E-Update for the Week of February 28, 2022
- On February 22, the White House held an event during which U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Gender Policy Council Director Jen Klein, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Mobility Carmel Martin met with parents and their children to discuss the Administration’s proposal to reduce child care costs for families, while increasing the supply of high-quality child care.
- On February 23, the U.S. Department of Education (USED)’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) released a Request for Information outlining its new strategy to overhaul the federal student loan servicing systems to be known as the “Unified Servicing and Data Solution.”
- On February 25, USED released a new fact sheet highlighting ways states and school districts are using ARP funds to reengage students and enhance academic learning by expanding CTE opportunities.
Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
Institute of Education Sciences (IES) awards grants using ARP funds to support use of longitudinal data in state recovery policymaking: IES’s National Center for Education Research awarded three new grants, funded through the use of ARP funds, under the “Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Education Recovery Policymaking” competition on February 23. The competition aims to support state education agencies (SEAs) use of their longitudinal data systems as they and local educational agencies (LEA)s reengage their students after the disruptions caused by COVID-19. According to IES, SEAs can use these funds to identify what additional supports schools, staff, and students may need after responding to COVID-19 related disruptions, determine whether the supports are being well implemented, and generate evidence regarding which program and policies are linked to improvements in student education, both for students overall and for underrepresented subgroups who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The three grants that were awarded were for: (1) the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to assess the long-term impacts of school extension programs on student re-engagement and learning recovery; (2) the Tennessee Board of Regents to put data to work to re-engage young adults who experienced pandemic-related educational disruptions; and (3) the Texas Education Agency to study the impact of Texas’s Additional School Year Initiative on student learning loss.
February 23, 2022
USED Secretary Miguel Cardona conducts a series of state visits to Nevada, North Carolina, and Tennessee: In Las Vegas, Nevada, Secretary Cardona joined Congressional members to conduct pandemic recovery discussions with students, parents, and educators on February 24. Specifically, Cardona discussed the importance of mental health support in schools, after-school activities and enrichment programs, and fully funding Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs. On February 23, Secretary Cardona joined North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper for a site visit to North Carolina Central University to discuss the importance of mental health and wellness services for students. Following a briefing at the university, Secretary Cardona conducted a roundtable discussion with students about supporting positive mental health outcomes for students. Additionally, Secretary Cardona traveled to Tennessee to discuss the needs of school communities on February 17. While in Tennessee, Secretary Cardona held a roundtable conversation with rural students and education advocates to discuss the specific concerns of rural communities, joined the School Superintendents Association (AASA) National Conference on Education for a fireside chat regarding the resources provided to schools through ARP, and visited Tennessee State University to host a roundtable discussion on efforts to address teacher shortages, ways to strengthen a diverse and qualified teacher pipeline, and Tennessee’s efforts to expand its Grow Your Own program.
February 23 and 24, 2022
USED releases new resource to highlight how states use American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to reengage students through career and technical education (CTE): On February 25, USED released a new fact sheet highlighting ways states and school districts are using ARP funds to reengage students and enhance academic learning by expanding CTE opportunities. According to the Department, “high-quality CTE programs can be a powerful tool to boost school engagement and on-time graduation” as schools help students address lost instructional time. The fact sheet highlights examples of how states are using relief funds for CTE programs in high schools as part of their work to help students and communities recover and create opportunities for students to pursue higher education and successful careers.
February 25, 2022
White House holds event to continue to highlight the need for universal child care: The White House held an event on February 22 during which U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Gender Policy Council Director Jen Klein, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Mobility Carmel Martin met with parents and their children to discuss the Administration’s proposal to reduce child care costs for families, while increasing the supply of high-quality child care — an issue Martin described as “a cornerstone of [President Biden’s] economic policy agenda.” During the meeting, federal officials spoke with parents about the challenges they’ve faced finding affordable, high-quality child care in their communities. Additionally, they outlined how President Biden’s plan “would cut childcare costs in half for most families, ensure that all our 3- and 4-year-olds have access to high-quality preschool and also make sure that our providers [are getting what] they deserve to be paid,” according to Martin. The event signaled that the Administration will continue to use its bully pulpit to call attention to the country’s child care and early learning crisis and to make the case for passing the early learning provisions included in the Build Back Better Act. “My team is working in case we get that bill across the finish line,” Becerra said.
February 22, 2022
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
U.S. Department of Education (USED) releases a proposal to overhaul federal student loan servicing systems: USED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) released a Request for Information on February 23 outlining its new strategy to overhaul the federal student loan servicing systems to be known as the “Unified Servicing and Data Solution.” According to the Request for Information, borrowers will continue to make payments through servicer websites and receive communications that are co-branded with FSA, when the new contracts go live in December 2023. FSA notes that, “Unlike prior procurements, FSA is not seeking to reduce the number of platforms used or purchase or license platforms from servicers…Instead, servicers will maintain separate processing platforms and work with FSA to build a common servicing data catalogue.” Additionally, FSA goes on to say, “This strategy allows FSA to avoid the cost and performance risks associated with purchasing and relying on a single servicing platform while achieving a variety of goals, including enabling more-straightforward account transfers, creating opportunities for enhanced oversight, and, eventually, providing borrowers with complete account management on StudentAid.gov.” In outlining its sequenced approach, FSA further explained, “Servicers will be required to modify borrower-facing communications to co-brand with FSA and provide account authentication through the FSA ID. This approach will help transition borrowers from associating repayment only with their servicer to a more FSA-centered approach and will help borrowers better access forms and tools on StudentAid.gov. Within the first five years of the contract period, FSA will expand functionality on StudentAid.gov, eventually transitioning full account management, branding and repayment away from servicers’ websites. FSA anticipates publishing this procurement in early spring 2022 and welcomes feedback from potential offerors, higher education stakeholders, and the general public. Information can be sent to Contracting Officer Jackson McClam, (Jackson.McClam@ed.gov) with the subject line “USDS RFI Response.” Responses are due by March 9, 2022.
February 23, 2022
House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) issued a statement in response to the Department’s student loan servicing plan saying, “This is yet another sign the Department does not have a cohesive, workable plan for the future of student loan servicing. Over the last five years, the Department has continually changed its directions while setting out unworkable goals and timelines that were ultimately never accomplished. I encourage the Department to think carefully about how this plan would work in practice and coordinate with its partners to ensure a borrower-centered servicing experience.”
February 23, 2022
USED issues a notice inviting applications for new awards for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP): MSAP provides grants to LEAs and consortia of LEAs to create or revise magnet schools under required or voluntary desegregation plans. In this competition, USED seeks to focus applicants on effectively addressing the legislative purpose of the MSAP statute — assisting LEAs in the desegregation of schools through the use of magnet schools — by requiring applicants to demonstrate how they intend to align the elements of their proposed MSAP projects with their required or voluntary desegregation plans, which must be submitted as a component of their applications. The notice contains six competitive preference priorities, which are: (1) “Need for Assistance”; (2) “New or Revised Magnet Schools Projects and Strength of Evidence to Support Proposed Projects”; (3) “Selection of Students”; (4) “Increasing Racial Integration and Socioeconomic Diversity”; (5) “Inter-district and Regional Approaches”; and (6) “Supporting a Diverse Educator Workforce and Professional Growth to Strengthen Student Learning.” The notice also contains two invitational priorities, which are “Whole-School Magnet Programs,” and “Coordination Across Agencies and Organizations.” Applications will be accepted until April 25.
February 22, 2022
National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) holds winter meeting, USED Under Secretary Kvaal provides administration policy update: NACIQI, which provides recommendations regarding accrediting agencies that monitor the academic quality of postsecondary institutions and educational programs for federal purposes, held its winter meeting. During the meeting, NACIQI Chairperson Arthur Keiser led a discussion on Accreditation Dashboards, as well as members considered several renewal of recognition applications from accreditors. Additionally, NACIQI members received an administration policy update from USED Under Secretary James Kvaal. Following the briefing, Kvaal tweeted, “Data on student outcomes is a necessary part of rigor in accreditation and improving. @usedgov‘s new Accreditor Handbook describes how accreditors should document their efforts to measure student success.”
February 23 and 24, 2022
USED requests comments on revisions to the 2023-2024 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): USED is seeking comments on proposed revisions to the FAFSA, which is used to determine the need and eligibility of a student for financial assistance. Specifically, USED proposes to remove questions requiring registration for Selective Service for male students and asking whether students had certain drug-related convictions for offenses that occurred while they were receiving federal student aid. The Department also proposes to add a separate FAFSA for incarcerated students. These changes follow the passage of the FAFA Simplification Act in 2019, which eliminated prohibitions for federal student aid if a student failed to register with Selective Service or had certain drug-related convictions while receiving federal student aid. The FAFSA Simplification Act also restored Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals. While these changes implement some of the changes in the FAFSA Simplification Act, USED announced in June 2021 that full implementation of the Act will not occur until the 2024-25 award year. Comments will be accepted until April 25. The notice can be found here, including the draft 2023-2024 FAFSA, the Summary of Enhancements to the FAFSA, and the draft 2023-2024 Incarcerated FAFSA, among other documents.
February 24, 2022
USED issues a notice inviting applications for new awards for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant Program: The purposes of the TQP program are to improve student achievement; improve the quality of prospective and new teachers by improving the preparation of prospective teachers and enhancing professional development activities for new teachers; hold teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education (IHEs) accountable for preparing teachers who meet applicable State certification and licensure requirements; and recruit highly qualified individuals, including individuals of color and individuals from other occupations, into the teaching force. In the fiscal year (FY) 2022 TQP competition, through Absolute Priority 1 and 2, the Department supports new pre-baccalaureate and teacher residency models that would emphasize the creation or expansion of high-quality, comprehensive pathways into the classroom. Through Absolute Priorities 3 and 4, the Department adds a focus on school leadership. This competition also includes four competitive preference priorities. Competitive Preference Priority 1 focuses on projects that propose to increase educator diversity. Competitive Preference Priority 2 focuses on projects that propose to support a diverse educator workforce that is prepared with the necessary certification and credentialing to teach in shortage areas, while recognizing the teachers’ needs in the high-need schools to be served by the proposed project. Competitive Preference Priorities 3 and 4 focus on projects that propose to meet students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and support projects that propose to promote equity in student access to educational resources and opportunities. Applications will be accepted until April 26. The notice can be found here.
February 25, 2022
Senate Finance Committee to consider HHS nominees: The Senate Finance Committee will hold an executive session on March 1 to consider the nominations of Robert Gordon, who is nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary for HHS; January Contreras, who is nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary for Family Support at HHS; and Rebecca Jones Gaston, who is nominated to serve as the Commissioner on Children, Youth, and Families at HHS. Gordon is a senior counselor at the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities and senior advisor for Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Gordon served as an acting assistant secretary at USED, and as acting deputy director and executive associate director at the Office of Management & Budget (OMB). During the Obama-Biden Administration, Contreras served as Ombudsman for Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and as a designee to the White House Council on Women and Girls. Prior to her nomination, Gaston served as the Child Welfare Director for the State of Oregon’s Department of Human Services. If the nominees are approved by the Senate Finance Committee, they will advance to the full Senate for consideration.
March 1, 2022
U.S. Supreme Court:
Supreme Court considers states request to defend Trump-era “public charge” rule: On February 23, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments focused on the Biden’s Administration’s decision to decline to defend a Trump-era interpretation of the “public charge” regulation that determines one’s immigration status based on an individual’s likelihood to become a public charge or rely on government assistance. Under the Trump 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. The result of the Biden Administration’s decision to not defend the rule being that the rule would be vacated by an Illinois federal court ruling, effectively end two challenges already at the Supreme Court, and would potentially avoid a notice-and-comment process to rescind the rule under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
In response the Biden Administration’s decision, Arizona and twelve other states filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court, which the Court granted. According to Roll Call, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told the justices during oral arguments that “his state and others should be able to intervene to defend the Trump-era rule in a case out of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, since the federal government won’t defend it.” Brnovich went on to argue, “Ultimately, if you allow the actions of the Department of Justice to stand in this case, it sets a dangerous precedent for future administrations to essentially do an end around the APA.” Relatedly, the Biden Administration recently released for comment a proposed, new public charge rule. Brian Fletcher, the principal deputy solicitor general who argued for the government, referenced the proposed rule stating, “This is not a circumvention of notice and comment regulation…DHS is engaged in notice and comment rulemaking that the states will be free to participate in to make a new public charge.” The Supreme Court will issue an opinion in the case by the end of the term at the end of June.
February 23, 2022
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On March 1 at 10:00 am, the Senate Finance Committee will hold an executive session to consider the nominations of Robert Gordon, who is nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary HHS, Rebecca Jones Gaston, who is nominated to serve as the Commissioner on Children, Youth, and Families at HHS, and January Contreras, who is nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary for Family Support at HHS. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
- On March 1 at 10:15 am, the House Education and Labor Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled, “Improving Retirement Security and Access to Mental Health Benefits.” Witnesses have yet to be announced. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
- On March 2 at 10:15 am, the House Education and Labor Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled, “Investing in Economic Mobility: The Important Role of Hispanic Serving Institutions and Other Minority Serving Institutions.” Witnesses have yet to be announced. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
- On March 2 at 2:00 pm, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hold a hearing titled, “COVID Child Care Challenges: Supporting Families and Caregivers.” Witnesses include Lea Austin, Ed.D., Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California; Lynette Fraga, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer, Child Care Aware of America; Gina Forbes, Early Childhood Educator and Parent; and Betsey Stevenson, Ph.D., Professor of Public Policy, Professor of Economics, the University of Michigan. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
- On March 3 and 4, the National Assessment Governing Board will hold its quarterly meeting. More information, including an agenda, can be found here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On March 4 at 2:00 pm, New America will hold an event titled, “Community College Bachelor’s Degrees.” The event will feature discussion on where and how Community College Bachelor’s programs (CCBs) are connecting students to opportunity, including the basics on where these programs are available and equity implications. More information and registration are here.
- On March 1 at 2:00 pm, The Hunt Institute will hold an event titled, “Early Efforts: Creating a Parent Nation.” The event will feature a discussion around the needs of parents and families and will feature a discussion with Dr. Dana Suskind’s book “Parent Nation.” More information and registration are here.
Latest from EducationCounsel:
- We’re hiring! Our team is currently searching for a passionate advocate for education equity to join our team. The Policy Associate role offers significant opportunity for exposure to education policy, policymakers, and other leaders. It will help candidates develop and improve policy and data analysis skills and gain an increased understanding of policymaking at the state, district, and federal level. EducationCounsel is seeking candidates who can work with the policy advisors and attorneys on our team across a wide range of projects in early childhood, K12, and higher education, and provide support in numerous ways. The position will remain open until filled. Learn more here!
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- On February 23, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled, “Child Welfare: HHS Should Facilitate Information Sharing Between States to Help Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Residential Facilities.” The report found that inadequate coordination between local, state, and federal agencies can allow abuse in residential facilities, serving youth in foster care and youth with disabilities, to go undetected or unaddressed. The GAO found that a lack of consistent data-sharing and oversight practices across an array of state and local agencies – in conjunction with the HHS and USED – can pose steep challenges to identifying cases of child abuse, holding residential facilities accountable for abuse, and monitoring youth who move to other states. The report recommended that federal agencies facilitate coordination among states to identify best practices for collecting data and preventing and addressing child maltreatment in residential facilities. The report is here. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On February 22, The Education Trust and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation published a report titled, “Equity in Child Care is Everyone’s Business.” After conducting 12 in-depth interviews with state, regional, and local chambers in seven states, the report ultimately recommends five ways state and local chambers can support working families by supporting female providers of color. Specific recommendations include sharing resources and information with providers about funding opportunities, health insurance, and COVID-19-related health and safety; strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; and offering networking and marketing opportunities for providers and employers. The full report is here.
- On February 24, FutureEd published a new report titled, “Financial Trends in Local Schools’ Covid-Aid Spending.” The report breaks down the COVID-relief spending planned by LEAs, and found that the top priority is academic recovery, which constitutes 28 percent of total spending. Summer learning and afterschool programs make up nearly a quarter of the academic recovery spending, with about $3.5 billion planned, and tutoring and coaching for math and English language skills comprise another 12 percent, or $1.7 billion. The full report is here.
- On February 24, ACT released new survey data titled, “College Preparation Opportunities, the Pandemic, and Student Preparedness: Perspectives From Class of 2021 College-Bound ACT Test-Takers.” The data showed strong links between participating in college preparation activities and applying to college among the class of 2021. According to the survey, though students in the class of 2021, including most college-bound students, said that they participated in college preparation activities, some students’ participation was interrupted by the pandemic. More specifically, nearly half of the class of 2021 reported that at least one of their college preparation activities was canceled due to pandemic restrictions. The full report is here.
- On February 24, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report titled, “Child Care Spending Generates Massive Dividends.” The report argues that major child care investments “pay for themselves” through a range of benefits, including improved child and family health, bolstered educational outcomes, and economic recovery. Moreover, the issue brief examines three key domains where early investments in child care “would have cascading benefits”: 1) family and child health; 2) children’s educational outcomes; and 3) economic growth. The full report is here.
- On February 25, Chiefs for Change released a new tool titled, “System-Level Student Wellbeing Data Review Tool.” The tool aims to help state education departments, state health departments and other state agencies review student wellbeing factors and analyze the mental health services available to kids in their state. More specifically, the tool allows users to compare their data to other states and localities to understand bright spots and opportunities for learning. The tool is here.
A bill to improve transparency relating to the expenditure of Federal emergency relief funds for elementary and secondary schools, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI)