HELP Focuses on Sexual Assault; Pell for Prisoners Plan Catches Flak

DC Shuttle …

Shining Light on Campus Sexual Assault. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA) with a focus on combating campus sexual assault. Testifying before the committee were Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), who have advocated for legislation to address the matter. Senators are seeking to include legislation that would guide how colleges investigate sexual assaults and hold them financially responsible for inaction as part of the next HEA reauthorization. The Campus Safety and Accountability Act (S. 590) which would require uniform campus disciplinary procedures and, for the first time, institute fines for violations of Title IX, was reintroduced and may be considered as an amendment to the HEA reauthorization. Under regulations that went into effect last month as part of the Violence Against Women Act, passed by Congress in 2013, schools are required to compile statistics for incidents of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, and include certain policies and programs related to those incidents in annual security reports. However, senators said more needs to be done to increase transparency about the prevalence of assaults on campuses, improve coordination with law enforcement, and ensure campuses take sexual assault seriously. The Senate HELP Committee will continue its efforts to reauthorize HEA and hold a hearing titled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Opportunities to Improve Student Success.”

Pell Grants for Prisoners. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a pilot program to make state and federal prisoners eligible for Pell Grants. The program brought immediate opposition, according to Politico. The Kids Before Cons Act, introduced in the House, would bar the Education Department from implementing the program. In 1994, Congress amended the HEA to eliminate Pell Grant eligibility for students in federal and state correctional institiutions. Rather than lifting the federal ban, the administration will use its authority to test new models of federal education funding to grant access to student in the “Second Chance Pell Pilot Program.”

Guide to Same-Sex Marriage Rights in Schools.  The National School Boards Association released a guide to what the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling means for school districts.

ESEA Conference Begins. The recently passed House and Senate versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) have significant differences, including accountability standards, that need to be worked out in conference. Conferencing the bills will be Senate HELP Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), along with House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA). The group suggested that it may take months to complete the task, Education Week 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 Aug. 3, 2015. Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit:




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