The countdown is on for Congress to pass a fiscal year (FY) 2023 package before the 117th Congress ends at the end of this month. As you will recall, the government is currently operating on a continuing resolution. Essentially what this means is the government is operating on last fiscal year’s funding levels through December 16th. At that time, a budget or another continuing resolution must pass or the government will shut down. While its widely reported that the four corners have not yet agreed on top line numbers, many believe a budget will pass before the 118th Congress begins, even if that means working up to Christmas Eve. Stay tuned!
1. Appeals Court Halts Efforts to Revive Student Debt Relief Program
On Wednesday, a federal appeals court rejected the Biden-Harris Administration’s bid to reinstate the student debt relief program which would forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers. This decision comes after a Federal judge in Texas struck down the Administration’s relief program citing it as “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated.” Prior to the ruling, the Department had already been prohibited from moving forward due to a temporary order from a federal appeals court in a separate case. The three-judge appellate panel ordered that the Administration’s full appeal be heard by another panel on the 5th circuit, but the Biden Administration had already said it will take the case directly to the Supreme Court if the relief plan was not reinstated by December 1st. The Administration has extended the pause on federal student loan payment until 60 days after a resolution or June 30th, whichever comes first.
2. GOP Lawmakers on House Judiciary Committee Intend to Interview top Department of Education Advisors
Last week, GOP lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona informing the Secretary that the committee intends to request interviews with several Department officials next year. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) who is currently the top Republican on the committee and is expected to serve as the Chair in the 118th Congress, led the writing of the letter and noted that that the panel is expected to request interviews with several top advisers to the Secretary. The requests are related to what the committee identified as “oversight of the Biden administration’s use of federal law enforcement with respect to school board-related threats.” For context, Republicans widely criticized the Biden-Harris Administration’s response to a 2021 letter from the National School Boards Association. The letter requested federal intervention to address threats to school board members and noted possible enforcement of “domestic terrorism” laws. Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered federal law enforcement authorities to talk with local leaders and address “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against educators and school board members. Some Members of Congress have suggested that the Department of Education was involved in the writing of the letter from the National School Boards Association. Secretary Cardona has publicly denied any involvement in the writing or circulation of the letter. The letter provides insight into the priorities of the House Judiciary Committee that will be newly controlled by Republicans in the 118th Congress.
3. Group of Republican Lawmakers Support Rep. Virginia Foxx’s Waiver Request to Become Chairwoman of House Education and Workforce Committee in 118th Congress
On Wednesday, a group of Republican lawmakers on the House Education and Labor committee sent a letter to the Republican steering committee in support of Rep. Virginia Foxx’s pursuit of a waiver which would allow Rep. Foxx(current Ranking member) to lead the committee in the 118th Congress. If the waiver is not granted, Rep. Foxx would term out of her leadership role due to an internal GOP rule that bars members from serving more than three consecutive terms as a ranking member or chair of a committee. The letter, led by Rep. Burgess Owens, was signed by nearly all of the GOP members on the committee and states: “Virginia has been so effective in her work on this committee because of her unmatched personal experience as an educator, school board member and small business owner… To us, her middle initial, A, no longer stands for Ann, but for Accountability, and she will continue to be an oversight warrior against the Biden administration.” The Republican steering committee is expected to make their chair and committee decisions as early as next week.
4. Office of Civil Rights Comes to Agreement with Fairfax County Public Schools Over Students with Disabilities Receiving Services
On Wednesday, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced they have come to an agreement with Fairfax County Public Schools after the district failed to provide thousands of students with disabilities with the services required under law during the pandemic. “I am relieved that the more than 25,000 students with disabilities in Fairfax County will now receive services federal law promises to them, even during a pandemic, to ensure their equal access to education,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said in a statement.
The OCR investigation found that during the pandemic, Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school district in Virginia, reduced its special education instruction and “inaccurately informed staff that the school division was not required to provide compensatory education to students with disabilities who did not receive a [free appropriate public education] during the Covid-19 pandemic because the school division was not at fault.”
5. In the States: New York State to Address Shortage of Educators and Increasing Retirees
As school districts across New York state begin to see the impact of the declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs on their hiring pool, another problem has risen; retirements. The number of teachers retiring in New York state rose 7.2 percent between 2018 and 2022; an increase of nearly 11,500 retirees over the five-year span. An additional thirty-four percent of New York State United Teachers Union will be eligible to retire in the next five years. In order to address the need, New York Governor Kathy Hochul in October announced the development of the Empire State Teacher Residency Program through the New York State Department of Labor. This program will provide matching funding for local public school districts and/or Boards of Cooperative Educational Services to create two-year residency opportunities for graduate-level K-12 teacher candidates. The program will provide $30 million in funding to subsidize master’s degree or teaching certification programs for qualified residency program candidates. In a statement, Governor Hochul said: “With the tremendous responsibility of inspiring and shaping the minds of younger generations, New York’s teachers deserve to be set up for success…This investment will ensure new teachers have the mentorship and support to adapt to a challenging and ever-changing field. New Yorkers deserve the best education, and our teachers are essential in providing that.”
6. New Resources for Educators
- New America released a new report that details “how higher education and the student loan system are failing the most vulnerable borrowers.” The report is based on feedback from focus groups with borrowers who defaulted on their student loans.
- National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is out with a new report looking at student and institutional experiences with the three rounds of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding. The report includes a focus on differences in the experiences among students and practitioners at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) relative to non-MSIs and policy implications and suggestions for Congress.
Wishing you all a joyful weekend and smooth end of your semesters!
Until next time, see you on Twitter!
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