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Federal Flash: DeVos Goes to Battle for Budget, But Plays Defense on Policy

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June 11, 2018 04:31 pm

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was back on Capitol Hill last week defending her policies and proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Education. Also last week – there was movement on policy for undocumented students, homeless students, career and technical education, and the confirmation of an additional member of the Secretary’s team at the Department.

Action Needed for DREAMers

As we reported a few weeks ago, a group of moderate Republican members of the House of Representatives is working across party lines to force a vote on the DREAM Act and other immigration measures in response to Congressional inaction after President Trump announced he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Only three more signatures are needed on what is called a “discharge petition” – a rarely used procedural move that will force the vote. We urge you to reach out to representatives who have voiced support for DREAMers in the past, but haven’t yet signed the discharge petition.

Get additional information in this short video from All4Ed and UnidosUS below.

DeVos Plays Defense on Budget and Policy

Every year, the Secretary of Education testifies before the House and Senate subcommittees responsible for funding the Department of Education to present and defend the budget that the Administration has proposed for the year.

You may recall that President Trump has proposed to reduce federal education funding by 11 percent, including the elimination or consolidation of over 30 programs. Last week, Secretary DeVos testified in the Senate, where you won’t be surprised to hear she received very different responses from Republicans and Democrats.

The Committee’s chairman, Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, welcomed the Secretary and said, “I appreciate the fresh perspective you bring to the Department…I agree we should look for programs that are ineffective or inefficient, and prioritize that funding to programs that work best for students.”

Needless to say, Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, the subcommittee’s leading Democrat, took a very different approach, criticizing the Secretary’s policies on student loans, sexual assault and the office of civil rights. Senator Murray also criticized the Secretary for ignoring requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act designed to ensure equity. And all of that was before Senator Murray got to her concerns regarding the Secretary’s funding request.

Watch this clip from the hearing below.

The Senate subcommittee could pass its bill to fund the Department of Education by the end of the month; we’ll keep you posted.

New Leader for Civil Rights Department

In other news, the Senate confirmed Kenneth Marcus to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Mr. Marcus served at OCR under President George W. Bush and  president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Democrats criticized his record and raised concerns that his perspective on civil rights issues was too close to that of the President. Meanwhile, Republicans criticized Democrats for the length of time it took to get to a vote on his confirmation in the first place. Not much of a surprise, the vote was along party lines, but with a vote of 50 to 46, it was enough to send him to the Department of Education.

Defining “Homeless” for Students to Receive Services

Did you know that different federal agencies have different definitions of the word “homeless?” In fact, they do, and thousands of students each year are unable to receive services from the Department of Housing and Urban Development because they are temporarily staying in a motel or on someone’s couch. Last week, the House held a hearing on legislation that would fix this problem.

Find out more about the Homeless Children and Youth Act.

Movement on Career and Technical Education?

Our last story of the day – rumors are swirling in education circles and on Capitol Hill that the Senate Education Committee could bring a rewrite of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act up for a vote by the end of the month. The House passed its bill unanimously, but the Senate’s negotiations have been stalled over disagreements on the role of the Secretary of Education. If Perkins moves in the Senate, we’ll have all the details for you here on Federal Flash.

This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the June 11 episode of Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s five-minute (or less!) video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. The video version is embedded below. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at alliance@all4ed.org.

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