E-Update for March 20, 2023
The information covered below is from March 10, 2023, to March 16, 2023.
- On March 14, President Biden issued an executive order addressing gun violence, which includes reporting on implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
- On March 10, the two-year anniversary of passage of the American Rescue Plan, the White House published a statement with the “Top 15 Highlights” of the impact of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, which included $163 billion for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education.
- On March 10, House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Jobs to Compete Act, legislation to expand Pell Grant eligibility to adults in short-term training programs.
President Biden issues executive order on reducing gun violence, requiring U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to report on implementation of Bipartisan Safer Communities Act: On March 14, President Biden issued an executive order on reducing gun violence and increasing community safety. The executive order requires that USED Secretary Miguel Cardona and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, among other cabinet officials, “submit a report to the President within 60 days of the date of this order describing what actions their respective agencies have taken to implement the [Bipartisan Safer Communities] Act, data and analysis regarding the use and early effects of the Act, and additional steps their respective agencies will take to maximize the benefits of the Act.” The order also calls on Secretary Cardona and cabinet officials to expand campaigns that promote safe use of firearms, including safe storage of firearms, effective use of extreme risk protection orders (“red flag” laws), and partnering with law enforcement, health care providers, educators, and other community leaders. President Biden also used the executive order to address the mental health crisis impacting victims of gun violence, requiring that Secretary Cardona work with other cabinet leaders to develop a proposal “on how the Federal Government can better support the recovery, mental health, and other needs of survivors of gun violence, families of victims and survivors of gun violence, first responders to incidents of gun violence, and communities affected by gun violence.” President Biden stated, “I continue to call on the Congress to take additional action to reduce gun violence, including by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, requiring background checks for all gun sales, requiring safe storage of firearms, funding my comprehensive Safer America Plan, and expanding community violence intervention and prevention strategies.”
White House highlights impacts of American Rescue Plan two years after its signing: On March 10, the White House published a statement with the “Top 15 Highlights” of the impact of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, which included $163 billion for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. The statement highlighted the “critical relief to 16,000 school districts and other local education agencies to reopen safely, support academic recovery, and invest in student mental health.” The White House shared that around 60 percent of funds are committed to learning recovery strategies like staffing, tutoring, after-school and summer learning, and 23 percent were invested in COVID protection like personal protective equipment and updating school facilities. In higher education, funds went to an estimated 18 million students to help them stay in school and help cover basic needs during the pandemic, like food, housing, and child care. Additionally, the statement notes that financial assistance was provided to six million community college students and 450,000 students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). An accompanying White House fact sheet included information on pandemic workforce support and recovery, as well as lowering child poverty through the Child Tax Credit. It notes that in 2021, “Child poverty nearly cut in half to its lowest rate ever – 5.2%. Black child poverty cut by 52%, Latino child poverty cut by 43%, Native American child poverty cut by 51%, all around down to record lows.”
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
Office of Federal Student Aid to use “secret shoppers” to identify deceptive or predatory practices for student enrollment: On March 14, USED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced that it will use “secret shoppers” as a tool to monitor postsecondary institutions’ compliance with the laws and regulations governing recruitment, enrollment, financial aid, and other practices. The announcement noted that “secret shoppers will look for misrepresentations regarding the transferability of credits, job placement rates, completion and withdrawal rates, graduates’ future earning potential, career services, the cost of attendance, the amount of federal student aid, and accreditation status, among other practices.” FSA said that it will consider “corrective actions and sanctions” should an institution demonstrate that it is “engaging in deception, substantial misrepresentation, or other predatory recruitment and enrollment practices in violation of the Title IV regulations.” This announcement included two bulletins describing enforcement practices; the first described requirements of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) that protect servicemembers and veterans from misrepresentations, and the second announcing a new tip page inviting sources of potential violations by institutions. Highlighting FSA’s oversight practices, FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray shared, “Our focus is to ensure that students, borrowers, families, and taxpayers are not being preyed upon to make a quick buck.”
USED Secretary Miguel Cardona pens op-ed criticizing book bans and “politics” surrounding diverse curricula: On March 16, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times criticizing book bans and “censorship” of Black history curricula. Secretary Cardona called Republican-led book bans “ironic…the very politicians who claim to promote freedom are banning books and censoring what students can learn.” He continued, “It’s heartbreaking to see politicians trying to prevent students from learning about the history, arts and culture, contributions, and experiences of African Americans — especially when Black history is a vital part of our shared American story.” The op-ed then turned to focus on the actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to work with and respond to parent feedback. Secretary Cardona shared the Department’s efforts to hire high-quality tutors and broaden access to afterschool and summer learning programs, increase teacher pay and hire educators that reflect the diversity of students, and ensure student access to quality mental health care. The op-ed concluded with a commitment to supporting and listening students and families, stating, “While some politicians sow chaos in the classroom, …our Department will continue to engage directly with parents and families about what they want to see for their children’s education and help schools develop best practices to be true partners with parents.”
Office Of Career, Technical, And Adult Education (OCTAE) publishes Dear Colleague letter and fact sheet to describe allowable uses of Perkins funds to support career and technical education (CTE) educators: On March 15, Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, released a Dear Colleague letter and accompanying fact sheet to describe how funds from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 can be used to improve the recruitment and preparation of future CTE educators. The letter acknowledges the challenges that the CTE educator workforce has faced in recent years, in both recruitment and retention. The fact sheet describes ways that states can use funds to strengthen this workforce and has a section with responses to frequently asked questions as to the allowable use of Perkins funds. The FAQ section addresses topics such as supporting developing work-based learning opportunities for high school students, certification or licensing exams, career and academic counseling, and professional development, among others. Assistant Secretary Lloyd shared, “Just as CTE has risen to address other workforce challenges, we too must respond to the workforce shortages that we now see within our own industry.”
USED Secretary Miguel Cardona and Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged more school districts to host international students: On March 13, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona and Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a letter to school district superintendents encouraging them to host international students through the State Department’s Exchange Visitor Secondary School Student Program. The cabinet leaders highlighted the fully funded programs that bring the “best and the brightest” to countries across the world, and called attention to the significant contributions that these students bring to their communities. Additionally, they shared that “American high school exchanges are a fundamental part of U.S. public diplomacy efforts and some of the U.S. government’s earliest grassroots exchanges.” The letter concludes, “To ensure that these programs succeed, we invite as many districts and schools as possible to commit to hosting exchange students.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
HHS announces $25 million to expand primary and mental health services in schools: On March 10, HHS announced the new availability of approximately $25 million to expand primary health care, including mental health services, through school-based funding. The new funds will be made available through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which anticipates funding 70 awards ranging between $250,000 for the existing 3,400 HRSA sites, to $350,000 for new school-based service sites. Current HRSA school-based sites enable children and youth access to health care at or on the grounds of schools in the health center’s service area, and some provide care to other family or community members. A fact sheet outlines the way in which funds can be used, including general primary medical care, mental health, substance use disorder, oral health, vision, and/or enabling services such as health education or transportation. Announcing the expansion to mental health services, HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson shared, “We are using all available levers to expand access to mental health care … We want to ensure that there is no wrong door to young people finding help.” Applications from health centers are due on March 31, 2023.
Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB):
CFPB publishes bulletin warning federal student loan servicers against collecting discharged debt: On March 16, the CFPB released a bulletin to federal student loan servicers to halt collection of debt discharged by bankruptcy courts. The bulletin follows findings by CFPB showing that some loan servicers illegally sent loans to collections after bankruptcy courts had discharged the loans. It writes, “CFPB is directing these servicers to return illegally collected payments to affected consumers and immediately cease these unlawful collection tactics.” The bulletin outlines examples of student loans eligible for bankruptcy discharge, and states that CFPB continues to monitor student loan servicers’ handling of these loans. CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said, “When a court orders the discharge of a loan, lenders and servicers should not treat this as a suggestion. The student loan servicing industry should ensure that their collection practices are compliant with the law.”
Republican leaders, citing a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate, increasingly critical of USED’s proposed changes to the Income-Driven Repayment Program: On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) sent a letter to House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) with cost estimates for proposed changes to the Income-Driven Repayment Program (IDR). According to the CBO, the changes, which USED announced in January 2023, would increase the cost of the federal student loan program by $230 billion over the next ten years. Of this total cost, $76 billion would be for outstanding loans and $154 billion for estimated new loans over that time period. The Department’s proposal would amend the existing Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) program to increase the income limits before a borrower has to make payments, and for borrowers with incomes above those thresholds, the proposed rules would cut monthly payments in half from 10 percent to 5 percent of discretionary income. Chairwoman Foxx, in response to the CBO cost estimate, called the proposal an “illegal abuse of power” and “a backdoor attempt to provide free college by executive fiat.” Chairwoman Foxx and Ranking Member Cassidy have sent a number of letters in the past month to USED Secretary Cardona in strong opposition to the proposed changes to IDR. House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), has applauded the proposal, writing, “By creating quicker pathways to forgiveness and lowering the monthly payments of most borrowers, the proposed rule would make student loan repayment more affordable and manageable for borrowers.”
Senate Appropriations Committee releases subcommittee hearings calendar: On March 16, the Senate Appropriations Committee released tentative dates for subcommittee hearings through March, April, and May. Notably, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will hear from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on March 22 at 2:30pm, and from the U.S. Department of Education on May 11 at 10:00am. The complete calendar can be found here.
Following Republican introduction of the Parents Bill of Rights Act, Congresswoman Bonamici introduces resolution on parent and student rights: On March 10, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), along with 27 House Democrats, introduced the “Bill of Rights for Students and Parents” that “serves as a blueprint for public education rooted in evidence-based practices that support teaching, learning, and family engagement.” Bonamici, who serves as Ranking Member of the Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, said her resolution “serves as a direct contrast to recent proposals that are unproductive, burdensome, and pit parents against educators.” The resolution addresses five areas:
- That all students should receive a well-rounded education;
- The importance of authentic parental involvement;
- That schools should be places where students and educators are supported and feel supported;
- That schools remain free from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on their actual or perceived identity; and
- That all students should be able to receive an education that is historically accurate, reflects the diversity of our nation, and prepares students to think critically.
House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), introduced their Parents Bill of Rights Act on March 1 and advanced their bill through committee on March 8. The full House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill in the coming weeks.
House Education and Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott introduces legislation to make short-term training programs more affordable for adult learners and help businesses recruit highly-qualified candidates: On March 10, House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Jobs to Compete Act, legislation to expand Pell Grant eligibility to adults in short-term training programs. The Pell Grant is awarded to students in undergraduate programs who “display exceptional need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.” In the 2022-23 award year, the maximum federal Pell Grant award is $6,895. Specifically, the bill would:
- Expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality workforce programs between 150 and 600 clock hours;
- Require workforce programs to demonstrate that they prepare their students for a gainful employment, through earnings requirements, including showing that program graduates: (1) earn at least more than a high school graduate in their state; and (2) have an earnings gain of at least 20 percent; and
- Require workforce programs to prepare students for high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand jobs.
Announcing the legislation, Ranking Member Scott expressed the bipartisan agreement to expand access to short-term Pell, commenting to reporters, “We are working with the chair of the committee…I believe we should be able to come to an agreement on short-term Pell.” Education and Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has also shared support for expanding Pell; a spokesperson for Chairwoman Foxx recently shared that “look forward to further discussions on this issue.” Note: a subscription to Politico Pro is required to view the article. A fact sheet on the bill is here and a section-by-section summary is here.
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On March 22 at 10:00 am, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing titled, “The President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Health and Human Services Budget.” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will testify. More information can be found here.
- On March 22 at 2:30 pm, the Senate Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget for the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will testify. More information can be found here.
- On March 23 at 10:00 am, the House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a public witness hearing. Witnesses have yet to be announced. Written testimony to be included as part of the hearing record will be accepted until March 23. More information and instructions for submitting written testimony are here.
- On March 23 at 10:15 am, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development will host a hearing titled, “Breaking the System: Examining the Implications of Biden’s Student Loan Policies for Students and Taxpayers.” The hearing will take place at 2175 Rayburn House Office Building and will be livestreamed on the Committee’s YouTube page. Witnesses have not yet been announced. More information is here.
- On March 28th at 1:00 pm, USED in partnership with Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Overdeck Family Foundation will host the second session in its Family Engagement Learning Series. The series will explore bright spots of strategies implemented across the country and provide resources and evidence-based strategies to support student success. This session will focus on how family engagement can improve school attendance and student engagement with their learning, as chronic absenteeism continues to impact student success. More information and registration here.
- On March 30 from 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm, the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship within the U.S. Department of Labor will conduct an open meeting. The primary purpose of the meeting will be an in-depth focus on non-traditional apprenticeship programs in Tech, Early Childhood Education, and the Care Economy. The discussion will include an early educator apprentice panel, insights on tech apprenticeship site visits, and barriers to expanding apprenticeship in the care economy. More information can be found here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On March 21 from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) will host an event titled, “States Leading: How State Education Agencies are Leveraging the ESSER Set-Aside.” The event aims to illustrate the impact of state American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) set-aside funds and features discussions with state chiefs, local educators and prominent thought leaders. The event will be held in person at the Capitol Hilton and live streamed. More information here.
Publications (Congress & Administration):
- On March 16, the Centers for Disease Controls published a new research brief titled, “Sleep Duration, Mental Health, and Increased Difficulty Doing Schoolwork Among High School Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The study examined the relationship between short sleep duration and poor mental health to provide schools with an additional rationale to adopt policies that lead to improvements in sleep duration, thus adding to a comprehensive approach to support student academic achievement and mental health. Findings showed that most high school students were not sleeping enough during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was correlated with poor mental health. Additionally, students who experienced short sleep duration were more likely to report greater difficulty doing schoolwork during the pandemic than before the pandemic. The report recommends that schools consider including policies and practices known to improve sleep duration within a broader strategy to bolster adolescent mental health and learning.
- In March, the National Center for Education Statistics published new data in the Digest of Education Statistics 2021. The publication presents a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education drawn from both government and private sources. The digest update includes data on the number of schools, students, and teachers in the U.S., as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, technology, and international comparisons. Additionally, it details topics such as educational attainment and outcomes of education, labor force outcomes, elementary and secondary enrollment, and postsecondary success.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- In February, the Brookings Institution and Vanderbilt University released a new report titled, “Uncovering the sources of gender wage gaps among teachers: The role of compensation off the salary schedule.” The study examined teacher salaries to discover empirical evidence of the extent of gender wage gaps among teachings and the sources of those gaps. Using the National Teacher and Principal Survey, data indicated that male teachers have a $700 base pay and $1,500 supplemental compensation advantage over women. Additionally, findings showed that male teachers are both more likely to take on extra duties and receive compensation for those activities than female teachers, and the gap increases in schools with a male principal. The report states that the study’s findings “warrants further policy experimentation” to close gender pay gaps.
- On March 12, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a new report titled, “Associations Between Exposure to School Violence and Weapon-Carrying at School.” Authors studied the associations between exposure to school violence and weapon-carrying on school property among U.S. high school students. Key findings indicated that compared to students who did not experience school violence, weapon-carrying at school was more prevalent among students who were threatened or injured with a weapon at school, and also among students who were involved in a physical fight at school or were bullied at school. The report encouraged increased emphasis on safe and supportive school environments, as well as increased access to programs and services to promote mental health, prevent violence, and deter weapon use.
- In March, EdChoice and Morning Consult released a national polling report titled, “Black Parents And K-12 Education.” Findings showed that Black parents are most likely to say that core academic subjects are extremely important for grades K-8. Additionally, Black parents trust other parents and teachers the most when it comes to decision-making around education. The results also showed that Black parents feel they are more involved in their child’s education as a result of the virtual learning that took place during the pandemic.
Introduced in the House of Representatives:
A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require schools to provide fluid milk substitutes upon request of a student or the parent or guardian of such student, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA)
A bill to require the Secretary of Education to accept certain documentation from the Department of Defense as proof of employment for purposes of the public service loan forgiveness program.
Sponsor: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
A bill to provide grants to States to ensure that all students in the middle grades are taught an academically rigorous curriculum with effective supports so that students complete the middle grades prepared for success in secondary school and postsecondary endeavors, to improve State and local educational agency policies and programs relating to the academic achievement of students in the middle grades, to develop and implement effective middle grades models for struggling students, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
A bill to require a State receiving funds pursuant to title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to implement a State policy to prohibit a school employee from conducting certain social gender transition interventions.
Sponsor: Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
A bill to establish an AmeriCorps Administration to carry out the national and volunteer service programs, to expand participation in such programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. John Larson (D-CT)
A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve nutrition in tribal areas, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM)
A bill to amend section 7014 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to advance toward full Federal funding for impact aid, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA)
A resolution expressing support for developing supportive, inclusive, safe, and responsive public schools that provide all students with a well-rounded education and prepare all students for success in life and for the exercise of their social and economic rights, fostering parental involvement in education in a manner that builds partnerships and trust between parents and educators, and protecting the civil rights of students and families.
Sponsor: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
A resolution expressing support for approximately doubling funding for Federal career and technical education programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)
A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of National Middle Level Education Month.
Sponsor: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
A resolution recognizing the contributions of AmeriCorps members and alumni and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers to the lives of the people of the United States.
Sponsor: Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Introduced in the Senate:
A bill to transfer funds for Energy Efficiency Improvements and Renewable Energy Improvements at Public School Facilities to the Attorney General to award grants to States to promote safety and security in schools.
Sponsor: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
A bill to establish competitive Federal grants that will empower community colleges and minority-serving institutions to become incubators for infant and toddler child care talent, training, and access on their campuses and in their communities, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
A bill to amend section 7014 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to advance toward full Federal funding for impact aid, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)
A resolution expressing support for the designation of the week of March 6 through March 10, 2023, as “National Social and Emotional Learning Week” to recognize the critical role social and emotional learning plays in supporting the academic success and overall well-being of students, educators, and families.
Sponsor: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
A resolution designating the week of February 27 through March 3, 2023, as “Public Schools Week”.
Sponsor: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)