E-Update for the Week of September 4, 2018
- Senate Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), in addition to 43 Senate Democrats, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her to not consider allowing federal funds to be used to purchase guns for school personnel. Additionally, on August 28, House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 172 House Democrats also sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos with the same request.
- The New York Times reported USED is proposing new rules in regards to on-campus sexual misconduct. The Department has not officially released any rules or regulations, nor has the Department commented on the article. Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) have already denounced the proposed changes.
- The Senate confirmed the nomination of Lynn Johnson to serve as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Family Support. Johnson was confirmed with a vote of 67-28.
Senate, House Democrats Urge DeVos to Reject Requests for Arming Educators with Federal Funds: Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), in addition to 43 Senate Democrats, sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos urging her to not consider allowing federal funds to be used to purchase guns for school personnel. The letter was inspired by reports last week the Department was researching whether the flexibility within the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants would allow for federal funding to be used for such purchases. The grant program is located within Title IV, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The letter stated, “We urge you to abandon this proposal immediately, deny state and school district requests to use federal funds for this purpose, and instead work with us and other stakeholders to focus on other efforts that enhance student safety and prevent violence.” The full Senate letter is here. A press release from the Senate HELP Committee Minority is here.
Similarly, House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 172 House Democrats sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos urging her to reject any state or school district requests to use federal funding to purchase guns. The letter from Ranking Member Scott details the authority of the Secretary to deny requests from states and school districts. The Ranking Member also described it was not the intent of Congress to allow for federal funds to be used for purchasing guns. A post from the House Education and the Workforce Committee Minority webpage is here.
August 28 and 29, 2018
Senate Democrats Urge DeVos to Reconsider Changes to Borrower Defense Rules: Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), in addition to 44 Senate Democrats, sent a comment letter to USED Secretary DeVos urging her to abandon the proposed borrower defense rule changes, claiming the changes make it too difficult for defrauded student loan borrowers to seek repayment relief. The letter was submitted as public comment as part of the comment period on the proposed changes. The Senators stated, “the proposed rule is deeply flawed and does not meet the requirements contained in federal law.” The letter is here. A press release is here. The Federal Register notice is here.
Related, on August 30, the American Council of Education and 19 other organizations have submitted written comments on the proposed changes to the borrower defense rules. The comments state, in part, “as representatives of colleges and universities, we have a clear interest in ensuring that any process impacting institutions is fair to all parties… From our perspective, the proposed rule fails to meet that standard.” The organizations go on to suggest the proposed rules would “make assuring a successful claim functionally impossible.” The organizations who signed onto the letter include those who represent community colleges, private non-profit institutions, public universities, and some religious colleges. The full written comment is here.
August 30, 2018
Lynn Johnson Confirmed as HHS Assistant Secretary, Will Oversee ACF and ORR: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Lynn Johnson to serve as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Family Support. Johnson was confirmed with a vote of 67-28. In her role, Johnson will be responsible for overseeing the Administration for Children and Families, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. A roll call of the vote is here.
August 28, 2018
The House began its August recess on July 30. The House will return to session on September 4.
House Democratic Appropriators Denounce Proposal to Use Federal Funds for Gun Purchases: House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations (Labor/HHS) Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) released a joint statement after reports of the Secretary’s research into if the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants under Title IV, Part A of ESSA can be used for purchasing guns. The Congresswomen urged the Administration to investigate, via the Federal Commission on School Safety, the “role guns play in school violence, [to] support funding for gun violence prevention research at the CDC, and fully fund the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program to provide more mental health services and bullying prevention programs in our schools.” The full statement is here.
August 23, 2018
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED Reportedly Considering Changes to Campus Sexual Assault Guidance: The New York Times reported USED is proposing new rules in regards to on-campus sexual misconduct. The Department has not officially released any rules or regulations, nor has the Department commented on the article. Based on the New York Times reporting, the rules would narrow the definition of sexual harassment; would only hold schools accountable for investigations if students file formal complaints through the proper authorities; would establish a higher legal standard to determine if schools improperly address complaints; would require schools to only investigate claims that occur on their campus or within their programs; and would allow schools to choose their standard of evidence – preponderance of evidence or clear and convincing evidence – when determining responsibility for alleged misconduct. The Obama-era guidance encouraged schools to use the lower, preponderance of evidence standard. Further, the proposal would allow for victims and accused perpetrators to cross-examine one another, which was discouraged under the since-rescinded Obama-era guidance. The New York Times article is here.
Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released a statement after the reported proposal. Ranking Member Murray stated, in part, “It’s shameful and appalling that Secretary DeVos is still considering issuing a rule [that] would make it harder for students to seek justice if they’ve been sexually assaulted on campus.” Ranking Member Murray’s full statement is here.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a statement in response to the proposal. The Ranking Member stated, “the proposed rule creates a new process and evidentiary standard that makes it hard for survivors of harassment, abuse, and assault to achieve the justice they deserve.” Ranking Member Scott’s full statement is here.
August 29, 3018
USED Delays Decision on ACICS Accreditor Status: USED announced it was delaying a decision on whether to continue to recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accreditor of for-profit colleges. The original deadline for a decision was September 4, 2018. The Department stated the extension was necessary due to the “voluminous nature of the records under review.” The Department now has until September 28, 2018 to make the determination. In a statement following the announcement, ACICS stated it “continues to support the Department’s efforts to take the time necessary to make a reasoned decision regarding ACICS’s continued compliance with federal agency recognition criteria.” The USED announcement is here. The ACICS statement is here.
August 29, 2018
Democratic State Attorneys General Support Obama-era School Discipline Guidance: Eleven Democratic state attorneys general sent a letter to USED Secretary DeVos urging her to not rescind or weaken the Obama-era school discipline guidance. The attorneys general argue the guidance “assists public elementary and secondary schools around the country in meeting their obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, or national origin.” Attorneys general from Connecticut, California, D.C., Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington signed the letter. The full letter is here.
August 24, 2018
Federal Commission on School Safety:
School Safety Commission Holds Last Listening Session, Urged to Not Consider Arming Educators: The Federal Commission on School Safety held its fourth and final listening session in Montgomery, Alabama. During the listening session, multiple speakers addressed the Commission and urged them to not consider arming educators. No member of the Commission was present for the listening session, and sent representatives instead. The announcement is here. A recording of the listening session is here.
August 28, 2018
Consumer Financial Protections Bureau (CFPB):
Student Loan Ombudsman Resigns: Seth Frotman, the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau, resigned from his position. In his resignation letter sent to Director Mick Mulvaney, Frotman states, “it is clear that current leadership of the Bureau has abandoned its duty to fairly and robustly enforce the law.” Additionally, Frotman claimed that CFPB leaders late last year had “suppressed the publication of a report prepared by bureau staff” that showed evidence that the nation’s largest banks were “ripping off students on campuses across the country by saddling them with legally dubious account fees.” In a statement, House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) responded to Frotman’s resignation and called for congressional hearings to “examine the Bureau’s sudden withdrawal from its necessary role in protecting students and student loan borrowers from predatory companies.” Ranking Member Scott’s full statement is here.
August 27, 2018
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):
DOJ Agrees, Harvard Admissions Practices Discriminatory: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a “Statement of Interest” in support of the plaintiff in the Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard College. The case, which is being argued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, claims Harvard has racially discriminatory admission practices, specifically toward Asian-American applicants. The DOJ filing argues Harvard “has failed to show that it does not unlawfully discriminate against Asian Americans” and “no American should be denied admission to school because of their race.” A press release from DOJ is here. The Statement of Interest is here.
August 30, 2018
Upcoming Events (Congressional & Administration)
- On September 5 at 10:15 am, the House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development hearing titled, “On-The-Job: Rebuilding the Workforce Through Apprenticeships.” More information is here.
- On September 5 at 10:00 am, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee is holding a hearing titled, “Opportunities to Improve Health Care.” During the hearing, the Subcommittee will review five bills intended to improve health care in a variety of ways. Included is H.R.3325, the “Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act,” which “will improve the delivery of care for children with complex medical conditions who receive care under Medicaid.” More information is here.
- On September 6 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm EST, USED will hold the first of three public hearings to discuss the rulemaking agenda for a Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, which will prepare proposed regulations for Federal Student Aid programs. The proposed topics for negotiation relate to the core function of accreditation, state authorization issues, the definition of a credit hour, direct assessment programs and competency-based education, and the clarification of requirements for and improvement of outcomes for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant recipients, among other topics. The notice is here.
- On September 11 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm CST, USED will hold the second of three public hearings to discuss the rulemaking agenda for a Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, which will prepare proposed regulations for Federal Student Aid programs. The notice is here.
- On September 13 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm CST, USED will hold the third of three public hearings to discuss the rulemaking agenda for a Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, which will prepare proposed regulations for Federal Student Aid programs. The notice is here.
- On September 13, the ACF will host a meeting for a Tribal Consultation with elected or appointed leaders of tribal governments. ACF has identified topics for consultation, including the Family First Services Act; Title IV-E Planning Grants; the Office of Head Start annual consultation; and TANF and welfare reform. The notice is here.
- On September 16 to 19, the 2018 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week Conference will be hosted by the White House Initiative on HBCUs in Washington, D.C. The focus of the conference will be “HBCU Competitiveness: Aligning Instructional Missions with America’s Promise.” Registration and more information is here.
- On September 19 at 9:30 am, the HBCU Capital Financing Board will hold a meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to update the Board on current program activities, set future meeting dates, enable the Board to make recommendations to the Secretary on the current capital needs of HBCUs, and discuss recommendations regarding how the Board might increase its effectiveness. The notice can be found here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On September 5, Achieving the Dream will hold its fourth annual Data and Analytics Summit. The summit is focused on how an institution’s student success agenda can be achieved by identifying and seizing opportunities to use data in more impactful ways. Specifically, the keynote will address “gaps in data” such as the gap between student and alumni data; the equity gap; the gap between leading and lagging indicators; and the gap between descriptive and predictive analytics. Registration and more information is here.
- On September 6, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is hosting a webinar titled, “Opening the Gates: Using Deeper Learning to Expand College Access.” The webinar will build upon the work LPI has conducted, in partnership with EducationCounsel, around performance assessments and other holistic means to assess students’ competencies. The webinar will explore emerging recommendations for how performance assessments can expand college access opportunities. Registration and more information is here.
- On September 6, AEI and the Urban Institute are co-hosting a discussion titled, “What comes next? A look at student borrowers in default.” The panel discussion will examine the trends in student loan default, and focus on two recent studies published by AEI and the Urban Institute. Registration and more information is here.
- On September 12, Attendance Works will be hosting a webinar titled, “Team Up for Attendance.” The webinar is the final event hosted as part of Attendance Awareness month, and will highlight key findings from the new brief published by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center. The brief includes a national and state analysis of how many schools face high levels of chronic absence. Registration and more information is here.
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- On August 28, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published its annual “Back to School Fast Facts.” Key statistics include a slight increase in public school enrollment since 2017; the pupil/teacher ratio remains constant at 16.0; and per pupil expenditures average to be $12,910 for the school year. The full report is here.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On August 30, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce published a report titled, “Balancing Work and Learning: Implications for Low-Income Students.” The report examined characteristics of low-income working learners and compared to those of high-income working learners. Key findings include low-income working learners are disproportionately Black and Latinx, women, and first-generation college students; low-income high school students are less likely to attend college compared to higher-income students; low-income students are more likely to enroll in certificate programs; low-income working learners are more likely to work full time while in college and are more vulnerable to experiencing declining grades when hours worked approaches or exceeds 40 hours per week; and low-income students are more likely to choose credit cards to pay tuition and fees. The full report is here.
- On August 29, the Learning Policy Institute published a policy brief titled, “Taking the Long View: State Efforts to Solve Teacher Shortages by Strengthening the Profession,” and offers six evidence-based policy recommendations. The policy recommendations include offering service scholarships and student loan forgiveness; creating high-retention pathways into teaching; offering mentoring and induction for new teachers; developing high-quality school principals; offering competitive compensation; and refining recruitment strategies to expand the pool of qualified educators. The full brief is here.
- On August 17, the American Educational Research Association published a study titled, “Do Suspensions Affect Student Outcomes?” The study examined the impacts of suspensions on student achievement and found suspensions led to decreases in both math and reading achievement for suspended students. The full report is here.
A bill to expand access to the workforce through dual enrollment.
Sponsor: Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD)
A bill titled the “Putting Students First Act.”
Sponsor: Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to expand access to school-wide arts and music programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
A bill to promote veteran involvement in STEM education, computer science, and scientific research, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)