E-Update for January 23, 2023

E-Update for January 23, 2023

The information covered below is from January 13 to 20.

Highlights:

  • On January 18, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, which could have significant implications for two federal laws protecting students with disabilities – the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • On January 16, Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL) was named Chairman of the House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for the largest pool of non-defense government spending in the entire federal budget, including funding for the U.S. Departments of Education (USED).
  • On January 19, House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a series of letters to agency heads across the federal government, including USED and Health and Human Services (HHS), requesting information on the potential impact of capping overall federal spending at the FY2022 level – as proposed by some House Republicans.

Administration:

Biden Administration announces national strategy promoting safety and equity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities: On January 17, the Biden Administration convened federal officials to announce a national strategy to advance equitable opportunities for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities. The strategy includes 32 federal agency plans that aim to create opportunities for AANHPI communities and address anti-Asian hate. The plan from USED lists multiple accomplishments that the Administration has already achieved in supporting AANHPI students, and outlines three goals the Department has set to achieve over the next two years:

  1. Further disaggregate USED data to provide more insights into the experiences and challenges of the AA and NHPI communities.
  2. Increase engagement with the AA and NHPI communities to help understand the unique needs of and ways to support each AA and NHPI subgroup.
  3. Build capacity for AA and NHPI supporting institutions to effectively compete for grants.

Speaking about the 32 agency plans, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai said, “These commitments are bold, ambitious, and … build upon our shared progress to ensure the safety and prosperity of our families, neighborhoods, and communities.” A recording of the event can be found here.

USED announces $63 million to expand community schools and White House releases toolkit on federal resources to support community schools: On January 18, USED announced that it will issue $63 million in new five-year Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) grants. Community schools are designed to address the specific needs of a community by partnering with local non-profits and agencies to serve students and families through high-quality tutoring, health, mental health and nutrition services, and high-quality early learning programs. The funds will be issued through capacity-building, state scaling, and multi-district grants in 42 areas across eight new states and territories – Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. Additionally, the White House published a toolkit that provides insight as to how federal funding and programs can support community schools. The toolkit outlines various formula, competitive, and pandemic-related grant programs that can be incorporated into one or more of the four recommended pillars of community schools: integrated student supports; active family and community engagement; expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities; and collaborative leadership practices. In conjunction with the announcement, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Turner Elementary School in Washington D.C., one of two District of Columbia Public Schools  that was awarded FSCS funds to support community schools. Secretary Cardona shared, “I am thrilled that… the Department is funding the largest cohort of grantees in the history of this grant program. This represents a huge step toward the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of doubling the number of Full-Service Community Schools across the country and raising the bar for our support of children.”

White House:

President Biden highlights Administration’s support for HBCUs in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech: On January 16, President Joe Biden delivered a speech at the National Action Network’s Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast, where he affirmed the Administration’s support for federal investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). President Biden said, “The folks at HBCUs are as competent as anybody else. But…they don’t have the funding because they don’t have the endowments to build the laboratories for these good, new paying jobs. And so, we’ve delivered nearly $6 billion in funding to HBCUs to invest in the next generation of Black leaders.” President Biden also added remarks about other education-related priorities of the Administration, including increased access to high-speed internet and infrastructure investments for electric school buses, “Seventy percent [of which] so far has gone to minority communities.” Regarding the Biden Administration’s federal student loan forgiveness proposal, “Seventy percent of Black college students receive Pell Grants.  For many Black students, the savings will be significant in my debt relief plan, including wiping out their student debt completely.  That’s a real game-changer.”

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

Several colleges challenge the Biden Administration’s “borrower defense” settlement: On January 13, two for-profit education companies – Lincoln Educational Services Corporation and American National University – and Everglades College, a non-profit school – filed notices that they plan to appeal a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upholding the Biden Administration’s plan to discharge student loans for students who claimed they were defrauded these and other schools. In November 2022, a federal judge for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the claims of several for-profit colleges that the USED discharge proposal failed to assess the validity of the borrowers’ claims and granted final approval of the settlement.  In June 2022, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced that the Biden Administration would fully discharge nearly $6 billion in federal student loan debt for about 200,000 borrowers who claim they were defrauded by their college or university – most of them for-profit institutions. The announcement was the result of a proposed settlement after a drawn-out lawsuit over the “borrower defense” law, which provides debt relief to federal student loan borrowers if their college defrauds or misleads them. And it comes after years of litigation first filed against the Trump Administration and will address a significant percentage of the backlog of borrower defense claims. The remaining nearly 70,000 claims will still need to be addressed by the Department of Education, which has promised to resolve all claims before the end of President Biden’s first term.

USED awards $35 million for community-based supports and violence prevention programs: On January 19, USED announced $35 million in awards to institutions of higher education, K-12 school systems, and community-based organizations through the Promise Neighborhoods and Project Prevent grant programs. Promise Neighborhood grants are issued to communities to provide coordinated support services to students from low-income backgrounds. $27 million in both extension and new grants include projects for high-quality early childhood education; high-quality, in-school and out-of-school time opportunities; and support for student transitions at each point in their academic careers. Project Prevent provides grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) impacted by community violence, and $8 million in awards were granted to eleven school systems across nine states. In a visit to Hazard, Kentucky announcing the awards, USED Secretary Cardona shared, “The awards announced today will help raise the bar for supporting our children and young people by investing in better learning conditions in their own communities so they can realize their incredible potential through education.”

USED awards $30 million to improve postsecondary opportunities and outcomes: On January 20, USED announced $30 million in awards to institutions of higher education through five competitive grant programs from​​the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). FIPSE is part of the Higher Education Act (HEA) and awards funds to improve higher education opportunities and outcomes for students from underrepresented communities. The five programs included in the announcement were Postsecondary Student Success Program; Basic Needs for Postsecondary Students Program; Open Textbooks Pilot Program; Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success; and Transitioning Gang-Involved Youth to Higher Education Program. More specifically, the Postsecondary Student Success program was first announced in August 2022 to promote postsecondary completion for students who are both enrolled and are no longer enrolled due to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. $4.5 million in funds were issued to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and community colleges in Florida, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas. The Basic Needs for Postsecondary Students Program supports institutions in addressing students’ needs through food assistance, housing, transportation, health (including access to mental health support), child care, dependent care, and technology. $13 million in Basic Needs grants was awarded to 14 MSIs and community colleges across 13 states and Puerto Rico. In announcing the awards , USED Secretary Miguel Cardona shared, “We cannot be complacent with a higher education system that leaves so many college students from diverse and underserved backgrounds without the supports and resources they need to succeed in school and, ultimately, graduate. The $30 million in grants … will help colleges and universities advance innovative and evidence-based strategies to better support their students.”

Congress:

House:

House Education and Workforce Chairwoman Foxx outlines her education and workforce priorities for the 118th Congress: On January 10, House Education and Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) joined Fox Business to discuss her education and workforce priorities for the committee in the 118th Congress. The Chairwoman named three key areas for her priorities, including preventing changes to student loans proposed by the Biden Administration, protecting parental rights, and restoring the dignity of work. Regarding the Parents Bill of Rights, which was introduced by committee Republicans in the last session of Congress, Chairwoman Foxx said, “will be probably our first hearing [and]… it will be the first bill that will come out of our committee and come to the floor.” During the interview, Chairwoman Foxx went on to point to the REAL Reforms Act, which was also introduced by committee Republicans in the last session of Congress, as the Republican alternative to the Biden Administration’s student loan forgiveness efforts. Finally, Chairwoman Foxx made clear that she believes the committee “must bring back work requirements for any kind of assistance that people are getting.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan renews oversight requests of Biden Administration officials: On January 17, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) re-sent seven oversight inquiries to Biden Administration officials, including USED Secretary Miguel Cardona. The letter to Secretary Cardona renewed letters previously sent in November and October 2022, in which then Ranking Member Jordan sought information regarding “the Biden Administration’s misuse of federal criminal and counterterrorism resources to target concerned parents at school board meetings.” More specifically, the letter requests information about a November 2021 meeting of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), during which Chairman Jordan wrote that USED “colluded” with NSBA and used federal law enforcement “against parents.” Chairman Jordan noted that USED responded to the original request with a “hollow” letter and is seeking further information and correspondence with leadership and staff at the NSBA.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Democrats publish report on impact of religious liberty: On January 16, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a report that found federal advancements of religious freedom had discriminatory impacts on others’ civil rights. The report outlines executive, administrative, and legislative actions that occurred during the Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations that promoted faith-based initiatives. The report wrote that these efforts “have resulted in the advancement of policies that allow faith-based grantees and federal contractors using taxpayer dollars to engage in employment discrimination based on religion and have weakened protections for individuals based on their religious beliefs, practices, or lack thereof; sexual orientation; or gender identity.” The report’s conclusion notes that religious freedom is a “fundamental American value,” and recommends that federal policymakers “must be aware of and proactively respond to actions that advance religious liberty rights at the expense of undermining other fundamental rights.”

Republican Representative Aderholt set to lead the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS): On January 16, Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL) was named Chairman of the House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for the largest pool of non-defense government spending in the entire federal budget, including funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USED). In a statement, Rep. Aderholt emphasized that he will be committed to “renewed oversight and fiscal responsibility.” He went on to say, “The new Republican majority in the House has made a commitment to the American people to get government spending under control…I will be laser focused on looking at areas where we can reign in out-of-control spending, much of it put in place during the pandemic and no longer needed.” In speaking to his priorities regarding federal spending, Rep. Aderholt expressed, “cutting defense spending is, in my opinion, not an option.  Therefore, we must look at areas of our domestic spending that have grown wildly out of control.” He concluded, “I want to use the power of the gavel to make sure that this subcommittee is meeting its commitments to the departments and agencies it funds without breaking the bank built by American taxpayers.”

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member DeLauro requests information on potential impact of reducing funding to fiscal year (FY) 2022 levels: On January 19, House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a series of letters to agency heads across the federal government, including the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Health and Human Services (HHS), requesting information on the potential impact of capping overall federal spending at the FY2022 level. The letters come in response to reports that House Republican leadership is proposing to reduce overall FY2024 spending to FY2022 enacted levels. In the letters, Ranking Member DeLauro specifically notes, “Given these potential outcomes, the American people and Members of Congress deserve to know the real impact this policy would have on the economy, their neighborhoods, and other essential government functions that keep people healthy and safe. For example…How will schools function under these cuts?” Ranking Member DeLauro requests that agencies provide specific examples of the real impact that these cuts would have on the American people by February 3, 2023. The letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona is available here and to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is available here.

Supreme Court:

Supreme Court hears arguments in landmark special education case. On January 18, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, which involves the denial of services to a deaf child. The case has significant implications for challenges related to two federal laws protecting students with disabilities – the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The case was brought by Miguel Perez, a deaf student who claims that the Michigan school district did not provide him with a qualified sign language interpreter, and was denied his high school diploma as a result of inadequate support. Perez argued that the school district violated both the IDEA requirement that students receive a “free appropriate public education” and the ADA prohibition on discrimination against children with disabilities. In June 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the claim because Perez – though he initially reached a settlement with the district – had not fully pursued all administrative proceedings, as required under IDEA. The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the Biden Administration, submitted a brief in support of Perez’s claim. Should the court agree with Perez’s argument, new avenues for relief – including compensatory damages under the ADA – may be available for students with disabilities.

Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On February 7, President Joe Biden will deliver the State of the Union. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy invited President Biden to deliver the State of the Union address on February 7. A copy of the invitation letter is here.
  • On January 24 at 12:00 pm, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona will deliver a speech titled, “Raise the Bar: Lead the World.” The address will highlight the Department’s areas of focus for the year and are planned to build off of last year’s priorities promoting academic excellence and preparing students for global competitiveness. Following the speech, Secretary Cardona will take part in a fireside chat with Executive Director of the National Parent Teacher Association Nathan R. Monell. The speech will be livestreamed from the Department of Education’s Lyndon Baines Johnson building in Washington, D.C., and more information can be found here.
  • On January 26, 2023 at 1:00 pm, USED is hosting a webinar titled, “Building Stronger Connections: Professional Development and Training for All School Staff on Strategies for Safe, Healthy, and Supportive Schools.” The webinar is the fourth and final in a series that USED is hosting to provide information for the Stronger Connections Grant Program, which is funded through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), enacted in June 2022. The BSCA included $1 billion through Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for states to competitively award subgrants to high-need school districts to establish safer and healthier learning environments. This webinar will focus on how schools can select evidence-based practices to ensure healthy learning environments for all students, and highlight the importance of preparing educators to meet the diverse needs of students. Additionally, presenters will include information on professional development opportunities to support education in emergency planning, restorative practices, inclusive and inviting classrooms, and asset-based alternatives to exclusionary discipline. More information on the webinar series is here and registration for this session is here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 23 at 1:30 pm, the Brookings Institution will host a webinar titled, “Understanding and addressing gender, class, and racial disparities in college enrollment.” The webinar will consider barriers facing students growing up in socioeconomically-disadvantaged families or from historically-excluded racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as additional research that is needed to address unequal access to college. Speakers include Richard Reeves, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings; Beth Akers, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI); Sarah Reber, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings; Lindsay Page, Associate professor at Brown University; Sade Bonilla, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania; and Katharine Meyer, Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Center on Education Policy. More information and registration here.
  • On January 23 at 3:00 pm, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), the Children’s Equity Project, and Start Early will host an event titled, “Building Supply, Quality & Equity: Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.” Experts will highlight the successful practices of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, particularly as the partnerships have contributed to pandemic recovery and stabilization. The event will also present a roadmap for states to establish and expand their own EHS-CCPs. More information and registration here.
  • On January 24 at 3:00 pm, Attendance Works and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading will host a webinar titled, “Closing the Gap: Improving Attendance for Our Youngest Learners.” The webinar will explore the challenges causing young children, especially those from economically challenged families, to miss school. Experts will feature strategies that schools, communities and health providers can implement to partner with families to reduce absences and ensure access to crucial early learning experiences. More information and registration here.
  • On January 27 at 11:30 am, the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities is hosting an open meeting. The meeting agenda will include updates from the Board Chairperson, USED’s Office of the Under Secretary, Executive Director of the Initiative, and remarks from Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement. Each of the Board’s subcommittees (Preservation and Growth, Infrastructure, and Finance and Career and Research) will also present, and Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University and/or David Wilson, president of Morgan State University will brief the Board on the Association for HBCU R2s. Finally, the Board will discuss the first report to the President. More information can be found here.
  • On February 2 at 2:00 pm, the Council for a Strong America will host a briefing titled, “The Growing, Annual Cost of the Infant-Toddler Child Care Crisis.” The briefing will discuss a new report of the same name, and a panel will discuss implications of the child care crisis on the modern workforce. The briefing will take place in-person at 2075 Rayburn House Office Building, and more information and registration here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 17, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), in partnership with the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution (CUE), the Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools (NCCS), the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS) at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), released new resources for a project titled, “Community Schools Forward.” To support growing interest in community schools, the resources cover the foundational purpose and goals of community schools, and what it could cost to transform a traditional school into a community school. The resources include a framework for the essential elements of community schools, a theory of action for implementing key actions, indicators to monitor progress as policymakers and practitioners implement and evaluate success, and a costing tool to estimate the cost of transforming a school.
  • On January 19, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) published a new report titled, “Shifting Narratives: Centering Race in Defining and Measuring College Value.” The report evaluates debt relative to earnings following a postsecondary degree, and explicitly centers race in evaluating economic mobility. Findings show that at institutions serving the greatest shares of students of color (aggregated) and Black students, students earn nearly double their family income, after a decade of entering college. Even given those earnings, students of color and Black students earn $8,000 less and owe nearly the same of their original loan amount, compared to their peers that attend institutions with the smallest share of these respective student groups. Citing data from the College Scorecard, the report authors call for increased data collection and disaggregation to increase examinations into postsecondary outcomes and earnings.
  • On January 19, The Trevor Project and Morning Consult published results from a recent survey in a presentation titled, “Issues Impacting LGBTQ Youth.” Findings showed that 71 percent of LGBTQ youth indicated that the recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ young people are impacting their mental health negatively. The results were nearly the same for LGBTQ men and women, at 68 percent and 69 percent, respectively, and significantly higher for transgender and/or non-binary youth, at 86 percent. Additionally, about 30 percent of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing cyberbullying or online harassment last year, with the percentage higher for boys and transgender youth, at 37 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
  • In November, the Urban Institute published a report titled, “Student Loan Debt and Access to Homeownership for Borrowers of Color.” The report considers the relationship between student loan debt and homeownership, and more broadly how less access to generational wealth among young Black adults is a root cause of higher student debt burden. Authors present options for policymakers to mitigate the effects of student loan debt on mortgage lending and homeownership and discuss the impact they have on closing the racial homeownership gap. These options include flexibility in treatment of student loan debt for mortgage lending, merging student loans into mortgage debt, and state programs to subsidize borrowers’ down payments.

Legislation:

H.R. 380
A bill to prohibit abuse of the authority of the Secretary of Education under the HEROES Act in connection with the COVID-19 national emergency declaration.
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Good (R-VA)

H.R. 393
A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to allow individuals who are entitled to Post-9/11 educational assistance to use such assistance to repay Federal student loans.
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL)

H.R. 395
A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to eliminate the time limitation for the use of entitlement by certain veterans under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL)

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