E-Update for the Week of January 24, 2022

E-Update for the Week of January 24, 2022

Highlights:

  • On January 20, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced the release of more COVID-19 relief funding for institutions of higher education, including an additional $198 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding that will primarily support community colleges and rural institutions.
  • On January 19, President Biden held a press conference where he acknowledged that the currently stalled Build Back Better Act may need to be substantially slimmed down and passed in a piecemeal process.
  • On January 18, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans wrote two letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and USED Secretary Miguel Cardona expanding its inquiry into the federal government’s “policing” of school board meetings.

Budget & Appropriations

President Biden says Build Back Better Act could pass in ‘chunks’: In a press conference to mark his first year in office, President Biden acknowledged that the currently stalled Build Back Better Act may need to be substantially slimmed down and passed in a piecemeal process. “I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now and come back and fight for the rest later,” the President said. President Biden also said that some of his top priorities, including the expanded Child Tax Credit, may have to wait for a subsequent legislative push. “There’s two really big components that I feel strongly about that I’m not sure I can get in the package,” he said. “One is the [Child Tax Credit]and the other is help for the cost of community colleges.” However, the President signaled that there may be room for consensus on certain issues, such as college affordability and early education. “The American people…overwhelmingly agree with me on the cost of education,” he said, “they overwhelmingly agree with me on early education… [and] on childcare. And so, we just have to make the case what we’re for and what the other team is not for.” The full transcript from the press conference is here.

President Biden’s comments follow reporting from the Washington Post on January 17 that some centrist and “front-liner” Democrats are pushing party leadership to hold votes on certain components of the Build Back Better Act, in order to enable Members to point to some sort of action while broader package negotiations between the White House and moderate Senators continue. Additionally, the Post reported that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is currently internally exploring which provisions of the Build Back Better Act that they believe President Biden could implement through executive order.  The Caucus plans to issue recommendations on which policies to pursue in the coming weeks. An article from the Washington Post is here.
January 19, 2022

Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):

Administration:

White House:

President Biden applauds federal pandemic response but questions states’ K-12 relief spending: During his press conference, President Biden emphasized that while some school buildings have temporarily shut down, the vast majority of instruction has continued to be in-person. “The bottom line on COVID-19 is that we’re in a better place than we’ve been and have been thus far — clearly better than a year ago,” President Biden said. “We’re not going back to lockdowns. We’re not going back to closing schools. Schools should stay open.” While the President pointed to American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding and his administration’s vaccination initiatives as integral in helping schools remain open, he acknowledged that “not every school district has used [the funding] as well as it should be used.” Additionally, President Biden noted, “I do think the place where I was a little disappointed — I wish we could have written it differently — is when we did the legislation to provide the funding for COVID and the money we provided for the states to be able to deal with keeping schools open. Some of them didn’t do a very good job.  Some are still holding the money.  I don’t have the authority to do anything about that.  I think that’s not particularly competent. There’s things that could and should have been done, that could have moved faster.” The full transcript from the press conference is here. An article from Politico is here (note: a subscription to Politico Pro is required).
January 19, 2021

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED announces additional relief funding for higher education: On January 20, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced the release of more COVID-19 relief funding for institutions of higher education, including an additional $198 million in ARP funding that will primarily support community colleges and “other institutions with the greatest needs,” including rural institutions of higher education that serve a high percentage of low-income students and have experienced enrollment declines since the start of the pandemic. In addition to the funding, the Department also released new guidance on how colleges can use federal funds to meet students’ basic needs, and how to use existing data to connect students to other federal benefits, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The guidance is here. A press release is here.
January 20, 2021

USED publishes fact sheet on actions to reopen schools and support students: USED released a fact sheet highlighting actions the Biden Administration has taken during its first year to “help schools safely reopen and meet students’ needs.”  The fact sheet emphasizes that 95 percent of public schools are currently open for full-time, in-person learning – up from 46 percent at the beginning of the Biden Administration – and credits this shift to investments made through the ARP. “To achieve this goal, the [Department] distributed unprecedented resources to states, districts, and K-12 schools, including funding, guidance, and technical assistance to help educators meet the needs of all students, especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” the fact sheet said. “The Department also distributed unprecedented resources to colleges and universities to help ensure students could access a high-quality education as well as the social, emotional, and mental health supports needed to earn their degrees and thrive.” A press release is here.
January 20, 2021

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED Neg Reg Committee holds first session, adds civil rights seat: A Negotiated Rulemaking Panel convened for the first of three negotiating sessions to consider the Biden Administration’s draft proposals to overhaul a set of higher education policies, including the 90/10 rule; Ability to Benefit; certification procedures for participation in Title IV (student aid); change of ownership and change in control of institutions of higher education (IHEs); financial responsibility for participating IHEs; gainful employment; and standards of administrative capability. On the first day of the panel’s session, members agreed to add a civil rights representative from UnidosUS, but rejected a motion to add an additional seat to represent for-profit colleges enrolling fewer than 450 students, according to Politico. The Negotiated Rulemaking Committee will also meet February 14 to 18 and March 14 to 18. An article from Politico is here (note: a subscription to Politico Pro is required). A Federal Register notice announcing the meetings is here. The full list of committee members is here, and the draft proposals are here.
January 18, 2021

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):

DOJ reaches $8 million settlement with student loan servicer: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had reached a settlement with Conduent Education Services, which owns the loan servicing business ACS Education Services. The agreement resolves DOJ’s allegations that ACS submitted false claims to the federal government by inaccurately reporting borrower information to USED and improperly managing borrower accounts. In a statement, USED Undersecretary James Kvaal said, “Holding loan servicers accountable is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration, so I am pleased that improper conduct at Conduent Education Services got the oversight and investigation it deserved.” A DOJ press release is here.
January 14, 2021

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

CFPB to examine colleges’ in-house lending practices: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it would begin examining the operations of institutional loan programs at both for-profit and non-profit colleges for compliance with federal consumer protection laws. In an update to its exam procedures, the CFPB included a new section on institutional student loans. “As the CFPB begins its supervision, the exam procedures inform industry about practices that CFPB examiners will review, including placing enrollment restrictions, withholding transcripts, improperly accelerating payments, failing to issue refunds, and maintaining improper lending relationships,” the CFPB said in a press release. Additionally, CFPB made clear in its updated examination manual that income-share agreements meet the definition of “private education loans,” meaning they are subject to federal consumer protection laws. A press release is here. An article from Politico is here (note: a subscription to Politico Pro is required).
January 20, 2021

Congress:

Senate:

Judiciary Committee Republicans expand school board meetings inquiry: Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), wrote two letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and USED Secretary Miguel Cardona expanding its inquiry into “the federal government’s policing of school board meetings.” According to the lawmakers, the broadened inquiry seeks more details on the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) request for DOJ’s assistance to address threats to school officials and teachers.  In October 2021, citing a request from NSBA, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed DOJ to meet with state and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies to address threats against school officials and teachers; however, NSBA’s request was later rescinded. In their letters, the Senators allege that recently released emails from NSBA suggest that the association’s initial letter was “prompted by a request from Secretary Cardona.” As a result, the Senators seek more information on “any coordination between and within the Education Department and Justice Department regarding the NSBA letter and other efforts to crack down on dissent among parents at school board meetings.” A press release is here.
January 18, 2021

House:

House Republicans hold roundtable discussion on K-12 education: House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Rep. James Comer (R-KY), Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) held a Republican roundtable discussion on “Children’s Education.” During the meeting, the Members met with selected parents and a high school student to discuss “the flaws [they’ve] seen in our education system,” and laid out the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” proposed by Republicans. “What we have seen exposed over the past two years is a bureaucracy first, students last mentality. It has been plaguing our nation’s schools for too long,” Ranking Member Foxx said. “One thing this pandemic gave many parents was a window into what’s been going on in traditional public schools—and parents aren’t happy.” A recording of the roundtable is here. A press release from Ranking Member Foxx is here.
January 18, 2021

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 25 at 2:00 pm, the Hunt Institute will hold an event titled, “Race & Education: Using Libraries to Affirm Racial Identity and Advance Equity.” The event will feature a discussion about how libraries can and have served as a force for racial equity in schools and communities. More information and registration are here.
  • On January 25 at 5:00 pm, the D.C. Out-of-School Time Coalition, the D.C. Girls’ Coalition, and the Latin American Youth Center will hold an event titled, “The Role of Youth Development in Crime Prevention.” Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine will speak. More information and registration are here.
  • On January 26 at 10:00 am, the Learner-Centered Collaborative will hold an event titled, “Fireside Chat: Evolving Education and Leading the Way Toward a Learner-Centered Paradigm.” The webinar will feature a conversation with Jean-Claude Brizard and the Learner-Centered Collaborative’s leaders, Devin Vodicka and Katie Martin, on why they believe learner-centered education is “more important and tangible than ever before.” More information and registration are here.
  • On January 26 to 28, MENTOR will hold an in-person “National Mentoring Summit.” The event will convene individuals who represent the mentoring movement, including practitioners, researchers, philanthropic investors, youth leaders, government and civic leaders, and MENTOR Affiliates. More information and registration are here.
  • On January 27 at 2:00 pm, the Hunt Institute and the National Center for Teacher Residencies will hold an event titled, “The Teacher Residency Return on Investment: A Pathway that Prepares Effective and Diverse Teachers Who Stay.” The webinar will feature a conversation around how teacher residency programs prepare and retain effective and diverse teachers. More information and registration are here.
  • On January 28 at 12:00 pm, CASEL will hold an event titled, “The State of Social and Emotional Learning in 2022: A Conversation with Dr. Aaliyah A. Samuel, CASEL’s New President & CEO.” The event will feature a conversation with Dr. Samuel on her vision for the future and the state of social and emotional learning. More information and registration are here.
  • On January 28 at 12:00 pm, the Education Redesign Lab will hold a webinar titled, “Strategies for Supporting Students During the Latest Covid Surge.” The event will explore place-based approaches to address learning loss and improve students’ social, emotional, and academic health. More information and registration are here.

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Publications (Congressional and Administration):

  • On January 19, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released a report detailing findings from a review of the research on Growth Mindset Interventions. The interventions aim to improve college persistence and academic achievement by encouraging students to view intelligence as a “malleable” characteristic that grows with effort and to view academic challenges as temporary setbacks that they can overcome. The report found that the interventions typically occurred once during the student’s first semester, were delivered to students individually or in groups through online modules or in classroom settings, and lasted about 30 minutes. The full report is here.
  • On January 19, NCES’ WWC released a report detailing findings from a review of the research on Social Belonging Interventions. The interventions aim to reduce the impacts of negative stereotypes that may burden students in underrepresented groups and affect their persistence in college. The report found that the interventions typically occurred once prior to or soon after the start of a student’s first year of college enrollment, were delivered to students individually or in groups through online modules or in classroom settings, and lasted less than an hour. The full report is here.
  • On January 19, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled, “School Districts in Socially Vulnerable Communities Faced Heightened Challenges after Recent Natural Disasters.” In the report, the GAO found that most school districts that received key federal disaster recovery grants following 2017-2019 presidentially-declared major disasters had elevated proportions of students from certain socially vulnerable groups. Key findings include identifying that 57 percent of school districts that received federal disaster funds from either Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or USED served a higher-than-average proportion of students from two or more socially-vulnerable groups, compared to 38 percent of all school districts nationwide. The GAO also found that low-income schools can be denied FEMA recovery money because of deferred maintenance problems. The full report is here. A press release from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 19, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) published a report titled, “Toward a More Equitable Future for Postsecondary Access.” The report seeks to reimagine college admission and financial aid through an equity lens, while also recommending a series of actions for admission and financial aid practitioners, educational institutions, and state and federal agencies and policymakers. The report presents specific proposals, including exploring alternatives to the current application process, and re-centering the student evaluation process to focus on a recognition of students’ holistic strengths, skills, and abilities, while setting the ultimate goal of eliminating racial inequity in postsecondary educational access. The full report is here.
  • On January 20, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) published a report titled, “Opening the Promise: The Five Principles of Equitable Policymaking,” which presents insights from IHEP’s Advisory Committee for Equitable Policymaking Processes, a group of more than two dozen experts across the field of higher education. The report lays out an actionable framework to support more inclusive and deliberate policymaking processes at every level of government and within institutions of higher education, from the creation of new policy and amending of existing policy, to determining priorities and setting the course of action for a policymaking body. The full report is here.
  • On January 20, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) published a report titled, “Dual Enrollment: Common Issues Across SREB States.” The report examines dual enrollment programs across the South and offers recommendations on how states and school districts can address common challenges in offering college courses to high school students. Key recommendations for states include developing common definitions that clearly distinguish between dual enrollment as a concept and as a program, as well as defining the goals of dual enrolment and aligning policies with those goals. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R.6413
A bill to prohibit local educational agencies from obligating certain Federal funds when schools are not providing full time in-person instruction.
Sponsor: Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL)

H.R.6424
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve loans, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

H.R.6425
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to increase the maximum Federal Pell Grant amount, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

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