Long Live King at Ed Dept?

DC Shuttle …

Senate Committee Holds King Confirmation Hearing. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a confirmation hearing for Acting Secretary of Education John King. The acting secretary testified in front of the committee for about two hours and answered questions on topics including the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), campus sexual assault and federal student loans. Earlier in the day, Acting Secretary King also testified in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about honoring congressional intent in implementing ESSA. Senate HELP Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who served as education secretary under President George H.W. Bush, has scheduled a committee vote on Acting Secretary King’s nomination for March 9. As The Washington Post reports, all signs point to the committee recommending King for confirmation to the full Senate. King was initially expected to remain acting secretary for his entire tenure at the Department of Education, but President Obama nominated him to officially fill the position after Senator Alexander promised a quick and fair confirmation process.

Supreme Court Death Creates Education Uncertainty. The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has thrown into question the fate of many education-related cases currently before the Court. Those cases include Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which deals with the legality of public-employee unions charging mandatory agency fees and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which questions the constitutionality of the university’s race-aware admissions policy. Justice Elena Kagan, who was involved with the Fisher case before joining the court, has recused herself from that case, meaning that only seven justices will decide the case.

President Nominates New Librarian of Congress. President Obama nominated Carla Hayden to serve as the nation’s 14th librarian of Congress, highlighting her commitment “to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture,” in a statement. If confirmed, Hayden would be the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position.

Senators Press Student Loan Servicers on Closed School Loan Discharge. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to 10 federal student loan servicers regarding the recent closure of the for-profit Marinello Beauty School chain, which had campuses in California, Connecticut, Nevada and Utah. The senators urged the servicers to reach out to Marinello students with loans to make them aware of the loan discharge process for schools that closed, which relieves students of loan debt incurred while attending a failed school. Marinello closed all of its campuses suddenly after the Department of Education revoked the eligibility of 23 of its campuses to receive federal student aid because of deceptive practices.

Smallest Endowments Outperform Largest, Study Says. The New York Timesreported that the endowments of colleges with the smallest endowments (under $25 million) performed better than those with the largest endowments (over $1 billion). According to the 2015 annual National Association of College and University Business Officers-Commonfund study, the small endowments had an average five-year annualized return of 10.6%, while the largest endowments averaged 10.4%.

This Week in ESSA: Organizations Send Letter to Acting Secretary King. Leaders of 10 national organizations including the National Governors Association, National PTA, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and others sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Education King expressing their commitment to ensuring the success of the ESSA. The letter included a short list of goals and priorities the organizations share for ESSA implementation, emphasizing the role of states, districts and schools in the decision-making process.

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 Feb. 29, 2016. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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