Murray’s HEA Would Dangle Federal Incentives to Boost State Spending

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Murray Speaks About Higher Education Act Reauthorization. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, spoke at the Center for American Progress on her vision for the Higher Education Act (HEA). Murray, who confirmed that she is beginning negotiations of the reauthorization with HELP Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander, said she wants to reach a comprehensive deal to update the law. She also suggested she’d be open to reaching a deal that doesn’t include any of the various free college proposals. Murray outlined a priority list which included improving college affordability, holding schools accountable for student success, expanding access to higher education, and increasing campus safety and protecting students’ civil rights. Murray said a federal-state partnership program that would dangle federal incentives to promote state spending on higher education was also necessary. Alexander has said his goal is to keep the bill budget-neutral. Inside Higher Ed reported on the remarks.

House Committee Passes School Infrastructure Bill. The House Education and Labor Committee passed a bill with Democrats’ $100 billion school infrastructure plan, adopting amendments that would limit some charter schools’ access to the new funding. The committee approved the bill along party lines. The legislation would create a $70 billion grant program and $30 billion tax credit bond program targeted at improving the physical and digital infrastructure at high-poverty schools. The Rebuild America’s Schools Act, H.R. 865, is sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) has sponsored a companion bill in the Senate, S. 266.

Administration and Congress Release School Choice Tax Credit Proposal. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos introduced a school choice tax credit scholarship plan. The plan would create up to $5 billion a year in new tax credits for individuals and businesses that donate to scholarships that help students pay private school tuition or other education expenses. The plan is being introduced in the House by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AK) and in the Senate by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz’s bill, the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act (S. 634), also has an additional $5 billion in tax credits covering apprenticeships and other workforce development programs. HELP Chair Alexander has signed on to the Senate bill.

Administration and Congress Target Chinese Funding of Confucius Institutes. The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on Chinese funding of American education. Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais told the committee that the Education Department will issue new guidance for colleges on accepting foreign gifts. The committee released a bipartisan report which accused many American colleges of failing to disclose how much money they’ve received from the Chinese government. The GAO released a report on Confucius Institutes, which was suggested they are not overly influential.

House Holds Hearing on School Punishment. The House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education held a hearing on the issue of seclusion and restraint in schools. House Democrats are expected to reintroduce legislation soon that would make seclusion illegal in public schools, limit the use of physical restraint to instances when it’s necessary for students and teachers to be safe, and bolster reporting requirements.

DeVos Visits STEM High School. DeVos toured a STEM High School in Virginia as part of her focus on career and technical education, the Washington Post 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 4, 2019. For more information, please visit:

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