DC Shuttle …
Updates to 2010 Child Nutrition Act Introduced. U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016. The bill is a reauthorization of the 2010 child nutrition law. The bill makes many changes to the 2010 law, most notably in the requirements to qualify for free meals for students. Under the current law, if more than 40% of the student body in a school is low-income, then the schools can qualify for free breakfast and lunch for all students, but under the new bill that threshold would be raised to 60%. Democrats have said that the changes would result in fewer children receiving nutritious meals, while Republicans argue that the changes would allow federal resources to be focused where they are most needed. The bill has been sent to the House Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, but there has not yet been an indication on when it will be marked up. Read a summary of the proposed changes here.
Federal Court Rules in Favor of Transgender Student. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of a transgender Virginia boy who is suing his school for the right to use the boys’ bathroom. The appeals court did not grant the student the right to use the bathroom of his choosing, but rather ruled that Title IX grants the students the right to use the bathroom they feel fits with their gender identity, and instructed the lower court to re-evaluate the student’s initial request using that interpretation. The New York Times noted that it is the first time an appeals court has found that Title IX protects such a right. The ruling, which applies to schools in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia, comes as several states, including North Carolina, grapple with laws requiring individuals to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender at birth.
Judge Rules in Favor of Embattled Accreditor. A federal judge ruled that the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) does not have the authority to compel a national college accreditor to turn over information. The ruling was a major blow to the bureau, which had opened an investigation into the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) that has come under fire after accrediting many now-defunct for-profit colleges, including several Corinthian Colleges campuses. The CFPB argued that it had the power to force ACICS to turn over documents relevant to the accreditation of the for-profit schools it is now investigating, while ACICS said that such a request posed a threat to the integrity of the accreditation process. Despite the favorable ruling, ACICS still has something to worry about: 12 state attorneys general, as well as several consumer and labor groups, have called on the U.S. Department of Education to deny the council federal recognition, which would essentially render it useless. A decision from the department is expected later this year.
Congressmen Introduce Bill to Reduce Student Loan Debt for Teachers. Reps. Mark Takano (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced a bipartisan bill last week that would expand access to loan forgiveness to educators. The bill, the Teacher Debt Relief Act, would allow educators to simultaneously qualify for the Stafford Student Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs. Currently, teachers cannot take advantage of both programs at the same time. In a news release, the congressmen said that the bill is meant as a response to a national teacher shortage, noting that enrollment in teacher-preparatory programs dropped 30% between 2010 and 2014.
Massachusetts Announces Commonwealth Commitment Plan. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago unveiled the Commonwealth Commitment plan, a new program that will allow some students in Massachusetts to attend college at a reduced rate. Under the program, students who complete two years at a community college in the state will be able to transfer to one of the state’s public colleges or the University of Massachusetts to finish their bachelor’s degrees. Students in the program will receive a 10% rebate on their tuition at the end of every semester as long as they maintain a GPA of at least 3.0. Read more about the program in the Boston Globe.
This Week in ESSA: Negotiated Rulemaking Ends. Rulemakers met for the third and final negotiated rulemaking session for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The rulemakers came to a consensus on rules regulating testing and assessments, with a focus on testing for students with disabilities and on which tests states and districts can use to assess students. However, the rulemakers could not agree on supplement-not-supplant rules, which have to do with the use of federal versus state and local dollars for education. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education will now write its own rules based on what was discussed during the negotiated rulemaking sessions. Those rules will then be sent to Congress for review and comment.
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 April 25, 2016. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.