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Washington Updates: Student Aid, Brown vs. Board of Education 65 Years Later

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide update information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Today marks the 65th Anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court landmark decision that established the principle that separate is not equal. How far have we come? Much to contemplate here. You will see below that a House education panel spoke loud and clear on that topic: we have a long way to go. 

  1. Trump Proposes Taking More Funds from Pell Grants – to Fund Moonshot? Huh?

This week President Trump submitted to Congress some revisions to his original budget request. Notably, he took back the proposed cut he originally made for Special Olympics (after great bipartisan outrage); but he also added a new cut in the form of an additional $1.9 billion to the Pell grant surplus. It appears that the Pell cut would go toward funding the President’s proposed 2024 NASA moonshot! Education advocates were outraged. As Jon Fansmith of the American Council on Education put it: “Do I want to make college more expensive to fund space travel to the moon and Mars?” Hmmmm …

The President had already requested a $2 billion cut in Pell funding.  So the total $3.9 billion recission would result in the Pell surplus being exhausted by 2022! This request is likely to be ignored on Capitol Hill, as no one—Republican or Democrat—ever really contemplated cutting Special Olympics.  And while the Pell Surplus has been modestly raided in the past, a $3.9 billion cut is highly unlikely. 

The House is on tap to finish this week having four of the twelve appropriations bills (including for education) ready to go to the floor for a vote. Another two will have moved through subcommittee, bringing the House closer to meeting its goal of having all 12 funding bills on the floor during the month of June.  Meanwhile the Senate appears to be stymied until a final deal is reached on the budget caps. Recall that the House generated their own budget caps in order to move funding bills, knowing that at some point they would have to negotiate with the Senate. That time is coming soon. 

For more information, read Should Trump take Pell Grant money for NASA’s moonshot? Outraged education advocates say no

  1. House Panel Adopts 2 Bills to Address School Segregation on 65th Anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education

On Thursday, the House Committee on Education and Labor, chaired by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), adopted two pieces of legislation intended to curb the growing racial segregation in K-12 schools. In opening the markup, Chair Scott noted:   

“The legacy of systemic inequality and racial segregation continues to deny millions of children the opportunity to reach their full potential. Instead of confronting this injustice, the federal government has continually retreated from its role in promoting school diversity, erasing decades of progress toward educational equity. These two bills will help reverse that trend.”

Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), said that while her Democrat colleagues have good intentions, the resulted legislation is shortsighted and intended to make political points. Republicans opposed both bills while Democrats supported them by a 26-20 vote. 

The first bill, the Strength in Diversity Act of 2019 (HR 2639), offers voluntary incentives to community efforts to integrate schools. The second bill, The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (HR2574), restores a private right of action to file disparate impact claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and creates a monitor at the Department of Education responsible for investigating racial discrimination complaints. 

Two recent studies document the rise of segregation in schools: 

Read H.R. 2574, Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act and H.R. 2639, Strength in Diversity Act of 2019  

Continue reading the full Washington Update on my website to learn more about the following:

  • Study of Teacher Shortages Proposed
  • Higher Education Act Rewrite Still Moving
  • New Resources for Educators

See you on twitter: @janewestdc

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant