensation violate antitrust law.
  • On December 15, POLITICO reported the career officials at the U.S. Department of Education (USED) who will serve in acting roles until incoming appointees are confirmed by the Senate. Phil Rosenfelt will serve as acting USED Secretary.

Presidential and Congressional Transition:

Presidential:

USED announces career officials who will lead in acting capacities during transition: POLITICO reported the career officials at the U.S. Department of Education (USED) who will serve in acting roles until incoming appointees are confirmed by the Senate. Phil Rosenfelt will serve as acting USED Secretary, Denise Carter will serve as acting Deputy Secretary, Richard Smith will serve as acting Under Secretary, Randy Wills will serve as acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Ruth Ryder will serve as acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, and Erin McHugh will serve as acting Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. A full list of career officials who will serve in acting roles during the transition is here. (Note: A subscription to POLITICO Pro is required.)

December 15, 2020 

Budget and Appropriations:

Congress moves closer to pandemic relief, FY21 spending package, final vote expected today: On December 17, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivered separate remarks on the Senate floor to discuss the current state of negotiations on a next pandemic relief package. Both leaders expressed optimism that a final package could be reached and said they would ensure that the Senate does not recess until a deal is finalized. “I’m encouraged that our Democratic colleagues have now embraced this framework, that’s been the right solution for our country all this time. And a bipartisan, bicameral agreement appears to be close at hand,” stated Majority Leader McConnell. Minority Leader Schumer echoed this sentiment by stating, “We are very close to an agreement, but the details really matter. When it comes to unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, aid to small businesses and so much else: we have a responsibility to get this right.” Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s floor remarks are here. Senate Minority Leader Schumer’s floor remarks are here.

Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in addition to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer, continue to negotiate and finalize legislative details of the package, which is expected to cost close to $900 billion and will likely include direct payments to individuals and families, as well as relief for businesses and schools. It is unlikely that the final package will include additional funding for state and local governments – a key Democratic priority – and will likely also not include liability protections for schools and businesses – a key Republican priority – due to the inability to resolve outstanding differences.

If an agreement can be reached on a pandemic relief package, it will likely be combined with an Omnibus (a combination of multiple spending bills) appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s floor remarks are here. Senate Minority Leader Schumer’s floor remarks are here.

December 17, 2020 

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Congress: 

Senate:

Ed Week interviews HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray: Education Week released an interview with Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). The wide-ranging interviewed explored Ranking Member Murray’s thoughts on the use of summative assessments for this school year, COVID relief funding for schools and whether funding should be conditioned on in-person learning, civil rights issues, and the experience of a next U.S. Secretary of Education, among other issues. Regarding whether states should administer summative assessments this school year, Ranking Member Murray stated, “Look, it is a very challenging time with COVID affecting our schools, and all the inequities being developed, or we believe are being developed, because of so many low-income students and students of color who don’t have the capacity to learn at home falling further and further behind. We will not know that unless we do some kind of assessments so that we know how to direct our resources to where they need to be.” The full interview is here.

December 14, 2020 

House:

Oversight Committee seeks information on Trump actions to ban anti-racism training: House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought, requesting a Member-level briefing and documents about the Trump Administration’s ban of diversity and anti-racism training for  federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funds. The letter follows a previous request in September for documents and information on this matter. In their letter, Members said that OMB replied “misleadingly” by claiming that the Administration “only seeks to curb trainings that perpetuate racial stereotypes and division.” Further, the Members wrote that, “the Administration’s actions have already shut down initiatives across the nation – inside and outside the federal government – meant to combat bias and discrimination in the workplace.” A press release is here. The full letter is here.

December 15, 2020 

Administration: 

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED releases final rule on religious group participation in federal grants and programs: USED announced a joint final rule with eight other agencies that gives religious groups new protections to participate in federal grant programs. The rule continues to prohibit organizations from discriminating against beneficiaries based on their religion, while requiring an organization’s religious activities to occur at a separate time or in a separate location from any services directly funded with federal dollars. In terms of the impact on schools, the final rule allows for faith-based charter schools to receive federal funding if the money is not used for explicitly religious purposes. A press release from the Department is here. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here. An article from POLITICO is here (Note: a subscription to POLITICO Pro is required).

December 14, 2020 

U.S. Supreme Court:

SCOTUS to hear NCAA antitrust case: The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in the spring regarding an appeal filed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and one of its member conferences of a lower court decision, which found the group’s limits on player compensation violate antitrust law. According to a POLITICO article, “a group of current and former players challenged the NCAA’s rules that prohibit athletes from accepting money or other forms of compensation. Following a 2019 trial, a federal judge found the restrictions anti-competitive and said the NCAA must allow colleges to offer student athletes education-related benefits, such as graduate school scholarships, study abroad opportunities or computers for educational use.” The Supreme Court Justices are expected to issue a decision regarding the case before the current term ends in June. Additionally, we could see action in the upcoming Congress on this issue, as several members have introduced legislation surrounding compensation of college athletes. An article from POLITICO is here.

December 16, 2020 

Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):

  • On or about January 3, the House will convene for the first time as part of the 117th Congress. Congress is constitutionally obligated to begin each new Congress on January 3. Given that this date is on a Sunday, a resolution could be introduced that would adjust the first convening. A press release from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is here. The full, tentative, 2021 legislative calendar is here.
  • On or about January 3, the Senate will convent for the first time as part of the 117th Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced the first convening via tweet. Similar to the House, it is possible that a resolution could be introduced that would adjust the first convening to a different date. Majority Leader McConnell’s tweet is here.

Publications (Congressional and Administration):

  • On December 15, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) published a report titled, “The Effects of Expanding Pell Grant Eligibility for Short Occupational Training Programs: Results from Experimental Sites Initiative.” The report summarizes a study of the impact of students using Pell Grants to participate in short term programs through a controlled experimental site evaluation. Key findings of the report include identifying that offering Pell Grants for short occupational programs to low-income students with a bachelor’s degree increased program enrollment and completion by about 20 percentage points; that more than half of students, who were offered the experimental Pell Grants, used them and were just as likely as those who were not offered the grants to also use federal student loans; and that there were no recorded findings on how the expanded eligibility impacted students’ employment and earnings due to challenges accessing information from other agencies. The full report is here.
  • On December 10, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled, “Children’s Savings Account Programs Can Help Families Build Savings and Envision College.” The report took a look at children’s savings accounts programs, which are operated by states, cities, and other organizations and use a variety of strategies to enroll families, especially those with lower incomes, to help them save and prepare for college. Key findings of the report include enrollment assistance, automatic enrollment, or initial deposits may increase enrollment and participation; enrollment in a children’s savings account program may increase total savings and motivate families to slightly increase their personal contributions; and enrollment in children’s savings account programs may increase educational expectations. The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On December 16, the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans published a report titled, “Climbing the College Ladder? The Effects of the New Orleans School Reforms on the Quality and Fit of Colleges that Students Attended.” The report summarizes a study of the impact of the city’s school reforms such as transforming almost all traditional public schools into charter schools. Key findings of the report include identifying that the initial post-Katrina increase in college entry has been sustained through 2016; that students in New Orleans were more likely to attend higher quality colleges in 2016 compared to 2004, as measured by higher average standardized test scores and higher faculty salaries; and that college persistence rates for first year students remained roughly the same in 2016 as in 2004. The full report is here.
  • On December 15, the RAND Corporation published a report titled, “Remote Learning Is Here to Stay Results from the First American School District Panel Survey.” The report is based on a survey conducted September through November 2020 of a nationally representative, longitudinal panel of school districts across the United States. Key findings of the report include two in 10 U.S. school districts have already adopted, plan to adopt, or are considering adopting virtual schools after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic; top concerns for district leaders for the 2020–2021 school year include disparities in students’ opportunities to learn, students’ social and emotional learning needs, and insufficient funding to cover staff; and school district leaders reported that USED had the second-least amount of influence on their COVID-19 plans, while state and local health departments had the most. The full report is here.
  • On December 15, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation published a report titled, “Piecing Together Solutions: The Importance of Childcare to U.S. Families and Businesses.” The report notes that, “The reopening of childcare centers is essential to building back a healthy economy and…without viable childcare solutions, working parents will have a difficult time returning to work.” Additionally, the report highlights that, “Employers are also becoming increasingly concerned about their workforce’s ability to return fully to work. In October, 32 percent of employers reported seeing employees leave the workforce due to the effects of COVID-19… When asked what factors contribute to their employees leaving the workforce and seeking out other employment, employers point to health concerns and childcare concerns as the primary factors.” The full report is here.
  • On December 15, the Children’s Equity Project published a report titled, “Start with Equity: 14 Priorities to Dismantle Systemic Racism in Early Care and Education.” The report provides recommendations for how the federal government and state and local governments can address systemic racism in their early childhood education systems. Key recommendations include disseminating public funds equitably; embedding equity in monitoring and accountability systems; and addressing workforce inequities. The full report is here.
  • On December 14, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published a report titled, “Kids, Families and COVID-19 Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond.” The report examines how households with children are faring during the pandemic based on surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, the report reviews federal and state responses to support families and children during the pandemic, as well as strategies for meeting the needs of children and families now and following the pandemic. Key findings of the report include 14 percent of adults with children reported that their household sometimes or always did not have enough to eat in the last week; one-third said that they are now less likely to return to work due to a lack of child care; and nationwide, 31 percent of Blacks and 26 percent of Latinos compared to 12 percent of white households reported being on the verge of missing a rent or mortgage payment. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R.8994

To amend the Department of Education Organization Act to permit appeals of certain determinations made by the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education made with respect to complaints filed between March 5, 2018, and November 18, 2018.

Sponsor: Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL)

S.5023

A bill to suspend and reform the authority under the Higher Education Act of 1965 for the Secretary of Education to carry out an administrative wage garnishment program.

Sponsor: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

S.5029

A bill to direct the Secretary of Education to establish and carry out two grant programs to make grants to eligible institutions to plan and implement programs that provide comprehensive support services and resources designed to increase transfer and graduation rates at community colleges, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

S.5033

A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to support college students to meet satisfactory academic progress.

Sponsor: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

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