Temporary Ed Secretary Begins Work

DC Shuttle …

Temporary U.S. Secretary of Education. Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King stepped down on Thursday, sending a letter of farewell that outlined his quick year of work at the department. Phil Rosenfelt, deputy general counsel at the Education Department’s Office of the General Counsel, has been named acting education secretary until a new secretary is confirmed. He took the oath of office Friday afternoon and his first day is today.

DeVos Weathers Contentious Confirmation Hearing. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as U.S. education secretary, directing pointed questions toward the nominee for almost four hours. Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that the vote on her nomination would not occur until an ethics review had been completed and submitted to the Senate. The Office of Government Ethics submitted that review on Friday. DeVos addressed ethics concerns by announcing that she would be divesting all of her holdings and releasing a letter describing how she intended to do so. Democrats questioned DeVos’s commitment to public education, given her long support for charter schools and school choice. DeVos emphasized that she supported strong public schools, and said the failings of the current system had led to her support of school choice for low-income students. She was unable to answer some questions, admitting that she would need to become more familiar with some issues and would defer others to states. She was criticized by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) for her response regarding guns at schools. Read more in The Chronicle of Education.

Regulation of Distance Learning Would Allow SARAs. The Department of Education released final regulations for distance education students. The department added additional guidance, clarifying that the reciprocity agreement known as SARA would satisfy the new regulation.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Sues Student-Loan Servicer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a lawsuit against the nation’s largest loan servicer, Navient. The CFPB charges that Navient has illegally driven up repayment costs for millions of borrowers claiming it “created obstacles to repayment by providing bad information.” Two state attorneys general, from Washington and Illinois, joined the suit. Read more in The Chronicle of Education and the New York Times.

Education Dept. Withdraws “Supplement Not Supplant” Regulation. The Education Department announced that it will withdraw a contentious rule that would have asked states and local school officials to move federal money from affluent school districts to low-income ones. Known as “supplement not supplant,” the draft rule set guidelines for ensuring states were spending the same amount of funding on low-income schools compared to wealthier ones before they received additional federal dollars. It had become a contentious issue under the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and was regularly criticized by Republicans who said it was not implementation of the law as Congress had intended it. It appears that the administration simply ran out of time to finalize the rule. The proposal was likely to be reversed by the Republican Congress or the Trump administration. The Chronicle of Education 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 Jan. 23, 2017. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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