E-Update for the Week of November 2, 2020
- On October 29, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in which she outlined outstanding differences regarding a next coronavirus relief package. The Speaker wrote that she is still awaiting a response regarding state and local aid, school funding, child care funding, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, unemployment instance, and liability protections and noted that the White House’s response “are critical for our negotiations to continue.”
- On October 29, Chalkbeat reported that USED Secretary DeVos stated that the Department would not enforce a prohibition on charter schools who are affiliated with a sectarian school or religious institution from accessing federal funding. “Prohibiting religious affiliated public charter schools is unconstitutional,” stated the Department.
- On October 26, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider announced the launch of “Operation Reverse the Loss.” The initiative is intended to speed up the existing “machinery IES uses to identify, scale, and verify the effectiveness of interventions” that may be used to reverse the learning loss of students.
Coronavirus (as related to education issues):
Note that all information related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is up to date as of October 30. 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.
Warren, Smith call on Administration to provide more guidance, track COVID-19 cases in schools: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) sent a letter to multiple Trump Administration officials, including U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos, criticizing the lack of federal guidance for reopening schools during the pandemic. In the letter, which responds to Secretary DeVos’s comment earlier this month that she is “not sure there’s a role for the Department of Education to compile and conduct that research,” the Senators express that the Administration has “failed to develop consistent methods of tracing, reporting, or tracking COVID-19 cases tied to K-12 schools nationwide.” The Senators also asked the agencies whether they plan to collect data from schools on COVID-19 cases, including details such as demographics to monitor disparities, and whether the Trump Administration will issue guidance on how to report outbreaks. The Senators also want to know whether the Administration plans to study coronavirus outbreaks in schools or analyze efforts to prevent the virus from spreading in those environments. A POLITICO article is here (note: a subscription to POLITICO Pro is required.)
October 28, 2020
Pelosi, Mnuchin trade barbs, unclear where negotiations on next relief package stand: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in which she outlined outstanding differences regarding a next coronavirus relief package. “Meanwhile, as the coronavirus surges and the stock market plummets, we are still awaiting the Trump Administration’s promised responses on multiple items of critical importance.” The Speaker wrote that she is still awaiting a response regarding state and local aid, school funding, child care funding, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, unemployment instance, and liability protections and noted that the White House’s response “are critical for our negotiations to continue.” In response, Secretary Mnuchin tweeted that the Speaker’s “ALL OR NONE approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW!” Along with the tweet, the Secretary included an image of a letter he sent to the Speaker. In the letter the Secretary stated, “As it relates to State and Local funding, Schools, Extended Unemployment Benefits, Liability Protection, and OSHA, we have provided reasonable compromise positions. On these major Pillars, you have refused to compromise.” The letter from the Speaker to Secretary Mnuchin is here. The tweet from Secretary Mnuchin, which includes his letter in response, is here.
October 29, 2020
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
Department releases new digital learning guide for parents, families: USED released a new resource called the “Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide.” According to the Department, the resource will help parents and guardians “understand how digital tools can provide tailored learning opportunities, engage students with course materials, encourage creative expression, and enrich the educational experience.” The guide was developed with input from “digital learning experts representing researchers, parents, educators, and school leaders, as well as Digital Promise and Learning Heroes.” The publication is the first in a series that aims to provide digital learning knowledge and resources to educators, school leaders, and families. A press release is here. The guide is here.
October 23, 2020
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
HHS, USED say mask distribution to schools is ‘on track’: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and USED reported that the agencies’ school mask initiative to support the safe reopening of schools is “on track.” The initiative, launched in September by HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), is on schedule to distribute 125 million cloth masks to states and territories for distribution to schools by November 2020. According to HHS, these masks “support students, teachers, and staff in public and private schools, with an emphasis on low-income or other high-needs students and schools providing in-person instruction.” To ensure masks are being sent to areas of most need, distribution plans were based on reporting from the National School Lunch Program. The 125 million masks were split evenly among adult and youth sizes. A press release is here.
October 23, 2020
Institute of Education Sciences (IES):
IES launches Operation Reverse the Loss to combat accelerated learning loss due to pandemic: Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider announced the launch of “Operation Reverse the Loss.” The initiative is intended to speed up the existing “machinery IES uses to identify, scale, and verify the effectiveness of interventions” that may be used to reverse the learning loss of students. According to a press release, the initiative will be primarily focused on students at greatest risk of learning loss, including early learners, English language learners, students a community colleges, and students with disabilities. “[COVID-19] has shined a bright light on the fact that too many of our students—especially students of color, students from low-income families, and students with special needs—had fallen behind long before the pandemic and are losing even more ground now,” wrote Director Schneider. He goes on to describe the core components of the initiative, which include efforts to understand conditions on the ground; the encouragement of small businesses to provide schools with innovative learning solutions; and, the need for growing the body of research with the greatest potential to reverse learning loss. Director Schneider expects that the initiative will be “an intense three-year experiment” and the Institute will reposition funding and resources from existing budgets to support the effort. The full announcement is here.
October 26, 2020
Scott, Bonamici push on DeVos to outline role in ‘patriotic curriculum,’ investigations into Princeton University for ‘admitted racism’: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee Chairwoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), wrote a letter asking USED Secretary DeVos to detail the power she is claiming in promoting a “patriotic education” curriculum in U.S. schools and investigating education systems that acknowledge “systemic racism” or require ethnic studies courses. In the letter, Chairman Scott and Chairwoman Bonamici ask Secretary DeVos to expound upon President Trump’s commitment to creating a 1776 Commission they say “appears to violate statutory prohibitions on the creation of a federal curriculum.” The lawmakers also asked the Secretary to explain the Administration’s investigation into Princeton University for “admitted racism” and to clarify whether the Department is investigating California or any school district in the state for requiring ethnic studies or teaching 1619 Project curriculum, as President Trump claimed. A POLITICO article is here (Note: a subscription to POLITICO Pro is required).
October 29, 2020
Scott, Maloney claim USED ‘froze’ borrower defense online tool development: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) released new documents detailing how USED “froze” a tool designed to ease the borrower defense application process for borrowers who were “ripped off by their schools, typically for-profit colleges,” according to the Committee. The Chairs were “deeply troubled” that the Department “halted a web tool to help simplify and streamline the process for defrauded students applying for relief.” According to the documents obtained by the Committee, on May 21, 2020, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) ordered all work on the borrower defense web tool to stop, which “directly contradicts” the Department’s denials that it intentionally froze the tool. A press release is here.
October 27, 2020
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
DeVos announces that USED will not prohibit religious, sectarian charter schools from receiving federal funding: Chalkbeat reported that USED Secretary DeVos stated that the Department would not enforce a prohibition on charter schools who are affiliated with a sectarian school or religious institution from accessing federal funding. “Prohibiting religious affiliated public charter schools is unconstitutional. The [Department] in the Charter School Program will not discriminate and will allow for and welcome religiously affiliated applicants.” Along with the comments, the Department released an internal memo from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that concluded bans on religiously affiliated charter schools from accessing federal funding is unconstitutional. The Chalkbeat article is here. The DOJ memo is here.
October 29, 2020
DeVos on 12th Grade NAEP results – ‘America’s schools continue to fall short’: USED Secretary DeVos released a statement on the new reading and mathematics results for 12th grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In her statement, Secretary DeVos stated that the results “confirm America’s schools continue to fall far short, and continue to fail too many kids, especially the most disadvantaged.” The results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) at Grade 12 found that the average mathematics score across the nation remained unchanged when compared to 2015, while the average reading score got worse. Furthermore, the average mathematics and reading scores decreased for lower-performers in both subjects. “It’s particularly troubling to see the results for our lowest performing and most disadvantaged students getting worse,” Secretary DeVos said. The full statement is here.
October 28, 2020
U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Courts:
NAACP Legal Defense Fund files lawsuit against Trump anti-antiracism EO: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Urban League, and the National Fair Housing Alliance filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia against President Donald Trump’s Executive Order (EO) which prohibits federal contractors from participating in or federal grants and contracts funding diversity trainings that are deemed “anti-American.” The EO orders that the Federal workforce, including Federal contractors, may not participate in diversity training programs that discuss “divisive concepts” such that describe one race or sex being inherently superior to another; that the United States is a fundamentally racist or sexist country; or that any individual, by virtue of their identities, may have certain privileges or be racist, sexist, or oppressive – consciously or unconsciously. According to the complaint filed, the EO is “overly broad” and is having a “chilling effect on diversity training.” A Washington Post article is here.
October 29, 2020
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On November 2 at 1:00 pm, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will hold an event titled, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Academic Leadership and Decision-making for Women in STEMM.” The webinar will focus on how the pandemic has amplified systemic inequities that have contributed to the underrepresentation of and disproportionate hardship experienced by women in academic scientific, engineering, and medical (STEMM) fields. More information and registration are here.
- On November 4 at 10:00 am, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will hold an event titled, “What will the 2020 elections mean for education?” The webinar will focus on the results of the November elections and what the results may mean for early childhood, K-12, and higher education moving forward. More information and registration are here.
- On November 9 at 1:00 pm, the Brookings Institute will hold an event titled, “What has COVID-19 taught us about the digital and opportunity divides in America’s schools?” The webinar will focus on how the pandemic has made clear the digital divide in the country and how the lack of access may result in stifled social mobility of students left online. More information and registration are here.
Publications (Congressional and Administrative):
- On October 28, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published a report titled, the “Annual Report of the Private Education Loan Ombudsman.” The report summarizes an analysis of complaints submitted by consumers related to private or federal student loans. Key findings of the report include identifying that the Bureau handled approximately 7,000 complaints related to private or federal student loans, the majority of which (approximately 5,000) were related to federal student loans; that approximately 500 complaints mentioned COVID-19 or related keywords; and that the Bureau recommends that policymakers consider creating parity between all holders of federal student loans (e.g. those by students, those by parents, and those by institutions) in future pandemic student loan relief efforts. The full report is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On October 30, EducationCounsel, AASA, 2Revolutions. and the District Consortium of Large Countywide and Suburban Districts published a report titled, “Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Lessons, Insights, & Hopes for Reentry Planning.” The report summarizes a review of 18 districts’ reentry plans, including interviews with superintendents and senior leaders from 13 of those districts. Key findings of the report include identifying that several districts incorporated existing district priorities into their reentry planning to “generate greater coherence” to their approaches; that districts were impeded by the lack of clear, consistent national and state guidance for reentry; and that several districts employed innovative solutions such as using bus drivers as virtual learning monitors or meal distributors, or creating mentorship and outreach programs for at-risk students, or creating new programs to support family child care needs. The full report is here.
- On October 30, Common Sense and the Boston Consulting Group published a report titled, “Closing the K-12 Digital Divide in the Age of Distance Learning.” The report summarizes a study of student access to digital devices and internet since the onset of the pandemic. Key findings of the report include identifying that approximately 30 percent of K-12 public school students lack adequate internet or devices to sustain distance learning, and nearly 60 percent of those students lack both; that the majority of students without adequate access are those student in rural settings (37 percent); that Black and Native American students account for the highest rate of access disparity (30 and 35 percent, respectively); and that up to 400,000 teachers cannot teach remotely because of their own lack of internet access. The full report is here.
- On October 29, the Pew Research Center published a study titled “Most Parents of K-12 Students Learning Online Worry About Them Falling Behind.” The study aimed to understand how parents of children in K-12 schools in the U.S. assess the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their children’s education amid changes in instruction this fall. Key findings of the report include identifying that most parents expressed concern about their children falling behind in school because of disruptions caused by the pandemic; that there were large divides between parents whose children are going to school fully in-person and those whose children are engaged in online learning when it comes to their assessments of and concerns about the education their kids are currently receiving; and that 54 percent of parents of K-12 students getting in-person instruction say they are satisfied with the instruction compared to 30 percent of parents with students receiving online instruction and 27 percent of those participating in hybrid models. The full report is here.
- On October 23, the Brookings Institute published a report titled, “COVID-19 highlights inequities in how we treat early educators in child care vs. schools.” The report summarizes a study of how the pandemic has differently impacted child care workers in center-based care settings and those who work in school-based care settings. Key findings of the report include identifying that in May 2020, 34 percent of center-based child care staff reported they were no longer employed or not currently working compared to only four percent of school-based child care staff; that 38 percent of center-based staff reported a decrease in earnings, while only 6 percent of school-based staff reported a decrease; and that while 5 percent of school-based staff reported they did not have enough money to meet their basic needs, 29 percent of center-based staffer reported the same. The full report is here.
- On October 15, College Board, EducationCounsel, and the American Council on Education (ACE) published a report titled “Engaging Campus Stakeholders on Enrollment Issues Associated with Student Diversity: A Communications Primer.” The report offers clarity on key concepts associated with diversity issues, which are even more essential during a time in which higher education admissions practices are under intense scrutiny. Indeed, these issues—particularly those relevant to the consideration of race and ethnicity in admission—predominate in media and in court, where strict scrutiny defines the landscape. The report provides practical information about core concepts that undergird educationally- and legally-sound enrollment policies associated with student diversity goals, with the goal of enhancing communications and engagement strategies between enrollment and admissions leaders and faculty, staff, and students. The full report is here. A recording of a related webinar is here (password: access2020!).
A bill to award funds to States and local areas for public, subsidized employment programs for youth.
Sponsor: Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
A bill to authorize the establishment of an Education Jobs Fund to retain and create education jobs in communities most impacted by COVID-19, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT)
A bill to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to clarify that disparate impacts on certain populations constitute a sufficient basis for rights of action under such Act, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)
A bill to improve the full-service community school program, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
A bill to allow eligible entities under part B of title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to use subgrant funds for activities authorized under such part, regardless of whether such activities are conducted during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)