E-Update for the Week of October 12, 2020

E-Update for the Week of October 12, 2020

Highlights:

  • On October 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will extend school meal program flexibilities to allow free meals to children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This action follows the enactment of the recent Continuing Resolution, which provided USDA funding and authority to extend the waivers.
  • On October 8, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against Yale University related to the university’s use of race-informed admission practices.
  • On October 4, President Donald Trump announced, via Twitter, that he was directing U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discontinue negotiations with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). However, it appears that talks have resumed between the Speaker Secretary Mnuchin in an effort to try to reach an agreement. Although, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed that finalizing an agreement before the elections could be difficult.

Coronavirus (as related to education issues):

Note that all information related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is up to date as of October 9. 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.

Congress:

House:

Scott, Clyburn seek answers about South Carolina use of CARES funding to create school voucher program: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos expressing concern regarding South Carolina’s apparent misuse of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to develop a student voucher program. Under the CARES Act, which established the Governor Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to support education programs significantly impacted by the pandemic, three categories of entities were authorized to receive GEER Funds: institutions of higher education (IHEs), local educational agencies (LEAs), and “education related entities.” In the letter, the Members note that the South Carolina Governor’s office dedicated $32 million in GEER funds to develop the Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) grants program, which awards grants “directly to parents” and could be in violation of the CARES Act. A press release is here. The full letter is here.
October 5, 2020

Oversight, Appropriations Committee Democrats seek answers on Labor’s implementation of pandemic relief paid leave programs: House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Vice Chair Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), along with House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Eugene Scalia requesting information and a staff briefing on the Department’s implementation of paid leave provisions in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA, which Congress passed in March, expanded access to paid sick leave and paid family leave during the coronavirus pandemic. The Members noted that in August, the Department’s Inspector General issued a report highlighting key flaws in the Administration’s implementation of the program, and a federal judge in New York ruled that the Administration defied Congress’s intent in implementing the law. The letter raises concerns highlighted by the Inspector General report, the court decision, and other issues with the Administration’s implementation of these provisions, which could have the effect of limiting workers’ access to paid leave. A press release is here. The full letter is here.
October 5, 2020

Administration:

White House:

Trump tweets calling off stimulus negotiations sparks confusion but talks ongoing; McConnell less optimistic a bill can be finalized before November elections: President Donald Trump announced, via Twitter, that he was directing U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discontinue negotiations with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Secretary Mnuchin and the Speaker were previously discussing a next coronavirus relief package. The president tweeted “We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith. I am rejecting their request, and looking to the future of our Country. I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill…” The president shortly thereafter suggested that he may consider standalone bills to support the airline industry, another round of direct payments to families and individuals, and the Paycheck Protection Program, but Speaker Pelosi noted that she would only entertain standalone bills if they were connected to a broader relief package. “If we don’t have a guarantee that we’re going to be helping our state and local employees, that we’re not going to be able to crush the virus, that we’re not going to be able to have our children go to school safely, that we’re not going to have safety in the workplace, that we’re not going to address unemployment” then there will not be any smaller bills. Additionally, it appears that talks have resumed between Speaker Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in an effort to try to reach an agreement. The president’s tweets are here. A statement by Speaker Pelosi is here. A statement from House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) is here. A statement from House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here.

Relatedly, on October 9, POLITICO reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that the likelihood of a next stimulus package before the election is low. “The situation is kind of murky and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage. I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” stated the Majority Leader during an event in Kentucky. Majority Leader McConnell acknowledged that there is a need for another “rescue package” but he also noted that there are considerable “differences of opinion” that remain that must be resolved.
October 4-9, 2020

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED publishes two guidance documents related to Title IV, higher education relief funds: The U.S. Department of Education (USED) Office of Postsecondary Education published a document titled, “COVID-19 Title IV Frequently Asked Questions.” The document is intended to answer questions related to how institutions may use their Title IV funds in light of the impacts of the pandemic. The document outlines questions related to campus-based programs, study abroad programs, cost of attendance and need analyses, return of Title IV funds (R2T4) requirements, changes to the academic year and schedule, distance education programs, student eligibility, and record keeping and data security. The document is here.

Additionally, USED published a document titled, “Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Round 3 Frequently Asked Questions.” The guidance document outlines questions related to how institutions may use their HEER funds, which were provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Notably in the document, the Department indicates that the Department will not take any enforcement action against an institution if it distributed CARES Act funding to non-Title IV eligible students prior to the publication of the interim final rule. The Department issued a rule that prohibits non-Title IV students from receiving CARES Act funding, particularly funding that is intended for emergency student aid. “As the [interim final rule] is not intended to have retroactive effect, the Department will not initiate any enforcement action based solely upon its early guidance as to student eligibility for HEERF emergency student financial aid grants that were disbursed to students prior to the effective date of the [rule, June 17, 2020].” The full document is here.
October 2 and 5, 2020

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

USDA extends school meals waivers through rest of 2020-2021 school year: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will extend school meal program flexibilities to allow free meals to children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This action follows the enactment of the recent Continuing Resolution, which provided USDA funding and authority to extend the waivers. Previously, the Department had announced that waivers would only be extend through December 31, 2020. “As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are and however they are learning,” stated USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. According to the Department, the waivers will allow for school meal programs to be served in all areas and at no cost; will permit meals to be served outside of typically required group settings and times; will waive meal pattern requirements; and will allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children. A press release is here. A statement by House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here.
October 9, 2020

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Congress:

House:

Maloney, Pressley introduce package to address childhood trauma: House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) introduced H.R.8544, the “Services and Trauma-informed Research of Outcomes in Neighborhood Grants for (STRONG) Support for Children Act.” The bill would take a holistic and community-based approach to addressing the growing crisis of childhood trauma and would establish two new grant programs to support local Public Health Departments in addressing trauma and ensure that programming is conveniently located and accessible to all children and families regardless of immigration status, ability to pay, and prior involvement in the criminal legal system. The legislation would prohibit grant recipients from using funds to increase surveillance and policing of vulnerable communities. Additionally, the bill includes the “Children’s Protection Act,” which would require all proposed federal rules to undergo a childhood trauma impact study before being finalized to ensure that the health, wellbeing, and futures of all children in America are prioritized. The bill text is here. A press release is here.
October 8, 2020

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

DeVos appoints five new members to National Assessment Governing Board: USED Secretary DeVos announced the appointment of five new members to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). New appointees include Suzanne Lane, a faculty member in research methodology at the University of Pittsburgh; Alice Peisch, a Democratic state legislator from Massachusetts; Julia Rafal-Baer, the chief operating officer of Chiefs for Change; Ron Reynolds, the executive director of the California Association of Private School Organizations; and Mark White, a Republican state legislator from Tennessee. Additionally, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has been reappointed as the Board’s chairperson for the 2020-2021 year. A press release is here.
October 9, 2020

USED, White House tout support for federal student scholarship programs to expand school choice: The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for the African Americans and USED held a roundtable discussion on school choice and the Department’s efforts to expand access for students of color. The roundtable featured comments by USED Secretary DeVos, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), and Brooke Rollins, Assistant to the President and acting Director of the Domestic Policy Council. During the roundtable, Secretary DeVos stated that “African Americans, and all Americans, need more opportunities to grow, to develop, and to prosper, and that all starts with a great education. President Trump and I are fighting every day for more options for every student and every family across America.” Senator Scott described his efforts to support student choice by highlighting his bill, S.4284, the “School Choice Now Act,” which would create federally supported scholarships that can be used to attend private schools. A press release from the Department is here.
October 7, 2020

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):

Justice Department files suit against Yale University, citing racial discrimination in race-informed admissions practices: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against Yale University related to the university’s use of race-informed admission practices. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court District of Connecticut, claims that the university relies on an “oversized, standardless, intentional use of race,” which negatively impacts Asian and white applicants while positively supporting Black and Hispanic applicants. The Department argues that instead of using race the university can achieve its same admission diversity goals by considering socio-economic status, geographic location, and ending special preferences for legacy admissions. In response to the lawsuit, Yale stated that it “does not discriminate against applicants of any race or ethnicity” and that its admissions practices are “completely fair and lawful.” The lawsuit is here.
October 8, 2020

Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):

  • On October 12 at 9:00 am, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full Committee hearing titled, “Nomination of the Honorable Amy Coney Barrett to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.” The hearing is the first of five Committee hearings to consider Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. More information is here.
  • On October 27 at 2:00 pm, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Regional Education Lab (REL) for the Northeast and Islands will hold an event titled, “Student Voices: Perspectives on Antiracism in Schools.” The webinar will present two programs that are designed to identify and dismantle racism in schools. More information and registration are here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On October 12 at 4:00 pm, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will hold an event titled, “Effective Policies, Successful Schools: Lessons for the U.S.” The webinar will examine findings from the organizations’ annual report, which analyzes schools and school systems and their relationship with education outcomes more generally. The event will also examine the impacts of the pandemic and how it has shaped state and local policymaker decisions. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 14 at 4:00 pm, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) will hold an event titled, “Teacher Compensation Penalty: Impact on teachers, education, and society.” The webinar will examine the impact of the disproportionate undercompensating of public school teachers compared to their similarly educated peers. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 14 at 4:00 pm, GLSEN will hold an event titled, “New Findings from the 2019 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of LGBTQ Youth in U.S. Schools.” The webinar will examine results from the most recent publication of GLSEN’s biennial national survey to discuss how results have changed over the past twenty years. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 15 at 10:00 am, New America will hold an event titled, “How to Remake Higher Education.” The webinar will discuss how colleges, universities, and the government can work together to transform higher education so that it has a greater focus on promoting upward mobility, racial equality, and good citizenship. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 15 at 12:30 pm, New America will hold an event titled, “Working and Learning During the Pandemic: Surveillance of Students and Employees is Not the Cure.” The webinar will examine the impacts of technological solutions that have been employed to monitor student and employee behaviors and productivity and how guardrails are needed to protect the privacy rights of students and workers. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 15 at 1:30 pm, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will hold an event titled, “Should we be sending K-12 students back to school in person?” The webinar will examine data on the experiences of remote learning and how such experiences might affect how schools reopen this fall. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 16 at 1:00 pm, Workrise will hold an event titled, “A 360 degree Perspective on What Workers Need to Thrive.” The webinar will examine and explore bold new ideas for transforming the labor market for low-wage workers, including the provision of access to safe and affordable child care, housing, health care, and food. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 22 at 1:00 pm, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) will hold an event titled, “State and Federal Opportunities to Support More Diverse and Inclusive School Systems.” The event will feature Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and will examine how public schools can support racial and economic integration. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On October 8, the Center for American Progress (CAP) published a report titled, “Public Education Opportunity Grants: Increasing Funding and Equity in Federal K-12 Education Investments.” The report summarizes a study and proposal to increase the level of federal funding for K-12 education, particularly in communities that have been historically underfunded. Key findings and recommendations of the report include identifying that the Public Education Opportunity Grants program would provide an additional $63.4 billion annually to K-12 education; that the grants would be targeted toward districts with the highest poverty rates within the state; and that even with the additional $63.4 billion proposed by the program, state and local funding for education would still make up nearly 85 percent of total education spending. The full report is here.
  • On October 7, New America published a report titled, “Supporting Early Educator Degree Attainment: Takeaways from New America’s Working Group.” The report summarizes the findings of a working group focused on examining the barriers institutions of higher education (IHEs) face to serve and prepare early educators. Key findings of the report include identifying that institutions have struggled to provide the social, academic, and financial supports necessary to low-income, diverse, first generation, and part-time students; that institutions have struggled to navigate the balance between quality and access related to clinical experiences; and that institutions can overcome barriers by improving student support systems, supporting linguistically diverse students, and supporting student completion of general education requirements. The full report is here.
  • On October 7, CAP published a report titled, “The $78 Billion Dollar Community College Funding Shortfall.” The report summarizes a study of the funding disparities between two-year community colleges and four-year colleges. Key findings of the report include identifying that community colleges receive $8,800 less in education revenue per student compared to four-year institutions; that the revenue gap is largely driven by the lack of revenue brought in by higher tuition and student fees, and lower levels of state appropriations for community colleges; and that while four-year institutions may have higher costs due to research and facilities, community colleges often have students with disproportionately higher needs such as child care and help with food and housing. The full report is here.
  • On October 6, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) published a report titled, “Too little, too late: A hard look at spring 2020 remote learning.” The report examines changes made by public school districts in response to the pandemic last spring. Key findings of the report include identifying that the poorest districts lost four full weeks of instruction; that the quality of remote-instruction programs was lower in schools with higher student poverty and pre-existing lower student achievement; and that school districts in red states provided lower-quality instructional offerings compared to districts in blue and purple states. The full report is here.
  • On October 6, the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) published a report titled, “Student Debt and the Class of 2019.” The report summarizes a study of student loan debt of recent four-year college graduates and how those levels of debt vary across states and colleges. Key findings of the report include identifying that 62 percent of college graduates in 2019 had some level of student loan debt, which is 3 percent less than the class of 2018; that borrowers from the class of 2019 had $28,950 in debt, on average; and that over 15 years, student loan debt has increased by 56 percent from $18,550 in 2004, outpacing inflation, which accumulated to 36 percent over the same period. The full report is here.

Legislation:

H.R.8534
A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to allow direct certification of children in households of active duty members of the Armed Forces for certain Federal school meal programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA)

H.R.8535
A bill to amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to direct the Secretary of Education to award grants for new agricultural education programs in secondary schools.
Sponsor: Rep. Abby Finkenaur (D-IA)

H.R.8544
“Services and Trauma-informed Research of Outcomes in Neighborhood Grants for (STRONG) Support for Children Act”
A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to support the development and implementation of programs using data analysis to identify and facilitate strategies to improve outcomes for children in geographic areas with a high prevalence of trauma from exposure to adverse childhood experiences, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)

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