E-Update for the Week of November 23, 2020

E-Update for the Week of November 23, 2020

Highlights:

  • On November 20, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met in-person with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The meeting was reportedly to discuss federal funding to keep the government open and efforts to provide immediate coronavirus relief.
  • On November 20, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) launched an online portal designed to illustrate and track how states, local educational agencies (LEAs), and institutions of higher education (IHEs) have spent funding received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
  • On November 19, Vice President Mike Pence and the White House Coronavirus Task Force gave a public briefing and update. During the briefing, Vice President Pence reiterated the White House position that schools should not be closed, even amidst a national surge in coronavirus cases.

Presidential and Congressional Transition:

Presidential:

President-elect Biden meets with Pelosi, Schumer to discuss pandemic relief, federal funding: President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met in-person with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The meeting was reportedly to discuss federal funding to keep the government open and efforts to provide immediate coronavirus relief. Earlier this week, President-elect Biden called on Congress to pass a stimulus package approved by House Democrats earlier this year. Bloomberg article on the meeting is here (subscription required). Washington Post article on call by President-elect Biden for a stimulus package is here.

Relatedly, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “I can tell you Mark Meadows and I will be speaking with [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy this morning…And we are going to come up with a plan to sit down with Pelosi and Schumer and try to get a targeted bill done for the people that really need it.” Article is here.

November 20, 2020

Congress:

House Democrats hold leadership elections, Pelosi nominated for second term as Speaker: The House Democratic Caucus held leadership elections for the 117th Congress. Current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was formally nominated for the position and her nomination will be voted on by the full House once the new Congress begins its term in January 2021. Additionally, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was re-elected to serve in the same position, as was Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC). Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) was elected, for the first time, as Assistant Speaker and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was reelected as Caucus Chair. A press release is here.

November 19, 2020

House Republicans hold leadership elections, McCarthy re-elected as Minority Leader: The House Republican Caucus held leadership elections for the 117th Congress. Current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was re-elected as the top House Republican. Additionally, current Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and current Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) were both reelected to their respective positions. Tweets from the House Republicans, detailing the elections, are here. A POLITICO article is here.

November 17, 2020

Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):

Administration:

White House:

Vice President, White House recommit to call for reopening schools: Vice President Mike Pence and the White House Coronavirus Task Force gave a public briefing and update. During the briefing, Vice President Pence reiterated the White House position that schools should not be closed, even amidst a national surge in coronavirus cases. “President Trump wanted me to make it clear that our task force, this administration and our president does not support another national lockdown, and we do not support closing schools,” stated the Vice President. Further, Vice President Pence expressed that the White House is committed to providing “resources so our kids, our teachers, and our administrators can safely get back to school.” The Vice President did not describe what resources the White House intends to provide. The Vice President’s full remarks are here.

November 19, 2020

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

Department launches CARES Act education funding tracker, majority of governors and K-12 relief funding remain unspent: The U.S. Department of Education (USED) launched an online portal designed to illustrate and track how states, local educational agencies (LEAs), and institutions of higher education (IHEs) have spent funding received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Specifically, the portal outlines how much and on what each governor has spent from the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund; how much and on what each LEA has spent from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund; and how much and on what each IHE has spent from the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund. According to the Department, of the combined $31 billion available from the CARES Act, $1.6 billion, or 12 percent, of the ESSER Fund has been spent, $535 million, or 18 percent, of the GEER Fund has been spent, and $9 billion, or 64 percent, of the HEER Fund has been spent. “States that neglected their obligations to provide full-time education, while complaining about a lack of resources, have left significant sums of money sitting in the bank. There may be valid reasons for states to be deliberate in how they spend CARES Act resources, but these data make clear there is little to support their claims of being cash-poor,” stated USED Secretary Betsy DeVos. A press release is here. The portal is here.

November 20, 2020

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Congress:

Congressional Democrats introduce bill to ban seclusion, restraint practices: Democrats in the House and Senate, including House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced the “Keeping All Students Safe Act,” which aims to protect students from dangerous seclusion and restraint discipline practices in school. The bill would make it illegal for any school receiving federal taxpayer money to seclude children and would ban dangerous restraint practices that restrict children’s breathing. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect students and staff. A press release from the House Ed and Labor Committee is here, and a release from the Senate HELP Committee is here.

November 19, 2020

House:

House passes reauthorization of National Apprenticeship Act, future unclear in Senate: The House passed H.R.8294, the “National Apprenticeship of 2020” on a largely partisan 246-140 vote. The bill would reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act for the first time since its original passage. According to the House Education and Labor Committee, the bill would also authorize $400 million for fiscal year (FY) 2021 and increase by $100 million annually to $800 million in FY2025 to support the creation and expansion of registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs including in non-traditional apprenticeship occupations. The bill is unlikely to be considered by the Senate during the lame duck session. A press release is here. A fact sheet on the bill is here. Statement from House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) outlining Republican objections is here.

November 20, 2020

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

Department to launch RFI on work-based learning opportunities, barriers: USED released a readout from a virtual event held on November 9, titled “Rethink Work-Based Learning.” The event convened employers, educators, and other stakeholders to discuss how to expand work-based learning. Administration officials who participated included U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Eugene Scalia, USED Secretary DeVos, and USED Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education Scott Stump. During the event, Secretary DeVos expressed that employers “can’t find enough qualified people to hire because there are too many disconnects between education and the economy, just as there are often too many disconnects between a child and the school they’re assigned to by government.” As part of the discussion, Assistant Secretary Stump announced the Department would be launching, within the next two weeks, a Request for Information (RFI) on Expanding Work-based learning. The RFI would seek information on approaches to expanding such learning opportunities and what barriers exist that have contributed to the decline in youth employment. The full readout is here.

November 17, 2020

USED to investigate University of Illinois for alleged anti-Semitic harassment: USED announced that it launched an investigation into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after a group of Jewish students filed a complaint alleging “an unrelenting campaign of anti-Semitic harassment” on campus. The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is probing possible discrimination on the basis of race or national origin, based on the complaint that lists 23 incidents of discrimination against Jewish students over the past five years. A POLITICO article is here (note: a subscription to POLITICO Pro is required).

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On November 24 at 3:00 pm, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) will hold an event titled, “What State Election Results Mean for Education Policymaking in 2021.” The webinar will discuss the results of the November elections and will feature Stephen Parker from the National Governors Association (NGA), Michelle Exstrom from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and Lauren Freemire from the Education Commission of the States (ECS). More information and registration are here.
  • On December 15 at 4:30 pm EST, the Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) Alliance and the National Urban League (NUL) will hold an event titled, “Who Gets to Thrive? The Science of Learning and Development as a Tool for Anti-Racism.” This webinar is part three of a series and is focused on how lessons from the science of learning and development can help define the next education policy agenda to be actively anti-racist. More information and registration are here. For insights of the previous discussions or if there are questions, please email Samantha Kobbah at kobbah@educationcounsel.com.

Publications (Congressional and Administrative):

  • On November 19, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled, “Distance Learning: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19.” The report analyzes distance learning plans and interviews with leaders for 15 school districts. Key findings of the report include identifying that school districts faced challenges engaging with English learners through distance learning due to lack of technology, language barriers, and the demands of meeting basic family needs. Districts also faced challenges providing the full range of services for students with disabilities, especially those services that required direct caregivers or physical interventions and supports. The full report is here.
  • On November 17, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled “Public High School Students’ Career and Technical Education Course-taking: 1992 to 2013.” The report examines public high school graduates’ career and technical education (CTE) course-taking as of 2013, and trends in students’ CTE course-taking from 1992 to 2013. Key findings include identifying that most public high school graduates earned CTE credits but did not necessarily concentrate in a specific CTE subject area. Additionally, the report found that public high school graduates earned more credits in business, finance, and marketing than in any other CTE area. The full report is here.
  • On November 16, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) published a report titled, “Annual Report FY 2020.” The report is an annual report to Congress to discuss the Office’s fiscal year financial and program performance. Key findings in the report include noting that a sudden restart of monthly student loan payments will present a “heavy burden” on borrowers and the Office. The report refers to restarting student loan payments after relief offered by the CARES Act expires on December 31. “FSA and servicers will face a heavy burden in ‘converting’ millions of borrowers to active repayment at the same time, with a certain proportion becoming delinquent, at least initially,” reports the Office. The full report is here. An article by POLITICO is here. (Note: A subscription to POLITICO Pro is required.)

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On November 20, EducationCounsel published a report titled, “The 2020 Election Results: An Outlook for Education Policy.” The report provides an overview of how the 2020 elections will likely influence federal education policy, particularly in the context of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a national reckoning on racial injustice. The full report is here.
  • On November 19, the National Education Association (NEA) published a report titled, “2020 NEA Policy Playbook for Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration.” The report outlines the organization’s recommendations and specific solutions in 27 different issue areas. Key recommendations include a call for the federal government to waive federal statewide summative assessment requirements until the pandemic is over; a call for a ban on federal funding for charter schools, charter school authorizers, and charter school management companies that are not authorized or operated by local school districts; and a call for the federal government to provide at least $175 billion in additional emergency aid for public education. The full report is here.
  • On November 18, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) published a report titled “Canceling Student Loan Debt Is Poor Economic Stimulus.” The report analyzed the potential economic impact of partial or complete student debt cancellation. Though there’s still debate over whether the President has the legal authority to cancel debt, the report found that student debt cancellation would be an ineffective form of stimulus, providing a small boost to the near-term economy relative to the cost. Other key findings include the fact that student debt cancellation will increase cash flow by only $90 billion per year, at a cost of $1.5 trillion; and that simply extending the current executive action to defer loan repayments and cancel interest would achieve much of the economic benefit of loan cancellation at only a very small fraction of the cost. The full report is here.
  • On November 18, the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) published a report titled “Why It’s Time to Double Pell.” The report found that particularly due to the pandemic, now is a critical time for Congress to make new investments in the Pell Grant program, which currently covers the lowest share of college costs in the program’s history. Key findings of the report include identifying that students from families making $30,000 or less must spend more than 75 percent of their total income to cover the cost of a four-year college. The report also found that during the program’s peak in 1975-76, the maximum Pell Grant covered more than 75 percent of the cost of attending a four-year public college. In comparison, the 2018-19 maximum award amount covered only 28 percent of that cost. The full report is here.
  • On November 17, New America published a report titled “The Online Learning Equity Gap: Innovative Solutions to Connect All Students at Home.” The report analyzes the adverse impacts of the digital divide on our nation’s students, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and profiles different examples of school-sponsored broadband networks that have been built and deployed for educational purposes both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the years prior. Key recommendations from the report include increased investment in public network infrastructure – like community WiFi networks – as a cost-effective way to increase broadband internet access for students. The full report is here.
  • On November 16, the RAND Corporation published a report titled “Will This School Year Be Another Casualty of the Pandemic?”. The report summarizes selected findings on teaching and learning in the face of the pandemic by drawing on surveys administered to nationally representative samples of teachers and principals in early October 2020. Key findings from the report include the fact that though teachers are working more hours than they were before the pandemic, students are likely not getting all the curriculum content and instruction that they would have received during a normal school year. Additionally, the report found that high proportions of teachers say that they are not receiving adequate guidance to serve students from vulnerable populations – especially if they are teaching them remotely – and low percentages of principals indicate that their schools are offering the tutoring needed to help students catch up. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R.8765

A bill to codify the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs of the Department of Labor.

Sponsor: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)

H.R.8766

A bill to direct the Secretary of Labor to provide for data collection and dissemination of information regarding programs under the national apprenticeship system, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH)

H.R.8776

A bill to direct the Secretary of Labor to make grants to eligible applicants to provide stipends to individuals enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)

H.R.8782

A bill to prohibit and prevent seclusion, mechanical restraint, chemical restraint, and dangerous restraints that restrict breathing, and to prevent and reduce the use of physical restraint in schools, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA)

H.R.8787

A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit withdrawals from certain retirement plans for repayment of student loan debt, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)

H.R.8789

A bill to direct the Secretary of Labor to enter into interagency agreements to promote and support integration and alignment of programs under the national apprenticeship system with secondary, postsecondary, and adult education, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA)

S.4903

A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to encourage entrepreneurship by providing loan deferment and loan cancellation for founders and employees of small business startups, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

S.4917

A bill to amend the CARES Act to support States and local educational agencies in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic so that all students, especially historically underserved students, are provided with a safe, healthy, equitable, and excellent education.

Sponsor: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

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