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Omnibus Spending Package Boosts Ed Funding Where Trump Wanted Cuts. President Trump signed into law spending legislation that provides a significant funding increase for the U.S. Department of Education, including more money for educator development, afterschool programs and special education. The bill funds the Department of Education at $70.9 billion, which is $2.6 billion above the fiscal year 2017. Despite the administration’s request to reduce funding for the Department, Congress increased funding. The bill would provide $24.4 billion for Pell Grants, compared with $22.5 billion in 2017, and the maximum Pell Grant award is increased by $175, to $6,095. TRIO and GEAR UP programs are increased by $60 million and $10 million, respectively, bringing TRIO programs to a total of $1.01 billion and GEAR UP to a total of $350 million. The bill increases funding for charter schools by $400 million, to a total of $58 million. The bill includes language that would block any reorganization of the budget office at the Department of Education, which had been sought by the administration. The bill includes funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Funding for the Office for Civil Rights would be increased from $109 million to $117 million. Inside Higher Ed and Edweek offered summaries. Inside Higher Ed breaks down the numbers here.

STOP Act Included in Omnibus. The STOP Act, introduced previously in the House and Senate, was included in the omnibus bill passed last week. The omnibus bill takes $75 million appropriated for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative and redirects that funding toward programs authorized under the STOP School Violence Act. The law creates a system for threats of school violence, including mobile telephone applications, hotlines, and internet websites, implements improvements to school security infrastructure and develops student, teacher and law-enforcement training to prevent violence.

Omnibus Includes Public Service Loan Forgiveness Fix. Student loan borrowers working in public service jobs who may lose out on federal loan forgiveness because they selected the wrong repayment plan will get a second chance to get their debt canceled under the omnibus government spending bill. The funding measure includes a provision creating a limited, one-time-only expansion of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Federal law requires borrowers to make 10 years of monthly payments under a qualified repayment plan before having the remaining balance of their debt forgiven. If borrowers unknowingly select a non-qualifying repayment plan, they could subsequently be rejected for loan forgiveness as a result. The omnibus creates a new one-time $350 million fund that’s meant to make it easier for borrowers to access loan forgiveness under the program. The fund will cover the government’s cost of canceling the loans of borrowers who otherwise would qualify for public service loan forgiveness had they not selected a non-qualifying repayment plan. The loan forgiveness will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis until the fund runs out.

Omnibus Includes Study on Discipline. The omnibus spending bill passed last week includes language that orders congressional investigators to study data reported to the Education Department’s civil rights arm on how often schools use seclusion or restraint on students, isolating students or physically holding them. The omnibus instructs the Government Accountability Office to look at how schools can improve their data collection and avoid restraint and seclusion, which critics say can cause trauma and physical harm and should only be used if a child truly poses physical harm to themselves or others.

School Safety Commission to Meet this Week. The White House’s new Federal Commission on School Safety headed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will hold its first “organizational” meeting March 28. The commission is charged with making recommendations on how to improve school safety. In addition to DeVos, the membership consists of three other cabinet secretaries including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

Trump Remarks on Community Colleges. President Trump said community colleges should be vocational schools at a forum discussion, Inside Higher Ed reports.

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 26, 2018. For more information, please visit:



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