Congressional Panels Grill DeVos on Ed Cuts, Threats to Special Olympics

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Senate Holds Hearing on Education Budget. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify on the president’s budget proposal for education. Senate Democrats used the hearing to criticize DeVos over a proposal to eliminate $18 million in funding for the Special Olympics. Just a few hours later, the administration reversed course, with President Donald Trump telling reporters Thursday afternoon, “I’ve been to the Special Olympics. I think it’s incredible and I just authorized a funding. I heard about it this morning. I have overriden my people. We’re funding the Special Olympics.” DeVos sought to distance herself from the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the funding for the third year in a row. “I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye to eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant,” she said in a statement. “This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.” Senators also grilled DeVos on a proposal to eliminate Title IV, which provides funds for student mental health services, in the wake of two suicides by young people connected to the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting. Democrats are beginning to make the argument that DeVos’s effort to overhaul a wide-range of higher education rules could hinder bipartisan negotiations over reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.

House Committee Grills DeVos. The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the administration’s education budget proposal. Democrats criticized U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her overall record leading the department. DeVos defended President Donald Trump’s proposed 12% cut from current spending. Democrats questioned DeVos on school choice, budget cuts and department actions throughout the hearing. Democrats focused their questions on the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts and support of charter schools amid two recent reports questioning federal oversight of, and spending on, shuttered schools. Democrats also highlighted proposed cuts to the Special Olympics program.

Lawmakers Introduce Net Price Calculator Bill. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced legislation aimed at improving Net Price Calculators by making them easier to find and use. The measure would require the U.S. Education Department to develop a “universal calculator” that lets students answer one set of financial and academic questions to generate a list of comparable net price estimates for multiple colleges. Meanwhile, a study suggested colleges are providing misleading or incomplete data via Net Price Calculators that they’re legally required to put on their websites to help students understand the cost of attendance.

Education Department Opens Investigation and Lawmakers Hold Briefing on Admissions Scandal. The Education Department launched investigations tied to the college bribery and cheating scandal. Officials are demanding that eight schools turn over a range of documents, including marketing materials and admissions information. House lawmakers addressed college admissions practices in a briefing. It was the first action by Congress on admissions after the FBI unveiled the sweeping cheating and bribery scandal last month. The briefing was hosted by Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), a former university president, and included a panel discussion on the admissions process at different types of institutions, as well as the current state of college access, particularly for low-income students and students of color. Shalala said she isn’t convinced there’s any action Congress could take.

Campus Sexual Assault Hearing. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will have a hearing “addressing campus sexual assault and ensuring student safety and rights” in the context of a pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

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 April 1, 2019. For more information, please visit:


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