E-Update for the Week of May 9, 2022

E-Update for the Week of May 9, 2022

Highlights:

  • On May 4, Politico reported the U.S. Department of Education (USED) is considering issuing guidance that could extend the timeline by which districts must spend American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funding on school construction and infrastructure improvements.
  • On May 5, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) led a bipartisan letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona expressing their concerns about a proposed rule that would adjust how charter schools apply for and spend funding from the Charter School Program (CSP).
  • On May 6, USED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced plans to solicit public comments on possible adjustments to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the landmark disability civil rights law.

Administration:

White House:

President Biden considering $125,000 incoming cap for student debt relief: On May 3, the White House confirmed President Biden is considering limiting any student debt cancellation to borrowers making less than $125,000 a year. Previously, President Biden announced he would soon take executive action to forgive “some” student debt, though he ruled out forgiving $50,000 per borrower, a request many progressive Democrats had been pushing. “The President talked back on the campaign about taking steps, or looking at steps, to help people making less than $125,000 a year,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing. “So that is the frame through which he’s considering making considerations at this point.”  In April 2020, the Biden campaign released a plan to “forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000 with appropriate phase-outs to avoid a cliff.” President Biden has also previously endorsed canceling $10,000 per borrower.
May 3, 2022

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED considering flexibility for American Rescue Plan (ARP) school construction funding: On May 4, Politico reported USED is considering issuing guidance that could extend the timeline by which districts must spend ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding on school construction and infrastructure improvements. Citing supply chain concerns, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, along with other education groups, have advocated since the beginning of this year for added flexibility to spend federal COVID relief aid on school construction. In a bulletin to their members, AASA wrote they are “continuing to press Secretary Cardona to offer districts additional time to spend ARP funding on these projects,” and districts could potentially see USED guidance outlining an extended timeline for liquidating ARP funds later this month.
May 4, 2022

USED Secretary Cardona writes op-ed for Teacher Appreciation Week: On May 5, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona published an op-ed in USA Today commemorating Teacher Appreciation Week by sharing how his teachers helped prepare him for his current role as Secretary of Education. In the op-ed, Secretary Cardona highlighted the Department’s actions to support teachers, including by investing more than $380 million in federal grants on supporting programs that enhance educators’ capacity to serve students. Secretary Cardona also called on state and local governments to leverage ARP funding to “increase educator pay and improve working conditions – with additional supports, quality professional development and more opportunities to elevate teachers’ voices in reimagining education post-pandemic.” “I will always be a teacher, and with me as secretary, the Department of Education will live out our appreciation for teachers with policies that reflect their invaluable contributions to our country,” Cardona wrote.
May 5, 2022

USED announces intent to collect public comment on potential changes to regulations implementing Section 504: On May 6, USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced plans to solicit public comments on possible adjustments to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the landmark disability civil rights law. The announcement coincides with the 45th anniversary of the publication of the regulations implementing Section 504, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public and private programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including schools and postsecondary institutions. According to the Department, OCR will gather public input to help decide how best to improve current regulations to assist America’s students with disabilities. “While the world has undergone enormous changes since 1977, the Department’s Section 504 regulations have remained, with few exceptions, unaltered,” said USED Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon. “As we observe the 45th anniversary of these important regulations this month, it is time to start the process of updating them. Just as in 1977, the voices of people with disabilities must be heard and incorporated as we engage in that work.”
May 6, 2022

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

HHS awards $25 million to expand school-based health services: On May 3, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), awarded nearly $25 million to HRSA-funded health centers to improve and strengthen access to school-based health services. According to HHS, awards will support local partnerships between schools and health centers to provide children and youth “the comprehensive physical and mental health care they need.” The centers will use this funding to reduce disparities and improve access to care by increasing the number of young people receiving health care, including mental health services. Funding will also be used for community and patient outreach, health education, and translation support.
May 3, 2022

Congress:

Ranking Members Foxx and Burr publish op-ed criticizing President Biden’s student loan forgiveness proposal: On April 29, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) published an op-ed in Fox News expressing concern about the Biden Administration’s proposal to cancel student debt, calling the plan “the largest and most regressive transfer of wealth to the upper-class in modern history.” In the op-ed, the Members argue the student loan repayment pause, which served as a “safety net at the height of the pandemic,” is no longer necessary and overwhelmingly benefits high-income earners at the cost of taxpayers. “In fact, the repayment pause – which the White House sees as a shining achievement of its commitment to fairness and equity – provides bachelor’s degree holders a mere ten cents in relief for every dollar provided to doctors,” the Members wrote. “That extra $150 billion in unnecessary national debt makes it that much harder to find funding for COVID therapeutics or larger Pell Grants for low-income students and adds the hidden tax of inflation and higher debt for future generations.”
April 29, 2022

America Competes Act heads to conference after Senate votes: On May 4, the Senate completed the last series of votes needed to go to conference with the House on the bipartisan America Competes Act (H.R. 4521), a bill that aims to improve U.S. competition with China. The vote series on nonbinding motions to instruct, which guide Senators as they enter negotiations with the House on the bill, included a motion related to the College Transparency Act, offered by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA). The motion is intended to instruct conferees to include language in the conference report that would require colleges to collect and submit data on student completion, enrollment, transfer, and persistence to USED and other federal agencies. Motions to instruct are largely nonbinding and are more indicative of Senators’ priorities going into conference. The move, coupled with the formal appointment of conferees, allow conference negotiations to begin on the legislation. 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.
May 4, 2022

Senate:

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee holds hearing on HHS budget: On May 4, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on HHS’ fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget request, during which HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra testified. Though the majority of the hearing focused on health care-related aspects of HHS’ budget, Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) pushed for increased federal investments in early education in her opening statement. “I want to make crystal clear how important it is that we invest in childcare and early education programs and bring down those costs for parents,” she said. “Millions of families across the country are struggling to find or afford childcare, and providers are struggling to keep their doors open.” While Chairwoman Murray applauded the budget’s proposal for increased early education funding, she advocated for “historic,” more sustained investments through budget reconciliation. “As happy as I am to see these boosts for child care in this budget…it’s clear to me that we can’t just tinker at the edges here,” she said.
May 4, 2022

Senators Scott and Feinstein lead bipartisan letter criticizing USED’s proposed charter rule: On May 5, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) led a bipartisan letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona expressing their concerns about a proposed rule that would adjust how charter schools apply for and spend funding from the Charter School Program (CSP). In the letter, the Senators argued the new requirements go beyond the scope of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and “does not prioritize the needs of students and limits high quality choices to certain families.” The letter specifically criticizes USED’s proposal that would require grantees to submit a “community impact analysis” to show there is sufficient demand in a given area, which they say will not account for whether or not students have access to high quality public schools. “We are concerned that these requirements would make it difficult, if not impossible, for new public charter schools start-ups, and for high-performing public charter schools seeking to replicate or expand, to access CSP funding,” the Senators wrote.
May 5, 2022

House:

Chairman Bobby Scott and Secretary Walsh hold roundtable on workforce development programs: On May 2, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Marty Walsh visited Thomas Nelson Community College and The Apprentice School in Virginia to participate in a roundtable with students, higher education professionals, and local business leaders on workforce development programs. During the discussion, Chairman Scott and Secretary Walsh particularly highlighted the role of Registered Apprenticeships as “a proven model to connect workers to good jobs,” and emphasized their shared commitment in investing in workforce development programs to support workers and businesses, particularly as communities recover from the pandemic. Chairman Scott also mentioned his committee’s recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2022 (H.R. 7309), which would reauthorize DOL’s workforce development programs.
May 2, 2022

Ranking Member Foxx issues statement on Facebook’s access to FAFSA data: On May 2, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) issued a statement following a recent report about a tracking feature embedded in the website for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applications that automatically sent students’ data to Facebook. In her statement, Ranking Member Foxx criticized USED and the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) for allowing Facebook “unfettered access to the sensitive information of students and parents.” Furthermore, Ranking Member Foxx claims that kind of “malfeasant…would run rampant” if the College Transparency Act, which was included in the House-passed America Competes Act (H.R.  4521), were to be passed. “This bill would allow the Biden administration to create a data system that will track all students pursuing a postsecondary degree – or graduate – for years into the future without their consent or any ability to opt-out of such a system even if they don’t accept federal aid,” Ranking Member Foxx said. “Blatant government overreach such as this only breeds more incompetence that puts the personal information of students within the crosshairs of bad actors.”
May 2, 2022

Chairman Scott co-hosts webinar on accessing Public Service Loan Forgiveness: On May 5, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) and the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) hosted a webinar on how to access Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). The webinar provided constituents with the resources and information they needed to seek PSLF, which Chairman Scott said the previous Administration “did not faithfully implement.” “The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was not designed to be a puzzle or a contest. It was designed as a tool to recruit talented people into public service and recognize their contribution to our communities,” said Chairman Scott.
May 5, 2022

Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On May 12 and 13, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) will hold its Quarterly Board Meeting. Agenda items include an update from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) activities, and a discussion of proposed approaches to NAEP innovation. More information and registration are here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On May 12 at 10:00 am, the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) will hold an event titled, “College and Career Ready Standards: Are Teachers Implementing Them in the Classroom and Are They Improving Student Learning? Evidence from a National Research Center (C-SAIL).” The webinar will draw on data from a five-year national study of standards to offer comprehensive evidence on whether standards are working, for which students, and how to support better implementation and student learning. More information and registration are here.
  • On May 12 at 2:00 pm, the Hunt Institute will hold an event titled, “Postsecondary Pathways, Attainment for All: Using Disaggregated Data to Close Equity Gaps.” The webinar will discuss a Hunt Institute research brief demonstrating how disaggregated data can be a useful tool for improving educational outcomes for groups of students who otherwise would not be distinguishable in the aggregated data traditionally used in reporting. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Congress & Administration):

  • On May 5, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled, “Education Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Monitoring Colleges’ Arrangements with Online Program Managers.” The report highlights the need for USED to collect more data to ensure online program managers (OPMs) (third-party companies that help colleges run and recruit students for online academic programs) are not violating the Higher Education Act’s ban on abusive recruiting practices. Key findings from the report include that as of July 2021, at least 550 colleges worked with an OPM to support at least 2,900 education programs; that available market research data show the number of new arrangements between colleges and OPMs is growing; and that about 90 percent of the colleges with OPM arrangements are public or nonprofit colleges. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate HELP Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) is here. The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On May 2, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) published a report titled, “Lighting the Path to Remove Systemic Barriers in Higher Education and Award Earned Postsecondary Credentials through IHEP’s Degrees When Due Initiative.” The report shares key findings from Degrees When Due (DWD), a nationwide completion initiative to reengage students and build institutional capacity. Over the course of more than three years, IHEP built institutional capacity at nearly 200 institutions to award degrees to students who have earned them, reengage former students who have stopped out, and equip students with credentials that help them realize their postsecondary goals. A key finding from the report includes that nearly one in ten students who received a degree audit through DWD had already met the requirements for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree but had not yet been conferred. The report outlines barriers to reenrollment, persistence, and completion; shares strategies to best support returning students; and offers recommendations for policymakers at every level to promote equitable degree completion. The full report is here.
  • On May 3, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center published a report titled, “Transfer, Mobility, and Progress: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Update on Transfer Students.” The report details the economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on transfer students, and found a 7 percent drop in transfer enrollment over the last year. The report reveals transfer enrollment declines at all institution types, particularly among Black and Latinx students, and declines at all four-year colleges, regardless of selectivity level. The full report is here.
  • On May 4, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report titled, “Defense Research Capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Other Minority Institutions: Transitioning from Good Intentions to Measurable Outcomes.” The report calls for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to provide “a strategic commitment and targeted long-term investments” to help HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) compete for and conduct defense research. The report found HBCUs and MSIs receive a disproportionately smaller share of Defense Department research-and-development funding compared with other schools. The full report is here.
  • On May 5, CALDER, in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR), and NWEA, released a new report on the Road to COVID Recovery: Actionable Research on District Strategies for Student Advancement. The working paper, titled, “A Comprehensive Picture of Achievement Across the COVID-19 Pandemic Years: Examining Variation in Test Levels and Growth Across Districts, Schools, Grades, and Students,” used NWEA data to examine variation in students’ achievement and growth during the pandemic across multiple dimensions. Consistent with prior evidence, the report found students’ test scores in fall 2021, on average, were “substantially below” historic averages. Moreover, the average scores of students of color, students attending high poverty schools, and students in elementary school were more negatively impacted, and more so in math than reading. The report also found new evidence of disproportionately larger test score declines for students with lower previous achievement levels across districts. The full report is here.
  • On May 5, the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR), and NWEA, released a new report on the Road to COVID Recovery: Actionable Research on District Strategies for Student Advancement. The working paper, titled, “The Consequences of Remote and Hybrid Instruction During the Pandemic,” used test data to investigate the role of remote and hybrid instruction in widening gaps in achievement by race and school poverty. The paper found remote instruction “was a primary driver” of widening achievement gaps, and estimates high-poverty districts that went remote in 2021-21 will “need to spend nearly all of their federal aid on academic recovery to help students recover from pandemic-related achievement losses.” The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R.7644
A bill to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to ensure protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and their families.
Sponsor: Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS)

H.R.7656
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: Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC)

H.R.7660
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a refundable tax credit for certain teachers as a supplement to State effort to provide teachers with a livable wage, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)

H.R.7662
A bill to prohibit Federal education funds from being provided to elementary schools that do not require teachers to obtain written parental consent prior to teaching lessons specifically related to gender identity, sexual orientation, or transgender studies, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ)

H.R.7664
A bill to amend the Small Business Act to include requirements relating to graduates of career and technical education programs or programs of study for small business development centers and women’s business centers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX)

S.Res.607
A resolution supporting the designation of the week of May 1, 2022, as “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week” and May 5, 2022, as “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day”.
Sponsor: Senator Angus King (I-ME)

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