Welcoming Relief, a New Ed Secretary and Reopened Schools

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion Relief Measure. The U.S. Senate passed coronavirus relief legislation with $1.9 trillion in funding by a vote of 50 to 49, The Hill reports. The bill provides $128.6 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and $39.6 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. It also includes $39 billion for childcare and $1 billion for Head Start. The Senate adopted an amendment from Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) that would require local education agencies receiving elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds to develop and make publicly available online a plan for a safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services. The Senate also adopted an amendment from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would require the education secretary to use $800 million of the funds provided by the bill to identify homeless children and youth and provide them with services and assistance to attend school and related activities. Senators also adopted an amendment that took $3 billion out of funds set aside for K-12 education technology grants primarily for low-income and disabled children, instead creating a new $3 billion pot for grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Of that funding, $550 million would be reserved for programs for preschools and infants and toddlers.

Senate Confirms Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education. By a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved Miguel Cardona as the 12th U.S. secretary of education. He was officially sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris the next day. Cardona spent his first day in office meeting with the department’s career staff and speaking with the media. He wrote a letter reaching out to educators and education stakeholders and shared a video about the path ahead. He also penned an op-ed in USA Today, focused on his plan to get students back in schools full-time, building off the president’s announcement to encourage school reopening.

President Announces Actions to Encourage School Reopening. President Joe Biden last week announced steps to accelerate school reopening. The administration announced that in-person learning would be considered an essential service, thereby prioritizing educators for vaccinations in every state. More than 30 states had already taken steps to prioritize educators for vaccination, and the president directed every state to do the same. To help make this happen, for the month of March, the administration will use the Federal [Retail] Pharmacy Program to prioritize the vaccination of PreK-12 educators and staff and childcare workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with states that have not yet included teachers, school staff and childcare workers in their prioritization and is expected to release more guidance on school reopening.

Executive Order Expected Today on Title IX. Biden will announce an executive order on Title IX, campus sexual assault regulations, the Washington Post reports. Title IX final rules were released last May after a rulemaking process led by then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Biden will direct the Education Department to revisit that rule, the first step in potentially starting another rulemaking process that could change the regulation.

Ed Dept Advises Rescinding Accrediting Agency’s Recognition. The Department of Education’s accreditation advisory group voted to terminate federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, an accreditor of for-profit colleges. The Obama administration previously rescinded ACICS’s recognition in 2016. Higher Ed Dive reports.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week Congress is in session 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 8, 2021. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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