Confirmed as Secretary, King Gets to Work on ESSA; House Targets Fetal Tissue Research

DC Shuttle …

Senate Confirms King as Education Secretary. The Senate voted 49 to 40 to confirm John King as the secretary of education. King had been serving as acting secretary since the beginning of the year, but President Obama officially nominated him in February after calls to do so from Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Although King’s tenure as secretary is likely to be relatively short, it is expected to be significant, as he will oversee much of the transition from No Child Left Behind to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law late last year, and will go into effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

King Testifies in Front of House Appropriators. Secretary of Education King testified in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, which has oversight of the Department of Education budget. Members of the committee pressed King on state authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act, especially as it pertains to funding, standards and parents opting their students out of standardized tests. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) asked King about the department using federal funding to entice states and districts to adopt or abandon certain policies and programs. The secretary told the congresswoman that he intended to do “exactly what ESSA requires,” but added that “ESSA requires the standards are for states to determine. We agree with that … but those standards should be high and should point toward career readiness.”

King Clears Path for Corinthian Student Loan Forgiveness. Secretary of Education King held a press conference in Boston with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey about Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit college company that shut down last year after losing access to federal aid. At the press conference, King said that the company had committed fraud. That declaration will make it easier for the tens of thousands of former Corinthian students with federal student loans to have those loans forgiven. Healey’s predecessor, Martha Coakley, was one of several attorneys general across the country to file suit against Corinthian in 2014, alleging that the school had misrepresented the programs it offered and its job-placement rates.

House Committee May Seek Names of Researchers. The New York Times reported that a Special House Committee established to investigate fetal tissue research is planning on issuing subpoenas seeking the names of researchers working with fetal tissue. Those researchers would include college professors, graduate students, lab technicians and administrators. The report comes as many scholars are already expressing concern about government inquiries into research in controversial fields.

This Week in ESSA: Negotiated Rulemaking Begins. A committee of rulemakers met in Washington for the first round of negotiated rulemaking for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The committee spent the three-day session discussing regulations on assessments, as well as “supplement not supplant” rules, which prohibit federal funding from replacing state and local money. Federal officials will now write draft regulations based on the committee’s findings, and the committee will meet again in two weeks to evaluate those regulations and to discuss more topics.

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 28, 2016. For more information, please visit:


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