E-Update for the Week of January 25, 2021
- On January 21, President Biden released the Administration’s national strategy to address the COVID-19 pandemic and established a COVID-19 Response Office, which will be charged with coordinating the federal response across all agencies and departments.
- On January 20, President Biden signed multiple Executive Orders, some of which have direct implications on education. See our “Executive Orders” section for a full list of actions by the president on his first few days in office.
- On January 18, the Biden-Harris transition team announced the intention to nominate Cindy Marten to serve as USED Deputy Secretary.
Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):
Biden releases national strategy for federal response to the pandemic, outlines plans to support school, child care reopening: President Joe Biden released the Administration’s national strategy to address the COVID-19 pandemic and established a COVID-19 Response Office, which will be charged with coordinating the federal response across all agencies and departments. Within the strategy, the Administration describes seven goals focused on addressing the pandemic, one of which is focused on reopening the majority of K-8 schools and child care centers within the first 100 days of the Biden Administration. To reach the goal, the national strategy outlines actions that the federal government will take, including issuing joint guidance from USED and HHS; gathering and publishing data on school reopening for in-person instruction; and directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse schools for pandemic related Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies. The full national strategy is here.
January 21, 2021
Federal student loan payment pause extended through September: President Biden directed Acting USED Secretary Phil Rosenfelt, to extend the pause on federal student loan payments and collections and to keep the interest rate at 0 percent. The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced that the extension is through “at least” September 30, 2021. The extension announcement is here. A tweet from FSA is here.
January 20, 2021
Chairman Scott seeks information on Florida district sharing student discipline records with law enforcement: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) sent a letter to USED seeking an investigation into reports that a Florida public school district transmitted student records to the local sheriff’s office so that the sheriff’s office could develop a list of students “destined for a life of crime.” In the letter, Chairman Scott notes that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) explicitly prohibits schools from disclosing student records to third parties without parental permission. He also raises “serious concern” about how this “abuse of power disproportionately impacts students of color, who commonly receive harsher punishments than their white classmates for similar offenses.” A press release is here.
January 19, 2021
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED begins to fill out political appointees, releases first slate of staff appointments: USED announced additional senior political appointees for various offices across the Department. Of note, the announcement named Shelia Nix, who will serve as Chief of Staff of the Department; Claudia Chavez, who will serve as White House Liaison; Donna Harris-Aikens, who will serve as Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning within the Office of the Secretary; Ben Miller, who will temporarily serve as Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff; and Rich Williams, who will serve as Chief of Staff within the Office of Postsecondary Education. The full list of appointees named to date is here.
January 21, 2021
San Diego superintendent named as Deputy Secretary: The Biden-Harris transition team announced the intention to nominate Cindy Marten to serve as USED Deputy Secretary. Marten is currently the superintendent of San Diego Unified School District. A POLITICO article is here.
January 18, 2021
USED Inspector General finds issue with fmr. Secretary DeVos’s handling of for-profit colleges: Preliminary findings of a review by USED’s Office of the Inspector General found that a top adviser to former USED Secretary Betsy DeVos exceeded her authority when she helped struggling for-profit colleges access hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding. A summary of the Inspector General’s review describes failures in how the Trump Administration approved and oversaw business deals involving three for-profit college chains. The review is part of a yearslong investigation into the purchase of the schools by Dream Center Educational Holdings, and their subsequent collapse. The preliminary findings criticize the Trump Administration over how it initially approved the deal and failed to impose tighter oversight on the colleges despite the “significance” of the risks to students and taxpayers. Though the review amounts to the first independent examination of the situation, it has yet to be finalized and could still change. A POLITICO article is here. (Note: A subscription to POLITICO Pro is required.)
January 15, 2021
Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):
- On February 2 at 2:00 pm, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will hold an event titled, “Embracing the Black Family in Schools: Cultural Competency, Teacher Diversity, and Family Engagement.” The webinar is part of the African American Education Connector Virtual Roundtable series. Registration is here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On January 25 at 4:00 pm, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will hold an event titled, “How should schools spend COVID-19 aid?” The webinar will feature Marguerite Roza from the Georgetown Edunomics Lab and others as they discuss the recent pandemic relief funding and how such funds can be used to effectively support school reopening, improve remote learning, and help address the impacts of the pandemic. More information and registration are here.
- On January 28 at 1:30 pm, the Education Trust will hold an event titled, “December’s COVID Relief Package and What the New Congress Means for Us.” The webinar will discuss the previously adopted pandemic relief package, how it will impact education, and what are possible priorities and timelines for additional relief. More information and registration are here.
- On January 28 at 3:00 pm, the Hunt Institute will hold an event titled, “Supporting Innovation: Equitable Education for Students with Disabilities.” The webinar will discuss the needs of students with disabilities and the challenges in meeting those needs during disrupted and remote learning. More information and registration are here.
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- On January 19, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled, “Department of Education Should Further Assess College Access Grant Programs.” The report issues several recommendations for USED to help the Department better understand the effectiveness of its TRIO programs, which help disadvantaged students prepare for, enroll in, and graduate from college. Key recommendations include encouraging the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education to develop a plan to assess TRIO’s effectiveness, with a particular focus on improving the reliability of grantee performance data and increasing the consistency in assessing individual TRIO programs. The full report is here.
- On January 19, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published a report titled, “Supporting Working Families and Increasing Access to High-Quality Child Care: Voices From the Field.” The report summarizes feedback ACF heard from a series of roundtable discussions with stakeholder groups, including parents, child care providers, employers, state and local officials, and innovators, who discussed barriers to – and practical solutions for – improving access to child care. Key findings from the report include the tension between the cost to run child care and the price parents can afford; employers’ inconsistent awareness of the connection between child care issues and their business; and the difficulty for state and local governments to blend/braid federal funding across early learning and care programs. The full report is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On January 20, the Center for Reinventing Public Education published a report titled, “Credit Recovery Isn’t Enough: How to Manage a Surge of Failing Course Grades.” The report explores how increasing numbers of students, particularly those who are low-income, English-language learners, or are participating in remote instruction, are receiving failing grades across the country. The report also warns school systems of adopting “quick fixes” to address this issue, such as credit recovery programs, which can “further diminish students’ learning opportunities.” Key recommendations from the report include encouraging districts to think ahead of how to take advantage of summer learning; “flooding” students with additional support, such as intensive tutoring and extended learning time; and avoiding relying too heavily on credit recovery programs, which are increasingly online and often do little to help students learn the content they missed. The full report is here.
A bill to expand loan relief to all Federal student loan borrowers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to increase civics education programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
A bill to provide that for purposes of determining compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in athletics, sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.
Sponsor: Rep. Gregory Steube (R-FL)
- An Executive Order titled, “Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment pursuant to the Decennial Census.” The Executive Order can be found here.
- An Executive Order titled, “Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation.” The Executive Order can be found here.
- An Executive Order titled, “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” The Executive Order can be found here.
- An Executive Order titled, “Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat Covid-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security.” The Executive Order can be found
- An Executive Order titled, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government.” The Executive can be found here.
- An Executive Order titled, “Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).” The Executive Order can be found here.
- An Executive Order titled, “Ensuring Democratic Accountability in Agency Rulemaking.” The Executive Order can be found
- A proclamation to declare January 24 to January 30 as National School Choice Week. The proclamation can be found here.