Federal Flash: The Higher Education Act, Title IX, and the “New” House Education Committee

Welcome back to Federal Flash. I’m Phillip Lovell and I’m joined by Anne
Hyslop. It’s a new year with a new cast of characters
in Congress. We’ll update you on who’s running the show
in the House of Representatives and what to watch for in the coming year. Anne – set the stage for us. Thanks, Phillip. The new year begins with major changes to
the House education committee, which Democrats renamed as the Education and Labor Committee
from Education and the Workforce. They also added a Subcommittee on Civil Rights
and Human Services that will handle policy already under the committee’s purview, such
as school lunch and child nutrition programs. The addition of the subcommittee highlights
Democrats’ emphasis on civil rights issues while they control the House. In addition to changes in name and structure,
the composition will change considerably. Several freshman members have been assigned
to the committee. On the Democratic side, this includes Representative
Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to the House, and Representative Donna
Shalala. She’s new to the Committee, but not to Washington,
serving as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President
Bill Clinton. The Republican side also has several new faces. Ten of the Committee’s 21 Republican members
are new to the Committee, including eight that are new to the House. The Committee announced the topics of its
first four hearings, including one on investing in public schools. But the Committee has not yet asked Secretary
of Education Betsy DeVos to testify, despite the assumption that aggressive oversight will
be a top priority for the Democratic majority. Chairman Scott is going to be judicious about
when he’ll call the Secretary to testify. Stay tuned. When Secretary DeVos is brought to the Hill,
it’s likely she’ll be asked about draft guidance released by the Department last week on Title
I’s “Supplement not Supplant” policy. The basic premise is simple: Federal Title
I funds are supposed to be on top of state and local dollars, not in place of them. In other words, federal dollars cannot replace
money that a school should be receiving from state and local sources. Some groups worry that the Department’s draft
guidance undercuts the law’s intention. Notably, the guidance specifies districts
must distribute state and local funds to schools in a way that is Title I-neutral and doesn’t
penalize Title I schools. It also clarifies that districts can use a
variety of methods to demonstrate compliance. However, there is one method districts cannot
use: per-pupil spending, even though a Title I-neutral method would likely result in equitable
per-pupil spending among Title I and non-Title I schools. To learn more, read the guidance at the link
below and share your feedback with the Department in the next 30 days by emailing [email protected] Looking ahead, most of the action – and arguments
– in 2019 are likely to focus on higher education, not K-12. Republicans and Democrats alike want to reauthorize
the Higher Education Act, but they’re far apart on a laundry list of thorny issues from
for-profit colleges and program accountability to sexual assault on campus. Complicating things further is the Department’s
current regulatory efforts, including new regulations on sexual harassment under Title
IX that received over 100,000 comments. While often considered a higher ed issue,
K-12 groups have concerns because the proposal would also apply to elementary and secondary
schools and, in the words of the National Association of Secondary School Principals,
“will lessen protections for assault victims and will hinder the ability of schools and
educators to properly address assault claims.” The Department must respond to public comments
before issuing a final rule. With ten or twenty times the number of most regulations, we’re likely months away from that. 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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