Federal Education Updates

4/1/2021

Federal

Keep up with recent federal education activity from Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.

March 2021

March 30, 2021 | The Department of Education Provides Student Loan Relief for Permanently Disabled Borrowers and Borrowers under the FFEL Program: Income documentation requirements for borrowers who receive a federal student loan discharge due to total and permanent disability will be waived during the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Any loans that were reinstated or payments that were made during the pandemic will be discharged or refunded. Additionally, borrowers who defaulted on a privately held Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) will not pay interest on their loan and receive relief from collection activities through Sept. 30, 2021. The relief will apply retroactively to March 13, 2020, and any tax refunds seized or wages garnished over the past year will be returned to borrowers. Read more here for information on student loan relief for permanently disabled borrowers, and here for information on student loan relief in the FFEL program.

March 19, 2021 | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Reduces School Distancing Guidelines: The guidance recommends that students in school buildings stay three feet apart, rather than six, as long as universal masking is maintained. Read more.

March 19, 2021 | The Department of Education Announces the Distribution of $122B in Relief Aid for K-12 Schools and $40B for Higher Education: Two-thirds of K-12 funds through the ESSER program are immediately available to states, while remaining funds will be made available after states submit ESSER implementation plans. States must set aside 5% of their K-12 allotments to address learning loss, while districts must set aside at least 20% of their distribution to address learning loss. Colleges and universities must award 50% of funds as emergency aid to student and can use remainder for lost revenue and reimbursement for expenses. Click here for more information on the K-12 funding and here for higher education funding.

March 17, 2021 | The Health and Human Services Department is Providing $10B to Expand Coronavirus Testing in K-12 Schools: CDC and state and local health departments will support technical assistance to assist states and schools in standing up and implementing testing programs. Read more.

March 10, 2021 | Congress Passes the American Rescue Plan Act: The measure includes $128.5 billion in relief aid for K-12 schools and $40 billion for higher education. Notable provisions in the package include a “maintenance of equity” provision, changes to the federal 90/10 rule which prohibits for-profit colleges from receiving more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal aid programs, and making student loan forgiveness tax-free from 2021 through 2026. Read more.

March 9, 2021 | The Department of Agriculture Extends Free Meals for all Students Through September 2021: Free meals will continue to be available to all students while school is out of session through the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option. Read more.

March 2, 2021 | President Directs Federal Pharmacy Program to Prioritize Vaccinating Educators: Teachers and staff in pre-K-12 schools and childcare programs will be able to sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations participating in the federal program nationwide. Read more.

March 1, 2021 | Miguel Cardona Confirmed to Serve as Education Secretary: The Senate confirmed Dr. Miguel Cardona by a bipartisan vote of 64-33, to lead the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Cardona is a former teacher, school administrator, and Connecticut’s education commissioner. Read more.

February 2021

February 22, 2021 | The Department of Education Releases Guidance on 2020-2021 Federal Assessment and Accountability Requirements: The new guidance does not offer waivers for spring statewide assessments, but provides states additional flexibility on how and when to administer assessments. Such flexibility includes administering a shortened version of their statewide assessment tests, offering the test remotely when feasible, and extending the testing window to the summer or fall. The Department of Education is also offering states the option to request a waiver for the accountability and school identification requirements. Read more.

blog iconFebruary 12, 2021 | State Legislatures Magazine: NCSL Briefs Congress on State-Federal Education Priorities

 

February 12, 2021 | The CDC and Department of Education Update Guidance for Reopening K-12 Schools: The CDC’s newly updated operational strategy guidance details how schools can reopen through consistent use of mitigation strategies, especially universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing. The U.S. Department of Education also released a supplementary COVID-19 Handbook that provides practical examples and roadmaps to implement CDC's recommended safe practices for in-person learning. Notably, CDC guidance encourages schools in low and moderate transmission zones to consider reopening for full in-person learning. Read more.

February 5, 2021 | The Department of Education Announces Effort to Track School Reopening: The National Center for Education Statistics will survey schools on their instructional mode, including in-person, hybrid or remote; the breakdown of attendance rates by demographics, including race, socioeconomic status and student disabilities; and student groups prioritized for in-person instruction by selected school characteristics. Read more.

January 2021

blog iconJanuary 22, 2021 | Blog: How Governors Have Spent CARES Education Funds

 

 

blog iconJanuary 20, 2021 | State Legislatures MagazineCongress Expands Pell Grant Eligibility, Simplifies FAFSA

 

January 22, 2021 | Biden Expands P-EBT Benefits for Children Missing School Meals: The order directs the Department of Agriculture to increase Pandemic-EBT benefits by approximately 15%. The Pandemic-EBT program was created last spring to help replace the subsidized or free meals that tens of millions of children normally get at school. The order also aims to allow states to increase SNAP emergency benefits for those most in need. Read more.

January 21, 2021 | Biden Directs the Department of Education to Extend Student Loan Payment Relief: The order continues the temporary suspension of payments and interest accrual on federal student loans held by the Department of Education until Sept. 30, 2021. Read more.

January 14, 2021 | DeVos Announces the Distribution of $54.3B in Pandemic Relief Aid for K-12 Schools, $4.1B in Emergency Education Grants for Governors, and $21B for Colleges and Universities: The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, and provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. This additional funding can be used to address learning loss, improve school facilities and infrastructure to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, and purchase education technology. How much each state will receive can be found here and the fact sheet on the new ESSER funding can be found here.

The legislation provided an additional $4.1 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Approximately $2.75 billion will be set aside by Congress to support disadvantaged students at non-public schools. Funds are limited to COVID-related needs and cannot be used for vouchers or scholarships for parents. Read the fact sheet on the new GEER funding here.

The legislation also provided $20.5 billion to public and non-profit colleges and universities and $681 million to for-profit colleges to provide financial aid grants to students. Institutions can use the stimulus money for lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses, technology costs due to the shift to online learning, financial aid for students. Read the fact sheet on the new HEERF funding here.

January 12, 2021 | College Scorecard Update Adds Loan Repayment Information: The update provides prospective students with information on how well borrowers from individual colleges and universities are progressing in repaying their federal student loans, as well as how overall borrower cohorts are faring at certain intervals in the repayment process. Later this year, the College Scorecard will also be updated to include a new metric: the year-over-year change in cost at each institution. Read more.

December 2020

December 27, 2020 | Congress Passes COVID-Relief and FY 2021 Funding PackageThe president signed the measure into law on Dec. 27, which includes $82 billion in relief aid for education and $73.5 billion in annual funding for the Department of Education. The package also includes significant changes to federal financial aid, including expanding Pell eligibility and simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Access NCSL's summaries of the COVID-19 stimulus and omnibus appropriations provisions.

December 22, 2020 | Biden Nominates Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona For Education Secretary: Miguel Cardona, a former teacher, school administrator, and currently Connecticut’s education commissioner, was nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Education.

December 10, 2020 | College Enrollment Falls Among High School Graduates: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that high school graduates who went straight to college declined by 21.7% compared to 2019. Public college enrollment among high school graduates of low-income high schools declined at disproportionately higher rates (29%). Read more

December 9, 2020 | NCSL Releases GEER Fund Tracker: Governors have obligated at least 93.1% of the $3 billion in education relief to states through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. NCSL, with assistance from the National Governor’s Association, will continue to update its state-by-state tracker. Read more

December 4, 2020 DeVos Extends Student Loan Payment Relief: The order continues the temporary suspension of payments and interest accrual on federal student loans held by the Department of Education until Jan. 31, 2021. Read More.

November 2020

November 25, 2020 |The Nation’s Report Card Assessments Have Been Postponed Until 2022: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) postponed the reading and mathematics National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments, scheduled to start in January 2021 for fourth and eighth grades, until 2022. NCES Commissioner James Woodworth stated that at this time, NCES “cannot conduct a national-level assessment in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law.” Read more.

October 2020

Oct. 30, 2020 | Nation’s Report Card Shows 12th Grade Reading Scores Have Declined, Math Unchanged: The average reading score for high school seniors declined between 2015 and 2019; math scores remained unchanged. Scores for the lowest performing seniors dropped in both subjects. Overall, 37% of 12th-graders reached or exceeded the academic preparedness benchmarks for both math and reading that would qualify them for entry-level college courses. Read the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading Assessment report and the 2019 NAEP Math Assessment report.  

 

blog iconOct. 28, 2020 | State Legislatures MagazineStates Use CARES Act Funds to Address Digital Divide

 

Oct. 15, 2020 | College Enrollment Declines This Fall: Federal survey data shows undergraduate enrollment is down 4% overall, while first-time student enrollment is down 16.1% nationwide and 22.7% at community colleges. Read more.

Oct. 13, 2020 | The Federal Communications Commission Awards $1.37M in E-Rate Funding to Schools in 32 States and Puerto Rico: The program provides discounts to schools and libraries for broadband services and will allow schools to purchase additional bandwidth for this academic year to address needs resulting from the increasing shift to online learning. Read more.

Oct. 9, 2020 | Department of Agriculture Extends Free Meals for all Students Through June 2021: The USDA announced that it would extend flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all students throughout the duration of the 2020-2021 school year. The USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 2020. This will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option through June 30, 2021. Read more.

September 2020

Sept. 30, 2020 | ED Awards $100 Million in Competitive Grants to Improve Teaching Quality: School districts, non-profits, and universities in 21 states received 35 awards through the Teacher and School Leader Incentive (TSL) Program , Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program, and the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Program. Read more.

Sept. 15, 2020 | The Center for Disease Control and Prevention Released Indicators for In-Person School Transmission: The tool is designed to help school administrators and local health officials make decisions about beginning, continuing, or pausing in-person learning. The CDC recommends the use of three indicators: the number of new cases per 100,000 persons within the last 14 days, the percentage of tests that are positive during the last 14 days, and one self-assessed measure of schools' ability to adhere to various mitigation strategies. Read more

Sept. 9, 2020 | The Department of Education Finalizes Religious Freedom Rule for Colleges and Universities: The rule would deny federal grant money to institutions if they violate the First Amendment and free speech policies. The rule does not affect federal student aid dollars. The regulation also requires that religious student organizations be given the same treatment as nonsecular groups and explains how religious-affiliated colleges can claim exemptions to Title IX. Read More.

Sept. 4, 2020 | Judge Strikes Down DeVos’ Equitable Services Rule to Send Additional CARES Act Funds to Private Schools Nationwide: The decision repeals the Education Department’s interim final rule that directs school districts to reserve Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for “equitable services” to all local private school students, if the district makes funds available to all students in a district. The ruling applies nationwide and the Department has since taken down the “equitable services” interim final rule. The court ruled that Congress expressed a clear and unambiguous preference for apportioning funding to public and private schools based on the number of students from low-income families. Read more.

Sept. 3, 2020 | The Department of Health and Human Services is Providing 125M Face Masks to Schools: HHS will provide up to 125 million face masks to states for distribution to schools. Masks will be allocated according to each state’s share of low-income students. Read More.

Sept. 3, 2020 | DeVos Tells State Education Chiefs not to Expect Assessment Waivers for 2020-2021 School Year: DeVos defended her rationale in a letter to chief state school officers. Read more.

 

blog iconSept. 3, 2020 | State Legislatures MagazineHow States Are Using the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to Address Education Challenges

 

Sept. 1, 2020 | Department of Agriculture Extends Free Meals for all Students Through 2020: The USDA announced that several school meal program flexibilities will be extended through December 31, 2020. This will allow summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children into the fall months. Read More.

August 2020

Aug. 26, 2020 | Judge Blocks DeVos’ Equitable Services Rule to Send Additional CARES Act Funds to Private Schools: The decision restricts Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from implementing or enforcing the rule in the plaintiff jurisdictions: California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as public school districts in Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, and San Francisco. The Education Department's interim final rule directs school districts to reserve Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for “equitable services” to all local private school students if the district makes funds available to all students in district. Read more

Aug. 24, 2020 | Department of Education Issues New Distance Learning Rules for Higher Education: The regulations provide flexibility to distance education and competency-based education programs, clarify the distinction between distance education and correspondence courses, and simplify clock-to-credit hour conversions. The new rule also simplifies rules on “subscription-based programs” and includes provisions to ensure that students incarcerated in a juvenile justice facility continue their eligibility for Pell Grants. The regulations were developed by a negotiated rulemaking effort in 2019. The regulations will take effect July 1, 2021, but institutions can voluntarily employ the new flexibilities now. Read more

Aug. 10, 2020 | The Department of Education Announces a $3.9 Million Grant to 17 HBCUs and MSIs to Expand STEM Education: The grant is part of the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, which supports expanding the scientific and technological capacity by increasing the number of minority graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Read more

Aug. 8, 2020 | Trump Takes Executive Action as Negotiations Stall: Memorandum on Student Loan Payment Relief: The order continues the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until Dec. 31, 2020. Read More.

July 2020

July 29, 2020 | The Department of Education Awards $180 million to 11 States for K-12 Education: Congress set aside 1% of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for grants to states with the highest coronavirus burden. The Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant will support states’ efforts to provide families with access to technology and services to advance remote learning. Read more.

July 23, 2020 | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Updates Guidance on K-12 School Reopening: The CDC recommends that school districts make decisions about reopening schools for in-person instruction based on local needs and the levels of COVID-19 transmission in their community. The agency advised against screening all students for symptoms, not closing down entire schools if one person tests positive, and offered more guidance on the use of face masks in the classroom setting. The guidance also provides new information on decision-making tools and checklists for parents and an FAQ for administrators. The CDC will continue to develop new resources to help schools reopen, including more guidance for institutions of higher education. Read more.

 

blog iconJuly 23, 2020 | Blog: How States Are Using CARES Act Funds to Support K-12 Education

 

blog iconJuly 15, 2020 | Blog: IDEA at 45: How the Pandemic Affects Students With Disabilities 

 

July 14, 2020 | The Trump Administration Rescinds Rule on International Students Studying Online: The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have agreed to rescind the July 6 policy directive that would have required international students to take at least some in-person coursework to remain in the U.S. The government will return to the status quo of its March 13 guidance, which permits international students with F-1 visas to stay in the U.S. while taking online courses. Read More.

June 2020

June 30, 2020 | Senate HELP Committee Introduced $430 Billion COVID-19 Relief bill for Child-Care and Education: The $430 billion bill provides $345 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, including $175 billion for K-12 schools, $132 billion for higher education and $33 billion for a governor’s fund. The bill also includes a maintenance of effort requirement stating that states may not reduce their education spending for three years.

June 30, 2020 | Supreme Court Rules on State Aid to Religious Schools: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue examined whether the Montana Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a tax-credit scholarship program that allowed students to use the scholarships to attend private schools, including religious schools. The U.S. Supreme Court sided 5-4 with Montana families, ruling that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools, a decision that opened the door to more public funding of religious education. Read more.

June 30, 2020 | CDC Released Guidance on COVID-19 Testing in K-12 Schools and Universities: The guidance advised against universal testing of faculty and students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that K-12 schools implement preventive measures like social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting. For universities, the CDC recommends broader testing for people who have been in contact with infected patients in settings where the disease can quickly spread, such as residence halls, bathrooms and lounges.

June 26, 2020  | Borrower-Defense Veto Override Fails: The House failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a bill that would have undone DeVos’s borrower-defense rule. The rule went into effect on July 1, 2020.

June 25, 2020 | DeVos Announces Interim Final Rule on CARES Act Equitable Services Provision: The rule requires school districts to calculate the private school share of CARES Act funds: (1) Based on total enrollment in private schools if district makes funds available to all students in district; or (2) Based on the total number of low-income students in Title I and participating private schools, if district only uses funds in Title I schools. This rule follows up on the April 30 guidance and goes into effect immediately, although the Department will offer a 30-day comment period. The announcement and final rule can be found here.

June 19, 2020 | DeVos Announces Workforce Grant Competition via CARES Act: The $127.5 million Reimagine Workforce Preparation Grant Program seeks to expand sector-based education and training programs and support local entrepreneurship through small business incubators. States should submit their completed application no later than Aug. 24, 2020. Additional information on the grants can be found here

June 15, 2020 | DeVos announces rule limiting student eligibility for CARES higher education emergency aid: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a new regulation that would limit eligibility for the higher education emergency aid in the CARES Act to students who qualify for federal financial aid. The interim final rule reflects the Department’s April 21 guidance, which would restrict aid for undocumented students and others who don’t qualify for federal student aid. The rule will take effect immediately after it is published in the Federal Register, which the department said would happen on June 15. The department said that it would not retroactively enforce the new rule against colleges. The agency will also accept public comments on the policy for 30 days.

June 8, 2020 | Department of Education Releases CARES Act Maintenance of Effort Guidance: The U.S. Department of Education released guidance on the maintenance of effort (MOE) provision for the Education Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act requires states that accept either the K-12 or governor’s funds to maintain support for both K-12 and higher education in FY 2020 and FY 2021 at a level at least equal to the average funding levels for FY 2017- FY 2019. The guidance explains the methodologies states may use to quantify their support for K-12 and higher education. Notably, the department reports it does not anticipate reviewing MOE waiver requests for either FY 2020 or FY 2021 until September 2021.

June 8, 2020 | Trump Vetoes Bill to Overturn DeVos’ Borrower Defense Rule: President Donald Trump vetoed House Joint Resolution 56 , a Congressional Review Act resolution that would block the Trump administration’s rewrite of the Obama-era “borrower defense to repayment” rule. House leaders are preparing for a veto override vote on July 1, but will likely lack the votes to override it.

June 1, 2020 | CDC Announces Guidance for Reopening Schools During the Pandemic: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance , including a school decision tool, to assist administrators in reopening K-12 schools. The guidance is supplemental and does not replace any state and local health and safety laws, rules or regulations.

May 2020

May 11, 2020 | Title IX Sexual Misconduct in Education Final Regulation Released: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a new Title IX rule for how K-12 schools and universities must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. The rule requires schools to use trained personnel to evaluate evidence to investigate and make decisions on complaints. When facing a complaint, every student must be given the right to written notice of allegations, the right to an advisor, and the right to submit, cross-examine and challenge evidence at a live or virtual hearing. The hearings are optional for K-12 schools. When making decisions, schools must select one of two standards of evidence: the “preponderance of the evidence” standard or the “clear and convincing evidence” standard.

Schools must respond to misconduct that occurs at events where the institution “exercised substantial control” over both the accused and the context where the misconduct occurred. For colleges, this include off-campus harassment at houses owned or under the control of school-sanctioned fraternities and sororities. The rule also expands the government’s definition of “sexual harassment” to include sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Additionally, K-12 schools must respond promptly when any school employee has notice of sexual harassment. The regulations are in effect Aug. 14, 2020.

May 4, 2020 | Education Department Does Not Recommend IDEA Waivers, Asks Congress to Consider Other Flexibilities: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she is not recommending that Congress pass any additional waiver authority concerning the Free Appropriate Public Education and Least Restrictive Environment requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The department is requesting that Congress consider additional flexibilities on administrative requirements under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA.

April 2020

April 30, 2020 | Education Department Provides $1.4B to HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and Colleges and Universities Serving Low-Income Students: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that $1.4 billion in additional CARES Act funding will be directed to Minority Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, as well as institutions serving low-income students. Institutions may use this funding to cover operational costs, such as lost revenue, reimbursements for prior expenses and payroll. Funds may also be used for technology costs and grants to cover the costs of attendance for eligible students. Institutional allocations can be found here. Schools have until Aug. 1, 2020, to apply for the funds. 

April 27, 2020 | Education Department Announces $300M in Grant Competitions for States: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced two grant competitions with funds authorized by the CARES Act: $180 million for “Rethink K12 Education Models Grants” and $127.5 million for the “Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.” Within the “Rethink” competition, state education agencies can apply for funds under one of three priorities: microgrants for families for access to technology and educational services, statewide virtual learning and course access programs, or new models for providing remote education. Approximately 13-14 grants will be awarded through the “Rethink” competition. The “Reimagining Workforce” competition will award around 8-9 grants to expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs. For additional information about how to apply, please visit the OESE website.

April 27, 2020 | Education Department Makes $13.2 Billion Available in Emergency Coronavirus Relief to School Districts: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that more than $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds allocated by the CARES Act are now available to state and local education agencies to support continued learning for K-12 students. Funds can help states and districts provide tools and resources for distance education, support student health and safety, and develop and implement plans for the next school year. The department intends to process each submitted form within three business days of receipt. More information can be found here.

April 27, 2020 | Education Department Provides $6 Billion in Additional Grant Funding to Support Higher Education Institutions: DeVos announced an additional $6.2 billion grant to support higher education institutions. The funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the CARES Act. The funding for these "Recipient Institutional Costs" is separate from the funding previously made available for "Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students." To access the funds, higher education institutions must submit a Certification and Agreement for Recipient Institutional Costs, which can be found here.

blog iconApril 23, 2020 | Blog: Education Department Releases Application for Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

 

April 20, 2020 | Education Department Announces Streamlined Waiver Process for State and District Funding Flexibilities: State education agencies can now apply for waivers that grant additional flexibilities on state and district funding using a streamlined waiver form. Among the new flexibilities, states can allow districts to carry over more than 15% of their federal FY 2019 Title I funds to the next fiscal year. States can receive a waiver to extend the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for many Elementary and Secondary Education Act categorical programs (including Title I A-D, Title II, and Title IV A-B) until Sept. 30, 2021. The waiver also allows states to grant districts flexibility within allowed uses of Title IV-A funds, including waiving the 15% limit of use of funds to purchase technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning. These additional flexibilities were authorized by the CARES Act and complement previously announced waivers on federal state assessment and accountability provisions.

April 14, 2020 | ED releases $3 Billion in Emergency Education Block Grants for Governors:  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that governors can now apply for their allotment of the nearly $3 billion Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, as authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funds can be used at the direction of the governor to provide support to K-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations, including child care providers and non-public schools. State allocations for the GEER Fund can be found here. Governors can apply for funds by completing a short application. The Department expects to obligate the funds within three business days of application. 

blog icon April 10, 2020 | Blog: Higher Educaion Provisions in CARES Act. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, provides funding and flexibilities for higher education institutions to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

blog iconApril 6, 2020 | Podcast: COVID-19: State and Federal Responses to Education and Child Care | OAS Episode 89

On this episode, we talk with two NCSL experts about how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted schools and child care and how the state and federal governments are responding.

Our first guest in Austin Reid, the director of NCSL’s Education Standing Committee and an expert on federal education policy. He reviews the funding for education in the recently passed $2 trillion federal stimulus bill, how student borrowers will be affected and steps states have taken to address the crisis.

Our second guest is Jeni Palmer, who follows a wide range of child care issues for NCSL. She explains that the child care system was not functioning well before the pandemic and the emergency has made a bad situation worse. She reports on what states are doing to shore up the system during the crisis.

blog icon April 1, 2020 | Blog: CARES Act Gives State Education Funding, Flexibility in Wake of COVID-19. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, provides funding and flexibilities for states to respond to the COVID-19 emergency in K-12 schools.

March 2020

March 31, 2020 | DeVos Announced Deadline Extension for Career and Technical Education (CTE) State Plans: Education Secretary Betsy Devos announced an extension for states that need additional time to submit their state plans for FY 2020-2023 under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). The Department of Education will allow states and local Perkins recipients to receive their first installment of Perkins V funds on time even if they need an extension. Information on the new flexibilities can be found here.

March 30, 2020 | Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Stops Collection of Defaulted Federal Student Loans: The Department of Education has halted all collection actions and wage garnishment for federal student loan borrowers for at least 60 days starting retroactively on March 13. The secretary directed the department to refund approximately $1.8 billion in offsets that have occurred since March 13 to more than 830,000 borrowers.

March 23, 2020 | DeVos Waives Interest on Student Loans, Offers Deferred Loan Payments: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on March 20 announced that all borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months. DeVos also directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one. The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020. 

March 23, 2020 | DeVos Offers Assessment Waivers for States: On March 20, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the Department of Education will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year. Any state that receives this waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that this testing data be used in the statewide accountability system.

March 16, 2020 | Senate Votes to Overturn Administration’s Borrower Defense Rule: Senate lawmakers voted to approve SR 56, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would block the Trump administration’s rewrite of the Obama-era “borrower defense to repayment” rule. The final vote was 53-42, which included 10 Republicans voting in favor of the CRA. The rule was finalized last year and raises the standards that student borrowers must meet to receive debt forgiveness after being defrauded by colleges. The revised rule requires borrowers to demonstrate they suffered financial harm from their college’s misconduct and that the college made deceptive statements with knowledge of its misleading nature. The rewrite also requires borrowers to apply individually instead of allowing automatic discharges for groups of students and eliminates the Obama-era rule’s prohibition on predispute arbitration. The House passed a similar measure in January that would restore the Obama-era rule. The White House is expected to veto the resolution.

blog iconBlog: NCSL Gathers Education Resources for Legislators on Coronavirus

 

March 9, 2020 | Department of Education Delays Changes to Rural School Funding Formula: Education Secretary Betsy Devos this week delayed previously announced changes to the allocation formula for the Rural and Low-Income School Program that would have resulted in funding reductions to approximately 800 rural schools across the country. The changes were announced in February via a letter to state chiefs’ school officers, but received bipartisan pushback from Congress that resulted in the reversal. Under the formula changes, districts must determine student poverty using census data, rather than the number of students receiving free or reduced-price meals. While this measure has been allowed since 2003, the Department of Education has determined census data must be used to comply with federal law. DeVos stated the formula changes would be delayed for a year to give time for Congress to fix language in the law.

March 2, 2020 | DeVos Announces Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault in K-12 Schools: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a new initiative to combat the rise of sexual misconduct in elementary and secondary schools. The initiative aims to improve the department’s Office of Civil Rights’ enforcement of Title IX in K-12 schools, which will include nationwide compliance reviews in schools and districts to examine how sexual assault cases are handled under Title IX. The department is anticipated to release the final Title IX regulations in the coming weeks.

February 2020

Feb. 24, 2020 | ED Launches School Safety Website: The Trump administration launched the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website: SchoolSafety.gov. This website is a collection of resources for K-12 administrators, educators, parents and law enforcement to use to prepare for and address various threats related to safety, security and support in schools. The launch of the website fulfills a key recommendation from the 2018 Federal Commission on School Safety.

Feb. 10, 2020 | President Trump Urges Congress to Approve Federal Tax Credits for School Choice: During his recent State of the Union address, President Donald Trump urged Congress to approve federal tax credits for school choice. He also called for an expansion of career and technical education and promoted his administration’s support for historically black colleges and universities and religious liberty in schools. In the weeks leading up to the State of the Union, Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos traveled across the country to promote the administration’s Education Freedom Scholarships proposal.

January 2020

Jan. 27, 2020 | Supreme Court Hears Case on Public Funding for Religious Schools: On Jan. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case that could have significant implications for public education and school choice policies. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that Montana violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a tax-credit scholarship program that allowed students to claim the credits to attend private schools, including religious schools. The Montana court ruled that the subsidy violated a state constitutional provision barring any state aid to religious schools, whether direct or indirect. Thirty-seven states have similar no-aid policies, often known as “Blaine” amendments, which prohibit the use of government funding for religious purposes. Opponents argue that such prohibitions discriminate against religious families and schools, while others argue that allowing public funds to be used for private and/or religious schools could harm public education.

Jan. 21, 2020 | House Votes to Overturn Borrower Defense Rule: House lawmakers voted to approve HJ Res. 76, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would block the Trump administration’s rewrite of the Obama-era “borrower defense to repayment” rule. The final vote was 231-180, which included six Republicans voting in favor of the CRA. The rule was finalized last year and raises the standards that student borrowers must meet to receive debt forgiveness after being defrauded by colleges. Democrats argue the new rules make seeking loan forgiveness too burdensome for defrauded borrowers, while Republicans have defended the rule as necessary to rein in costs for taxpayers. Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the measure in the coming weeks. The White House has already threatened to veto the resolution.

Jan. 13, 2020 | Trump Signs FUTURE Act: On Dec. 19, Trump signed into law the FUTURE Act, a bipartisan bill that permanently authorizes $255 million in annual funding for historically black colleges and universities and other institutions serving minorities. The law also streamlines and simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows for automatic income recertification for federal student loan borrowers in income-driven repayment plans, and authorizes a small increase in Pell Grant funding.