E-Update for the Week of July 19, 2021
- On July 15, the House Appropriations Committee held a full Committee markup of the fiscal year (FY) 2022 House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) appropriations bill, which includes funding for the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education (USED).
- On July 13, Senate Budget Committee Democrats and the White House officially agreed to a $3.5 trillion topline number for a budget reconciliation package.
- On July 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a full Committee hearing titled, “The Nominations of Catherine Lhamon to Serve as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Elizbeth “Lisa” Brown to Serve as General Counsel, and Roberto Rodriguez to Serve as Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.” The Committee will vote on the nominations this Wednesday.
Biden Administration Transition:
Nominations and Personnel:
HELP begins consideration of next three USED nominations, expected vote on Wednesday: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a full Committee hearing titled, “The Nominations of Catherine Lhamon to Serve as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Elizbeth “Lisa” Brown to Serve as General Counsel, and Roberto Rodriguez to Serve as Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.” Though the committee considered all three nominees for the U.S. Department of Education (USED), the bulk of the hearing was focused on Lhamon’s nomination. Questions largely focused on her potential role in reform of current Title IX regulations, as well as her reliance on informal guidance during her previous tenure at the USED Office for Civil Rights. A recording of the hearing is here.
Relatedly, on July 21, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a full Committee meeting to consider the nominations. It is likely that all three nominations will be advanced; however, Lhamon’s nomination is unlikely to garner any bipartisan support, based on comments expressed during the hearing. Once advanced from the Committee, the Senate will consider each of the nominations, but those votes could be delayed by several competing priorities in the Senate and the upcoming August recess. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
July 13 & 21, 2021
USED Student Aid offices adds new political appointees: The USED Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced multiple new personnel who will report to the chief operating officer. Sartaj Alag will serve as Senior Advisor for Management; Kristen Donoghue will serve as Senior Advisor; Bonnie Latreille will serve as FSA Ombudsman; Colleen McGinnis will serve as Chief of Staff; and Stephanie Richo will serve as Executive Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer. “We have important work ahead of us on behalf of students, parents, and borrowers, and we are pleased to have these experienced, dedicated public servants here at Federal Student Aid,” FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray said. A press release is here.
July 12, 2021
Budget & Appropriations:
House Appropriations Committee advances FY22 Labor/HHS spending bill in party line vote, full House expected to consider the bill next week: The House Appropriations Committee held a full Committee markup of the fiscal year (FY) 2022 House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) appropriations bill, which includes funding for the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education (USED). The Committee advanced the bill on a party-line vote of 33-25. During the markup, there were no amendments offered that would adjust any education programs. Now that the Committee has advanced the bill, the full House will consider the bill, likely the week of July 26, but its path forward in the Senate is unclear. Thus far, the Senate Appropriations Committee has made limited progress on its process to advance the annual appropriations bills. This is largely due to the difficult nature of advancing the spending bills on a bipartisan basis in the Senate, given the slim margins of control that Democrats maintain. Due to the lack of progress in the Senate, it is highly likely that Congress will need to adopt a Continuing Resolution (CR), or short-term spending bill, in order to prevent a government shutdown once current spending expires on September 30. A CR was needed last year, as well. The draft bill language is here, the draft report language is here, and a recording of the markup is here. A press release from the House Appropriations Committee is here.
July 15, 2021
House Majority Leader prepares House for extended work into August recess: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) sent a Dear Colleague letter providing an update on the House’s current legislative work period. In the letter, Majority Leader Hoyer wrote that the full House would consider its minibus appropriations bill, which includes the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) bill during the week of July 26. Majority Leader Hoyer also wrote that the House will consider its version of the budget resolution in the upcoming weeks, and that Members should be prepared to work long hours and potentially into the August recess in order to pass this “critical legislation.” The full letter is here.
July 16, 2021
Senate Democrats move one-step closer to completing reconciliation process with agreement on $3.5 trillion spending limit: Senate Budget Committee Democrats and the White House officially agreed to a $3.5 trillion topline number for a budget reconciliation package. The budget blueprint serves as a framework in which President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats can pass their policy priorities to vastly expand social, education, and climate programs. While the legislation is far from passage, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) set a deadline of Wednesday, July 21 for an agreement on both the budget resolution and the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that is moving on a separate, parallel track. An article by POLITICO is here. A statement by Senator Majority Leader Schumer is here.
July 13, 2021
Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED approves ARP ESSER plans for Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and West Virginia: USED published the approved plans for five additional states and their proposed use of ARP Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funding. With the approval of Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and West Virginia, 12 states have now received both tranches of their ARP ESSER fund allocations. The remaining states will receive their remaining funds once the Department receives and approves their state plan. A press release is here.
July 15, 2021
USED issues guidance for ARP funding to support full-service community schools: USED released guidance to states and districts to inform implementation of ARP ESSER funds to support full-service community schools and related strategies. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document provides information and considerations for expanding existing full-service community schools and implementing the approach in additional schools. According to the Department, “all of the strategies described in the FAQs can be supported by funding under the [ARP], regardless of whether a school is a full-service community school.” The guidance also details specific community supports that can significant close gaps for families that have been historically excluded for education systems and elevates promising strategies as some districts use ARP funds to leverage existing partnerships. A press release is here, and the guidance is here.
July 14, 2021
USED to narrow use of FAFSA verification process for 2021-2022 financial aid award year: USED announced temporary changes to the federal student aid verification process for the 2021-22 award year. In the announcement, the Department said it will narrow its financial aid verification procedures to focus on identity theft and fraud for the upcoming award year, which would “significantly reducing other barriers that have prevented students most in need from accessing critical financial aid funds.” Focusing on identify theft and fraud this aid cycle “ensures we address immediate student needs, continue to protect the integrity of the Federal Pell Grant Program, and reduce barriers to access for underserved students,” according to Richard Cordray, Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid (FSA). A press release is here.
July 13, 2021
Treasury Department sends first round of monthly Child Tax Credit payments: The Treasury Department announced that roughly $15 billion in expanded Child Tax Credit payments were distributed to tens of millions of families with nearly 60 million children. Families will receive the monthly payments by direct deposit or by check, and the amount of money families receive depends on their income and number of children under 18. According to the White House, over 97 percent of families receiving the credit are “working families,” and more than 26 million children from “hard-pressed” families will now receive the full credit. Experts have predicted that this expanded credit will serve as “the main driver” in reducing child poverty by roughly half. A fact sheet is here.
July 15, 2021
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED pulls back on use of anti-racist curriculum in American history and civics grant program: USED Secretary Miguel Cardona published a blog post announcing that the Department will no longer require applicants for the American History and Civics grant programs to pursue “specific curriculum” to be introduced or taught in classrooms, effectively reversing its previously released grant priorities that required applicants to submit proposals that address systemic racism. “This program, however, has not, does not, and will not dictate or recommend specific curriculum be introduced or taught in classrooms,” Secretary Cardona wrote. “Those decisions are – and will continue to be – made at the local level.” While the Department will continue to be interested in applications that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning, applicants are “not required to address these priorities, and earn no additional points and gain no competitive advantage in the grant competition for addressing these priorities.” In the Federal Register notice formally announcing these changes, USED said it made the change because it would not be able to issue the grant priorities in time for the 2021 competition due to the large volume of comments received. Secretary Cardona’s post is here, and the Federal Register notices are here and here.
July 16, 2021
House Education and Labor Committee advance two bills focused on civil rights, school desegregation efforts: The House Education and Labor Committee approved multiple bills that aim to promote educational equity and prevent discrimination across education systems. H.R.730, the “Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (EIEA) of 2021,” restores the right for students and parents to bring Title VI discrimination claims based on the disparate impact of school policies, and H.R.729, the “Strength in Diversity Act,” would create a grant program for districts to develop voluntary programs to promote school diversity. Both bills passed by a vote of 27-19, with no Republicans supporting either bill. A press release from Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), which includes more information on both bills, is here. A press release from Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here.
July 16, 2021
Foxx calls on USED to detail plan for borrowers after PHEAA ends servicing contract: House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to USED Secretary Cardona asking for the Department to disclose its plan for transitioning 8.5 million student loan borrowers after the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) decided to end its relationship with USED earlier this month. In the letter, Ranking Member Foxx said that the loan servicer’s decision reflects “the increasingly complex and challenging arrangement the Department has with its contractors.” She then asked Secretary Cardona to clarify by July 16 the Department’s plan to ensure “a smooth transition” of PHEAA’s operations, including who will be responsible for managing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and TEACH Grant programs. A press release is here.
July 12, 2021
Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):
- On July 21, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a full Committee hearing to consider the nominations of Catherine Lhamon to serve as USED Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights; Lisa Brown to serve as USED General Counsel; and Roberto Rodriguez to serve as USED Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On July 19 at 12:00 pm, New America will hold an event titled,“Designing Universal Early Care and Learning in the United States: Lessons from Quebec.” The event will feature a panel of experts from Canada and the United States who can help provide answers and discuss the way forward for an equitable, high-quality universal child care system here. More information and registration are here.
- On July 19 at 3:00 pm, theWashington Post will hold an event titled, “Opportunity in Crisis: Investing in Educational Equity with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.” The event will feature a conversation with USED Secretary Cardona about what policies can help students, teachers, and families as schools reopen again this fall. More information and registration are here.
- On July 21 at 2:30 pm, the Heritage Foundation will hold an event titled,“Policy Pulse: Keeping Children Safe at School.” The event will focus on why Washington should not be “micromanaging” student discipline policies. More information and registration are here.
- On July 22 at 2:00 pm, the Center for American Progress (CAP) will hold an event titled,“Student Voice in Federal Policymaking.” The event will feature student activists and federal policymakers to discuss the importance of student voice in federal policymaking. More information and registration are here.
Latest From EducationCounsel:
- Adwoa Obeng, the 2021 EducationCounsel summer intern, wrote a blog post detailing her experience as a young Black girl and the disproportionate disciplining she received in middle school. Adwoa shares her experience, discusses the data the illustrates a larger trend within the nation’s schools, and provides a series of recommendations for how school leaders can better support Black girls and other girls of color. Adwoa’s post is here.
- On July 14, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled,“Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2020,” which examines crime occurring in schools and colleges by presenting data on crime at school from the perspectives of students aged 12 to 18, teachers, principals, and the general population from an array of sources. Key findings from the report include identifying that lower percentages of students reported being bullied in 2019 compared to 2009; that though victimization has decreased over time both at and away from school, students experienced more nonfatal crime at school than away from school in 2019; and that between 2009 and 2019, the percentage of students who reported having security cameras in their school increased by 16 percent. The full report is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On July 16, the Alliance for Prison Higher Education published its first of aseries of data reports on higher education for incarcerated students. The reports provide an overview of the landscape of higher education in prison during the 2018-19 academic year based on a survey of higher education in prison program leaders from across the United States. Key findings from the report on admissions and enrollment includes identifying that in the majority of programs surveyed, enrollment to the program guaranteed students admission to the affiliated academic institution; and that the most common criterion for admission was a form of secondary credential. Additionally, key findings from the report on funding include identifying that the most common funding source were from private foundations or philanthropic donations; and that together, state and federal support comprised almost a quarter of support for all programs. The full report on admissions is here, and the full report on funding is here.
- On July 15, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce published a report titled,“Select Bias: Asian Americans, Test Scores, and Holistic Admissions.” The report evaluates the common arguments made by affirmative action critics. Key findings include identifying no strong evidence of discrimination against Asian American applicants in admissions to highly selective colleges; that the Asian American enrollment share at the most selective colleges has remained stable over the past decade; and that Asian American students are more likely to apply to high select colleges, regardless of test scores. The full report is here.
- On July 15, the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) published a report titled,“First Look at ESSER priorities: Districts are Placing Their Bets on What They Know.” The report reviewed initial plans for Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) spending in 100 large and urban districts and analyzed how they are engaging the public in their decisions. Key findings include identifying that nearly two-thirds of districts reviewed do not make clear how they will gather stakeholder input to inform their spending decisions; that 51 percent of districts say they’ll allocate funding to make up for lost instructional time; and that 36 percent of districts say they’ll use funding to invest in facility upgrades. The full report is here.
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve diversity in accelerated student learning programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand and modify employer educational assistance programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the exclusion for educational assistance programs and to allow the exclusion with respect to education-related tools and technology.
Sponsor: Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO)
A bill to codify Executive Order 13950 (relating to combating race and sex stereotyping), and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)