E-Update for the Week of May 26, 2020
- On May 21, USED released an update to its guidance on uses of funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund of CARES Act. The update clarifies that previous guidance on HEER funding uses “lack the force and effect of law” and only “represent [USED’s] current thinking on a topic.”
- On May 20, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos calling for her to rescind guidance on uses of funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide equitable services.
- On May 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released revised guidance on how businesses, child care centers, and schools can reopen safely due to impacts of the coronavirus. The guidance is more detailed than previously released versions and outlines specific steps and benchmarks that child care programs and schools need to meet in order to reopen.
Coronavirus (as related to education issues):
Note that all information related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is up to date as of 4:00 pm on May 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.
Scott, Murray, DeLauro call on DeVos to reverse equitable services guidance: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos calling for her to rescind guidance on uses of funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide equitable services. The Members argue that the Department’s guidance would “dilute emergency education funding that was intended for public schools.” The letter outlines that under federal education law and the CARES Act, school districts are required only to use federal funding to provide equitable services to disadvantaged students attending private schools, not all students attending private schools as indicated by the Department’s guidance. A press release is here. The full letter is here.
May 20, 2020
Murray, DeLauro call on DeVos to reverse decision on CARES Act funding to institutions without significant coronavirus impact: Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos urging her to reverse her decision to provide additional CARES Act funding to institutions who received less than $500,000 from other CARES Act funding streams. The Members write that the intent of the CARES Act set-aside for the Department was to support institutions with “significant unmet needs related to expenses associated with the coronavirus.” Instead, argue the Members, the Department has not determined the impact of COVID-19 on institutions and has “simply topped off” any school that received less than $500,000 in CARES Act funding. A press release is here. The full letter is here.
May 20, 2020
Scott, Murray seeking more information on HHS efforts to provide health insurance to displaced college students: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar requesting the Department take action to support college students who are displaced due to the coronavirus. The Members urge the Department to help students maintain access to health care coverage that is sponsored by their colleges and universities when their institutions are closed. “Informing college students about the full range of available health coverage opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic is not only of paramount importance to ensuring their health and safety, but also the health and safety of the communities in which they reside during this pandemic.” A press release is here. The full letter is here.
May 20, 2020
Alexander disagrees with DeVos equitable services interpretation: POLITICO reported that, during a press call, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) indicated he disagrees with USED’s guidance regarding the uses of funding from the CARES Act to provide equitable services to all students attending private schools. “My sense was that the money should have been distributed in the same way that we distribute Title I money,” stated the Chairman. The POLITICO article is here.
May 21, 2020
Scott wants to know how USED is investigating continued wage garnishment: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos requesting information on how the Department is addressing the continued garnishing of wages of student loan borrowers. The CARES Act requires that wage garnishments cease due to the coronavirus but approximately 12,000 borrowers continue to be subject to wage garnishment. A press release is here. The full letter is here.
May 20, 2020
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED clarifies Higher Education Emergency Relief fund guidance, indicating it lacks ‘force’ of law: USED released an update to its guidance on uses of funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund of CARES Act. The update clarifies that previous guidance on HEER funding uses “lack the force and effect of law” and only “represent [USED’s] current thinking on a topic.” The Department specifically mentions that the guidance related to HEER funding for student emergency grants indicates that only students who are or could be eligible to participate in Title IV programs may receive emergency financial aid grants. The Department indicates that it will “not initiate any enforcement action based solely on these statements because they lack the force and effect of law.” However, the Department also states that the underlying statutory terms in the CARES Act are “legally binding,” as are other applicable statutory terms on eligibility for federal public benefits. The full updates are here.
May 21, 2020
DeVos highlights innovations from across the country in light of COVID pandemic: Education Week reported on a conference call held with USED Secretary Betsy DeVos and various education leaders from across the country. According to the report, Secretary DeVos highlighted some of the efforts that education system leaders and education technology companies have taken to create innovative solutions to the challenges posed by the coronavirus. Approaches that were highlighted on the call include a comprehensive remote learning transition by a school district in Alaska, the transition to virtual parent meetings at Success Academy in New York City, and public-private partnerships between Los Angeles Unified School District and various companies in the region to provide online access and enrichment opportunities for students. The full article is here. (Note: A subscription to Education Week is required.)
May 21, 2020
USED seeking peer reviewers for ‘Rethink’ education grant competition: USED published a call for peer reviewers for the Rethink K-12 Education Models (REM) grant competition. The Department is seeking non-federal, independent, qualified individuals to serve as peer reviewers for the competition. Specifically, the Department is seeking individuals with experience in remote learning; state education administration and curriculum for remote learning; parent involvement to support remote learning; and other grant peer review experience. The full announcement is here.
May 18, 2020
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
CDC releases revised, extended guidance on child care centers, school reopening: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released revised guidance on how businesses, child care centers, and schools can reopen safely due to impacts of the coronavirus. The guidance is more detailed than previously released versions and outlines specific steps and benchmarks that child care programs and schools need to meet in order to reopen. Key information from the guidance indicates that child care centers should initially restrict services to the children of essential workers and only expand further with enhanced social distancing measures; that schools should only open with distancing measures; that face masks should be worn by all staff and by all students over the age of 2-years-old; and that if there has been a positive infection reported by a member of the school community, the school should be closed for 1-2 days for cleaning and disinfection. The full guidance is here.
May 20, 2020
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
Six states receive approval for Perkins plans: USED announced Secretary DeVos has approved six states’ plans for the Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. The Department announced that the Secretary has approved the plans for Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. “The coronavirus pandemic has certainly highlighted the need for all education to be tailored to meet each student’s unique needs, more nimble, and relevant to 21st-century realities. High-quality CTE programs are a critical way to help learners of all ages and get our economy back up and running at full speed,” stated the Secretary. Due to an extension provided by the Department, other states have until June 15 to submit their plans. A press release is here.
May 22, 2020
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- On May 21, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled, “Approaches and Strategies Used in College Campus Surveys on Sexual Violence.” The report summarizes a review of campus climate surveys and has identified strengths and limitations. Key findings of the report include identifying that colleges can use surveys to gather comprehensive information on the incidents of campus sexual violence; surveys can be used to provide colleges information on how well students know procedures for reporting incidents; and surveys can be limited due to the lack of student response and comparability between surveys across campuses is limited due to different tools being used. The full report is here.
- On May 19, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled, “The Condition of Education in the United States.” The report is an annual publication mandated by Congress and summarizes important developments and trends in education. Key findings of the report include identifying that 50.7 million students were enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in 2017 with a projected enrollment of 51.1 million by 2029; that between 2000 and 2017, public charter school enrollment increased from 0.4 million to 3.1 million; that in 2016-2017, public schools spent an average of $12,794 per student, which is 20 percent higher than 2000-2001 when adjusting for inflation; and the overall college enrollment rate for 18-24 year-olds at undergraduate or graduate institutions increased from 35 percent to 41 percent between 2000 and 2018. The full report is here.
- In May 2020, GAO published a report titled, “2020 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Billions in Financial Benefits.” The report summarizes a review of how Congress or federal agencies can improve efficiency and effectiveness. Key actions recommended include USED analyzing data and using it to verify borrowers’ income and family size information on Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans, which could save more than $2 billion. The full report is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On May 22, the Brookings Institute published a report titled, “Schools need flexibility in coronavirus stabilization funds.” The report summarizes how Congress can support schools and districts with increased flexibility in new federal funding. Key findings of the report include recommending that Congress should make it impossible for states and districts to mistake stabilization funds for existing federal program funds so that flexibility is maximized; that federal application processes for states should be straightforward and streamlined; and that Congress should ensure that funds intended for targeted programs are used for the intended purpose, especially if state and local governments cut taxes and reduce revenue. The full report is here.
Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):
- On May 27 at 12:00 pm, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a full Committee hearing titled, “The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color.” The hearing will be held remotely and no witnesses have yet to be announced. More information is here.
- On June 2 at 2:30 pm, the Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a full Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Russell Vought to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Currently, Vought is serving as acting Director. The hearing will be held remotely. More information is here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On May 26 at 11:00 am, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will hold an event titled, “How to educate an American: A book event with Michael J. Petrilli and Chester E. Finn Jr.” The webinar will discuss the authors’ newly published book of the same title and discuss how the coronavirus pandemic creates challenges and opportunities for education reform. More information and registration are here.
- On May 27 at 2:00 pm, the Learning Policy Institute, EducationCounsel, and Education First will hold an event titled, “Beyond Standardized Tests: Using Performance Assessment in College Admissions.” The webinar will focus on performance assessments and how these can create more equitable college admissions criteria, lead to college success, and can support initiatives in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. More information and registration are here.
- On May 27 at 1:00 pm, the Center for American Progress (CAP) will hold an event titled, “Beyond the Talking Points: Charter School Policy and Equity.” The webinar will discuss various issues with charter school policy including enrollment, lottery systems, and operation issues that affect equity in charter schools. More information and registration are here.
- On May 28 at 3:00 pm, the College Board Access & Diversity Collaborative (ADC) will hold an event titled, “Role of Race-Neutral Strategies in Advancing Higher Education Diversity Goals.” The webinar will highlight claims and defenses relevant to these issues as they have been presented in the Harvard (appeal pending) and UNC (trial pending) federal court cases, with cross-references to the ADC’s recently published The Playbook. Key topics will include the features of policies that are considered “race-neutral” under federal law and that may be effective with respect to race- and ethnicity-related diversity aims; and the federal legal imperature of assuring the identification and evaluation of neutral alternatives as part of an ongoing periodic review of enrollment policies that involve the consideration of race. More information and registration are here.
A bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Billie Jean King, in recognition of her contribution to the Nation and her courageous and groundbreaking leadership advancing equal rights for women and the LGBTQ community in athletics, education, and our society.
Sponsor: Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for a percentage of student loan forgiveness for public service employment, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)