Federal Flash: Congressional Priorities for Rewriting the Higher Education Act

Welcome back to Federal Flash. I’m Phillip Lovell and I’m joined by Monica
Almond. Lots to cover today – two proposals from
the Trump Administration related to education funding, a vote on school construction, and
priorities for the rewrite of the Higher Education Act unveiled in the Senate. Monica – Let’s get to it. Tell us what’s coming down the pike from
the Administration. From day one of her tenure at the Department
of Education, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has had one primary goal: increase school
choice for the nation’s students. The Administration’s proposals have gone
nowhere on Capitol Hill, so they are trying again. This time, they are proposing Education Freedom
Scholarships that would be funded through taxpayers’ voluntary contributions. People would donate money and receive a dollar
for dollar federal tax credit. That money would then go to families as Education
Freedom Scholarships to pay for a number of education options, ranging from apprenticeships
to private schools. The proposal is unlikely to go anywhere on
Capitol Hill. Legislation is in the works in both the House
and the Senate, but with Democrats in control of the House and 60 votes needed to pass a
bill in the Senate, the legislation will likely follow in the footsteps of the Administration’s
other school choice proposals. In a similar vein, House Democrats passed
a bill in Committee that would provide $100 billion to enhance school infrastructure. It’s a top priority for House Education
Committee Chairman Bobby Scott and was the first education bill passed by the Committee. But it received exactly zero votes from Committee
Republicans. So, while it might pass the full House, it
too is unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate. Our next item is a policy that could actually
move, but that may not be a good thing. You may recall that the Department released
draft guidance related to the policy known as Supplement not Supplant. This is a requirement in ESSA to ensure Federal
Title I funds do not replace money that a school should be receiving from state and
local sources. The idea is that federal money should be on
top of local dollars, not in place of them. A group of equity-focused organizations, including
us here at All4Ed, sent Secretary DeVos a letter with concerns regarding her guidance,
saying that the guidance allows too much flexibility and that quote: “Without further clarity…
federal Title I dollars may not be used as intended under ESSA, and low-income students,
students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners and other marginalized
groups will be deprived of the supports and services they need and deserve.” The department’s guidance is not yet final
– we’ll keep you posted. Our final story for the day is on higher education. Last week,
Senator Patty Murray, the leading democrat on the Senate education committee, outlined
her priorities for the rewrite of the Higher Education Act, or HEA. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander outlined
his priorities earlier in February. While there are some areas of consensus, there
are a number of difficult issues to work out. Chairman Alexander’s priority is simplification. He wants to simplify the Free Application
for Student Financial Aid, known as the FASFA, from 108 questions to about 24. He also wants to simplify the process for
paying back student loans and have an accountability system to QUOTE: “make sure that the degrees
[colleges] offer are worth students’ time and money.” Senator Murray agrees that we need to simplify
FASFA and simplify loan repayment, but she also wants HEA to include QUOTE “a state-federal
partnership to promote new investments in our students and families.” Senator Murray also believes we need accountability
in higher education, and she is particularly concerned about predatory practices of for-profit
colleges. Another priority of hers is QUOTE “to address
the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses across the country.” You can find the priorities for both Chairman
Alexander and Senator Murray at the links below. HEA negotiations are underway but we’re
still pretty early in the process. We’ll keep you posted as things progress. That’s it for today. For an email alert when the next federal flash
is available, email us at [email protected] Thanks for watching.

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