Legislative Activity

Upcoming Hearings:

  • Tuesday, April 29: The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the Department of Education’s FY 2015 budget request, with Secretary Arne Duncan testifying.
  • Tuesday, April 29: The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing titled “Driving Innovation through Federal Investments” for which it solicited feedback from the public on how federal research dollars can help drive innovation in existing and new fields. Thus far, more than 100 organizations have submitted written statements in response.
  • Wednesday, April 30: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-Health and Human Services-Education will hold a hearing featuring Secretary Duncan to discuss proposed FY 2015 appropriations for the Department of Education.

Regulatory Activity

Federal Job Training Initiatives

Last week, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services issued a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting feedback to better align federal grants and services to develop high-quality career pathways programs for job training participants. This RFI builds on President Obama’s focus on job-driven training to improve the federal workforce system in the 21st century and is designed to link and coordinate education and training services to enable workers to attain industry-recognized credentials and, ultimately, lead to employment. Together, the Departments will collect and analyze information that is expected to yield important insights on: the benefits of and challenges to aligning diverse funding streams, programs, and stakeholders around career pathway systems; and the current and potential future use of career pathways systems to help at-risk populations gain skills and access the middle class.

The Departments encourage stakeholders in all sectors, state, regional and local areas – specifically calling on institutions of higher education – to respond to the request for information by June 9, 2014.  A webinar to discuss the RFI is scheduled for May 1.

Teacher Preparation Programs

As part of the White House’s “pen and phone” initiative, which seeks to drive policy initiatives without Congress, President Obama directed the Department of Education to issue draft regulations to improve teacher preparation programs by this summer. The Department also will reconsider current regulations for teacher preparation programs after an unsuccessful attempt at reaching a consensus on a 2012 proposed rule  due to disagreements on how students’ test scores should be used to evaluate and determine the effectiveness of teachers and their preparation programs at colleges and universities. Although the Department has not shared specific details on how it will reform current regulations, the Department indicated that it will primarily focus on:

  • States developing their own systems to identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs, including those programs not based at colleges and universities.
  • States shifting away from current input-focused reporting requirements. Instead, States will be asked to streamline current data requirements, incorporate additional data outcomes that provide more meaningful information, and improve availability of data.
  • Making program eligibility for TEACH grants reliant on state-developed program ratings of preparation programs.

The Department expects to release the draft rule for comment this summer and publish the final rule within the next year.

RFI on the Use of APIs in Higher Education Data and Student Aid Processes

The Department of Education is soliciting ideas and feedback from a range of stakeholders that develop and implement Application Program Interfaces (APIs, a set of software instructions and standards that allows machine-machine communication) and/or facilitate college access and aid. Stakeholders include institutions of higher education, data experts, and software developers. To assist in efforts to explore potential uses of APIs, the Department issued a Request for Information on how to best use freely available government data and processes to build products, services, and apps that advance postsecondary education, provide information to students, and help colleges innovate. Comments are due June 2.

Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Funding

IES recently released FY2015 funding announcements for grant competitions in education research and expects all remaining FY 2015 grant competitions to be posted by April 30 at: http://ies.ed.gov/.

NLRB & Unionization of College Athletes

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agreed to review an NLRB regional director’s decision giving football players the right to vote on unionizing, which has been criticized by the NCAA and the American Council on Education. Northwestern University submitted the review request. By granting the review, votes by student-athletes on whether the College Athletes Players Association should represent them will be impounded until the NLRB issues a decision. The NLRB is expected to post a filing schedule for stakeholders who intend to file briefs on review and amicus briefs.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee has scheduled a hearing on this matter for May 8.

Negotiated Rulemaking on Program Integrity and Improvement

During the Department of Education’s third rulemaking session, the negotiated rulemaking committee reached a tentative agreement on state authorization of foreign locations of domestic institutions. As part of the proposed language, states where main campuses are located would be required to review and respond to complaints about a foreign, additional location, or branch campus.

At the end of the second session, the Department added a fourth rulemaking session, which is now scheduled for May 19 and 20. During this session, the Department will try to finish reviewing draft regulation on the definition of “adverse credit” for Direct PLUS Loan eligibility. The Department will also try to reach consensus on the full package of issues (clock to credit hour conversion, state authorization distance education, state authorization foreign locations, cash management, retaking coursework, and definition of adverse credit for Direct PLUS Loan eligibility). Given disagreement over draft regulatory language for the definition of “adverse credit” and state authorization distance education, complete consensus is not expected.  If overall consensus is not reached, the Department is likely to proceed with issuing proposed rules based on the draft language.