E-Update for the Week of February 22, 2022
- On February 18, President Biden signed a continuing resolution (CR) into law to extend funding for the federal government through March 11.
- On February 15, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing titled, “Supporting Quality Workforce Development Opportunities and Innovation to Address Barriers to Employment,” during which Committee members called attention to the importance of strengthening workforce development programs as part of rebuilding the economy, as well as the need to improve workforce supports and to address systemic barriers to employment.
- On February 11, USED released a final guidance document to aid states, school districts, and schools in implementing accountability and school improvement requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) using data from the 2021-22 school year.
Budget and Appropriations:
President Biden signs CR avoiding government shutdown: President Biden signed a continuing resolution (CR) into law on February 18 to extend funding for the federal government through March 11. Prior to becoming law, the Senate passed the CR by a vote of 65-27 and the House by a vote of 272-162. Relatedly, House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership have reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a framework for fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations. An agreement on top-line spending levels will likely allow appropriators to finalize funding levels for programs, including those within the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for FY2022 by the March 11 deadline. The full CR text is here. A section-by-section summary of the CR is here. A statement from Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is here. A statement from Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) is here.
February 18, 2022
Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED issues fact sheet reminding districts of section 504 obligations: The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for USED published a fact on February 17 sheet reminding public schools of their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to provide appropriate evaluations and services to students with disabilities during the pandemic, including schools’ responsibility to provide compensatory services. The fact sheet outlines specific factors districts should consider in determining the appropriate type and amount of compensatory services, including the frequency and duration of missed instruction and related services, and previous rates of progress.
February 17, 2022
USED releases final FAQs on implementing ESEA accountability requirements: USED released a final guidance document on February 11 to aid states, school districts, and schools in implementing accountability and school improvement requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) using data from the 2021-22 school year. In the document, the Department seeks to answer a number of the frequently asked questions posed by teachers, school and local educational agency (LEA) leaders, state education agency (SEA) representatives, civil rights organizations, education advocates, and policymakers. The Department had previously released draft guidance in December 2021 to allow time for stakeholder input before releasing final guidance.
February 11, 2022
USED approves all ARP-HCY plans, sending $800 million into field: USED announced on February 8 that it had approved all remaining American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth Fund (ARP-HCY) state plans, fully releasing $800 million in funding to help states identify and support students experiencing homelessness and connect them with necessary resources and supports. In a blog post, the Department elevated innovative practices and bright spots from the field that show “states’ commitment to expand opportunity for students experiencing homelessness and their families.” A list of all states’ approved ARP-HCY plans is here.
February 8, 2022
Senate Finance Committee holds youth mental health hearing: The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on February 15 titled, “Protecting Youth Mental Health: Part II – Identifying and Addressing Barriers to Care.” The hearing featured testimony from Tami D. Benton, MD, FAACAP, FAAP from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Sharon Hoover, Ph.D. from the University of Maryland School of Medicine; Jodie L. Lubarsky, MA, LCMHC from Seacoast Mental Health Center; and Trace Terrell from YouthLine. Building on a previous hearing where U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy testified, discussion during the hearing focused on how to expand young people’s access to mental health care, both in terms of preventative treatment and crisis care. Citing recent increases in mental health crises among young people, particularly in the context of pandemic-related school closures, Senators explored potential solutions to improve the nation’s mental health care system, including increased access to telehealth services, strategies to support our mental health workforce (including schools, where symptoms can first be spotted), and efforts to better integrate physical and mental health care services. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for reforms to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid, including proposals to clarify and expand care delivery options for children, regardless of geographic location. “Bottom line, you cannot have mental health business as usual because business as usual is failing too many young people at every point,” Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in his opening statement. Chairman Wyden’s opening statement is here, and Ranking Member Crapo’s opening statement is here.
February 15, 2022
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED approves $415 million in borrower defense claims including for former DeVry University students: The U.S. Department of Education (USED) on February 16 approved $415 million in debt relief for nearly 16,000 student loan borrowers at five for-profit colleges, including DeVry University. In addition to approving claims for former DeVry University students – which, according to USED, marks the first time claims have been approved for a school still in operation – the Department also approved claims for former students at Westwood College, ITT Technical Institute, and Minnesota School of Business/Globe University. In all cases, the Department found evidence that the institutions misrepresented job placement rates and salary potential, misleading students to enroll in “programs that could not deliver what they’d promised,” according to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A statement from Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) is here.
February 16, 2022
USED holds “neg reg” sessions on institutional accountability regulations: USED held its second of three negotiated rulemaking sessions on February 14 to 18 covering institutional accountability topics such as gainful employment, financial responsibility, changes in ownership, and recent statutory changes to the 90/10 revenue rule for proprietary institutions. Prior to the meeting, the Department also released a draft “gainful employment” rule, which shares similarities with the 2014 final regulation but with small (and potentially significant) policy adjustments. According to Politico, “Education Department officials are proposing to keep much of the Obama-era policy but also considering ways to make it stricter.” The article notes that, “the department’s latest proposal would punish programs where median graduates have student loan payments that exceed either 20 percent of their discretionary income or 8 percent of their annual earnings. Programs that fail those metrics — which are the same as the Obama-era rule — for two out of three years would lose access to federal student loans and Pell grants.” The biggest outstanding question is whether the Department will include a baseline earnings threshold in addition to the debt-to-income ratio carried over from the 2014 rule. This earnings threshold is particularly important for short-term programs that could become eligible to disburse Pell Grants under Congressional proposals, since such programs would not be covered under a debt-to-income ratio. The third and final negotiating session will take place virtually on March 14 to 18. A Politico article is here (note: Politico subscription is required).
February 14 to 18, 2022
Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
DHS proposes changes to public charge rule to expand immigrant access to public benefits: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a proposed change to the “public charge” rule on February 17, reversing a Trump-era interpretation of the regulation that determines one’s immigration status based on an individual’s likelihood to become a public charge, or rely on government assistance. In the previous Administration, DHS expanded the array of public benefits that if expected to be received could disqualify an immigrant from obtaining a green card to include programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and non-cash benefits such as Medicaid and CHIP. According to DHS press release, this previous interpretation caused many immigrants to be “fearful” of using certain government benefits that they had historically accessed. “The 2019 public charge rule was not consistent with our nation’s values,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in the press release. “Under this proposed rule, we will return to a historical understanding of the term ‘public charge’ and individuals will not be penalized for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them.” DHS announced that it will publish a notice requesting public comments in the Federal Register in the coming days, but released an advance copy of the rule here.
February 17, 2022
Consumer Financial Protect Bureau (CFPB):
CFPB issues bulletin increasing scrutiny of student loan servicers that misrepresent public service loan forgiveness: The Consumer Financial Protect Bureau (CFPB) released new guidance on February 18 detailing how student loan servicers should implement the Biden Administration’s recent expansion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. In the bulletin, CFPB recommends actions servicers should take to ensure they “do not misrepresent borrower eligibility or make deceptive statements to borrowers about the PSLF program and the Waiver,” and details its plans to “prioritize student loan servicing oversight work” to ensure servicers are complying with federal consumer financial protection laws. The guidance calls on servicers to provide “complete and accurate information” about the PSLF program and Waiver to borrowers, implement “adequate policies and procedures” to recognize borrowers who may express interest in the program or the Waiver, and take steps to promote the benefits of the waiver to borrowers who may be eligible. The guidance is here.
February 18, 2022
Senate HELP Committee holds workforce development hearing: The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on February 15 titled, “Supporting Quality Workforce Development Opportunities and Innovation to Address Barriers to Employment.” The hearing featured testimony from Melinda Mack, Executive Director, New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals; Ashli Watts, President & CEO, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Peter Beard, Senior Vice President for Regional Workforce Development, Greater Houston Partnership; and Nicole Sherard-Freeman, Group Executive, Jobs, Economy & Detroit at Work, City of Detroit. During the hearing, Committee members called attention to the importance of strengthening workforce development programs as part of rebuilding the economy, as well as the need to improve workforce supports and to address systemic barriers to employment. Additionally, members from both sides of the aisle highlighted the Committee’s bipartisan support of workforce issues in the past and the need to continue to work together to strengthen programs that help workers overcome barriers and obtain high-quality jobs. However, Committee Democrats expressed support for registered apprenticeships, while Committee Republicans identified industry-recognized apprenticeships as a promising approach. Speaking on workforce challenges to employment Senate HELP Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) said, “If we want to rebuild an economy that works for everyone—we need to tear down the systemic barriers that stand between so many people and the opportunities they need to gain news skills, get better jobs, and support their families.” Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) similarly noted, “With all of the changes to our economy, now more than ever is the time for us to think about innovative solutions. Everyone here is interested in finding ways to reduce barriers to employment.” Opening remarks from Chairwoman Murray are here. Opening remarks from Ranking Member Burr are here.
February 15, 2022
House Judiciary Subcommittee holds hearing on violence against minority institutions: The House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee held a hearing on February 17 titled, “The Rise in Violence Against Minority Institutions.” The hearing featured testimony from Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Colleyville, Texas; Margaret Huang, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Dr. Seth G. Jones, Senior Vice President and Harold Brown Chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Dr. Demetrick Pennie, Retired Police Sergeant of the Dallas Police Department; Brandon Tatum, Former Tucson Police Officer and Founder/CEO of the Officer Tatum; and Dr. David K. Wilson, President of Morgan State University. During the hearing, Committee members examined the recent rise in domestic terrorism, which is at its highest level since the FBI began tracking incidents of that nature nearly 25 years ago. Members asked questions to better understand the challenges facing minority institutions, such as places of worship and universities, and proposed greater federal coordination to help these institutions remain safe in the face of increasing threats. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) noted during the hearing, “Domestic terrorism has a corrosive impact, not just on the survivors or the local community affected, but on minority communities across the country…Domestic terrorism invades our safe spaces and makes us feel like strangers in our own country.” He then went on to say, “The threats facing minority institutions are varied and the solutions are complex. We must begin by understanding the challenges we face and by examining a range of proposals for how best to respond.” An opening statement from Chairman Nadler is here.
February 17, 2022
House Ed and Labor Subcommittee holds hearing on strategies to create healthier school environment: The House Education and Labor Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing on February 16 titled, “Serving All Students: Promoting a Healthier, More Supportive School Environment.” The hearing featured testimony from Guy Stephens, Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint; Morgan Craven, National Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Community Engagement of the Intercultural Development Research Association; Max Eden, Research Fellow from the American Enterprise Institute; and Kristen Harper, Vice President for Public Policy and Engagement of Child Trends. During the hearing, Committee members explored the impacts – including on students of color and students with disabilities – of practices such as corporal punishment, restraint and seclusion, and other forms of exclusionary discipline, as well as the impacts of gun violence in schools. Subcommittee Chairman Gregorio Sablan (D-NMI), like several other Democratic members, advocated for Congressional action to help schools “replace outdated practices with evidence-based strategies to create healthier school environments for all students” and noted that “research shows that mental health support and trauma-informed care are critical alternatives that better foster students’ development.” Subcommittee Ranking Member Burgess Owens (R-UT) expressed sentiments shared by multiple Republican members in noting that parents need to play a larger role in their child’s educational experience. “As a Committee dedicated to ensuring that students get the best education possible, we should be more focused on empowering parents,” stated the Ranking Member. Multiple witnesses discussed the importance of positive behavior interventions as an alternative for exclusionary practices and advocated for a greater emphasis on supports for student mental health. However, one witness attempted to connect the use of social and emotional learning practices to that of embedding critical race theory within schools. A recording of the hearing is here. Opening remarks from Chairman Sablan are here. Opening remarks from Ranking Member Owens are here.
February 16, 2022
House Ed and Labor Committee approves new Subcommittee assignments: The House Education and Labor Committee on February 16 held a business committee meeting to approve new Subcommittee assignments. During the meeting, Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) welcomed Representative Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL) to the Committee and appointed her to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood Elementary and Secondary Education and the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Additionally, Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) appointed Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment.
February 16, 2022
Upcoming Events (Congress and Administration):
- On February 23 and 24, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) will hold a virtual meeting. NACIQI advises USED on the establishment and enforcement of the standards of accrediting agencies or associations. Agenda items include an administration policy update from USED Undersecretary James Kvaal, and a discussion of the Department’s Accreditation Dashboard. More information and registration are here.
- On February 28 at 2:00 pm, the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans will hold a virtual roundtable titled, “Opening the Social Emotional Safety Net: SEL Practices for the Black School Community.” The roundtable will feature experts from the field that will discuss culturally competent best social emotional learning practices to support Black students, teachers, and families. More information and registration are here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On February 22 at 12:00 pm, The Urban Institute will hold an event titled, “Advancing U.S. and German Apprenticeship Best Practices.” The event will feature a discussion of German and US apprenticeship best practices to advance high-quality apprenticeships. More information and registration are here.
- On February 22 at 3:00 pm, The American Bar Association will hold an event titled, “The Supreme Court and the Future of Affirmative Action.” The event will feature a discussion about the roots and impact of affirmative action, including an examination of the potential implications of the Supreme Court ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas in 2016, which determined that the use of race as an admission consideration did not violate the Equal Protection Clause. More information and registration are here.
- On February 22 at 3:00 pm, The National Association of State Boards of Education will hold an event titled, “Improving Postsecondary Success for Students with Disabilities.” The webinar will discuss “pervasive myths that plague” students with disabilities, policy levers for raising expectations and increasing opportunities to excel, and what policymakers can learn from best practices and student feedback. More information and registration are here.
- On February 23 at 12:00 pm, New America will hold an event titled, “Airwaves for Equity: Can Spectrum Auctions Fund Digital Literacy & Inclusion?” The webinar will feature a discussion about Congress’ extension of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) auction authority and the opportunity to close the digital divide. More information and registration are here.
- On February 23 at 1:00 pm, The RAND Corporation will hold an event titled, “A Snapshot of Anti-Bias Education in U.S. K–12 Schools.” During the webinar, RAND researchers will share new data from a national teacher survey administered in spring 2021 about the extent to which public school teachers report addressing anti-bias education in their K–12 classrooms and what that looks like. More information and registration are here.
- On February 24 at 4:00 pm, The Education Trust will hold an event titled, “The Criminalization of Black Children.” The webinar will feature a discussion about stopping the criminalization of Black children and making schools and communities safer, more nurturing environments for all. More information and registration are here.
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- In February, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released its “Digest of Education Statistics 2020,” the 56th in a series of publications first initiated in 1962. The digest’s primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of education – from pre-kindergarten through graduate school – drawn from government and private sources, but particularly from surveys and other activities led by NCES. The digest has data on the number of schools, students, and teachers in the U.S., as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, technology, and international comparisons. This version of the digest includes certain new material related to the pandemic, including the percentage of adults with children who were learning virtually during April through December 2020; and the percentage of adults with children who reported that computers and internet access were “always or usually” available for educational purposes in their households. The full report is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On February 17, The Education Trust and CASEL released a new tool titled, “Is Your State Prioritizing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development?” The resource reviews policies in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to highlight whether states are supporting student needs by “prioritizing social, educational, and academic development (SEAD),” and where state policies “threaten equity and diversity.” The tool looks at state policy in five areas, previously identified in a report released by The Education Trust in 2020, that are deemed as “critical” to determine if states are supporting equity-focused SEAD. The issue areas are discipline; professional development; rigorous and culturally sustaining curriculum; student, family, and community engagement; and wraparound services. The resource is here.
- On February 17, The Urban Institute published a report titled, “Student Loan Borrowers and Home and Auto Loans during the Pandemic.” The report examines the financial behavior of student loan borrowers during the pandemic pause, relative to nonborrowers. More specifically, the report considered the likelihood of obtaining a first mortgage or auto loan during this time, and ultimately found a substantial increase in first-time homebuying among student loan borrowers during the pause, relative to nonborrowers. The increase was largely driven by student loan borrowers who were in repayment just before the pandemic, and borrowers who were in default before the pandemic were “substantially less likely” to get a first mortgage during the pause. The full report is here.
- On February 16, University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) released a report titled, “‘The Forgotten Ones’ – The Economic Well-Being of Early Educators During COVID-19.” The report provides a closer look at the well-being of the early care and education workforce in California, using data collected by CSCCE through the 2020 California Early Care and Education Workforce Study. Key findings include identifying that compared with other working adults in California, child care providers and teachers tend to earn lower wages and around one-third require at least one form of public assistance, such as Medi-Cal. The full report is here.
- On February 16, the National Student Legal Defense Network issued a legal memorandum titled, “The Department of Education’s Obligation to Reform Its Financial Responsibility Oversight.” The memorandum urges USED to change its “financial responsibility” regulations to “comply with statutory, temporal limitations” on the use of provisional participation in Title IV student aid participation. The full memo is here.
- On February 15, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, released a report titled, “School District Spending Of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funds,” which is part of a multi-series survey focused on how district leaders are utilizing ARP funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, to address student learning recovery. Key findings include identifying that more than three-quarters of district leaders indicated they would continue to invest funds in summer learning and enrichment programming for Summer 2022; that 82 percent of district leaders reported that they would use the funding over the next three years to expand whole child supports; and that two thirds of superintendents said they would be spending money to add staffing and specialists to support student needs. The full report is here.
- On February 14, The Texas Public Policy Foundation published a report titled, “Lessons from Gainful Employment: Improvements to Replicate and a Mistake to Avoid.” When considering reimposing gainful employment regulations, the report urges the Biden Administration to “build upon” two improvements the gainful employment regulations previously put in place, while avoiding what the group sees as a regulatory “fatal mistake.” More specifically, the report calls for a focus on program-level evaluation, rather than institution level, as well as the inclusion of students’ post-graduation earnings as an outcome metric. Meanwhile, the report warns against selective, rather than universal, application of accountability. The full report is here.
A bill to establish a career pathway grant program.
Sponsor: Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC)
A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to increase the reimbursement rate of schools meals.
Sponsor: Rep. James McGovern (D-MA)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to remove the record of default on a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under title IV from a borrower’s credit history upon repayment of the full amount due on such loan.
Sponsor: Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for interest-free deferment on student loans for borrowers serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program.
Sponsor: Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV)
A bill to develop and disseminate a civic education curriculum and oral history resources regarding certain political ideologies, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator John Kennedy (R-LA)