Washington Update, May 19, 2023
Dear Colleagues: Conversations surrounding the debt limit continue to dominate the DC news cycle this week. High stakes talks surrounding an agreement between the GOP and White House paused on Friday after Republican negotiators walked out of the room– ultimately blaming the Biden Administration for holding up discussions. As you will recall, last month House Republicans passed a bill which ties the debt limit to appropriations by raising the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through the end of next March, whichever happens first, in exchange for a wide range of proposals to decrease government funding. The cuts to federal funding would include capping federal funding at fiscal year (FY) 2022 levels- a nearly 22% cut to non-defense discretionary programs (i.e. education)- while also limiting spending growth to 1 percent every year over the next decade. Under the proposal, as many as 7.5 million children with disabilities would face reduced supports—a cut equivalent to removing more than 48,000 teachers and related services providers from the classroom.
1. Secretary Cardona Testifies Before House Education and Workforce Committee
This week, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee, defending the Administration’s FY24 budget request.
In his opening remarks, Secretary Cardona made note of the importance of the investments and called on Congress to act with urgency to provide schools with the resources they need to “raise the bar in education”, saying in part:
“...I know that nothing unites America's families more than the hopes we share for our children, and that is why the Biden-Harris Administration is pushing for bold investments to ensure all students have equitable access to schools, colleges, and educators that welcome and support them, inspire their love of learning, and prepare them to succeed in whichever career they choose. President Biden's latest budget proposal calls on Congress to act with urgency to provide our schools with the resources needed to raise the bar in education by promoting academic excellence and rigorous instruction, boldly improving learning conditions, and answering unmet challenges like the educator shortage and addressing the mental health needs of our students...”
Yet, as expected, not all members were eager to hear a justificati9on surrounding the FY24 proposal. Chairwoman Foxx (R-NC) for her part kicked off the hearing by declaring that the Department’s track record should be evaluated before reviewing the Administration’s budget proposal. “Before turning to the budget proposal for which you are here to advocate, I’d like to lay out the concerns from this Committee – of the people’s elected representatives – to which you are derelict in responding,” said Dr. Foxx
Concerns surrounding school choice, parent rights, transgender students, and loan forgiveness were at the core of the majority parties line of questioning. Democrats for their part expressed concerns surrounding potential cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, including education, as proposed in the House passed debt limit legislation.
You can watch the hearing and read opening remarks from the Secretary and Chairwoman here.
2. Department Issues Request for Comment Surrounding IDEA Part B Regulations Related to Public Benefits or Insurance
The Department of Education has issued a request for comments on a proposal to amend regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that govern the Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities program, including the Preschool Grants program. Specifically, the Department proposes to amend the IDEA Part B regulations to remove the requirement for public agencies to obtain parental consent prior to accessing for the first time a child's public benefits or insurance ( e.g., Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)) to provide or pay for required IDEA Part B services.
The regulation change would only require school districts to notify parents of Medicaid billing for IDEA related services rather than obtaining consent.
Comments must be submitted by August 1st via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at regulations.gov.
Note: The Department's policy is to generally make comments received from members of the public available for public viewing at www.regulations.gov. Therefore, commenters should include in their comments only information about themselves that they wish to make publicly available. For additional information please contact, Rebecca Walawender, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Room 5130, Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202. Telephone: (202) 245–7399. Email: Rebecca.Walawender@ed.gov.
3.In the States: Ohio Senate Bill to Impact DEI Policies at Institutions of Higher Education Across the State
Last week, the Ohio State Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee voted to accept a substitute version of Senate Bill 83. The original version of the bill, also known as the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act, was first introduced in April and proposed a slew of wide-ranging changes, including; ending mandated diversity trainings, bans on partnerships with Chinese institutions, restrictions on faculty unions striking during contract negotiations, and new evaluations for students to rate professors on how well they've removed bias from their classrooms.
As outlined in a statement released by the University of Cincinnati, in its current, updated form, Senate Bill 83 – as well as the companion House Bill 151 – continue to cause concern among higher education faculty and students. The proposed legislation would still impact a number of areas, including:
• University mission statements
• DEI policies and programs
• Policies related to intellectual diversity and controversial beliefs
• Syllabus requirements
• Faculty workload, evaluation and post-tenure review processes
• Partnerships with the People's Republic of China
• Board of Trustees training and term lengths
• A requirement of an American history/government course for all undergraduates
• Endowment-related policies and practices
• Collective bargaining agreements
The Inter-University Council, a consortium of Ohio’s 14 public universities, has stated that they will continue their advocacy, both formal and informal, regarding the bill’s impact on higher education and the State of Ohio overall. The group also encouraged faculty, if interested, to provide feedback by contacting their local legislator using their personal contact information and email rather than those of their university.
You may find contact information for the Ohio General Assembly online here.
4. New Resources for Educators
o ACE released a memo on what the GOP debt limit proposal would mean for higher education. The memo notes that higher education is inextricably linked to the broader economy. So, the negative economic impacts of a default will result in more students and their families’ losing jobs or seeing reduced financial circumstances; borrowing costs and the costs of carrying debt will increase significantly for students, staff, and institutions; and likely reductions in local, state and federal support for higher education.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend- perhaps one full of calls to your Congressional offices expressing your concerns over potential cuts to education funding.
Until next time, see you on Twitter