ED Review (03/03/23)

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March 3, 2023


ONE-TIME STUDENT DEBT RELIEF

Student Loan Debt Relief 

Secretary Cardona issued the following statement after the conclusion of oral arguments on the Administration’s student debt relief plan before the U.S. Supreme Court: 

“Today, the Biden-Harris Administration mounted a powerful defense before the U.S. Supreme Court on our plan to provide targeted, one-time student debt relief to more than 40 million working- and middle-class Americans as they recover from the pandemic.  The Justice Department argued against the lawsuits aimed at denying relief to borrowers, made clear that challengers to the program lack standing to even bring their cases to court, and explained the Department of Education’s decades-old authority used by multiple administrations to protect borrowers from the effects of national emergencies. 

“President Biden, Vice President Harris, and I recognize how essential this relief is for tens of millions of Americans, and we are fighting to deliver much-needed help to borrowers trying to get back on their feet after the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. 

“In addition to this one-time debt relief plan focused on the effects of the pandemic, we will continue to put the needs of students and borrowers ahead of special interests, hold colleges accountable for runaway costs and unaffordable debts, and pursue historic changes to student loan repayment that will cut costs and reduce the crushing burden of student debt for millions of working families.” 

See also the Secretary speaking direct to camera regarding the case and his related Twitter thread. 

The previous week, the Department released data on the estimated number of borrowers eligible for relief, as well as the number who applied or were deemed automatically eligible for relief and the number of fully approved applications sent to loan servicers for discharge, by congressional district. 

SECRETARY’S VISION AND PRIORITIES

Raise the Bar 

In support of Secretary Cardona’s “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” address on January 24, during which he laid out his vision for the Department’s direction in 2023, the agency launched a new landing page and posted a one-pager in English and Spanish. 

Raising the bar means recognizing that the nation already has what it takes to continue leading the world -- if we deliver a comprehensive, rigorous education for every student, boldly improve conditions for learning, and ensure every student has a pathway to college and careers and multilingualism.  When the bar is raised in education, all students will build the skills to succeed inside and outside of school.  Students will reach new heights in the classroom, in their careers, and in their lives and communities, making a positive difference in the world for generations to come. 

Over the next year, the Department will focus on providing resources, tools, and assistance to states, school districts, and schools to advance the three focus areas, which are connected to six strategies, aimed at promoting academic excellence and wellness for every learner and better preparing the nation for global competitiveness. 

Meanwhile, the Secretary shared impressive student reporting from his January 26 visit to Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma to discuss college and career pathways. 

He also traveled to Portland, Oregon, on February 23 to deliver remarks at the National Association for Bilingual Education’s Annual International Conference -- declaring “It’s time to learn another language!” (photo). 

Additionally, on February 24, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten was in Cleveland to spotlight accelerated learning, as part of her national “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” tour (video). 

PROMOTING FAMILY ENGAGEMENT

Family Engagement 

On February 28, the Department, in close partnership with the Carnegie Foundation of New York and the Overdeck Family Foundation, held the first virtual session in a Family Engagement Learning Series intended to help education leaders and practitioners implement family engagement strategies that support student success.  This initial session focused on how family engagement may support literacy and math.  Additional sessions will be on the fourth Tuesday of the month over the next six months and will discuss attendance and student engagement, student and school safety, student mental health and well-being, kindergarten readiness, and college readiness. 

Also, in an op-ed published in Newsweek, Secretary Cardona notes, “Parent partnership is not about giving in to the loudest voices or political grandstanding.  It’s about welcoming the voices of all families and inviting parents to be a real part of decision-making processes in education.  And, it means reflecting parent diversity in voice and leadership in a way that authentically represents the diversity of their children’s schools.” 

In the op-ed, the Secretary underscores how the Administration has “made authentic parent engagement a top priority, not only embedding the needs of parents and families into most of our programs but also creating new opportunities for parents to engage directly with the Department…and with their own school communities.” 

TITLE IX RESOURCES 

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently released three new resources to support equal opportunity in athletic programs consistent with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. 

Title IX, which is enforced by OCR, prohibits discrimination based on sex in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. 

OCR designed these resources to help students, parents, coaches, athletic directors, and school officials evaluate whether a school is meeting its legal duty to provide equal athletic opportunity regardless of sex.  The overview resource provides examples of the kinds of situations that could, depending upon facts and circumstances, raise Title IX concerns at any education level.  The two specialized resources -- one for K-12 schools, and one for colleges and universities -- offer information specific to these education communities. 

HIGHER EDUCATION RULES 

Last week, the Department issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to rescind a portion of the so-called Free Inquiry Rule related to religious student organizations.  The agency has not seen evidence that the rule has provided meaningfully increased protection for religious student organizations beyond First Amendment protections that already exist, much less that it has been necessary to ensure they are able to organize and operate on campus.  In its revised regulation, the Department is proposing to return to the long-standing practice of deferring to federal and state courts to resolve complex questions involving the First Amendment. 

The Department also issued a Request for Information (RFI) on other portions of the Free Inquiry Rule concerning public institutions’ compliance with the First Amendment and private institutions’ compliance with their stated policies and procedures on free speech and free inquiry. 

Both the NPRM and the RFI are open for public comment through March 24 (see Homeroom blog). 

This week, the Department released guidance outlining how it will implement long-standing provisions in the Higher Education Act (HEA) that grant the Secretary authority to require leaders of private colleges that fail to operate in a financially responsible way to assume personal liability for the cost of unpaid debts owed to the agency.  The guidance clarifies the circumstances in which the Department may require certain individuals to assume personal liability as a condition of allowing the institutions they own or operate to participate in federal financial aid programs and details the considerations that the agency will take into account when determining whether to require an individual to sign the institution’s program participation agreement.  The Department would then be able to pursue those individuals for the cost of liabilities not otherwise paid for by their institutions, including those stemming from closed school and borrower defense discharges (press release).

And, the Department extended the public comment period for its proposed third-party servicers rules. 

ODDS AND ENDS 

  • In remarks at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, Vice President Harris outlined progress in expanding access to affordable high-speed internet (White House fact sheet).
  • Then, in remarks at a Black History Month reception, President Biden and Vice President Harris touted advances in equity and opportunity for African-Americans (White House fact sheet).
  • In the past two years, Secretary Cardona and the Biden Administration have accomplished a lot on behalf of students, teachers, and schools.
  • The White House also celebrated the second anniversary of the re-establishment of its Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
  • On March 1, Secretary Cardona offered remarks at the Conference on Best Practices for Law School Data (photos).
  • On March 2, the Secretary read a Spanish language book to students in a dual language program at Tyler Elementary School in Washington, D.C., for Read Across America Day (video).
  • In his latest blog, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider shares big dreams for big data.
  • AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a full-time service opportunity for individuals ages 18-26 who are looking to gain valuable leadership skills through team-based service.  Lodging and travel expenses are covered while the individuals serve on different projects to meet a variety of community needs.  For example, members help build homes for families in need, repair hiking trails in national and state forests, and assist communities in disaster preparedness.  (Note: The deadline for Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] Corps summer applications is March 14, while the deadline for Traditional Corps summer applications and Summer of Service program applications is March 31.) 

QUOTE TO NOTE 

Why have we normalized that we are primarily a monolingual country -- even though our nation has only become more multicultural, more interdependent with the rest of the world?  Why is it that, in 2023, in many school systems in our country, we treat our English learners as students with deficits -- rather than assets in a globally competitive world?  It makes no sense!  It defies what other multilingual countries already understand.  It defies our historical reality as a nation born of immigrants.  So today, reconozcamos que: bilingualism and biculturalism is a superpower -- and we at the Department of Education will work to help our students become multilingual.” 

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (2/23/23), from remarks at the National Association of Bilingual Education Annual International Conference 

UPCOMING EVENTS 

Among other observations, March is Women’s History Month (see tweets by the Department and Secretary Cardona). 

March 9 and 10, the Secretary will participate in the SXSW EDU and SXSW conferences, respectively. 

Digital Learning Day is March 15.  This year’s theme is “Making Connections, Every Student, Everywhere,” highlighting how educators across the country are utilizing digital learning tools to create authentic connections and personalized learning opportunities for every student -- everywhere. 


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