Dear Colleagues:

The coming week is set to be a busy one in Washington, as Members prepare to head back to their home states and districts for the Memorial Day recess. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services is set to hold a hearing on “Tackling Teacher Shortages” this coming Wednesday at 10AM EST via Zoom. You can read more about the hearing below, and I assure you this is one you will not want to miss.

1. The House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services is set to hold a Hearing on “Tackling Teacher Shortages”

This week, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies announced it will  hold a hearing on May 25 about “Tackling Teacher Shortages.” Witnesses will include Dr. Lindsey Burke, Director of the Center for Education Policy, Heritage Foundation; Desiree Carver-Thomas, Researcher and Policy Analyst,  Learning Policy Institute; Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers; and former HECSE Policy Advisor, Dr. Jane West.

The hearing will take place via Zoom at 10AM EST and you can watch it live here.

2. West Virginia Senator Presses Department over Delays in Awarding Grants

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) penned a letter to Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona expressing concern over a delay in awarding grants under the Upward Bound program, which is part of the federal TRIO Programs.

“Federal TRIO programs provide many students across the nation with the opportunity to pursue their dreams of going to college. In West Virginia, these programs are a lifeline for students who want to succeed in higher education, but may not have the opportunity to do so on their own. The Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget should be doing their part to ensure these dreams can become a reality for students by judiciously announcing the award slate.” Senator Manchin wrote in the letter.

Funding for existing programs is set to expire May 31st and programs are unsure if they will have the funds to help pay students or instructors for the summer.

The Department of Education responded in a statement, saying:

“We recognize that many programs rely on Upward Bound grant funds for ongoing operations and are working quickly to award these funds to selected recipients. We have also received the letter and will respond directly to its author.”

3. The Biden Administration Soliciting Bids from Companies to Build New Student Loan Servicing Platform

On Thursday, the Biden Administration began soliciting bids from companies to build out a new student loan servicing system. The Department of Education posted procurement documents that provide more detail on the loan servicing strategy that was announced by Federal Student Aid Chief Rich Corday in February. In broad terms, the plan had focused on creating a streamlined and simpler way for borrowers to pay their loans.

In a blog post, Corday said the current, “ disjointed servicing system is often confusing for borrowers and, frankly, the quality of work has not always met our standards.” The new approach is meant to hold “services accountable for a high level of performance and focusing on key objectives like reducing borrower delinquency and default…”

The Department will accept offers through July 19th.

4. The 68th Anniversary of Brown V. Board of Education

Tuesday marked the 68th anniversary of the landmark Brown V. Board of Education decision the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine in America’s public schools.  In a statement, The US Department of Justice highlighted the challenges our nation still faces nearly 70 years after the Brown ruling:

“Nearly 70 years after the court declared racially segregated schools unequal and unconstitutional, Brown stands as both a transformative moment in our country, and as a promise yet unfulfilled… The urgency of this work is undeniable when we see students of color facing unfair school discipline and arrest; when students with disabilities face unnecessary segregation; when students are punished for not following dress and grooming codes that are rooted in race and gender stereotypes; and when students are forced to learn in hostile environments where they are harassed, sometimes even by school officials, for being who they are. Discriminatory discipline and unchecked harassment, like overt racial segregation can, in Brown’s words, affect students’ “hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone… In the Civil Rights Division, we recognize the progress we have made since Brown. We also acknowledge that the struggle continues. We are working each day to make Brown real, for all students.”

Congressional Democrats marked the anniversary of Brown by reintroducing legislation meant to support school diversity efforts. The Strength in Diversity Act of 2022  would create a grant program for projects that “address the effects of racial isolation or concentrated poverty” by increasing racial and socioeconomic diversity in public schools.

5. Department of Education Releases new FAQ on how Colleges and Universities can use HEERF Dollars to Address Student Mental Health

This week, the Department of Education released new guidance on how colleges and universities can use Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds from the American Rescue Plan to invest in student mental health support.

“Addressing the mental health needs of students has long been a challenge for institutions of higher education (institutions) that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is during college that many students experience the first onset of chronic mental health and substance use problems or an exacerbation of their symptoms. In a September 2021 survey of college presidents, 73 percent of respondents indicated that the mental health of students was a pressing concern on their campus, up from 41 percent in April 2020… The Department strongly encourages colleges to use available HEERF grants to address student, faculty, and staff mental health. Although HEERF grants are a one-time infusion of funds, initial investments in high-impact mental health projects can be made now, with ongoing support after initial success of these programs provided through philanthropic efforts, local partnerships, or other funding sources”

The Department recently extended the performance period of HEERF grants through June 30, 2023.

6. New Resources for Educators

Wishing you all a wonderful week.

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