The Week Ahead in Education Politics: SCOTUS Rulings Coming Soon, Melania Trump’s Latest Projects, Food Stamps vs. School Lunch & More

THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION POLITICS publishes most Saturdays. (See previous editions here.) You can get the preview delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter; for rolling updates on federal education policy, follow Carolyn Phenicie on Twitter @cphenicie.

INBOX: SCOTUS WATCH BEGINS The Supreme Court wrapped its oral arguments for this term last week, and there are several important education-adjacent cases pending before the justices.

On unions, justices will in the coming weeks decide Janus v. AFSCME, a case that challenges a 40-year-old precedent that permits dissenting public employees to opt out of the political portion of union dues but requires them to pay “agency fees” that fund contract negotiations and similar activities. Those employees say that in the realm of public sector employment, everything is inherently political, and forcing them to pay for advocacy they disagree with violates the First Amendment. Unions say requiring those fees prevents free riders from benefiting from union contracts without paying for them.

Justices will also decide whether the Trump administration’s ban on travelers from some Muslim-majority countries is unconstitutional. The so-called Travel Ban 3.0, which is currently in effect, bans travelers from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea, and Venezuela. Challengers have said that given President Trump’s campaign pledge to ban immigration by Muslims, it amounts to an unconstitutional breach on religious freedom; the government says it’s a lawful way to keep the country safe.

Higher education advocates have also weighed in on the travel ban case, saying it limits colleges’ ability to attract international scholars.

Rulings on the Janus case and the travel ban case are due before the end of the court’s term next month; announcements on decisions begin May 13.

Several cases concerning the DACA program are also pending. A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Trump administration must keep the program in place while court challenges proceed.

Seven states, meanwhile, sued in Texas federal court last week to stop the program immediately. The Supreme Court has so far refused to hear the case, but if judges in Texas order the Trump administration to stop the program, that would set up dueling orders that would have to be resolved by the high court, Bloomberg reported.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Before their week-long recess last week, Senate leaders cut a deal to vote, at a time to be determined, on the nomination of Mitchell Zais to be deputy secretary of education. That vote will come after 10 hours of debate, down from the 30 hours Democrats could have forced Republicans to burn. The Education Department ranks among the lowest Cabinet-level agencies in terms of confirmed nominees, even after Carlos Muñiz was confirmed as general counsel last month.

MONDAY: FIRST LADY — First Lady Melania Trump will announce several new initiatives during remarks in the Rose Garden. She will focus on challenges facing children, including social media, health, and the opioid epidemic, NPR reported. She has previously said she’d focus on cyberbullying.

TUESDAY: FOOD STAMPS The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, holds a discussion on House Republicans’ efforts to reform the food stamp program, currently known as SNAP. Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Conaway gives remarks. The proposal would expand work requirements. Democrats and progressives say it could imperil children’s access to the school lunch program, for which children whose families receive food stamps are automatically eligible.

TUESDAY: BABY INVASION — Infant and toddler advocacy group ZERO TO THREE holds “Strolling Thunder,” a gathering of babies and families from across the country at the U.S. Capitol to encourage policymakers to focus on babies when making policy.

WEDNESDAY: SKILLS GAP — A House Education and the Workforce subcommittee holds a hearing on private sector solutions to closing the skills gap.

FRIDAY: HATE CRIMES — The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights holds a day-long meeting on the federal government’s role in responding to hate crimes, including “the role of the Education and Justice departments in prosecution and prevention of these heinous acts.”

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