Whiteboard Notes | New Federal Student Aid Chief Appointed; Year-Round Pell Grants; CSU System to Eliminate Placement Exams
Congress & Administration
House Passes Bill to Update Career and Technical Education Act: The U.S. House of Representativespassed a bipartisan bill to update the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act on Thursday. TheStrengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, introduced by introduced by Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), is designed to modernize the law that dictates how the federal government spends about $1 billion annually on career and technical education programs. The Perkins Act was last reauthorized in 2006.
DeVos Announces New Head of Federal Student Aid Office: On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the appointment of A. Wayne Johnson to lead the Office of Federal Student Aid. Johnson is a former financial services executive with a background in the private student loan industry. In astatement, DeVos called Johnson “the right person to modernize FSA for the 21st Century” and noted that he “will bring a unique combination of CEO-level operating skills and an in-depth understanding of the needs and issues associated with student loan borrowers and their families." Johnson is the chief executive officer and president of Reunion Financial Services, which refinances private student loans.
Bill Introduced to Fund School Nutrition Coordinators: Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced legislation this week that would allow “qualified professionals to lead nutrition education and promotion efforts by giving districts the ability to appoint a nutrition coordinator to oversee their Team Nutrition and local wellness programs." The legislation, named The Nutrition Coordinators for Local Healthy Youth Act, aims to promote nutrition at the school level. The coordinator positions would be funded by USDA grants, however, this is unlikely because the grants would require changes be made to the Child Nutrition Act.
Education Department Announces Year-Round Pell Grants: On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance for how college and universities should implement an expansion of Pell grant eligibility for low-income students. Year-Round Pell grants will be available to students beginning July 1. In astatement, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the expansion is “about empowering students and giving them the flexibility and support needed to achieve their goals.”
States, Districts, & Colleges
Arizona Business Community Launches Campaign to Raise Funds for Education: A coalition of business leaders in Arizona have come together to advocate for an increased sales tax to fund the state’s education system. The proposed 1.5 cents-per-dollar tax would go toward pay raises for teachers, school infrastructure spending, establishing full-day kindergarten, and expanding workforce-development and teacher training programs. There is currently no timeline putting the proposed increase on the state ballot, although the coalition is hoping to move forward as soon as possible.
Arizona Court Overturns In-State Tuition for DACA Students: Meanwhile, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that DACA recipients were not eligible for in-state tuition rates, contrary to previous practice at state colleges and universities. This means that DACA students will have to pay full, out of state tuition, which may lead to decreased graduation rates and an increase in the amount of time it will take them to get a degree, although advocacy groups are looking for ways to appeal the ruling.
California State University System to Eliminate Placement Exams: The California State University system is moving to eliminate placement exams for its new students. Instead, it will use students’ test scores and high school courses to determine if they qualify for college-level courses. The change is designed to send fewer students to remedial courses and is part of a larger effort to increase graduation rates. The move comes in response to recent studies showing that placement exams and remedial courses are not very effective and place greater financial strain on students.
Scott Vetoes Higher-Education Policy Changes Advanced by Florida Legislature: Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed a new bill that would have made sweeping changes in the state’s higher education system. The bill included expanding scholarships at the state’s university system but took $25 million from the state community college system to pay for them. Governor Scott’s opposition to the cuts and a series of new regulations lead him to veto the bill, although some of the bill’s provisions may be preserved for at least one year, as they have been written into the state’s annual budget.
Kentucky Attorney General Sues Governor over Proposed Education Board Changes: Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a suit against Governor Matt Bevin on Tuesday over Bevin’s reorganization of several boards of education. The reorganizations, which were done through executive orders, represent overreaches of the authority of the governor, Beshear argued, while Bevin contends that the changes were legal and necessary for implementing recently passed legislation. This is only the most recent clash between the two men over gubernatorial authority and overreach and may have an impact on other disputes involving the organization of various other Kentucky state boards.
Ohio Attempts to Reduce Standardized Testing: The state of Ohio currently requires seven more standardized exams than the federal government does, but state education leaders are trying to change that. A committee formed by the Ohio State Board of Education recommended eliminating all tests not required by federal law, while the state Superintendent of Public Instruction recommended eliminating three standardized exams, as well as all other exams used solely to evaluate teachers. Any proposed changes to testing regulations will have to be approved by the Ohio General Assembly, the state's legislative body.
South Carolina’s Read to Succeed Act to Take Effect in 2018: Starting next year, third graders at South Carolina schools will be required to take a standardized reading exam, and will be required to repeat third grade if they fail. The new rule, part of the Read to Succeed Act, was developed in response to low reading and literacy scores across the state and is designed to catch struggling students at an early enough level that interventions can still make enough of a difference to get the students back on track. As a corollary to the new regulations, South Carolina schools are required to use evidence-based programs and methods for teaching reading, while the state will provide additional resources for struggling schools.