Lawmakers, AGs Stand Up to DeVos on Religion and Title IX

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Democratic Lawmakers and Attorneys General Demand Education Department Withdraw Religious Exemption Draft Rules. Sixteen Democratic senators wrote a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her proposed draft rules in relation to Title IX and religious institutions and groups. The proposed rules would expand eligibility for institutions claiming a religious exemption from parts of Title IX, such as gender identity discrimination regulations. The senators argued that the proposed expansion allows virtually any institution—even those with loose ties to religion—to discriminate against LGBTQ people and women. The letter from the senators comes after Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, wrote his own letter expressing his opposition to the rule, and 20 attorneys general wrote their own message of disapproval to the department. Education Dive has more.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Testifies on FY 2021 Budget. DeVos testified in front of a House appropriations subcommittee to defend the Trump administration’s proposed budget for FY 2021. In what became at times a tense hearing, the secretary defended the proposed budget, but was met with bipartisan questions on the 7.8% cut her department would undergo should it be enacted. Specifically, representatives on both sides were concerned about the budget’s plant to combine 29 elementary and secondary education programs into a single state block grant program, and to expand school choice funding. “You are seeking to privatize public education,” said subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), citing the budget’s likely failure to pass in its entirety. “With all sincerity, this is not going to happen.” Education Week and Roll Call have more.

Education Department Sued over Changes to Borrower Defense Rule. Lawyers on behalf of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan against the U.S. Department of Education, aiming to block its proposed changes to the 2016 borrower defense rule. NYLAG alleges that the new rule “allows predatory institutions to escape responsibility for their deceptive and misleading conduct.” The suit in New York follows a similar filing in San Francisco from January challenging the department’s cancellation of a 2014 Gainful Employment Rule that set forth guidelines on how institutions report information on their career programs. Republic Report has more.

White House to Launch Advertising Campaign Promoting Alternatives to College. The White House, in coordination with the nonprofit Ad Council, IBM and Apple, is launching a nationwide ad campaign promoting alternatives to a college degree. The campaign will come from a 27-member task force, the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, created in 2018 by President Trump. The ads will encourage investment from employers in job training, modernizing hiring practices and policies to expand career pathways. The campaign is expected to run throughout 2020, and was slated to begin in January, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Maine Delegation Writes to Education Department over Funding for Rural Maine Schools. Maine’s U.S. congressional delegation wrote to the Education Department and DeVos, voicing opposition to the department’s proposed changes to its Rural Education Achievement Program. The program, co-authored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in 2002, provides funds to schools in rural areas for services such as technology, mental health professionals and summer programs to rural schools. The department has introduced changes to the program that would eliminate flexibility in how states calculate eligibility for rural districts. These proposed changes could, according to Maine’s own Department of Education, cost the state $1.2 million in losses. Collins first sent her own letter to DeVos. Read more in Maine Public.

Hearings/Markups of Interest: The Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies will hold a Review of the FY2021 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday, March 5.

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 2, 2020. For more information, please visit:


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