Whiteboard Notes | ED Announces Fix for Public Service Loan Forgiveness; States Reconvene for Special Sessions; College Enrollment Down 1.8%

DeVos Appears Before House Education Committee: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addressed school safety, teacher walkouts, and ESSA’s effect on disadvantaged students before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday. While the school safety commission created by President Donald Trump after the shooting at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was central to the hearing, DeVos and committee members avoided the topic of gun control. Despite only meeting once since its creation, DeVos said she hoped for a report by the end of the year. After recent teachers movements prompted questions about nationwide salary increases, DeVos acknowledged problems with the system but did not make a statement addressing teachers nationwide.

Education Department Announces Fix for PSLF Program: New changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will allow borrowers to appeal rejected applications, a fix which had been called for by high-profile lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Since the program’s creation in 2007, minor mistakes on the application have resulted in tens of thousands of eligible individuals being denied. Earlier this year, Congress set aside $350 million to help those affected by this mistake.

House Won’t Vote on School Choice for Military Families: The House Rules Committee rejected Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-IN) amendment to the defense bill that would have given some military families education savings account. During Secretary DeVos’s hearing on Tuesday, she said that the Administration did not support Banks’ amendment because it would have funded the accounts with Impact Aid. With midterm elections this fall, House Republicans were hoping for a victory on school choice.

 

States Reconvene for Special Sessions to Finalize Budgets, Consider Tax Breaks: Several states have announced special sessions this month to allow lawmakers to convene on issues left unresolved during regular legislative session. The Virginia Senate reconvened earlier this month to continue work on a two-year budget, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) announced a two-week special session to address the state budget starting on May 22. Meanwhile, Missouri lawmakers convened a special session on May 18 to consider impeaching Governor Eric Greitens (R), and Oregon and Indiana both held a one-day special session to address tax breaks.
 
Ohio Considers Bill to Change Statewide Education Accountability System: A bill that would revise Ohio’s statewide education accountability system is currently pending in the House Education and Career Readiness Committee. In addition to creating a new state report card system, HB 591 would establish seven performance measures for schools, including statewide assessments results, high school graduation rates, student growth, achievement gaps, third-grade reading attainment, measures of college and career readiness, and student enrichment and support. Ohio’s legislative session is expected to adjourn in December 2018.
 
Pennsylvania School Funding Lawsuit Moves Forward: A Pennsylvania lawsuit against the state’s education funding system continues to advance despite objections from state lawmakers. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2014 by several public school districts and advocates, claims that the state’s legislative and executive branches failed to adequately fund schools. State legislators object, however, that the lawsuit is unnecessary because the state’s school funding formula has been revised since the case was filed. Earlier this month, a Commonwealth Court Ruling responded to these objections, allowing the case to move forward while giving the plaintiffs 60 days to provide evidence that the case is not moot.
 

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Mississippi Lowers Scores for Math Teacher Certification: The Mississippi Board of Education voted to lower the minimum score on the math teacher certification exam from 160 to 152, effective immediately. According to officials, this change could increase the amount of math teachers in the state by an estimated 10 percent. Several other states, including Colorado, Alabama, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Carolina have also lowered test scores in an effort to address teacher shortages.

California Considers $35B Increase in Education Funding: The California Assembly’s Education Committee unanimously passed a bill that would recommend a $35 billion increase in K-12 education funding. The increase, which would raise California’s per-pupil spending by approximately $6,500, could push California’s ranking among the top ten states in the nation for education spending. The bill now awaits action from the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

 

College Enrollment Down 1.8%: College enrollment has declined by 1.8 percent since the spring of last year, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. The decline in enrollment continues a six year trend of declining college enrollment in the United States. Postsecondary enrollment for those over age 24 has dropped 1.5 million over the past eight years, whereas the number of traditional-age college students has actually increased marginally since last year. New York, Michigan, and Florida experienced the most significant enrollment declines this year.

Greenstein to Lead Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education: On Monday, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education announced the selection of Daniel Greenstein as the chancellor of the 14-campus system. Greenstein, former director of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success program, will begin at a time where the system is facing many challenges, including financial issues and declining enrollment.