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This Week in Education Politics: Higher Ed Hearings, Immigration Showdown, Child Protections, SOTU & More

By Carolyn Phenicie | January 28, 2018

THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION POLITICS publishes most Sundays. (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.

It’s a short but busy week in Washington, as Republicans from both chambers will decamp to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia for their annual retreat starting Wednesday. A preview of this week’s events is below; if you have any tips or suggestions of events to add to next week’s roundup, please send them to [email protected].

INBOX: IMMIGRATION – Congress, after a brief closure last week, reopened the government without an immediate solution to the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, young people brought to the country illegally as children.

The Trump Administration Thursday released its proposals for a broad immigration overhaul, including a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and another 1.1 million people who would be eligible but never applied for protections, in exchange for funding for a border wall and increased enforcement of immigration laws.

Immigration advocates and Democrats immediately rejected much of the proposal. A bipartisan group of senators is working on a smaller-scale plan, focused just on the Dreamers, with the hope that if it passes the Senate by a wide margin, the more-conservative House and Trump will be forced to accept it, The New York Times reported.

As a reminder, the government is currently funded through Feb. 8. The Trump administration this fall announced that DACA protections expire March 5, though a court ruling requires the Department of Homeland Security to continue accepting applications.

TUESDAY: STATE OF THE UNION – President Trump will give his first State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday evening. The speeches are often previews of big policy ideas that presidents later propose in their annual budget requests.

This year’s speech will include discussions of the economy, immigration, trade, national security, and a new infrastructure proposal, White House officials told reporters last week. House Democrats have urged the administration to invest in public schools as part of its infrastructure plan. A leaked version of the proposal released by Axios doesn’t mention school buildings as an allowable use, but would allocate some of the funding to broadband upgrades in rural areas.

In remarks last year, Trump called for an unspecified school choice plan. In his first budget request for the Education Department, he asked for a $250 million voucher pilot program and another $1 billion in Title I grants that would follow low-income children as they transfer among public schools, rather than focus on pockets of poverty.

Though technically due the first Monday in February, the administration’s budget proposal is now expected no earlier than Feb. 12.

At least 24 House Democrats will bring Dreamers as their guests to Trump’s speech, ABC News reported. Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts will give the Democrats’ response.

TUESDAY: PROTECTIONS FOR YOUNG ATHLETES – The House will vote on two bills aimed at increasing protections for young people against child abusers, the week after Dr. Larry Nassar, a sports physician at Michigan State University who worked with the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting women and girls under the guise of medical treatment. Scores of women testified in court that he had sexually abused them.

One bill, written by a bipartisan group of senators, would require amateur athletics associations to immediately report abuse allegations to law enforcement or child welfare organizations. Another would expand access to the FBI’s background check system for non-profit organizations serving children, people with disabilities and the elderly. Many organizations now have to rely on less-robust state systems, as access to the FBI system is often viewed as too time-consuming, limited, or expensive, according to the bill’s sponsor.

Last week Betsy DeVos announced the Education Department would look into Michigan State’s handling of the allegations against Nasser, including its reported failure to report those allegations to the department, even as it was under federal Title IX investigation for separate complaints.

TUESDAY: EDU-POLICYMAKING – The House Education and the Workforce Committee holds a hearing on protecting privacy and “evidence-based policymaking and the future of education.”

TUESDAY: HIGHER ED, PART 3 – The HELP Committee for the third week in a row holds a hearing on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. This hearing focuses on accountability and risk to taxpayers.

WEDNESDAY: IS EDUCATION WORTH IT?The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, holds a panel event to discuss the book ‘The Case Against Education’ with author Bryan Caplan, and Kevin Carey, director of the education policy program at New America, a liberal think tank.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: TITLE IX LAWSUIT – A group of national public interest legal groups filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop the Education Department from changing Title IX rules governing how schools handle allegations of sexual assault. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in September rescinded Obama-era rules, notably a regulation that allowed cases to be decided with a lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard rather than a “clear and convincing” level of proof. DeVos has said those accused of assault need more protection, but women’s rights advocates have said the changes are a step back in the fight against sexual assault, are confusing for school administrators and could open a flood of lawsuits.

The groups suing the department, including SurvJustice, the Equal Rights Alliance, and the Victim Rights Law Center, allege that the department’s changes violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause because changes are based on “unfounded generalizations about women and girls, particularly their credibility regarding reported experiences of sexual harassment.”

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