Supremes to Hear More on Affirmative Action

DC Shuttle …

Supreme Court Weighs Affirmative Action Case, Again. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments a second time in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In 2013, the Supreme Court heard the case and ruled 7 to 1 against a lower court’s decision. The ruling said that the lower court had not applied proper legal scrutiny to the university’s admission’s policy but did not offer much more. The ruling left room for the Supreme Court to rehear the case. The fact that the Supreme Court decided to hear the case again has watchers suggesting that the court may rule more decisively or may address race in admissions more directly. When they considered the case, several justices suggested it still may not be time for a definitive decision. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case because she worked on it while in the Justice Department before joining the Supreme Court, leaving just eight justices to decide a case. The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the university policy twice, and if the high court is split 4-4 in its decision, the lower court’s ruling will stand.

President Signs ESEA Update After House and Senate Passage.

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (S. 1177) into law. The legislation is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (PL 107-110) originally passed in 1965. The new law, ESSA, updates and reforms the last reauthorization, No Child Left Behind, which actually expired in 2007. The Senate had passed the final conference language just a day earlier, by a vote of 85 to 12. The House had passed the conference language a week earlier by a vote of 359 to 64. That conference report was the result of Senate and House conference negotiations to rectify differences in similar but separate bills that had been passed in the House and Senate. In July, the House passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) while the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act. The bill is a bipartisan measure that preserves federally mandated standardized testing but eliminates the federally imposed consequences for states and districts that perform poorly. The new version, renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act, also bars the government from imposing academic requirements like the Common Core. The new measure will maintain the mandatory standardized testing in reading and math established by No Child Left Behind, but leave it up to state and local officials to set their own performance goals, rate schools and determine how to fix those that fail to meet their objectives.

First Lady Raps About College. First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with College Humor and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jay Pharoah to make a rap and music video to encourage young people to go to college.

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 Dec. 14, 2015. For more information, please visit:


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