Does the $3 trillion HEROES Act stand a chance? What's in it for education?
Does Sen. Alexander's dog, Rufus, have a future online?
Who is on VP Biden's Education Task Force?
Welcome to the Ides of May. We remain in a swirl of uncertainty writ large, but in particular for education. California State University - the largest system in the country -- this week announced the fall semester will be fully online; at the other end of the spectrum, Purdue University in Indiana announced it will be fully open for in-person classes. Most colleges and universities are still studying and planning with decisions forthcoming - likewise with K-12 schools. Someone said to me this week that while she is hoping for recovery, she is also hoping that we don't aspire to return to the way it was ... rather we use our creativity to address the inequitable systems in place and revolutionize schooling with equity at the core of our work. Well put, I thought. I'm looking for ways we might do this. Any thoughts? Let me know.
The House of Representatives is in town and scheduled to vote late today on the next COVID-19 relief bill - dubbed the HEROES Act. Considered by many to be a messaging bill and the wish list of Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), it is not expected to receive Republican support. Even so, a number of progressive Democrats believe it does not have enough relief and may vote no. Likewise, there may well be a few Republicans who cross over to support it.
The 1815 page bill includes almost $1 trillion to support state and local governments and another $100 billion for education. Key features include:
In a Senate first, the HELP Committee convened a virtual hearing this week - with Chairman Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) participating from their homes. A member of Sen. Alexander's staff tested positive for the virus. Since Sen. Alexander was exposed, he decided to stay at home as a precaution. In another first, Sen. Alexander's pooch, Rufus, stole the spotlight from the witnesses becoming an instant internet sensation.
Top federal health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH, testified about Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School. Dr. Fauci reported that it is unlikely that a vaccine or treatment will be available before schools are due to open in the fall. Others expressed caution about the likelihood of conditions needed being in place so that a return to in-person schooling is warranted. Subsequent to the hearing, President Trump has repeatedly called for the in-person re-opening of schools in the fall.
On another note, and in an effort to restore a semblance of regular order, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Chair of the Appropriations Committee, has indicated that he would like to have all 12 FY 2021 appropriations bills marked up by July 4. The routine appropriations process has been knocked off kilter due to the pandemic, and virtually no hearings on the topic have been held since the President's budget proposal came out in February. Further complicating the process is the fact that subcommittees do not yet know what their allocations will be, and the spending cap for FY 2021 offers very little room to maneuver. It's hard to imagine anything more than a simple extension of this year's funding - a continuing resolution - for next year, given the need for the focus on COVID-19 relief.
Two key areas of concern have developed as Sec. DeVos has been implementing the CARES Act. For the K-12 distribution, she set aside funding to create a "microgrant" voucher-like competition for school districts to provide funding to parents to purchase services. In the higher education realm, she has limited the students eligible for financial relief so that international students and DACA students will not receive funds. These developments did not go unnoticed by House Democrats, who included retroactive prohibitions against both moves in the HEROES Act which is under consideration in the House today.
As the presidential campaign continues in a dull roar in the background of the pandemic, presumptive democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced several task forces designed to unify Biden supporters and former Sanders supporters. The task forces will make recommendations to the committee which will develop the Democratic National Committee's 2020 platform. A key issue to watch in the development of the platform will be charter schools, as many on the task force are skeptical (to put it mildly). In 2000 the Democratic platform called for tripling the number of charter schools. Members of the Task Force include:
The Committee for Education Funding is holding a Research Briefing on Education Technology: Equity of Access, Assessment, and Research Findings - Friday, May 22, 9:30-11:00 a.m. ET. Join via Zoom or dial in at 301-715-8592, meeting ID 994 9698 4362. Panelists include:
Stay safe and be well. Count your blessings. And be in touch on twitter @janewestdc