With help from Juan Perez Jr. and Michael Stratford
This newsletter is a weekly version of POLITICO Pro’s daily Education policy newsletter, Morning Education. POLITICO Pro is a policy intelligence platform that combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.
TITLE IX IN FLUX — President Joe Biden is on his way to making good on his campaign promise to put a “quick end” to the Title IX rule implemented by Trump-era Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last summer. The rule mandates how colleges and K-12 schools must respond to complaints of sexual harassment. Biden signed an executive order in March that directed his Education secretary, Miguel Cardona, to consider rescinding the Title IX rule, arguably the Trump administration’s biggest education policy legacy. (Here’s a breakdown of key provisions in the rule for Pros.)
— Today the Education Department will launch its five-day virtual public hearing to collect comments on what parts of Title IX need changing. Sexual harassment and assault survivor advocacy groups, which have protested the DeVos rule vociferously, argue it has chilled sexual harassment and assault reporting. They also urged then-secretary DeVos to delay its finalization because of the pandemic. But conservatives and some civil liberties groups say the rule offers much needed due process rights to students accused of misconduct.
— So far, the rule has survived a barrage of legal challenges. Some court cases are on pause, but most have been largely unsuccessful in scuttling the rule. The Office for Civil Rights is also asking for comments on the department’s role in addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This comes as conservative states pass laws barring transgender women and girls from playing school sports on womens or girls teams.
IT’S MONDAY, JUNE 7. WELCOME TO MORNING EDUCATION. Let’s grab virtual coffee. Ping me at [email protected] to chat. Send tips to my colleagues Juan Perez Jr. at [email protected], Michael Stratford at [email protected] and Lauraine Genota at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.
HEARINGS FULL — As of Friday, more than 100 people were on the waitlist to participate in the virtual five-day hearing, which only allows for 600 registrants, an Education Department spokesperson told your host. The agency received more than 15,000 written comments as of Friday morning, and it will continue to accept written comments through the end of the public hearing.
— In comparison, DeVos’ Education Department received more than 124,000 public comments before it issued its final Title IX regulations in May 2020. Those comments will be taken into consideration along with those made at the public hearings this week.
WHAT ARE ADVOCACY GROUPS ASKING FOR? — Under the DeVos rule, the definition of sexual harassment was narrowed to only severe and pervasive situations, and schools were given a choice of using two standards of evidence to make decisions when investigating students accused of misconduct: a “clear and convincing” standard or a less-restrictive standard that relies on the “preponderance of evidence.” Advocacy groups want to use the “preponderance of evidence” and want standards similar to the Obama-era standards for classifying sexual harassment and
— Common themes to watch for at the hearing will include “complainant deterrence and disenfranchisement,” said Laura Dunn, a Title IX attorney based in Washington, D.C. and founder of SurvJustice, which sued the DeVos Education Department over its interim Title IX guidelines. Dunn said specific parts of the process that could deter survivors from reporting incidents include requiring a formal written complaint to be filed and direct cross-examination via court-like hearings.
— “It’s just a poor rule,” Dunn said. “Generally, because cross examination normally happens in a court before a judge with rules of evidence, there are limits. In campus hearings, there are no judges and there are no rules of evidence. It’s kind of a free-for-all.”
— “We’re hearing from a lot of survivors that their schools weaponized the reporting process to scare them out of reporting,” said Sage Carson, manager of Know Your IX, an anti-sexual violence group. “A lot of survivors were told, ‘this process is really, really scary, do you actually want to go through with it?’”
— Colleges, too, have been concerned that they are not equipped to respond to sexual misconduct complaints with courtroom-like hearings. Last month, OCR said it would release new guidance for schools in the coming months to “provide additional clarity about how OCR interprets schools’ existing obligations” under the DeVos rule. Once the OCR’s review is complete, the department has said it anticipates issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking.
WHO MIGHT BE LEFT OUT? — Advocacy groups like Know Your IX, End Rape on Campus and It’s on Us have praised the hearing, but worry it may not be enough.
— “Our goal was to have listening tours for the Department of Education to virtually go to different cities, reach out to different schools and try to hear from as many students as possible,” Carson said. “These listening sessions still feel fairly inaccessible to students … We know that a lot of survivors are going to be cut out of this process.”
— A Department of Education spokesperson said in an email that the agency “very much wants to hear from all stakeholders, including K-12 students and anyone else who might be unavailable during usual work or school hours.” There will be a “special schedule” on Wednesday and Thursday to accommodate those who want to speak, they said.
FIRST IN WEEKLY ED: DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE CHAIRS ASK GAO TO PROBE COLLEGE FOOD INSECURITY — House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and House Agriculture Chair David Scott (D-Ga.) asked the Government Accountability Office in a letter today to examine the extent of food insecurity on college campuses and how changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program impacted students during the pandemic. Specifically, the chairs said they want to “re-examine SNAP eligibility restrictions” for college students.
— College students who were eligible for federal or state work-study or students with an Expected Family Contribution of zero were allowed temporary access to SNAP under the Coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law in December. Even prior to the pandemic, food insecurity on college campuses was estimated to be between 10 and 48 percent, according to the letter.
— The chairs said it was an ideal time to examine SNAP because they’re expecting the National Center for Education Statistics to release new data next year on food insecurity among college students, based on a 2020 study, and also because the farm bill will be up for reauthorization in 2023.
EXCLUSIVE: PROGRESSIVES URGE BROWN TO UNDO DEVOS’ ‘DISASTROUS’ POLICY AGENDA — More than a dozen groups sent a letter to Lisa Brown, Biden’s nominee to lead the Education Department’s Office of General Counsel, outlining their expectations and urging her to undo DeVos-era policies affecting student borrowers.
— The groups said DeVos’ Education Department “made it difficult to hold predatory for-profit colleges accountable, denied relief to borrowers eligible for forgiveness and tipped the scales to protect loan servicers from necessary oversight.”
— They are calling on Brown to no longer defend the department in lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s repeal of the Obama-era “gainful employment” regulations. “Although the Biden administration has indicated that it opposes the repeal” of the Obama-era rules, the group said, “it has nevertheless continued to defend the decision [to repeal them] in court.”
— The groups’ other demands included: dropping the Department’s defense of the Trump administration’s “distance education and innovation” regulations; dropping the department’s appeal in a lawsuit that would allow for the discharge of loans for a class of Corinthian Colleges student; and rescinding a January 2021 OGC memo that says the Education secretary “lacked sufficient statutory authority to broadly cancel student debt.” More in the letter.
AFT SAYS ‘SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER’ IN NEW AD — The 7-figure ad buy highlights the union’s latest push to fully reopen schools for in-person instruction. It includes a 30-second cable TV ad to be played nationwide on CNN and MSNBC, and ads on Youtube and Pandora in English and Spanish in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Connecticut, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, California, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
—The radio ad features a mom who touts how teachers “never stopped working or caring about their students” and the push by teachers and school staff “to bring every child back to class this fall, in person, five days a week.”
— On TV, the ad is expected to feature public school teachers, parents and students, and deliver a similar message: “We’re all in.”
— New York to scrap masks in schools beginning Monday: POLITICO Pro New York
— School district agrees to pay $3 million after a bullied boy, 8, killed himself: The New York Times
— L.A. teachers union to vote on urging U.S. to cut aid to Israel, sparking controversy: LA Times