E-Update for the Week of March 23, 2020

E-Update for the Week of March 23, 2020

Highlights:

  • On March 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released updated text to the “Coronavirus Aid, Relieve, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.” The Majority Leader released initial text on March 19 but updated after initial negotiations with Senate Democrats over the weekend. However, Senate Democrats did not endorse the updated bill.
  • On March 18, Senate passed H.R.6201, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” on a 90-8 bipartisan vote. The bill was then signed into law by President Donald Trump. The bill is considered “phase two” of Congress’s expected actions to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • On March 16, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House will not be returning to session on March 23, as was previously scheduled. Instead, the Majority Leader announced that if votes are scheduled, Members will have 24 hours’ notice to return to D.C.

Coronavirus (as related to education issues):

Note that all information related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is up to date as of 7:00 pm on March 22, 2020. Given the fast-moving nature of congressional and Administrative actions to address the growing pandemic, we will do our best to update this information as quickly as possible.

Congress:

Senate:

McConnell releases updated CARES Act, procedural vote fails: On March 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released updated text to the “Coronavirus Aid, Relieve, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.” The Majority Leader released initial text on March 19 but updated after initial negotiations with Senate Democrats over the weekend. However, Senate Democrats did not endorse the updated bill. A procedural vote on Sunday failed to move the bill forward. Changes to the bill, which is now estimated to cost close to $1.6 trillion, include $240 billion in emergency appropriations to federal agencies, $75 billion for hospitals, and additional funding for other impacted transportation agencies such as public transit, airports, and Amtrak. As part of the emergency appropriations, the bill includes $20 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to help states, school districts, and postsecondary institutions to respond to disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. The funds can be used to train staff on emergency response, purchasing supplies to sanitize schools, and planning for long-term closures. Postsecondary institutions would receive funds to provide emergency grants to students. Additionally, the bill would extend the temporary suspension of student loan payments and student loan interest accrual to last for six months, with additional three-month extension at the discretion of the Secretary. Further, the bill would roll back a previous proposal for the Secretary to provide broad waivers for states who would not be able to meet provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Higher Education Act (HEA), and the Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. Instead, the Secretary would only be able to provide waivers for state assessments and accountability measures within ESSA. The bill also provides $3 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and $250 million for Head Start. The revised text is here. A statement from Senate Majority Leader McConnell is here. A Dear Colleague Letter from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) regarding the state of Democrats’ proposal in response to the CARES Act is here.

Relatedly, on March 19, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the Senate Republicans’ proposal for “phase three” of Congress’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” according to a summary by Senate Republicans, would provide two direct payments to taxpayers of up to $1,200 per individual, relief loans for highly impacted industries such as airlines, “rapid relief for small businesses,” and greater support for health care workers. The bill includes a number of higher education provisions including up to six months of student loan payment and interest accrual deferment, expanded flexibility students receiving federal financial aid if they have to postpone instruction or withdraw from an institution, and increased flexibility for federal work-study payments for students. Additionally, the bill includes a provision for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary to issue broad waivers for states if they demonstrate they are unable to meet accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Higher Education Act (HEA), and the Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. Further, the Secretary would be required to report on if additional state waivers would be needed to address provisions under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bill is estimated to cost close to $1 trillion and could be considered by the Senate potentially as early as this weekend. However, the bill has yet to attract support from Senate or House Democrats, which will be necessary if the bill is to pass the House.

The bill text is here. A statement by Senate Majority Leader McConnell is here. A joint statement by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is here. A statement by Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is here. A statement by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) is here. A statement by House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and House Republicans is here.
March 19-22, 2020

Schumer, Murray release proposal to provide $10K in student loan relief: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a bill that would provide student debt relief to federal student loan borrowers who are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would require that USED defer payments on student loans during the national emergency created by the coronavirus and would require that the Department pay down a minimum of $10,000 for all federal student loan borrowers. “Families and student loan borrowers desperately need our help right now and we’re only just at the beginning of the devastating economic impact of this crisis. Our legislation would provide immediate relief for borrowers who are struggling to make payments,” stated Ranking Member Murray. A press release is here.
March 19, 2020

Senate passes, Trump signs phase two coronavirus response bill: Senate passed H.R.6201, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” on a 90-8 bipartisan vote. The bill was then signed into law by President Donald Trump. The bill is considered “phase two” of Congress’s expected actions to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill provides two weeks of paid leave and additional days of paid family and medical leave for a limited number of employees, free testing for the coronavirus, and expanded investments in nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as greater authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide flexibilities for states to implement the School Lunch Program in light of widespread school closures.

The bill is here. A statement by the President is here. A statement by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is here. A statement by Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is here. A statement by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) is here. A statement by Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) is here.
March 18, 2020

Murray, Gillibrand introduce paid leave act: Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Kirsten Gilliibrand (D-NY) released a proposal to provide paid leave to all workers during the coronavirus crisis. The “Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act” (PAID Leave Act) would provide 14 days of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. A press release is here.
March 17, 2020

House:

House extends March recess due to coronavirus pandemic: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House will not be returning to session on March 23, as was previously scheduled. Instead, the Majority Leader announced that if votes are scheduled, Members will have 24 hours’ notice to return to D.C. Further, Majority Leader Hoyer stated that House leadership is exploring how to limit interaction between House Members during votes such as coordinating votes to limit the number of Members voting on the Floor at any one time. Such efforts are being made to allow for proper social distancing practices in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement is here.
March 16, 2020

Chairman Scott releases $3 billion bill to support schools impacted by coronavirus: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) released H.R.6275, the “Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act.” The proposal, which is similar to a proposal announced last week by Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), would provide close to $3 billion in funding for education and preparedness grants, mandatory funding for child care providers to maintain operations, and emergency financial aid for students in postsecondary education who are impacted by the coronavirus. A press release by Chairman Scott is here. A fact sheet is here.
March 16, 2020

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED to issue broad waivers on ESSA assessment, accountability provisions: USED Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the Department would provide broad waivers to states who will not be able to comply with federal testing and accountability requirements. According to the Department, the Secretary has the discretion to approve or disapprove a state’s request to forgo annual testing and the inclusion of such data in annual school accountability systems. The Secretary would provide one-year waivers to states. The waivers will be submitted to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and will only be for assessment and accountability requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A press release is here. The waiver is here.
March 20, 2020

USED to delay student loan collections, interest accrual for two months: USED Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the Department would pause collections on federal student loans for at least two months and would defer interest accrual for 60 days as well. Borrowers would have the option to continue payments during this deferment period or can choose to not pay during the period. “Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing. I commend President Trump for his quick action on this issue, and I hope it provides meaningful help and peace of mind to those in need,” stated Secretary DeVos. A press release is here.
March 20, 2020

OCR provides guidance to districts on obligations under IDEA, even during online learning: The USED Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a webinar to help support schools and districts in understanding their obligations to protect the civil rights of students, even when facing widespread school closures. “OCR’s accessibility webinar is intended to remind school leaders at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels of their legal obligations to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, can access online and virtual learning programs. Students with disabilities must have access to educational technology utilized by schools, and OCR will continue to work to ensure that no student is excluded from utilizing these important tools,” stated Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus. A press release is here. The webinar is here.
March 17, 2020

College accreditors allowed to conduct virtual site visits during campus closures: USED issued guidance to accrediting agencies regarding how they can complete accreditation reviews for institutions during the coronavirus emergency. According to the Department, agencies conduct virtual site visits instead of in-person inspections. Such visits must be “engaged” and “interactive” rather than document reviews or email exchanges. Further, the Department outlines that agencies should follow-up with an in-person visit “within a reasonable period of time.” The guidance is here. (NOTE: A subscription to POLITICO Pro is required.)
March 17, 2020

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

USDA, private partners to deliver meals to students in rural communities: USDA announced a partnership with multiple private companies to deliver 1 million meals to students in rural areas during the coronavirus national emergency. “USDA is working with private sector partners to deliver boxes of food to children in rural America who are affected by school closures. Right now, USDA and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing but are still receiving healthy and nutritious food,” stated USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue. A press release is here. A statement by House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here.
March 17, 2020

Publications (Congressional and Administration):

  • On March 17, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled, “U.S. Public School Students Enrolled in Schools with Violent Incidents and Hates Crimes.” The report summarizes a review of data from the 2007-2008 school year through the 2017-2018 school year. Key findings of the report include identifying that in the 2017-2018 school year, 38.5 million public school students were enrolled in a school where a violent incident occurred; that there was a 5.2 percent decrease in students enrolled in schools in which a violence incident occurred between 2007 and 2017; and that in schools where a sworn law enforcement officer was present, 84 percent of students reported a violent incident while only 70 percent of students reported a violent incident in schools without a law enforcement officer present. The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On March 17, the Education Commission of the States published a report titled, “Governors’ Top Education Priorities in 2020 State of the State Addresses.” The report summarizes a review of state of the state addresses deliver in 2020 and identified trends in education policy related issues. Key findings of the report include identifying that workforce development, CTE, school finance, postsecondary affordability, teacher compensation, early learning, and student health were the most frequently mentioned topics; that at least 34 states emphasized CTE programs; and at least 30 states mentioned school finance reform. The full report is here.

Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):

  • On March 16, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced the House would not be returning to session, as was previously scheduled, on March 23. Additionally, it is unclear if the Senate will go into recess on March 23 or remain in session. The Senate was previously scheduled to be in recess the week of March 16 but remained in session to consider various coronavirus response bills.
  • On either March 24 or April 1, USED Secretary DeVos is expected to testify in front of the House Education and Labor Committee. The Secretary would testify on the Department’s FY2021 budget request.
  • On April 15, states must submit their three-year Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) state plans. States previously submitted their one-year transition plans. More information is here.
  • On April 29, it is expected the House Appropriations Labor/HHS Subcommittee will hold a markup of its FY2021 Labor/HHS appropriations bill.
  • On May 13, it is expected the House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup of the FY2021 House Labor/HHS appropriations bill.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations): 

  • On March 24 at 4:00 pm, New America is holding an online event titled, “Running a University During a Pandemic.” The webinar will feature Torie Bosch of Future Tense and Chris Callahan of Arizona State University as they discuss how colleges and universities are handling the coronavirus pandemic. More information and registration are here.

Legislation:

H.R.6298
A bill to waive and defer certain requirements under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children during certain emergencies, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA)

H.R.6308
A bill to address root causes of homelessness, meet the needs of community members experiencing harms from homelessness, transition communities towards providing housing for all, and ensure full democratic participation and inclusion of persons experiencing homelessness, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)

S.3543
A bill to amend the public service loan forgiveness program under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to waive the requirement that a borrower make a monthly payment during a month for which there is a qualifying emergency in the State in which the borrower is employed.
Sponsor: Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

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