Legislative Activity

ESEA Reauthorization Bill to be Considered on the House Floor this Week

The education community continues to analyze H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved and reported to the House prior to the Congressional recess. Echoing the White House report criticizing H.R. 5 released last week, an estimate published by the Council of the Great City Schools also described the negative effect H.R. 5’s Title I portability measures would have on school districts.

In response to the White House’s report, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) accused the White House of using “scare tactics and budget gimmicks to kill K-12 education reform.” Rep. Kline believes his legislation provides states and families with greater flexibility to meet student needs.

The House Committee on Rules recently announced that it will meet next week to grant a rule that could limit the amendment process for floor consideration of H.R. 5. The announcement also stated that amendments to H.R. 5 are due to the committee by Monday afternoon. The bill will be brought to the floor for debate on Wednesday and Thursday and a final vote is scheduled for Friday.

Senate HELP Committee Will Hold Hearing on Burdensome Regulations

Last week, the Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education published a report identifying 10 regulations/regulatory areas that are most burdensome to institutions of higher education due to cost, complexity, lack of relevance, and for having duplicative requirements. On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing on the report and will hear testimony from two members of the Task Force – William Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and Nicholas Zeppos, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University. In addition to these witnesses, the Senate HELP Committee members that led this effort, including Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Michael Bennet (D-CO), plan to testify.

This is the first hearing of the 114th Congress related to HEA reauthorization. The Senate HELP Committee may hold other hearings on HEA this year before it drafts legislation. The House is expected to introduce a bill as early as March.

Senators Question Department of Education’s Enforcement of Title IX

Last week, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking for information on the Department of Education’s enforcement of Title IX and the Clery Act. Specifically, the Senators requested information on the number of complaints received over the past five years, the number of investigations conducted in response to those complaints, the average length of time it takes to complete investigations, the penalties the agency has imposed, and what procedures are used to protect students from sexual assault. Both Senators have been leaders on issues related to campus sexual assault and will likely reintroduce the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) in the 114th Congress. Additionally, Senator Boxer plans to reintroduce the Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act) this week.

This Week’s Hearings

  • Tuesday, February 24: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing titled “Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities: A Report from the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education.”

Regulatory Activity

Federal Agencies Continue to Focus on Preventing Campus Sexual Assault

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened new Title IX investigations at the University of Connecticut and the State University of New York at Brockport. To date, OCR is conducting 102 Title IX sexual violence investigations at 97 colleges and universities.

Additionally, the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the White House’s Office on Violence Against Women recently announced that they are seeking applications for grants to research and identify “promising practices” in campus investigation and judicial decision making involving student sexual assault, both for “victim impact and offender accountability.” This is in response to a recommendation from the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault to improve understanding of policies and practices regarding investigation and adjudication of sexual assaults on college campuses. Grant applications are due April 6, 2015.

First in the World 2015 Priorities

The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) has made available its proposed Priorities, Requirements, Selection Criterion and Definitions for the First in the World (FITW) program grants. The Department summarizes the proposal as follows:

These priorities, requirements, selection criterion, and definitions would enable the Department to focus the FITW program on identified barriers to student success in postsecondary education and advance the program’s purpose to build evidence for what works in postsecondary education through development, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative strategies to support students who are at risk of failure in persisting in and completing their postsecondary programs of study.

The proposal is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register Monday, with the deadline for submitting comments 30 days later. The FIPSE office hopes to review comments on the priorities, selection criteria, and definitions and finalize the application by the end of March or early April. Once these priorities have been set, the Department will make the FY 2015 FIPSE funding opportunity announcement as early as May.