McCarthy Elected Speaker of the House
Early Saturday morning, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was formally elected Speaker of the House after a tumultuous week that saw 14 failed vote attempts to elect a new leader for the chamber. Throughout last week, a small group of House Republicans withheld their support for McCarthy’s Speakership bid leading to the week-long impasse. After providing a series of concessions to this group of lawmakers, some of which still have not yet been made public, McCarthy garnered most of this group’s support while others voted present. This reduced the threshold he needed to win the Speaker’s gavel. Some of the concessions could impact education funding for the coming year, including a promise McCarthy gave to these members to only advance appropriations legislation later this year at or below federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) funding levels. With a narrow four-seat majority in the House, and with all Democratic lawmakers voting for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), this combination of handshake agreements and concessions providethe support McCarthy needed to secure the Speakership — a critically important leadership position that he has sought since 2015.
Rep. Virginia Foxx Chosen to Chair House Education and the Workforce Committee
On Jan. 9, House Republicans chose Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) to return to the chairmanship of the House Education and the Workforce Committee — a position she held when Republicans last controlled the House. (The Committee was titled “Education and Labor” under Democrats and is once again “Education and the Workforce” under Republicans.)
In a press release, Chair Foxx outlined her agenda, noting that “Conducting vigorous and sustained oversight of the federal government, especially the Departments of Education and Labor, will be among my top priorities. We must stop this administration’s reckless and destructive regulatory agenda.” Her legislative and oversight agenda will be vastly different than that of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the incoming chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. As with most committees, it doesn’t seem likely that there will be much substantive bipartisan, bicameral legislation moving forward this Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives Adopts New Rules Package
On Jan. 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a rules package on a mostly party-line vote (the only Republican voting against it was Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-TX)). The new set of rules includes many of the concessions Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made to win over the 20 hard-right conservatives who initially refused to support his bid to become Speaker of the House. Among other things, the new rules make it easier to remove the Speaker and establish new investigatory committees. They also make it harder to raise taxes or spend federal money, among other significant changes. In addition to what is found in the new rules package, a number of other deals McCarthy struck have been reported and are expected to emerge in the coming weeks. It is worth noting that the new House rules do not ban earmarks, although the House could opt to do that later.
Of note to school districts, the rules package creates a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic as part of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, replacing the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. The panel’s focus will include the effectiveness of federal relief and support programs — one of the areas where school district and state spending of ESSER dollars is expected to come under scrutiny. The panel also will likely focus on the societal impact of decisions to close schools, where remote learning is expected to be scrutinized.
NSBA is continuing to analyze these new rules and their potential impact on education funding and policymaking in the new Congress.
A Change in Federal Funding May Make the ‘Homework Gap’ Worse
A Jan. 10 article in Education Week notes that the fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending package approved in December does not contain any additional funding to continue the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), even though there is still a lot of demand for it and even after dozens of education groups, including NSBA, asked lawmakers to continue funding it.
The fund was established during the pandemic to help schools and libraries provide their communities with tools for remote learning. Congress, through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, appropriated $7.2 billion for the program. So far, the FCC has doled out $6.5 billion, and the fund has helped millions of students and educators who didn’t have access to broadband or digital devices at home.
Education advocates note that there is about $1.3 billion in demand for ECF funds, but only $600 million left to satisfy that demand, meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of demand from school districts and libraries for ECF funds will go unfulfilled unless more money is allocated for the program.
Advocates hope that Congress will pass additional funding, whether through a stand-alone bill or as part of the fiscal year 2024 appropriations process, but it might be a steep hill to climb with a divided government. Alternatively, states and school districts could offer some patchwork funding to provide these services to their residents and students. However, a recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics found that schools are winding down their efforts to supply students with home internet access, most likely driven by federal COVID-relief aid drying up. Read the article. (Subscription required)
ED Proposes New Income-Driven Repayment Plan for Student Loans
On Jan. 10, the U.S. Department of Education proposed regulations to create a new income-driven repayment plan that would cut monthly repayments in half for some students while simplifying the program. The department’s press release and an accompanying fact sheet describe the proposed changes.
An NPR article offers behind-the-scenes details on how failed December negotiations led to a freeze for student aid administration for fiscal year 2023. It also examines how that funding freeze could impact the proposed income-driven repayment plan; restarting student loan payments after the pandemic pause; completing a multi-year plan to update student loan servicing; and proceeding with the department’s plan for student debt relief if the Supreme Court rules that the plan is permissible.
Possible Changes Coming to SNAP Benefit Amounts in 2023
There are several changes that may affect SNAP household’s benefit amounts over the coming months. The temporary boost to SNAP benefits put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, known as emergency allotments, will end nationwide after the February 2023 issuance. In addition, households that receive SNAP and Social Security benefits will see a decrease in their SNAP benefits because of the significant cost of living increase to Social Security benefits that took effect on Jan. 1, 2023. For more information on these changes, please see the announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Former Biden Campaign Spokesman Moving to Education Department
Kamau Marshall, a former chief campaign spokesman for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, moved from the U.S. Trade Representative to the Education Department. Marshall became a senior adviser to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in the agency’s office of communication and outreach. Marshall will focus on issues regarding kindergarten to 12th grade at the Education Department, as well as higher education and student debt relief and oversight. More on Marshall can be found here.
Here’s the Education Department’s Next Regulatory Agenda
The U.S. Department of Education unveiled sweeping regulatory priorities, pinning a publishing date for its final Title IX rule and announcing policy negotiations on such topics as accreditation and distance learning. The Biden administration’s policy roadmap follows regulatory work over the last two years that largely moved to clamp down on for-profit institutions and bolster protections for student loan borrowers. As Congress remains gridlocked with a Democratic-controlled Senate and a wafer-thin Republican House majority, most substantial policy changes will likely stem from executive action. More on the agenda can be found here.
- H.R.245 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish a grant program for nebulizers in elementary and secondary schools. Sponsor: Jackson Lee, Sheila [Rep.-D-TX-18] (Introduced 01/10/2023)
- H.R.65 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow States, in accordance with State law, to let Federal funds for the education of disadvantaged children follow low-income children to the public school, charter school, accredited private school, or supplemental educational service program they attend, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Biggs, Andy [Rep.-R-AZ-5] (Introduced 01/09/2023)
- H.R.174 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit the provision of Federal funds to a labor organization the members of which are education professionals. Sponsor: Jackson, Ronny [Rep.-R-TX-13]
- H.R.201 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit the provision of Federal funds to any State or local educational agency that denies or prevents participation in constitutionally-protected prayer in schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rouzer, David [Rep.-R-NC-7]
- H.R.202 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To provide for the elimination of the Department of Education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rouzer, David [Rep.-R-NC-7]
- H.R.216 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit Federal education funds from being provided to elementary schools that do not require teachers to obtain written parental consent prior to teaching lessons specifically related to gender identity, sexual orientation, or transgender studies, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Van Drew, Jefferson [Rep.-R-NJ-2]
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of January 13, 2023