Will Lawmakers Press DeVos on Donors, Higher Ed Policies?

DC Shuttle …

Education Secretary Hearing Set. The Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a confirmation hearing this week to consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary. Democrats have raised concerns about her previous financial contributions to the campaigns of lawmakers that will now be considering her nomination. Six Democrats on the HELP committee called on her to release the names of donors and the expenses of two education organizations she helped lead. There will also likely be questions about her support for public schools. As education secretary, DeVos would be charged with public school policy, while most of her work and financial support has been for charter schools. Lawmakers are expected to ask DeVos about her higher education policies, which remain largely unknown.

Secretary King’s Exit Memo to President Obama. Outgoing Education Secretary John B. King Jr. sent his cabinet “exit memo” to President Barack Obama. The memo emphasizes successes such as the highest high school graduation rate in history, greater access to preschool, more-rigorous academic standards and better tests. King also lays out a roadmap to sustain progress, including a call for sufficient staffing at the Office for Civil Rights. The Office of Civil Rights has become a contentious and partisan issue in recent years and may face cuts under the Trump administration. “OCR must continue its efforts—better supported through staffing sufficient to process its necessary, reinvigorated work—to make our schools even safer, fairer, and more equitable, and help to ensure all students have the chance to achieve their fullest potential,” King’s memo says. The Atlantic reports.

New Reports on Student Debt. A new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says that the number of Americans age 60 or older with student loans quadrupled from about 700,000 in 2005 to 2.8 million in 2015. The report also says that the average debt load owed by an older borrower roughly doubled—from $12,000 to $23,500. In a separate report this week, Dartmouth College researchers found that student loan debt may not be hindering young graduate from buying homes.

Funding Formula for Connecticut Schools in Need of Update. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy gave his annual State of the State speech and called for a new formula to fund public schools in Connecticut. In September, a judge issued an order that demanded that the state design a new and better way to fund public education. Malloy said Connecticut provides more than $4 billion in annual state aid to public schools, and that spending must address the greatest needs in the state. “The budget that I will present to you next month will outline a more equitable system for providing town aid. It will be based on the local property tax burden, student need, and current enrollment,” he said. The Hartford Courant 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. 9, 2017. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.



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