From Your Lobbyist: House Making Moves
July 10, 2020
Week of July 6-10
House Advances FY21 Education Spending Bill: On July 7, the Labor Health Human Services and Education (LHHS-Ed) Subcommittee on Appropriations marked up their fiscal year 2021 (FY21). In her opening remarks, Chairwoman DeLauro (D-CT) emphasized that COVID-19 is the biggest health crisis we have faced as a country in a century and chastised the Administration’s response for being “inconsistent, incoherent, and dangerous”. DeLauro explained that In the absence of leadership from the White House, Congress has stepped in and the LHHS-Ed Cmte has led the way to address the crisis by passing emergency funding bills in a bipartisan way. In sum, she said, this year’s LHHS-Ed mark builds off of the previous emergency funding bills to ensure a successful and safe reopening as well as getting the American people back on a path to a full recovery. Ranking Member, Cole (R-OK) said he supports the bill as a whole including funding for infectious disease research and education programs like TRIO, GEAR Up, Special Education, and Head Start. However, he explained his disappointment with the charter school cuts and the NIH funding in the form of emergency spending and said he planned to offer amendments to fix these issues in the full committee markup, which is slated to be marked up sometime next week.
While no members offered amendments, many members (on both sides of the aisle) focused their remarks honoring Nita Lowey’s years of leadership given her retirement, Democrats expressed strong support for the bill, and Republicans expressed concerns. Ultimately, and as expected, the bill passed out of committee along party lines on a roll call vote.
If passed into law, the bill would increase funding for education by 1.7% over last year. The Department of Education would receive $73.5 billion in discretionary appropriations, which is an increase of $716 million above the FY20 enacted level and $6.9 billion above the President’s budget request. Higher Education programs fared very well under the House bill, with $26 billion allocated for direct student aid. Notably, the bill includes a $150 per year bump in the maximum Pell grant award from $6,345 to $6,495 per year, which often has strong bipartisan support. Campus based aid programs also received increases with federal work study receiving $1.21 billion (+30 million) and SEOG $880 million (+15 million) while minority serving institutions received an additional $49 million, totalling $808 million. Lastly, the Committee also allocated significant funds to some odds and ends programs within higher education, including the following from the bill summary:
- $52 million for Teacher Quality Partnerships, an increase of $2 million above the FY20 enacted level.
- $7 million to continue the Open Textbook Pilot program to support the creation and expand the sustainable use of quality open college textbooks.
- $7 million to promote the study of modeling and simulation at institutions of higher education, specifically to promote the use of technology in such study through the creation of accurate models that can simulate processes or recreate real life.
- $5 million for a Basic Needs Grants pilot to help support college students achieve academic success by meeting their basic needs, such as housing, food, transportation, and access to physical and mental health.
As far as policy provisions within higher education outside of direct funding, the bill includes new language allowing incarcerated individuals to be eligible for Pell Grants and new language requiring for-profit colleges to derive more of their revenue from non-Federal sources and includes all Federal education assistance in the calculation.
Education and Labor Hearing on COVID-19 Impact on Higher Ed: Also on Tuesday, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on higher education held a virtual hearing to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting higher education in America. The hearing covered how a lack of services has disproportionately impacted vulnerable students including those already experiencing housing and food insecurity. Many members focused their questions on how Congress can better meet the needs of both students and institutions and what Congress can do to provide relief.
In her opening remarks, Chairwoman of the subcommittee Susan Davis (D-CA) explained that beyond the CARES Act funding, “Congress must do more to support our students and institutions. Further, she explained: “The impending budget shortfalls are also putting many institutions under pressure to prematurely reopen their campuses, even at the risk of exposing students, educators, and communities to COVID-19.” She concluded that, “Beyond extra funds, Congress must also protect students from predatory for-profit schools. These institutions have a record of using taxpayer dollars to target vulnerable students during economic downturns, often leaving them with worthless degrees and debt that they cannot repay. Simply put, the COVID-19 pandemic is testing not only our students and institutions, but Congress’s commitment to ensuring all students have access to safe, affordable, and quality education.” Most members agreed that Congress must do more to ensure students and families are being supported as they return to college and enter the workforce. The three hour hearing can be watched here.
- Supreme Court Ruling: This week, the Supreme Court ruled in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants that debt collectors may not spam cell phones to collect student debt.
- IMO: It is a small win, but yet a win!
- Trump Tweets: Today, Friday, Trump tweeted that he has tasked the Treasury Department with reviewing the tax-exempt status of U.S. colleges and universities, claiming: “Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education.”
- IMO: Just another example of this Administration not caring about colleges and universities that serve the most vulnerable students. He will give big corporations tax breaks, but not public colleges and universities? Yea, NO.
- Senate Democratic Bill for COVID-19 Relief: Last week, Ranking Member of the HELP Committee Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a Democratic and partisan bill that would provide billions in funding for education and family support. Specifically for higher ed, the bill includes $132 billion to help colleges and universities, especially our nation’s HBCUs, tribal colleges, and MSIs, deliver a quality education for their students, implement public health protocols, and provide emergency financial aid to students for expenses like food, housing, child care, and technology.
- IMO: Don’t get too excited, it is a great bill that would provide a lot of relief, but unfortunately is not going anywhere in a Republican Senate that doesn’t want to spend another dime on COVID-19 relief.
Stay tuned, Take Action: This coming Monday we are launching our COVID-19 relief priorities and ask that all AYA members sign the petition outlining our policy asks in the next COVID-19 emergency funding legislation. Let’s make sure Congress hears our voices by garnering as many petition sign ons as possible. The goal is 5,000 so share widely!