Legislative Activity

Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Wins House Minority Leader

In a 134-63 vote on November 30, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defeated challenger Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) to keep her position as the House Minority Leader. She has been the Democratic leader in the House since 2002, and this was her toughest challenge since former Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) challenged her in 2010.

Democrats picked up six House seats in the election on November 8, short of the 30 needed to regain a majority. The current breakdown in the House is 239 Republicans to 194 Democrats, with runoffs pending in two safely Republican districts in Louisiana.

Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) Selected to Chair House Committee on Education and the Workforce

With approval of the full Republican conference, the House Republican Steering Committee has selected Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) as the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in the 115th Congress, scheduled to begin January 3, 2017.

Representative Foxx spent most of her career as a teacher and administrator in North Carolina’s higher education system. On the Committee on Education and the Workforce, she has served for the last six years as chairwoman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over higher education and workforce development. She also currently serves as vice chair of the House Committee on Rules.

House Democrats Push for Changes to Federal Student Debt Collection

This week Democrat members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent a letter to Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. requesting a change in the way the Department pays companies hired to collect debt from defaulted student loan borrowers. They are concerned the current payment structure may not incentivize the companies to help struggling borrowers, and asked the Department to provide guidance to its debt collection contractors about how they should help borrowers enroll in income-based repayment programs or other government programs designed to help struggling or defrauded borrowers.

Regulatory Activity

Courts Delay Overtime Rule

On November 22, Judge Amos Mazzant in the Eastern District of Texas granted a preliminary injunction to delay the Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime rule, set to take effect on December 1.  On May 18 of this year, DOL issued the final version of the overtime exemption rule, which raises the minimum salary threshold required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) “white collar” exemption to $47,476 per year. The final rule would also raise the overtime eligibility threshold for highly compensated workers from $100,000 to about $134,000.

In State of  Nevada v. The U.S. Department of Labor, Nevada and 20 other states argue DOL has exceeded its authority by significantly raising the salary threshold and providing automatic adjustments to the threshold every three years. They also allege the cost of complying with the rule will cause irreparable injury because it will cost states millions of dollars and impact government programs and services.

The injunction issued last week will maintain the status quo, effectively delaying implementation of the rule until Judge Mazzant is able to hear the case. While the injunction is temporary, it will likely last until the Trump Administration takes over in January. President-Elect Donald Trump has indicated he would like to reverse the rule, and Republicans in Congress have already introduced legislation to block and delay its implementation.

President-Elect Donald Trump Nominates Betsy DeVos to Lead Department of Education

Signaling he plans to pursue his campaign promise of increasing school choice, President-Elect Donald Trump will nominate Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education. DeVos is most well- known for advocating for and funding efforts to promote school choice, charter schools, and school voucher programs. While DeVos is very experienced on these issues, her record on other education issues has not been well-documented, including most higher education policy areas.

According to tax records for the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, they have made donations to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that has brought legal challenges against the Obama Administration’s Title IX guidance on campus sexual assault. Outside of this, no other public information has been made available on her positions on higher education. Most recent presidents have selected secretaries of education with more K-12 education experience, and staffing senior posts at the Department and within the White House Domestic Policy Council to focus on higher education.

President Obama Requests Increase for Student Loan Servicing in Continuing Resolution

In a request to Congress this week, President Obama has asked for an increase in funding to the Department of Education in the upcoming continuing resolution which keeps the government funded beyond December 9. The request asks for an increase of the Department of Education’s student aid administration budget from $1.55 billion to $1.6 billion. The White House says the money is needed for better customer service and support for the increased number of federal student loan borrowers to stay current on their payments.

Secretary King Announces Juvenile Justice Resources

Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. announced new resources for young people who have been involved in the juvenile justice system. The resources include a Dear Colleague letter to state and local leaders, a “You Got This” guide to help young people transition out of juvenile justice facilities and a document compiling some of the biggest challenges faced by youth in juvenile justice facilities.