March 22, 2019

ED Review... a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
FY 2020 Budget
Education Freedom Scholarships
Higher Education Executive Order
Higher Education Reform Principles
Borrower Defense Guidance
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Upcoming Events

FY 2020 Budget

On March 11, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year 2020 budget request to Congress. While the request reduces the overall federal role in education, it makes strategic investments to support and empower families to select the best educational options for their children, to improve teacher quality, to ensure students learn in a safe environment, and to improve access to postsecondary education. The request also demonstrates the Administration's commitment to supporting state efforts to serve vulnerable students, ensuring that all students have equal access to high-quality schools, protecting their paths to a world class education, and empowering local educators to deliver for their students.

"This budget at its core is about education freedom—freedom for America's students to pursue their lifelong learning journeys in the ways and places that work best for them, freedom for teachers to develop their talents and pursue their passions, and freedom from the top-down, 'Washington knows best' approach that has proven ineffective and even harmful to students," Secretary DeVos noted. "We have also reaffirmed our commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently by consolidating or eliminating duplicative and ineffective federal programs.... I look forward to working with Congress to pass a budget that truly puts the needs of students, parents, teachers, and local leaders first, because it is my sincere belief that, if we give them the freedom to break free from the one-size-fits-all 'school system,' we will truly begin to unleash our nation's full potential."

There are six major themes in the FY 2020 budget request for education:

Increasing Education Freedom

  • Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) would provide up to $5 billion in federal tax credits for voluntary contributions by taxpayers to state-identified, non-profit scholarship granting organizations that help students access the education that is right for them.
  • Doubles funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to $30 million.
  • Provides $500 million for the Charter Schools Program, an increase of $60 million over FY 2019.
  • Provides $107 million for the Magnet Schools Program.
  • Provides a total of $50 million for new Student-Centered Funding Incentive Grants to increase transparency in education funding and allow more federal, state, and local aid to follow students to schools.

Supporting High-Needs Students through Essential Formula Grant Programs

  • Level-funds Title I grants to school districts at $15.9 billion.
  • Level-funds Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state formula grants at $13.2 billion.
  • Level-funds Impact Aid Basic Support Payments for federally connected children at $1.4 billion.

Protecting Students by Promoting Safe and Secure Schools

  • More than doubles School Safety National Activities grants, to $200 million, to assist states and districts with developing school emergency operations plans, offering counseling, and implementing evidence-based practices for improving behavioral outcomes.

Elevating the Teaching Profession

  • Provides $300 million for Education Innovation and Research grants, an increase of $170 million over FY 2019, with $200 million for teacher professional development vouchers and $100 million for innovative science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) grants.
  • Provides $200 million for Teacher and School Leaders Incentive Grants to fund projects that support high-quality mentoring and residency programs for new teachers and increased compensation for effective teachers, particularly in high-need fields and subjects (such as computer science).

Promoting Workforce Development for the 21st Century

  • Provides $1.3 billion for Career and Technical Education (CTE) State Grants.
  • Provides $20 million for CTE National Programs to help states modernize their CTE programming, an increase of $12.6 million over FY 2019.
  • Provides a $60 million increase for Fast-Track Pre-Apprenticeships for Low-Skilled Adults, to boost the number of adults who are able to meet the basic entry requirements of apprenticeship programs.

Streamlining and Improving Postsecondary Aid Programs

  • Expands Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality, short-term programs.
  • Simplifies the federal student loan program and loan repayment system.
  • Provides $1.8 billion to support administration of federal student aid programs, including the modernization of student loan servicing through the Next Generation Financial Services Environment.

Among the resources online are a press release, the budget summary, Congressional justifications, and the PowerPoint presentation used in the in-person stakeholder briefing.


Education Freedom Scholarships

Also last week, Secretary DeVos traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, for a meeting at the State Capitol about EFS, joined by Governor Kim Reynolds and State Senator Brad Zaun. "This initiative would allow Iowa to create new opportunities and new choices for students and their families, to prepare them for meaningful adult lives and futures," the Secretary told reporters after the roundtable discussion. "Iowa is leading the way in so many cases on educational options and collaborations, and I think they would do amazing things if the Education Freedom Scholarships initiative is successful."

Variations of tax credit scholarship programs are in place in several states, including Iowa. Under Iowa's School Tuition Organizations Tax Credit, individual and corporate donors receive a tax credit for donating to non-profit entities that create tuition scholarships for low-income students. The state tax credit has helped Iowa students for more than a decade.

Also, the Department released a video interview with School Choice Liaison Denisha Merriweather, who benefitted from a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.


Higher Education Executive Order

On March 21, President Trump signed an Executive Order promoting free speech and improving transparency in higher education. The order directs federal agencies to take appropriate steps to ensure that college and university campuses are places of free thought and debate. It also seeks to ensure that students have access to the information they need to make the postsecondary decisions that work best for them. The Department of Education will make improvements to its myStudent Aid mobile application, so borrowers are better informed about loan balances, payments, and repayment options. Moreover, the agency will expand data available on College Scorecard, including program level earnings, debts, and loan default and repayment rates.

In addition, the order directs the Department to support the efforts of states and institutions to reduce barriers to degree or program completion and save students money, as well as develop policy proposals that help ensure institutions share more of the financial risk associated with student loans (fact sheet and President's remarks).

"All students should have access to relevant, accurate, and transparent data when making decisions about their education," Secretary DeVos asserted in a statement on the executive order. "As students pursue their education, they should never face limits on what, when, where, or how they learn. They should be empowered to pursue truth through the free exchange of all ideas, especially ideas with which they may not agree. Free inquiry is an essential feature of our democracy, and I applaud the President's continued support for America's students."


Higher Education Reform Principles

The White House recently released a set of principles to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The principles, unveiled at a meeting of the National Council for the American Worker, set forth concrete legislative actions that, if enacted into law, would provide more Americans access to affordable and high-quality education, improve institutional accountability, and help students and families make informed decisions regarding their educational options. These principles include: reorienting the accreditation process to focus on student outcomes; increasing innovation in the education marketplace; better aligning education to the needs of the modern workforce; increasing institutional accountability; accelerating program completion; supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); encouraging responsible borrowing; simplifying student aid; supporting returning citizens; and giving prospective students more meaningful and useful information about schools and programs. (Note: After the meeting, Secretary DeVos issued a statement, referring to the principles as "an important roadmap for working with Congress to rethink higher education and approve meaningful reforms.")


Borrower Defense Guidance

The Department also recently released significant, non-binding guidance providing institutions with information to assist them in implementing the Borrower Defense to Repayment regulations. The original effective date of these regulations (July 1, 2017) was delayed by the agency. However, by legal order of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, the regulations are now effective.

The guidance offers information on mandatory arbitration agreements. Specifically, the rule prohibits institutions receiving federal aid from requiring students to settle complaints through arbitration—rather than in court—and prohibits institutions from requiring students to sign away their legal rights to work together in class action lawsuits. The guidance instructs institutions that they have 60 days to either change the binding arbitration provisions in their enrollment contracts or notify students they will not be enforced.

The guidance also outlines that the federal standard for loan discharges for defrauded students will apply to loans disbursed after July 1, 2017, and that the Department will offer more information, at a later date, about the requirement that for-profit institutions provide repayment rate warnings to prospective students.


Odds and Ends

  • Secretary DeVos, in a meeting with Council for American Private Education (CAPE) state directors, announced that the Department will no longer enforce a restriction barring religious organizations from serving as contract providers of equitable services solely due to their religious affiliation, finding that the statutory provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that require a provider to "be independent of...any religious organization" run counter to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer (2017).

  • On a related note, the Department released a draft document consolidating and updating information intended to support states, districts, and private schools in implementation of ESEA equitable services. (Note: The document is open for stakeholder review and comment through April 9.)

  • At the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) Legislative Conference, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan urged states to pursue bold changes for students in their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plans.

  • Next week (March 25-28), the Accreditation and Innovation negotiated rulemaking committee will hold its third session. As with previous sessions, this session will be live-streamed (Days 1, 2, 3, and 4). Also, since the initial two sessions were cut short by weather-related government closures, the Department plans a new, fourth session the following week (April 1-3).

  • The Department is working with Argosy University and The Art Institute officials, requisite accreditors, and state authorizing bodies across 12 states to coordinate closed school information and resources for impacted students.

  • A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) First Look report focuses on students' persistence, retention, and attainment in postsecondary education six years after their initial enrollment.

  • President Trump signed into law the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which, among other provisions, extends the "Every Kid in a Park" program allowing fourth-grade students and their families to visit any of the nation's national parks or federal public lands for free.

  • On March 18, First Lady Melania Trump convened the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. She gave opening remarks, then called on agency representatives (including Secretary DeVos) to share information about their programs that positively impact the lives of children. A number of these programs align with the three pillars of the First Lady's "Be Best" initiative (readout and photos).


Quotes to Note

"Every student deserves to be considered on their individual merits when applying to college, and it's disgraceful to see anyone breaking the law to give their children an advantage over others. The Department is looking closely at this issue and working to determine if any of our regulations have been violated."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (3/13/19), from an interview on Fox News after a series of high-profile arrests involving college admissions

"The Department of Education and I stand ready to help students and teachers in the aftermath of the devastating floods across the Midwest. Thank you to the emergency personnel and volunteers for their tireless efforts to help these communities recover."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (3/21/19), in a tweet on the historic flooding in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota


Upcoming Events

Secretary DeVos is scheduled to testify at both House (March 26 at 10:15 p.m. Eastern Time) and Senate (March 28 at 10 a.m. ET) appropriations subcommittee hearings on the Department of Education's FY 2020 budget request.

On March 27, from 2 to 3 p.m. ET, the Department's Office of Safe and Supportive Schools (OSSS) and its Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center will host a webinar to present an overview of the agency's new question-and-answer document on the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and discuss the importance of understanding FERPA when developing comprehensive emergency operations plans.

The Federal Inter-Agency Holocaust Remembrance Program aims to educate federal employees, students, teachers, and the public about the Holocaust, as well as other acts of genocide. This free event is held each year at a Washington, D.C., venue. This year, it will be held April 30 at the Lincoln Theatre.


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Last Modified: 03/27/2019