E-Update for the Week of May 2, 2022

E-Update for the Week of May 2, 2022

Highlights:

  • On April 21, the Office of Head Start, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced that it will expand eligibility criteria for Head Start Programs to include children who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • On April 27, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) hosted an American Rescue Plan (ARP) Recovery Summit, in partnership with the National Public Education Support Fund (NPESF), titled, “From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students.”
  • On April 28, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing with USED Secretary Miguel Cardona to examine the President’s budget request for USED in fiscal year (FY) 2023.

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED expands Second Chance Pell pilot and actions to help incarcerated individuals with defaulted loans: On April 26, USED announced that it had invited 73 colleges and universities to participate in the Second Chance Pell Pilot program, an initiative that allows incarcerated students to access Federal Pell Grants to pay for their college education. This expansion of the program, which began under the Obama Administration in 2015, will bring the total number of participating schools to 200. The Department also announced that it will return incarcerated individuals with defaulted student loans to repayment in good standing and allow them to access programs like the Second Chance Pell Experiment. The Department will also allow incarcerated individuals to consolidate their loans to help them exit default in the long term. According to the Department, prospective incarcerated students looking to enroll in Second Chance Pell were twice as likely to be turned away because of their defaulted loans. “The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new pathways out of default are critical steps for incarcerated individuals to be able to access educational opportunities that will provide second chances to build a future,” USED Secretary Cardona said in a statement.
April 26, 2022

USED opens applications for tiered Education, Innovation and Research (EIR) grants: On April 27, USED published a series of notices inviting applications (NIAs) for the EIR program, including for expansion grants, mid-phase grants, and early-phase grants. The EIR program provides funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students and to rigorously evaluate such innovations. The central design element of the EIR program is its multi-tier structure that links the amount of funding an applicant may receive to the quality of the evidence supporting the efficacy of the proposed project. Each tiered grant has a separate competition with differing absolute and competitive preference priorities, which are detailed in each NIA. Applications for the expansion grants and mid-phase grants are due on June 21, while applications for early-phase grants are due July 21.
April 27, 2022

USED holds American Rescue Plan (ARP) Recovery summit: On April 27, USED hosted an ARP Recovery Summit, in partnership with the National Public Education Support Fund (NPESF), titled, “From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students.” During the summit, the Department highlighted how districts have invested ARP dollars to support students’ academic and social-emotional recovery from the pandemic, as well as to address educator shortages. In his opening remarks, USED Secretary Cardona highlighted initiatives from the field aimed at widening the impact of the ARP, including a new camp-school partnership launched by the American Camp Association and National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to create more summer learning programs for low-income students, and other efforts around expanding mental health supports for students and addressing the current educator shortage. In his remarks, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) emphasized how the ARP’s distribution of funding through the Title I-A formula ensured the “greatest resources went to communities with the greatest needs.” Additionally, Gene Sperling, White House ARP Coordinator and advisor to President Biden, underscored how ARP investments have provided districts with funding to address both immediate recovery needs and longer-term impacts of the pandemic.

Coinciding with summit, the Department announced that it will invest $160 million in EIR grant funding to invest in projects that develop, implement, replicate, and scale up strategies to support learning recovery and student well-being related to the impact of the pandemic, including initiatives that address accelerated learning. Additionally, Dr. Frank Gettridge, President of NPESF, elevated new and existing philanthropic investments to leverage implementation of ARP funding, including a $17 million investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for high-impact tutoring, and $14.4 million in grants from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation throughout 2022 to support afterschool programming. Other philanthropic efforts from the Raikes Foundation, Stuart Foundation, Overdeck Family Foundation, William + Flora Hewlett Foundation and W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation will fund afterschool programs, mental health supports, strategies to address the educator workforce shortage and more.
April 27, 2022

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

Office of Head Start expands eligibility criteria for Head Start programs: On April 21, the Office of Head Start, within HHS, announced that it will expand eligibility criteria for Head Start Programs to include children who qualify for SNAP. The Head Start Act defines eligibility criteria, which includes families with incomes at or below the federal poverty level and families that are eligible for public assistance. The Office of Head Start has the authority to define “public assistance,” and the announcement expands this definition to include SNAP.  According to HHS, the expansion will make it easier for eligible families to enroll in Head Start services by showing proof of SNAP receipt or eligibility, simplifying the process for families and grantees.
April 21, 2022

HHS holds roundtable on mental health of HBCU students: On April 21, HHS partnered with the African American Behavioral Health-Center of Excellence (AABH-COE) at the Morehouse School of Medicine to host a roundtable event on the mental health of students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), attended the roundtable, which was part of an HHS-wide initiative to tackle the nation’s mental health crisis. Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon emphasized the Biden Administration’s commitment to strengthening the emotional wellness of students and highlighted past investments through state block grants to provide more comprehensive mental health and addiction services. Some of the mental health stressors emphasized during the roundtable conversation included an increase in suicide and the lasting impacts of childhood trauma. Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon encouraged continued dialogue of the challenges faced by students and administrators as a significant first step towards recognizing mental health vulnerabilities.
April 21, 2022

U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury):

Treasury releases FAQ on fiscal recovery funds clarifying potential educational uses: On April 27, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released a new guidance document clarifying allowable uses for Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). The FAQ document states that the fiscal recovery funds can pay for the “full salary and benefits of many school and child care staff,” as well as train potential workers to fill in-demand roles in child care and education, including as school bus drivers, school nutrition staff, paraprofessionals, and other staff. Additionally, the guidance reiterates that the funding “may be used [to] address educational disparities in disproportionately impacted communities,” which may include financing improvements or new construction of early learning facilities or schools. Projects to improve school energy efficiency and air ventilation can also be financed with the funds. The guidance states that SLFRF recipients must obligate all funds by December 31, 2024 and spend down the money by December 31, 2026.
April 27, 2022

Congress:

Senate votes to begin a formal conference committee with the House on America Competes Act: On April 28, the Senate voted 67 to 27 on a Motion to Insist on the Senate Amendment to the America Competes Act (H.R. 4521), Agree to the Request for Conference, and Authorize the Chair to Appoint Conferees. The move allows the Senate to formally enter conference negotiations with the House and make conference negotiators official. The vote followed an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to hold floor votes on 28 “Motions to Instruct” conferees prior to formal conference negotiations, including eight motions from Democrats and twenty from Republicans. In announcing the agreement on the Senate floor on April 27, Majority Leader Schumer said, “I return to the floor tonight with a happy announcement on the jobs and competition bill: We have reached an agreement with Republicans that clears the path to entering into a conference with the House…Next Tuesday [May 3] and Wednesday [May 4], we will then hold floor votes on 28 motions to instruct…This will be the most votes on motions to instruct of any bill in decades – a sign of both the immense good will we have shown to our Republican colleagues and the fact that many Members on both sides of the aisle have a stake in seeing this bill finalized.” He continued, “We have a lot of work left to do, but this agreement is a big step forward towards finally enacting the legislation to lower costs, bring manufacturing back to America, and strengthen our supply chains so we can keep our economy strong for decades.” The previously announced lists of conferees include the following: Senate Democrats can be found here, Senate Republicans can be found here, House Democrats can be found here, and House Republicans can be found here. The Conference Committee will work to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills to produce a Bipartisan Innovation Act.
April 27 and 28, 2022

Senate:

Democratic Senators push Cardona to give defaulted borrowers a “fresh start” when loan repayments resume: On April 22, a group of Democratic Senators, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), sent a letter to USED Secretary Cardona requesting that the Department give borrowers with defaulted student loans a “fresh start” before payments resume in September. The proposed move would allow borrowers to reenter repayment in good standing, which has the potential to provide “significant relief to millions of borrowers,” particularly those who have most struggled to repay loans, according to the Senators. “Removing these borrowers from default when student loan payments and collections resume means that millions will not be immediately subject to wage garnishment, tax refund withholding, and aggressive collections practices that threaten to undermine their economic security,” the Senators wrote. “It also makes these borrowers eligible to enroll in Income-Driven Repayment plans.” In addition to Senator Warren, the letter was signed by Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
April 22, 2022

Senate Banking Subcommittee holds hearing on child care as a strategy to fight inflation: On April 26, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Economic Policy Subcommittee held a hearing titled, “Child Care and Other Policy Tools to Combat Bottlenecks and Inflation.” The hearing featured testimony from William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and Chief Economist at AFL-CIO; Melissa Colagrosso, Owner and Director of A Place To Grow Children’s Center; Kathleen Sgamma, President of the Western Energy Alliance; and Brian Riedl, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. During the hearing, Senators explored how investments in early education could help fight inflation. In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chairwoman Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) argued that federal investments to make child care more affordable for families could ensure more parents can re-enter the workforce, which would help address the current labor shortages that contribute to higher inflation. “One of the biggest barriers that is holding back the economy right now is that workers who want to rejoin the workforce…can’t do so if they don’t have child care,” Chairwoman Warren said. “Now some economists are worried that inflation could become a longer-term problem…especially if we don’t get more people into the labor force. But to get people into the workforce, working parents need child care.” Moreover, Chairwoman Warren emphasized that child care providers can’t afford to hire more staff, due to depressed wages, further compounding the issue.  While Subcommittee Ranking Member John Kennedy (R-LA) agreed with Chairwoman Warren that one strategy to reduce inflation is to increase the labor force participation rate and acknowledged that many families are struggling to access affordable, high-quality child care, he rejected a “federal government takeover” of the early education system.
April 26, 2022

House:

House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee holds a hearing to examine the FY2023 USED Budget Request: On April 28, the House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing with USED Secretary Cardona to examine the President’s budget request for USED in FY2023, which proposes $88.327 billion in funding for USED, which is a $11.9 billion or 15.6% increase over the FY2022 level. In her opening statement, Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) highlighted several of the Department’s proposed investments for FY2023, including a $3 billion discretionary increase to Title I (USED is also requesting $16 billion in mandatory funding for Title I); a $2.9 billion increase to Special Education State Grants, a $500 increase to the discretionary Pell Grant maximum award, a $393 million increase for Full-Service Community Schools, and an additional $249 million for HBCUs, Minority-Serving Institutions, and other under resourced institutions, among other funds. Additionally, the Chairwoman used her time to comment on several issues, including noting that, “there are some today who are trying to divide parents and teachers, but by design our public school systems require significant input from local communities and parents.” Chairwoman DeLauro also expressed concerns with broader efforts to ban content that is divisive and the banning of books from public schools and libraries, while noting her support for the Department’s “proposed reasonable measures that will increase accountability and transparency in the charter school program.” In contrast, Labor/HHS Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), along with several Subcommittee Republicans, argued throughout the hearing against “executive overreach on the charter schools policy.” Ranking Member Cole went on to say, “One of the greatest benefits of the charter school movement has been the fact that the schools are locally developed, authorized and operated…And I believe that states, not the U.S. Department of Education should continue to be responsible for what charters they do or do not authorize to operate within their jurisdiction.” Regarding the Department’s FY2023 budget request, Ranking Member Cole expressed concern overall for a “proposed 15% increase for the Department of Education [which] will leave the next generation saddled with the highest national debt our nation has ever seen;” however, he did note his support for increased funding for Special Education, Pell Grants, TRIO, and GEAR UP. On Title I, Ranking Member Cole also expressed support for increases, but questioned “whether simply dumping billions of dollars into the program without careful planning is the best way.”
April 28, 2022

Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On May 3 at 10:00 am, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled, “Connecting Workers and Communities: Preparing and Supporting the Broadband Workforce.” The hearing will feature testimony from Dan Hendricks, Director of the Denver Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Western Colorado Electrical Joint Apprenticeship; Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, Director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution; Brent Gillum, President and CEO of LightStream; and Ron Holcomb, President and CEO or Tipmont REMC/Wintek. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
  • On May 4 at 9:30 am, the Senate Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the FY2023 President’s budget request for HHS with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. More information is available

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On May 3 at 10:00 am, the Brookings Institution will hold an event titled, “Empowering Parents to Support Their Children’s Development: A Conversation About Building a ‘Parent Nation.’” The event will examine how parents can support their children and how policymakers can support parents. More information and registration are here.
  • On May 3 at 3:00 pm, Zero To Three will hold an event to launch its State of Babies Yearbook: 2022. The launch will feature a discussion with Zero To Three Chief Policy Officer Miriam Calderón, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), and families with young children to discuss the report. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On April 26, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education published a report titled, “2021 State of Preschool Yearbook.” The report found that enrollment in state-funded preschool dropped for the first time in 20 years and total state funding for preschool programs declined for the first time since 2014. More specifically, preschool enrollment dropped dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic, with 298,000 fewer children enrolled during the 2020-2021 school year. Additionally, children from low-income families were more likely to have not enrolled their child in preschool in the 2020-2021 school year and in fall 2021. Other key findings from the report include that universal access to pre-K for 4-year-olds “is a reality or within reach” in 15 states and the District of Columbia, and that Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and D.C. were already providing school for at least 70 percent of their 4-year-olds before the pandemic. The full report is here.
  • On April 27, the National Education Association (NEA) released a report titled, “Educator Pay and Student Spending: How Does Your State Rank?” The report, which analyzes educator pay and a range of other spending and demographic information across all 50 states, found that average salaries for public school teachers increased in the 2020-21 school year, when compared with the preceding term. Salaries were also projected to further increase this year. However, the NEA wrote that the average teacher salary had declined by nearly 4 percent during the past decade, after adjusting for inflation. The full report is here.
  • On April 27, the National Council on Teacher Quality released a report titled, “Ensuring Students’ Equitable Access to Qualified and Effective Teachers.” The report analyzed how states responded to a provision in the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) that required states to collect and report on data documenting the equitable distribution of teacher talent amongst schools. The report found few jurisdictions are collecting or publishing complete teacher talent data and attribute this gap to “vague language in the law,” as well as insufficient federal guidance. The full report is here.
  • On April 28, the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) published new analysis of data on Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) As of the end of March, FAFSA applications for the 2022-23 cycle were down 8.9 percent compared with last year. More specifically, FAFSA renewals from currently enrolled college students declined 12.3 percent, and renewals from Pell Grant-eligible students plummeted by 15.6 percent. The full analysis is here.

Legislation:

H.R.7587
A bill to strengthen the partnership between the nonprofit organizations and the Federal Government, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)

H.R.7588
A bill to establish that a State-based education loan program is excluded from certain requirements relating to a preferred lender arrangement.
Sponsor: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

H.R.7603
A bill to amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a publicly available database of bid solicitations for infant formula under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children.
Sponsor: Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA)

H.R.7607
A bill to direct institutions of higher education to improve transparency with respect to the use of personality traits in admissions, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA)

H.R.7610
A bill to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to improve provisions relating to dyslexia, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

H.R.7620
A bill to implement title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 with respect to elementary and secondary schools, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL)

H.R.7627
A bill to address systemic racism through the arts and humanities in the United States.
Sponsor: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

H.Res.1063
A resolution supporting the designation of the week of April 25 through April 29, 2022, as “National Specialized Instructional Support Personnel Appreciation Week.”
Sponsor: Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT)

H.Res.1071
A resolution recognizing the roles and contributions of the teachers of the United States in building and enhancing the civic, cultural, and economic well-being of the United States.
Sponsor: Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)

S.4094
A bill to amend the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 to strike the Secretary’s unilateral authority during a national emergency, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator John Thune (R-SD)

S.4106
A bill to establish an alternative, outcomes-based process for authorizing innovative, high-quality higher education providers to participate in programs under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
Sponsor: Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

S.Res.604
A resolution supporting the designation of the week of April 25 through April 29, 2022, as “National Specialized Instructional Support Personnel Appreciation Week.”
Sponsor: Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

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