E-Update for the Week of January 11, 2021

E-Update for the Week of January 11, 2021

Highlights:

  • On January 8, USED published a policy memorandum written by acting USED General Counsel Reed Rubinstein addressed to acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kim Richey. The memorandum details the Department’s interpretation and application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020). The Department notes it will largely not apply the Court’s ruling on Title VII discrimination to the Department’s enforcement of Title IX.
  • On January 7, USED Secretary DeVos submitted her resignation to President Donald Trump. The Secretary noted the recent riot on the U.S. Capitol as her main reason for resigning. Mick Zais, the current Deputy Secretary of Education, will become acting USED Secretary following DeVos’s resignation, according to the Department.
  • On December 23, President-elect Joe Biden announced that Miguel Cardona, a former public-school classroom teacher and the current Commissioner of Education for the state of Connecticut, will be nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary. Cardona, the first Latino to serve as Education Commissioner of Connecticut, is a former fourth-grade public school teacher who became the youngest principal in his state.

Presidential and Congressional Transition:

Presidential:

DeVos resigns in wake of Capitol riot, Zais to serve in acting capacity: USED Secretary DeVos submitted her resignation to President Donald Trump. The Secretary noted the recent riot on the U.S. Capitol as her main reason for resigning. “[We] are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business. That behavior was unconscionable for our country. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” wrote Secretary DeVos. The Secretary’s resignation is effective January 8. Mick Zais, the current Deputy Secretary of Education, will become acting USED Secretary following DeVos’s resignation, according to the Department. The Secretary’s full resignation letter is here.

January 7, 2021

Biden taps Merrick Garland to lead DOJ: President-elect Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Merrick Garland to serve as Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Additionally, the president-elect announced his intent to nominate Vanita Gupta, who currently serves as president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, to serve as Associate Attorney General and Kristen Clarke to serve as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. The announcement from the Biden-Harris Transition team is here.

January 7, 2021

Connecticut education commission, Miguel Cardona, tapped to lead USED:  President-elect Joe Biden announced that Miguel Cardona, a former public-school classroom teacher and the current Commissioner of Education for the state of Connecticut, will be nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary. If confirmed, Dr. Cardona will “help carry out the president-elect’s ambitious plan to ensure that every student in the nation can get a high-quality education from pre-K to post-high school, regardless of their zip code, parents’ income, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, or disability,” according to the Biden-Harris Transition team. Cardona, the first Latino to serve as Education Commissioner of Connecticut, is a former fourth-grade public school teacher who became the youngest principal in his state. “In Miguel Cardona, America will have an experienced and dedicated public school teacher leading the way at the Department of Education — ensuring that every student is equipped to thrive in the economy of the future, that every educator has the resources they need to do their jobs with dignity and success, and that every school is on track to reopen safely,” said President-elect Biden. A press release from the Biden-Harris Transition team is here. A press release from Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) is here. A press releases from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A press release from House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here.

December 23, 2020

Rep. Haaland to lead Interior Department, will oversee BIE: President-elect Biden announced his intent to nominate Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Haaland, if confirmed, would be the first Native American to serve as Secretary and the first Cabinet Secretary. Note that the Department of the Interior oversees the Bureau on Indian Education (BIE). The announcement from the Biden-Harris Transition team is here.

December 17, 2020

Congressional:

Pelosi adds five new Democratic members to House Education Committee: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced new Democratic members to the House Education and Labor Committee. The Committee will be joined by newly elected Representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), Kathy Manning (D-NC), and Frank Mrvan (D-IN). The announcement is here.

Relatedly, on January 5, Speaker Pelosi also announced that Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) will be added to the House Education and Labor Committee. The announcement is here.

December 18, 2020 and January 5, 2021

Budget and Appropriations:

Congress adopts FY21 appropriations package, next pandemic relief funding package: Congress passed an end of year package which includes approximately $900 billion in COVID relief funding, a fiscal year (FY) 2021 omnibus (or package of multiple appropriations bills) appropriations bill, which also included various higher education provisions.  Regarding the FY2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations (Labor/HHS) bill, the package provides $73.54 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) in FY2021, which is a $785 million increase over FY2020.  Key increases included within the Labor/HHS bill above FY2020 levels are: a $227 million increase for Title I, a $173 million increase for Special Education Grants to States, a $150 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award for a total of $6,495, an $85 million increase for Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG), and a $135 million increase for Head Start. The package also includes $81.88 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), which is intended to provide relief to states, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions that have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. The fund is split into a $4.05 billion Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, which includes $2.75 billion for non-public schools; $54.3 billion for an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund; and $22.7 billion for Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) fund. Finally, the package included a number of provisions related to higher education, including a simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), restoration of Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals, and a repeal of a requirement limiting how long students can borrow under the subsidized student loan program.

A POLITICO article is here. A press release from the House Appropriations Committee is here. A press release from the Senate Appropriations Committee is here. A press release from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A summary of the bill’s higher education provisions is here. A division-by-division summary, authored by the House Appropriations Committee, of the FY21 appropriations bill is here. A division-by-division summary, authored by the House Appropriations Committee, of the pandemic relief provisions and funding is here. A summary of the authorizing provisions is here.

December 21, 2020

Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):

Administration:

White House:

Trump issues EO to expand Community Service Block Grant for student scholarships: President Trump signed an Executive Order titled, “Expanding Educational Opportunity Through School Choice.” The Order directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow states to use funds available through the Community Services Block Grant to support the provision of emergency learning scholarships to “disadvantaged families” if their child does not have access to in-person learning. The Order notes that the scholarships may be used to pay for tuition and fees for a private or parochial school; pay for costs associated with homeschool, microschool, or learning-pods; pay for special education and related services, including therapies; and pay for tutoring or remedial education. “The prolonged deprivation of in-person learning opportunities has produced undeniably dire consequences for the children of this country…School closures are especially difficult for families with children with special needs… [and] low-income and minority children are also disproportionately affected by school closures,” reads the Executive Order. It is unclear as to when HHS must release funds or when states may be able to repurpose their Community Services Block Grant funds to support the Executive Order. The full order is here. A press release from House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here.

December 28, 2020

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED releases GEER II, ESSER II funds to states, with no application requirement: USED Secretary DeVos announced that the Department has made available the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, as allocated by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021. The fund provides governors with $4 billion to support early childhood education, K-12 education, and higher education. The fund is split into supplemental GEER II awards, which are similar to the GEER awards states received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (EANS) awards, which comprises $2.75 billion of the total fund. Governors should expect that the GEER II funds will be made automatically available and states will not need to reapply; however, since the EANS program is new, governors will need to apply to receive those funds. A press release is here. A letter to governors is here. A state-by-state breakdown of funding is here.

Relatedly, USED Secretary DeVos announced that more than $54 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, allocated by Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which Congress passed at the end of December, is now available. According to the Department, the new funding – more than four times the initial awards to State educational agencies under the CARES Act – is intended to help States and school districts “safely reopen schools, measure and effectively address significant learning loss, and take other actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the students and families who depend on our K-12 schools.” States are not required to submit an additional application to receive their ESSER II awards. The ESSER II funding allocations are part of the $81.9 billion Congress allocated to the Education Stabilization Fund in the latest COVID relief package, and follows the $30 billion allocated by the CARES Act. A press release is here. A letter to state education commissioners is here. A state-by-state breakdown of funding is here.

January 5 & 8, 2021

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Congress:

House:

Chairman Scott calls for additional school funding, maintain ESSA obligations for assessment and accountability: EducationWeek published an interview with House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), during which Chairman Scott discussed a change to federal law dealing with school segregation, whether schools need more COVID-19 relief, and the extent to which schools should be held accountable for their performance during the 2020-21 school year. Key takeaways from the interview, which took place before Congress passed the COVID-19 relief package and President-elect Biden officially announced the nomination of Miguel Cardona to be U.S. Secretary of Education, include Chairman’s Scott’s call to explore the need for extended learning time to address pandemic-related learning losses. Additionally, when asked about assessments and accountability, Chairman Scott said, “If [states] took federal money, they have an obligation under [the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)]. We give them flexibility on how to do it, but no flexibility on the requirement that they do assessments, ascertain the achievement gap, and have a credible plan to do something about it when they see disparities. That’s the law.” The full interview is here.

December 28, 2020

Administration:

White House:

1776 Commission holds first meeting since Trump appointment: The White House 1776 Commission held its first meeting. The Commission was created by President Donald Trump to focus on teaching “American exceptionalism” and to stop the “radical indoctrination of students and to restore patriotic education” to schools in the nation. During the meeting, Commissioners discussed a strategic plan for the Commission and discussed how they feel as if young people have a lack of pride in the country. “As American faces new attempts to redefine the date of our founding our national story is being rewritten and denigrated with irredeemably flawed descriptions,” stated Ben Carson, a member of the Commission. A list of appointed Commissioners is here. A POLITICO article on the meeting is here.

January 5, 2021

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

OCR publishes Title IX memo after Bostock; adopts “binary” definition of sex, ignores Federal Circuit Court interpretation of Bostock: USED published a policy memorandum written by acting USED General Counsel Reed Rubinstein addressed to acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kim Richey. The memorandum details the Department’s interpretation and application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020). The Supreme Court ruled in the case that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. The Department concludes that the Bostock ruling does not influence how the Department interprets or enforces Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs. The Department argues that the Court narrowly ruled on Title VII only and does not compel similar enforcement of Title IX. Further, Title IX, according to the Department, is “very different from Title VII text in many important aspects,” including the exceptions in Title IX related to sex-separate activities and intimate facilities (e.g. bathrooms and locker rooms). The Department goes on to note that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) believes that only certain claims of discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity may be enforceable under Title IX and believes that a school or recipient would “not violate Title IX by, for example… referring to a student using sex-based pronouns that correspond to the student’s biological sex, or refusing to permit a student to participate in program or activity lawfully provided for members of the opposite sex, regardless of transgender status or [sexuality].” As related to how Title IX should be interpreted for allowing transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity, the Department notes that its interpretation of Title IX diverges from two federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The Department believes that the statutory text of Title IX and the ordinary public meaning of “sex” means either male or female and does not include transgender individuals. The full memorandum is here.

January 8, 2021

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):

Trump Justice Department seeks to publish disparate impact rule in final days of Administration: The Post reported that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has submitted a proposed final rule regarding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The rule, according to the Washington Post, seeks to change interpretation of Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, to include only actions that are intentionally discriminatory. Currently, interpretation of Title VI allows for enforcement of the Civil Rights Act to include actions that have a disparate impact on protected groups. It is unclear when the final rule will be published as OMB has public meetings with stakeholders scheduled through January 20, 2021 – the day of President-elect Biden’s Inauguration. The full Washington Post article is here. A list of scheduled OMB meetings is here.

January 6, 2021

Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):

  • On January 14, USED and Institute for Education Sciences (IES) will hold an event titled, “Learning in A Pandemic: The Current State of Learning Loss and Strategies to Support Student Learning Today.” The webinar will review recent research on the state of student learning and explore what resources are available now to address learning loss. More information and registration are here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 11 at 2:15 pm, the Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a webinar titled, “Navigating a 50-50 Senate: A Conversation with Former Senate Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott.” The webinar will take a look at how the former Senators came to a power-sharing agreement when the Senate chamber was last split 50-50 – and how those lessons could be applied now. More information and registration are
  • On January 13 at 12:00 pm, the Brookings Institution will hold an event titled, “A New Path to Education Reform: The Next Chapter on 21st Century Skills.” The webinar will focus on a path to educational reform, beginning with a brief overview of the recent Policy 2020 report titled, “A new path to education reform: Playful learning promotes 21st-century skills in schools and beyond,” by Brookings Fellow Helen Hadani. Then, a panel of experts will share their various perspectives on how to remake education, foster educational equity, and prepare students for a better future. More information and registration are here.
  • On January 13 at 2:30 pm, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will hold an event titled, “The Next Conservative Education Agenda.” The webinar will focus on what’s ahead for education policy with the new administration, and how conservatives both in Washington and at the state level should respond to President-elect Biden’s expansive education agenda. The event will feature EdChoice Director of National Research Michael Q. McShane, former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction and Founder of A for Arizona Lisa Graham Keegan, and former Kentucky Commissioner of Education and Dean of Belmont University’s School of Education Wayne D. Lewis Jr. for a discussion with AEI’s Frederick M. Hess about what principles and policies should frame the conservative education agenda in 2021 and beyond. More information and registration are here.
  • On January 14 at 2:00 pm, the Aspen Institute will hold an event titled, “Post-Secondary Success in a Post-COVID World.” The webinar will focus on how employers, colleges, students, and governments are reassessing the definition of, and access to, post-secondary success pathways. The event will feature Wall Street Journal reporter Douglas Belkin, whose recent article lays out how the pandemic is stressing four-year degree granting institutions and prompting young adults to reconsider the value of a university education, and Ahnna Smith, Executive Director of the Workforce Investment Council of the District of Columbia. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 7, the American Council on Education (ACE) published a report titled, “New COVID-19 Relief Bill: An Estimate of What Individual Institutions May Receive.” The report provides preliminary estimates for how much institutions of higher education (IHEs) will receive as part of the $22.7 billion provided for a Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) fund included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021. Key findings of the estimates include identifying that $20.2 billion is provided for public and private nonprofit institutions and $1.7 billion for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Additionally, ACE notes that these estimates are only preliminary and not officially coordinated with the Department of Education. The report is here.
  • On January 7, Archives of Disease in Childhood published a new report titled, “COVID-19 infections following physical school reopening.” The report summarizes a study of childhood infection rates in Florida and how those rates changed after schools were reopened. Key findings of the report include identifying that the physical reopening of schools was followed by increased COVID-19 infections in school aged children, especially in high schools; that counties with remote reopening did not have increased COVID-19 infections; and notes that the physical reopening of schools may have allowed parents to return to work, which could have increased infections in children. The full report is here.
  • On January 6, the National Head Start Association (NHSA), in partnership with the HeadStarter Network and Bellwether Education Partners, published a report titled, “Broader, Deeper, Fairer: Five Strategies to Radically Expand the Talent Pool in Early Education.” The report explores how early childhood educator preparation could be improved for the educators themselves, as well as for the children and families they serve. Key recommendations in the report include redefining early education credentials by developing a single national repository for all Child Development Associate credential (CDA) training; creating an online “super university” tailor-made for early childhood; and formalizing opportunities to receive credit for on-the-job professional development. The full report is here.
  • On January 4, the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) published a report titled, “FAFSA Completions Bounce in December, Still Down 12.3%.” The report analyzes data from Federal Student Aid presented on the Form Your Future FAFSA Tracker, which is updated weekly throughout the FAFSA cycle and examines FAFSA completion at the national, state, city, district, and school levels. Key findings of the report include identifying that FAFSA completions for the high school class of 2021 have lagged last year by double-digit percentages since October, but that a strong completions gain of 4.5% in December represented an encouraging development for an otherwise disastrous cycle. As of Dec. 25, NCAN estimates that 29.9% of the class of 2021 completed a FAFSA. The top states by percentage completion were Illinois (45.3%), Washington, D.C. (45.2%), New Jersey (41.7%), Tennessee (41.1%), and Kentucky (36.4%). The full report is here.
  • On January 4, the Education Trust published a report titled, “Better Data for Better Early Learning Equity.” The report summarizes a study of data available to monitor access to and quality of early childhood education programs. Key findings of the report include identifying that there is no state that has a data system that allows clear, transparent racial equity measurements by access and quality; that no state publicly reports child demographics and quality at the individual program level; and that states with data systems are those that primarily have strong “horizontal” data systems that monitor children across agencies and systems, not systems that monitor children over time. The full report is here.
  • On December 21, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center published a report titled, “COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility and Progress.” The report analyzed student transfer patterns that are attributable to the effects of COVID-19 and explored how the pandemic could change transfer pathways across higher education over the next two years. Key findings of the report include identifying that Fall 2020 transfer student enrollment fell 8.1 percent over last year and that student mobility fell across all transfer pathways. Additionally, the report found that Black and Hispanic transfer students have been impacted the most, particularly at community colleges, whereas Asian students made gains in the four-year college sector. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R.210

A bill to coordinate Federal research and development efforts focused on STEM education and workforce development in rural areas, including the development and application of new technologies to support and improve rural STEM education, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)

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