Washington Update, October 6, 2023 

Dear Colleagues: 

What a week. After Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through November 17th- Kevin McCarthy was voted out as Speaker of the House- a first in US history. On Monday, 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, stillness fell as the presiding officer gaveled the vote closed, saying the office of the speaker “is hereby declared vacant.” Congress is now in uncharted territory as the House is effectively paralyzed until it picks a new Speaker.  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.


Until a new Speaker is named, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) will serve as 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.


All the while, the clock continues to tick towards the potential of another government shutdown on November 18th- stay tuned.

1. Biden-Harris Administration Announces Additional $9 Billion in Student Debt Relief 

This week, the Biden-Harris administration announced that an additional 125,000 Americans have been approved for $9 billion in debt relief through fixes the U.S. Department of Education has made to income-driven repayment (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and granting automatic relief for borrowers with total and permanent disabilities. This new round of relief brings the total approved debt cancellation by the Biden-Harris Administration to $127 billion for nearly 3.6 million Americans.


The most recent round of relief includes:


  • $5.2 billion in additional debt relief for 53,000 borrowers under Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs.
  • Nearly $2.8 billion in new debt relief for nearly 51,000 borrowers through fixes to income-driven repayment plans. These are borrowers who have been in repayment for 20 or more years but never got the relief they were entitled to
  • $1.2 billion for nearly 22,000 borrowers who have a total or permanent disability and have been identified and approved for discharge through a data match with the Social Security Administration.


In a statement, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona said:


“For years, millions of eligible borrowers were unable to access the student debt relief they qualified for, but that’s all changed thanks to President Biden and this Administration’s relentless efforts to fix the broken student loan system…The Biden-Harris administration’s laser-like focus on reducing red tape, addressing past administrative failures, and putting borrowers first have now resulted in a historic $127 billion in debt relief approved for nearly 3.6 million borrowers. Today’s announcement builds on everything our administration has already done to protect students from unaffordable debt, make repayment more affordable, and ensure that investments in higher education pay off for students and working families.”


To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has approved the following in debt cancellation:

  • Nearly $42 billion for almost 855,000 borrowers who are eligible for forgiveness through income-driven repayment by fixing historical inaccuracies in the count of payments that qualify toward forgiveness;
  • Almost $51 billion for 715,000 public servants through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programs, including the limited PSLF waiver and Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF);
  • $11.7 billion for almost 513,000 borrowers with a total and permanent disability; an
  • $22.5 billion for more than 1.3 million borrowers who were cheated by their schools, saw their institutions precipitously close, or are covered by related court settlements.


2. Secretary Cardona Appoints New Members to National Assessment Governing Board 

This week, the Department of Education announced the appointment of 11 prominent education leaders – seven new members and four reappointed members – to the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the Nation’s Report Card.


The Nation’s Report Card, also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is the only nationally representative assessment of student achievement. Over the past year, NAEP provided critical insights into student learning gaps across subjects and grades worsened by the pandemic. In addition, accompanying survey data revealed important trends related to chronic absenteeism, literacy, and teacher confidence in getting students back on track.


The following education leaders were appointed for a term that began October 1:


  • Lisa Ashe, Secondary Mathematics Consultant, Department of Public Instruction, North Carolina (Curriculum Specialist)
  • Shari Camhi, Superintendent of Schools, Baldwin Union Free School District, Baldwin, New York (Local School Superintendent)
  • Michelle Cantú-Wilson, Professor of Developmental Education, San Jacinto College, Houston, Texas (General Public Representative)
  • Angélica Infante-Green, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary education, Rhode Island (Chief State School Officer)
  • Guillermo Solano-Flores, Professor of Education, Stanford University (Testing and Measurement Expert)
  • Darein Spann, Principal, Starkville High School, Starkville, Mississippi (Secondary Principal)
  • Jane Swift, former governor, Massachusetts (Governor)


The secretary also reappointed several current Governing Board members:


  • Christine Cunningham, Senior Vice President of STEM Learning, Museum of Science, Boston (Curriculum Specialist)
  • Patrick Kelly, AP Government and U.S. History Teacher, Blythewood, South Carolina (Twelfth-Grade Teacher)
  • Reginald McGregor, Vice-President, Government Relations, Rolls-Royce Corporation (Business Representative)
  • Martin West, Professor of Education and Academic Dean, Harvard University (State School Board Member from Massachusetts)


Chair Beverly Perdue, the former governor of North Carolina, was also reappointed as chair of the governing board.

3. New Resources for Educators  

  • US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Accountability  released a new 12-page report on “Book Bans and Curriculum Gag Orders: National Trends.
  • The Education Trust released a new report “‘Segregation Forever’?: The Continued Underrepresentation of Black Undergraduates at the Nation’s 122 Most Selective Private Colleges and Universities.” The report looks at how access for Black students has changed at selective, private universities over the past 20 years.


Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.


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