Washington Update, October 13, 2023

Dear Colleagues:

As of the writing of this update, the House has been without a speaker and effectively paralyzed for the past ten days. Last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) offered the motion to vacate the chair on the House floor – a rare procedural move that can be used to force a vote to remove the speaker. After a 216-210 vote, Speaker McCarthy was voted out as Speaker of the House and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) is now serving the acting Speaker. However, Rep. McHenry is unable to bring legislation to the floor or take it off. He also does not have the power to issue subpoenas or sign off on any other official House business that would require the approval of the speaker.

Last week, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the number two House Republican, announced his candidacy, along with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Scalise ultimately earned the nomination from the GOP on Tuesday and then withdrew his nomination on Wednesday, seemingly after not securing the necessary 217 votes necessary to earn the job as Speaker. Late Friday afternoon, House Republicans nominated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) over Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA). who mounted a last-minute bid for Speaker that was largely seen as a protest to Jordan’s candidacy.

All the while, eyes around the world are focused on the horrific events occurring in Israel and throughout the Middle East. The uptick in acts of antisemitism and Islamaphobia across colleges and universities has prompted new pressure on the Department of Education to release a proposal that, as reported by Politico, would potentially force college administrators to investigate claims of discrimination against ethnic groups or risk losing federal money.

We expect Congress will need to act swiftly to pass an aid package for both Israel and the Ukraine while still needing to pass an FY24 spending bill before November 17th to avoid a potential government shutdown.

1. Department Announces Technical Assistance Centers to Support Student Wellbeing, Academic Success, and School Safety

The Department of Education announced technical assistance centers to support state and local efforts to support and enhance student wellbeing, academic success, and school safety. These centers further the Department’s commitment to accelerate learning, meet students’ mental health needs, and expand academic opportunity and success inside and outside of the regular school day.

In a statement, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona said:
“To Raise the Bar in education, we must equip schools and districts with strategies backed by decades of experience and research to support students’ wellbeing and drive academic success… Today, we are announcing new technical assistance opportunities that will help education leaders to hone their statewide literacy plans, respond to individual student’s needs and civil rights, and provide enriching out-of-school-time programs. Raising the Bar is about embracing what works so that students can thrive in the classroom and beyond.”

The centers include: Comprehensive Literacy State Development; National Technical Assistance Center for 21st Century Community Learning Centers; Student Support and Academic Enrichment and Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Stronger Connections.

You can read more about each of the centers here.

2. Twelve Organizations Receive Funding to Strength Family Engagement Programs

This week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $11.4 million in grants awarded to 12 organizations in states and school districts across the country to improve and strengthen family engagement programs.

As reported in a press release from the Department, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides financial support to statewide organizations to carry out parent education and family engagement programs. In addition, the program provides technical assistance and support to state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) in the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement.

Services offered through SFEC are designed to assist parents in participating in their children’s education, including by giving parents more confidence and empowering them to engage with teachers and school leaders. The SFEC program, housed within the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, has supported funding efforts to:

  • Provide direct services to families on how to effectively work with their child’s school and teachers to improve their child’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.
  • Serve as critical centralized information hubs during and after the pandemic.
  • Launch strategic surveys and publish key research findings to inform educators, practitioners, and families about the latest educational barriers and opportunities.
  • Provide parents and caregivers with easy-to-understand, applicable information to solve present-day problems.

You can view the complete list of the 12 SFEC grant awardees here.

3. Administration Announces Support for Campus-Based Child Care Programs

The Biden-Harris Administration announced more than $13 million in grants to 34 institutions of higher education to support or establish high quality, campus-based child care programs to meet the needs of student parents with low incomes enrolled on their campuses.
More than one in five students are parents and 42% of all student parents attend community colleges. High-quality child care provides benefits to children, their parents, and the economy at large

In addition to the CCAMPIS grants, the Department  also announced more than $75 million in grant awards it made in three other grant programs with FY23 funds to benefit underserved students at postsecondary institutions. These programs include the Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) Part A grant program, the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) state grant program, and the Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP).

You can view the full list of CCAMPIS awardees here

4. OCR Resolves Compliance Review with California School District

This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has resolved a compliance review of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District in California to ensure that the district’s restraint and seclusion policies and practices do not deny students with disabilities their civil rights in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and their implementing regulations.

As detailed in the Department’s press release, OCR’s investigation revealed that overall, the district infrequently held Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings for students with disabilities after they were restrained or secluded, even in extreme situations, such as for a student who experienced 22 restraints at a district school in one year.
In another situation, OCR found that a student spent over 38 hours in a “Refocus Room” of a nonpublic school (NPS) in one school year and was subjected to a prone restraint, but the district did not convene the student’s IEP team until the end of the school year.
OCR also identified a compliance concern that the district may have failed to implement the IEPs and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) for some students and thereby denied those students their right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

The steps the district committed to take in the resolution agreement include:

  • Revising and distributing to district staff and NPS employees its policies, procedures, and forms for restraint and seclusion.
  • Ensuring a process to create and maintain records about its use of restraint and seclusion.
  • Providing training on the revised policies and Section 504 FAPE requirements to teachers, administrators, and other members of IEP and Section 504 teams.
  • Ensuring that NPS staff serving district students are trained on the revised policies.
  • Providing individual remedies for students who experienced restraint or seclusion during the review period by convening their IEP or Section 504 team to determine if compensatory services are needed, and if so, by timely providing such services.
  • Conducting a review to determine whether any other district students were denied a FAPE due to the district’s or an NPS’s use of restraint or seclusion from 2019 to the present, and to implement responsive remedies based on this review. And,
  • Implementing a program to monitor the use of restraint and seclusion with students in district schools and NPSs to safeguard their rights under Section 504 and Title II.

The letter to the district is available here and the resolution agreement here.

5. New Resources for Educators

  • ACT released their annual snapshot  on the United States High School graduating class- referred to in the report as the “covid cohort”.

Wishing all of you and those around the world, peace.

Until next time, see you on X (formerly Twitter)