Legislative Updates

House Begins Work on Perkins Reauthorization

This week the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing to examine reauthorization of the Perkins Act, the federal law overseeing career and technical education last reauthorized in 2006. Last Congress the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 5587) was passed with strong bipartisan support in the House, but time ran short before the Senate was able to schedule a vote on its version of the legislation, the Innovation for Tomorrow’s Workforce Act (S.3344).

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, published a February 15 op-ed where she outlined her priorities for the Committee in the 115th Congress. While the main focus of the piece was cutting back federal regulations, she also highlighted the importance of career and technical education and named it as a priority for the committee. Her goal for a Perkins Act reauthorization will provide states more flexibility, reduce administrative burdens, improve accountability and better ensure students are prepared for in-demand jobs.

While addressing the American Association of Community Colleges on February 16, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reiterated President Trump’s “contract with the American voter” and his Administration’s plans to expand access to vocational and technical education, make two and four year school more affordable, and find more “paths to post-secondary education.” With Congress and the Administration committed to rewriting the Perkins Act to fit the needs of the 21st Century workforce, progress from last Congress, and strong bipartisan support, this hearing is expected to be a strong first step in getting the bill across the finish line.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, February 28, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will hold a hearing titled, “Strengthening Career and Technical Education.”
  • On Wednesday, March 1, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing on “Legislative Proposals to Improve Health Care Coverage and Provide Lower Costs for Families,” including H.R.1101, the “Small Business Health Fairness Act”; the “Self-Insurance Protection Act”; and the “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act.”

Regulatory Updates

President Trump Rescinds Title IX Protections for Transgender Students

On Wednesday, February 22 the Departments of Education and Justice released a guidance letter rescinding President Obama’s protections for transgender students under Title IX. The letter cited “significant litigation” and the Administration’s desire to “further and more completely consider the legal issues involved.” Further, the Administration believes this is a matter that should be left to states.

Reportedly at the insistence of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the directive emphasizes the importance of protecting LGBT students from bullying, discrimination, and harassment.

Two New Members Appointed to Federal Accreditation Panel

Republicans in Congress appointed two new members to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), the federal advisory committee overseeing college accreditors, before the panel’s first meeting during the Trump Administration last week. Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, and Brian Jones, president of Strayer University, have been chosen to fill the two vacancies on the 18-person panel.

Mr. Pressnell was selected by Senate Republicans and has previously served on a task force on deregulating higher education for Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. House Republicans selected Mr. Jones, who has previously represented for-profit colleges on the negotiated-rulemaking panel for gainful employment during the Obama Administration and served as general counsel at the Department of Education during the George W. Bush Administration.

Under the Obama Administration, college accreditors came under harsh criticism for not putting enough emphasis on student outcomes at the schools the oversee and the Department published “accreditor dashboards” to spotlight accreditors that approved poor-performing schools. It is not clear year how the Trump Administration will approach accreditation at this point, but the Department did update the accreditor dashboards this week ahead of the NACIQI meeting.