Committee Recommends King, Plus a Boost for “Makerspaces”

DC Shuttle …

Senate Committee Recommends King Confirmation. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 16-6 to recommend that the Senate confirm Acting Secretary John King as secretary of education. Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he believed King would be confirmed before the Senate leaves town for its Easter Recess.

Senate Appropriators Question Department of Education Budget. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Education challenged Acting Secretary King about the department’s budget request for FY 2017. Specifically, members of the committee felt that King’s budget did not provide states with nearly enough funding to achieve reforms required by the new Every Student Succeeds Act. In response, King told the subcommittee that “[the Department was] trying in this budget to both advance the president’s priorities and stay within caps on discretionary spending.”

Homeland Security Releases Student Visa Rule. The Department of Homeland Security released a new rule that will allow international students studying STEM fields to remain in the U.S. for an additional 24 months as a part of the optional practical training (OPT) program. That 2-year allowance is in addition to a 12-month period after graduation, meaning qualifying students will be able to stay in the U.S. for 3 years after graduation on F-1 student visas to gain on the job experience. The New York Times has more on the new rule.

Federal Court Upholds Gainful Employment Rule. A Federal Appeals Court upheld the Department of Education’s gainful employment rule last week. The rule assesses career-focused programs based on the ability of graduates to repay their student loans, and had been challenged by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a lobbying group for for-profit colleges.

Top Education Advisor Departs White House. James Kvaal, a top education advisor to President Obama, announced that he was leaving the White House after more than seven years. Kvaal is considered an architect of many of the president’s signature education policy proposals, including creating a college-rating system, overhauling the federal student loan process, and making community college free. Kvaal has accepted a position as a “policy maker in residence” at the University of Michigan.

Department of Education Launches CTE Challenge. The Department of Education launched the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Makeover Challenge. The Challenge invites high schools to submit proposals for 21st Century CTE Makerspaces. “Makerspaces provide students the materials and environment they need to create, invent, tinker, and explore, helping them build vital career skills, including critical thinking, planning, communication, and problem solving,” according to the department’s website. The deadline for submissions is April 1.

Tech Giants Push for Computer Science Education Funding. Several tech companies, including Google, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon, are teaming up with several NGOs to form the Computer Science Education Coalition. The coalition is calling on Congress to spend $250 million on K-12 computer science education.

Market Volatility Hurts Endowments. Bloomberg Business reported last week that recent volatility on Wall Street has taken a toll on college endowments. Bloomberg examined the endowments of 12 schools over the last six months of 2015 and found an average loss of almost 4%.

And fyi, following is from the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Feb. 29, when NEJHE’s DC Shuttle was delayed on the tarmac …

Lawmakers Propose Cap on Federal Student Loan Payments. A group of Democratic Congressmen introduced the Clarity in Lending for Education and Repayment or CLEAR Act. The bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to “allow for people who have federal student loans to cap their monthly student loan payment to 10% of their discretionary income, no matter when they took out the loan.” It would also forgive any federal loan debt after 20 years of paying.

Department of Education Watchdog Releases Critical Report. The Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General released a report criticizing the department’s review of loan-servicers for active duty military. The report was requested by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Patty Murray (D-WA), and found that flaws in the department’s review caused some of the results to be “unsupported and inaccurate.” The report came just days after a group of state attorneys general sent a letter to the secretary of veterans affairs urging his department to use its authority to restore education benefits to veterans who attended institutions that “utilized erroneous, deceptive, or misleading advertising, sales, or enrollment practices.”

Justice Department Looks Into Testing Disparities. The Department of Justice recently began collecting information about the test-administration policies of the College Board and ACT Inc., after receiving several complaints that the organizations do not provide adequate accommodations for students with disabilities. The inquiry comes as more states are starting to require students to take the tests. Twenty-three states currently mandate that high school students take either the SAT or ACT, with several beginning to use them as their test for federal accountability, which is allowed under ESSA. Education Week has more about the department’s inquiry.

Report Finds That Textbooks Affect Student Achievement. The Brookings Institution published a study on textbook effectiveness, examining 1,500 teachers across the U.S. and the textbooks they assigned to their students. The study found that textbooks had a significant effect on student achievement, and that using the right textbook could be as beneficial to students as having a teacher with three years of experience versus a first-year teacher.

This Week in ESSA: Schools Test Social Emotional Skills. The New York Times reported on schools in California that are beginning to test students on their social-emotional skills, including self-control, perseverance and empathy. The new tests are being introduced as a response to a provision in the new Every Student Succeeds Act that requires states to use at least one nonacademic measure when evaluating school performance.

This Week in ESSA: Rule Makers Announced. The Department of Education released the list of nonfederal negotiators for the negotiated rulemaking of ESSA regulations. The list includes teachers, state and local administrators, parents and students and members of the civil rights and business communities. “Negotiators were selected to represent all of the geographic regions of the country. In addition, the department selected negotiators who would contribute to the diversity and expertise of the committee,” the Department of Education said in a statement. The first rulemaking session is scheduled to begin on March 21.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of March 14, 2016. For more information, please visit:



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