Whiteboard Notes | ED Renews Pell Grants for Prisoners Pilot Program; GA Considers Income Share Agreements for Postsecondary Students

Education Department’s OIG Reports FSA Failed to Protect Borrowers: On Thursday, a report from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General (OIG) was released finding that the Office of Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) has failed to protect borrowers. A review of records from January 2015 through September 2017 found that the FSA was not holding student loan servicers accountable when they failed to follow the rules. The report also found, in many cases, that borrowers weren't getting the guidance and protection from the FSA they needed as they sought the best plan for paying off their student loans. The nation's student loan debt currently stands at $1.5 trillion. [NPR]
 
Administration Renews Pell Grants for Prisoners Pilot Program: On Wednesday, an official from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) said the agency has approved a pilot program known as “Second Chance Pell” for another year. The program, which was created under experimental site authority by the Obama administration, allows certain groups of prisoners to use Pell Grants to pay for higher education programs, which was previously prohibited by Congress. Sean Addie, ED’s director of Correctional Education, said  the program will start July 1, 2019. [Politico Pro, subscription required]
 
House Democrats Hold Hearing on School Infrastructure and Teacher Compensation: The House Education and Labor Committee held its first hearing of the new Congress on Tuesday, which focused on infrastructure and teacher compensation in K-12 education. Democratic members pushed for more resources from the federal government to raise teacher pay and repair schools, while Republicans argued that school choice and reductions in administrative staff would better help solve ongoing problems. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and a witness at the hearing, noted that spending more money on infrastructure would help school maintenance costs and free up other resources to improve teacher salaries. [Education Week, subscription required]
 
Education Department Releases FERPA FAQs for School Safety: The U.S. Department of Education has released a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on schools’ and districts’ responsibilities under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in the context of school safety. The FAQs came as a clarification after the Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) released an in-depth report last December, which observed that school districts had some misunderstandings concerning FERPA, and in particular its application to school-based threats. The document consists of 37 commonly asked questions about schools’ and school districts’ responsibilities relating to disclosures of student information to school resource officers , law enforcement units and others, and seeks to explain and clarify how FERPA protects student privacy while ensuring the health and safety of students and the school community. [U.S. Department of Education]
Georgia Legislators Consider Income Share Agreements for Postsecondary Students: Legislation introduced in the Georgia General Assembly would create an income share agreement for students enrolled at institutions within the University System of Georgia. Referred to as the Pay Forward, Pay Back Student Grant Act, the bill would authorize the Georgia Student Finance Authority to provide money for tuition and fees to eligible students in exchange for a percentage of their future annual adjusted gross income. According to the legislation, students who enter into an income share agreement would not be required to make payments in excess of ten years. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Higher Education Committee.
 
Illinois Proposes Changes to Computer Science Education: Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would make several changes to computer science education in the state. House Bill 817 -- which defines computer science as the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, designs, implementation, and impact on society -- would create an Office of Computer Science Education focused on working with stakeholders to improve and expand K-12 computer science education in the state. The bill would also require annual funding for computer science teacher salaries and professional development, and ensure that computer science education data is taken into account for school report cards. The legislation was scheduled for a hearing in the House Elementary and Secondary Education School Curriculum and Policies subcommittee this week.
 
Tennessee Seeks to Expand Access to Dual Enrollment Technical Courses: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) has proposed a new initiative that would establish partnerships between high schools, technical colleges, and industry to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities for students in the state. Through the program, referred to as the Governor's Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) program, Governor Lee hopes to double the number of dual-credit vocational or technical classes available to students. The initiative would be funded through two grant programs, and desired funding levels will be included in the Governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. 
Denver Teacher Strike Ends with Promise of Pay Raise: On Thursday, the Denver Public Schools tentatively agreed to raise teacher salaries by between 7% - 11% and to create a 20-step salary schedule, effectively ending the 3-day teacher strike, which rallied over 2,600 teachers in the district and marked the first teacher strike in the city in 25 years. According to a Denver teacher, skyrocketing rents have made it increasingly difficult to live in the city on a teacher's salary, forcing many teachers to work two to three jobs. [CNN]
 
High School Freshman in Detroit Can Earn Free College Credit: The Detroit Public Schoolsannounced an expanded partnership program with the Wayne County Community College District, allowing high school students to take dual enrollment courses as early as their freshman year and earn up to eight college credits per year at no cost. Under the new program, the classes offered will be better aligned to the district’s career pathways and will allow students to put credit toward an industry certification or toward an associates degree. [Chalkbeat]
National Survey Highlights Uncertainty Among High School Counselors: Many counselors don’t feel as knowledgeable about local college transfer policies and for-profit college comparisons as they do about advising students regarding  community colleges, according to a new survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Key findings from the survey also revealed that 42 percent of public high school counselors strongly agreed that community colleges offer rigorous courses compared to 23 percent of private high school counselors. [NACAC]
Millennials Struggle to Balance Work and Life: Recently, an EY report found that Millennials are finding it harder to balance work and life as more move into management positions and work longer hours, while also increasingly balancing parenthood and their work responsibilities. [EY]
 
DC Invests in Workforce Development: Mayor Muriel Bowser and Attorney General Karl A. Racineannounced a $6 million investment in the Washington D.C.’s workforce development and violence prevention initiative. This investment will support #SaferStrongerDC by expanding employment opportunities for DC residents and reinforcing violence interruption programs. [District of Columbia] 
Researchers Consider Effects of School Start Time on Grades: Researchers at the University of Washington researched the effects of later school start times on students’ academic performance. After researchers had students wear activity trackers during the week, they found teenagers were getting more sleep closer to their natural sleep pattern on weekends. As a result, the study found when high schools pushed back their start times by an hour, and got more sleep, sophomores started earning better grades. [Science News for Students]
Coursestorm Raises $1.15 M: A round of early series funding has raised $1.15 M for Coursestorm, an online platform for managing course registration. The funding was led by CEI Ventures, Maine Venture Fund, and LearnLaunch. The company plans to use the funds to expand its client capacity. [PortlandPress Herald]
 
Glynlyon Joins Digital Learning Firm: Digital curriculum private equity firm, Weld North Education, has acquired Glynlyon, a digital content provider that reaches more than one million students through its two brands, Odysseyware and AOP. Weld North adds Glynlyon to its portfolio of education companies, already including Edgenuity and Imagine Learning, two existing platforms for K-12 supplemental curriculum. [PR Newswire]
 
$4 M to K-12 Budgeting Tool: A Series A-2 round raised $4 M for K-12 finance software company,Allovue as the company seeks to help more schools utilize their budgets. The company plans to use the funds to meet high financial assistance demand as fiscal reporting requirements take effect this summer. [Baltimore Business Journal]
 
TAL Acquires Ready4: AI-powered test-prep and admissions company Ready4 has been acquired by TAL Education Group. The Ready4 app has given more than 2 million students access to test-prep for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, ACT, PSAT, and MCAT. TAL Education has previously contributed to Ready4’s $8 million in venture capital. [EdSurge]