E-Update for the Week of January 10, 2022
- On January 7, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) officially invited President Biden to deliver the State of the Union address on March 1.
- Since the week of December 27, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced the approvals of Mississippi’s, Vermont’s and Florida’s plans detailing each states’ proposed use of ARP ESSER funding. Earlier this year, the Department distributed two-thirds of the ARP ESSER funds to 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- On December 22, USED announced a 90-day extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections through May 1.
Following Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)’s announcement prior to the holiday recess that he opposes the current version of the Build Back Better Act, there have been ongoing questions as to whether a version of the legislation that Senator Manchin can support may still move forward. Senator Manchin’s support for the bill will be necessary for Democrats to pass the package through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority to pass. According to the Washington Post, Senator Manchin had offered a proposal to the White House in the days before his announcement that would have included funding for a universal prekindergarten program for ten years; however, the proposal did not include an extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit. With the Senate returning to Washington, D.C., there did not appear to be movement on reopening discussions on the Build Back Better Act during the week of January 3, with Senator Manchin saying, “There is no negotiation going on at this time,” according to Politico. Despite this, negotiations may be reopened in the coming weeks with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying on January 6 that Democrats running for re-election will be able to talk about, “how we are fighting for, and, hopefully, will have passed efforts to put in place universal pre-K, efforts to cut the cost of childcare, eldercare, and make sure that we’re investing in addressing the climate crisis.” A Washington Post article is here. A Politico article is here. The White House press briefing from January 6 is here.
Week of January 3, 2022
Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED, DOT issue joint guidance to help reduce bus driver shortage: On January 4, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced a joint action with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) aimed to help address the current school bus driver labor shortage. DOT, in coordination with USED, has given states the option of waiving the portion of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test that requires applicants to identify the “under the hood” engine components. According to USED, this move aims to “alleviate some of the labor shortage challenges schools are facing” so that schools can remain open for full-time, in-person learning. A press release is here.
USED releases revised SEA, LEA requirements for ARP Maintenance of Equity provisions: USED published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comments for a proposed requirement related to implementation of the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) new maintenance of equity provision for ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. In order to ensure accountability for the implementation of the local educational agency (LEA)-level maintenance of equity provisions, the Department proposes to require state educational agencies (SEAs) to publish certain LEA-level maintenance of equity data on its website, such as the identity of each LEA that is exempted from the requirements due to enrollment size. Comments on the proposed requirement will be accepted until February 2. The notice can be found here.
January 3, 2022
With approval of Florida plan, USED announces approval of all state ARP spending plans: Since the week of December 27, USED has announced the approvals of Mississippi’s, Vermont’s and Florida’s plans detailing each states’ proposed use of ARP ESSER funding. Earlier this year, the Department distributed two-thirds of the ARP ESSER funds to 50 states and the District of Columbia. To receive the remaining third of the funding, states were required to submit their state plans to the Department for approval. With this most recent approval, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have now received both tranches of their ARP ESSER fund allocations. A list of approved state plans is here. A press release for Mississippi is here, for Vermont is here, and for Florida is here.
December 27, 2021 – January 6, 2022
Biden Administration extends student loan repayment freeze through May 1: USED announced a 90-day extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections through May 1. According to the Department, the move will allow the Administration to “assess the impacts of the Omicron variant on student borrowers and provide additional time for borrowers to plan for the resumption of payments and reduce the risk of delinquency and defaults after restart.” The extension was applauded by Democrats, including House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), who said that the continued student loan relief will “provide a financial lifeline to borrowers during this health crisis.” However, Republicans, including Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), characterized the extension as an “irresponsible” effort by the Administration to “push [its] preferred progressive policies.” A press release from the Department is here. Chairman’s Scott press release is here, and Ranking Member Foxx’s press release is here.
December 22, 2021
Secretary Cardona outlines strategies for addressing teacher, staff shortages: On December 16, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona published a Dear Colleague letter outlining evidence-based short- and long-term strategies for addressing teacher and staff shortages that may be funded through ARP ESSER funds. The letter also elevated examples of how ARP and past relief funding are being implemented to attract and retain teachers and staff. In the letter, Secretary Cardona urged states and districts to act quickly to invest in strategies that aim to alleviate the current shortages. “Let us be clear: ARP provides vital resources to hire additional educators and school staff and to improve compensation to recruit and retain educators and school staff,” Secretary Cardona wrote. “School districts should act with urgency to keep schools open for in-person learning and ensure they do not waste this opportunity to make critical investments.” The full letter is here.
December 16, 2021
Federal judge temporarily halts Biden Administration’s vaccination requirements for Head Start: A federal judge in Louisiana blocked the Biden Administration’s effort to require COVID-19 vaccinations for Head Start teachers. The judge, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, sided with the 24 Republican attorneys general who challenged the policy, which called for all employees, volunteers and contractors within Head Start to be fully vaccinated by the end of January. The preliminary injunction temporarily restricts the Biden Administration from enforcing the policy in the states that challenged the mandate. The decision is here.
January 1, 2022
Treasury Department releases final rule for ARP state, local fiscal funds, highlights strategies for supporting child care, education needs: The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a final rule for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, which was created as a part of the ARP and provides $350 billion in funding to state, local, and Tribal governments to support their response to and recovery from the pandemic. The final rule expands eligible uses for the funding and clarifies that recipients can use funds for certain capital expenditures to respond to public health and economic impacts and making services like childcare, early education, addressing learning loss, and affordable housing development available to all communities impacted by the pandemic. Treasury also broadened eligible water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure projects that can be funded through the SLFRF program. A press release from Treasury is here.
January 6, 2022
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED announces new servicer for public service loan forgiveness program: USED announced that the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA), will take over servicing the loans of borrowers participating in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Program. The borrowers are currently assigned to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which recently announced its plans to end its federal student loan servicing contract. A press release is here.
December 22, 2021
IES requests public comment on new study focused on Title I, Title II implementation: The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comments for a new information collection titled, “Implementation of Title I/II-A Program Initiatives.” The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in 2015, shifted many decisions to states and districts. However, Title I and Title II-A retains certain federal requirements, including for states to set challenging content standards, assess student performance, and identify and support low-performing schools, amongst others. The notice states how states and districts respond to these federal requirements will determine whether ESSA is implemented with fidelity, which, according to the Department, is particularly important in the wake of educational disruptions wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. This package requests clearance for state, district, and principal survey instruments and the collection of these data. Comments will be accepted until January 31. The notice can be found here.
December 30, 2021
USED releases application for Statewide Family Engagement Centers competitive grant program: USED released the 2022 application for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program, which will award $5 million in grants to support organizations that offer technical assistance and training to SEAs and districts in the implementation of “effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities.” Statewide organizations (in partnership with an SEA) are invited to apply for funds to establish an engagement center that will carry out parent education and family engagement in education programs, while providing comprehensive training and technical assistance to states, districts, and schools that support family-school partnerships. A press release is here. The Federal Register notice is here.
December 21, 2021
President invited to deliver first State of the Union on March 1: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) officially invited President Biden to deliver the State of the Union address on March 1. A copy of the letter is here.
January 7, 2022
Foxx, Burr request clarification on USED actions related to public service loan forgiveness program: House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) sent a letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona requesting clarification on the Department’s “statutory basis” for reforming the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program last year. In October 2021, the Department waived existing PSLF requirements to make the program easier to navigate and to extend forgiveness to student loan borrowers who previously did not qualify. Shortly after, Representative Foxx and Senator Burr sent a letter requesting more information on the policy shift, as well as a briefing with USED Under Secretary James Kvaal and USED General Counsel Lisa Brown on the matter. The most recent letter is a follow up to the Members’ original oversight request. “When announcing these changes, the Department claimed a liberal reading of a statute to find the executive authority to move forward,” the Members wrote. “In light of this overtly political reading of the statute, we requested the production of various documents to understand the Department’s rationale for its decision and the supposed authority to change unilaterally statutory requirements prescribed by Congress.” A press release is here.
January 6, 2022
House Education Committee Democrats release report on 2021 accomplishments: House Education and Labor Committee Democrats published a “Year in Review” report highlighting the Committee’s accomplishments in 2021. “This report illustrates the Committee’s tireless work to confront the challenges facing students, workers, families, and the economy,” said Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA). “Over the past year, we have advanced vital legislation – including the historic American Rescue Plan – and conducted rigorous oversight to meet the needs of our constituents. I am grateful to my colleagues on the Committee for their commitment to this important work and I look forward to another productive year ahead.” A press release is here.
December 20, 2021
Upcoming Events (Congress and Administration):
- On January 11 at 9:00 am, the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Council on Underserved Communities will meet. During the meeting, the SBA will provide the council with information on its efforts to support small businesses in underserved communities. The council will also discuss its goals for the coming months. More information is here.
- On January 12 at 10:00 am, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold an executive session to consider multiple nominations, including Amy Loyd to be Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at USED. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
- On January 14, comments on USED’s draft guidance on accountability, “Frequently Asked Questions: Impact of COVID-19 on 2021-2022 Accountability Systems Required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA),” are due. According to the Department, those interested in commenting should email comments to OESE.email@example.com or write to the following address: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202, ATTN: Melissa Siry.
- On February 2 at 12:00 pm, USED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) will hold an event titled, “2022 Advancing Equity in Career-Connected Education Summit.” During the event, which will focus on adult education, career technical education, community colleges, and correctional education, participants will discuss evidence-based strategies and noteworthy practices that advance equity across OCTAE’s program areas. More information and registration are here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On January 11 at 2:00 pm, EducationWeek will hold an event titled, “A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior.” The webinar will cover how to shift from a transactional to a relational approach to supporting students’ social and academic growth. The event will also highlight El Paso Independent School District’s district-wide approach to supporting the whole child. More information and registration are here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On January 6, the Fordham Institute published a report titled, “Student Retention and Third Grade Reading: It’s About the Adults.” The report examines student retention and reading programs, including Mississippi and Florida’s retention policy. The report argues that retention, though controversial, can have a “big impact” on advancing student outcomes due to its influence on adults. By forcing parents and teachers to “focus” on the fact that a child might be held back, retention could spur potential changes in adults’ behaviors that are negatively impacting the student’s academic outcomes. “Retention policy may or may not be effective for the kids who repeat a grade,” the report states. “But it is very effective in getting adults—teachers, administrators, even parents—to focus their attention and change their behavior.” The report is here.
- On January 4, FutureEd published a report titled, “National, Regional Trends in Educators’ Covid-Relief Spending.” The report presents findings from FutureEd’s analysis of ARP ESSER plans from nearly 2,100 school districts and charter school organizations in 48 states. According to the analysis, more than half of the school districts and charter organizations in the sample are planning to spend the funding on hiring or rewarding teachers, academic specialists and guidance counselors. Additionally, more than half of school districts and charter schools plan to spend relief money on summer programs, while nearly a third plan to fund after-school learning opportunities. The full report is here.
- On December 18, the Jain Family Instituted published a report titled, “Homeownership & the Student Debt Crisis.” The report examines how rising student debt burdens in the past decade have contributed to a decline in homeownership for young adults. Key findings include identifying that the homeownership rate for young adults with student debt has declined over the last ten years. Additionally, the report found that individuals with higher amounts of student loan debt are less likely to be homeowners, especially among relatively high-income borrowers. The full report is here.
A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to award grants to establish teacher leader development programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO)