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House Judiciary Committee Request Interview with Top Department of Education Advisors

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

The countdown is on for Congress to pass a fiscal year (FY) 2023 package before the 117th Congress ends at the end of this month. As you will recall, the government is currently operating on a continuing resolution. Essentially what this means is the government is operating on last fiscal year’s funding levels through December 16. At that time, a budget or another continuing resolution must pass or the government will shut down. While its widely reported that the four corners have not yet agreed on top line numbers, many believe a budget will pass before the 118th Congress begins, even if that means working up to Christmas Eve. Stay tuned!

Appeals Court Halts Efforts to Revive Student Debt Relief Program

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court rejected the Biden-Harris Administration’s bid to reinstate the student debt relief program which would forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers. This decision comes after a Federal judge in Texas struck down the Administration’s relief program citing it as “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated.” Prior to the ruling, the Department had already been prohibited from moving forward due to a temporary order from a federal appeals court in a separate case. The three-judge appellate panel ordered that the Administration’s full appeal be heard by another panel on the 5th circuit, but the Biden Administration had already said it will take the case directly to the Supreme Court if the relief plan was not reinstated by December 1. The Administration has extended the pause on federal student loan payment until 60 days after a resolution or June 30, whichever comes first.

GOP Lawmakers on House Judiciary Committee Intend to Interview top Department of Education Advisors

Last week, GOP lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona informing the Secretary that the committee intends to request interviews with several Department officials next year. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) who is currently the top Republican on the committee and is expected to serve as the Chair in the 118th Congress, led the writing of the letter and noted that that the panel is expected to request interviews with several top advisers to the Secretary. The requests are related to what the committee identified as “oversight of the Biden administration’s use of federal law enforcement with respect to school board-related threats.” For context, Republicans widely criticized the Biden-Harris Administration’s response to a 2021 letter from the National School Boards Association. The letter requested federal intervention to address threats to school board members and noted possible enforcement of “domestic terrorism” laws. Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered federal law enforcement authorities to talk with local leaders and address “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against educators and school board members. Some Members of Congress have suggested that the Department of Education was involved in the writing of the letter from the National School Boards Association. Secretary Cardona has publicly denied any involvement in the writing or circulation of the letter. The letter provides insight into the priorities of the House Judiciary Committee that will be newly controlled by Republicans in the 118th Congress.

Group of Republican Lawmakers Support Rep. Virginia Foxx’s Waiver Request to Become Chairwoman of House Education and Workforce Committee in 118th Congress

On Wednesday, a group of Republican lawmakers on the House Education and Labor committee sent a letter to the Republican steering committee in support of Rep. Virginia Foxx’s pursuit of a waiver, which would allow Rep. Foxx (current Ranking member) to lead the committee in the 118th Congress. If the waiver is not granted, Rep. Foxx would term out of her leadership role due to an internal GOP rule that bars members from serving more than three consecutive terms as a ranking member or chair of a committee. The letter, led by Rep. Burgess Owens, was signed by nearly all of the GOP members on the committee and states: “Virginia has been so effective in her work on this committee because of her unmatched personal experience as an educator, school board member and small business owner… To us, her middle initial, A, no longer stands for Ann, but for Accountability, and she will continue to be an oversight warrior against the Biden administration.” The Republican steering committee is expected to make their chair and committee decisions as early as next week.

New Resources for Educators

  • New America released a new report that details “how higher education and the student loan system are failing the most vulnerable borrowers.” The report is based on feedback from focus groups with borrowers who defaulted on their student loans. 
  • National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is out with a new report looking at student and institutional experiences with the three rounds of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding. The report includes a focus on differences in the experiences among students and practitioners at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) relative to non-MSIs and policy implications and suggestions for Congress.

Wishing you all a smooth end of your semesters! Until next time, see you on Twitter! Kait @brennan_kait

Do you have a question about Washington Update? Want more information? Have an interesting story about the educator shortage in your state? Email me, let’s have virtual coffee: kaitlynbrennan88@gmail.com. 

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