BIDEN ADMIN DECISION ON CONTROVERSIAL COLLEGE ACCREDITOR DRAGS ON: The Biden administration has been deliberating for nearly 10 months over a final decision on the fate of a controversial accreditor of for-profit colleges — and progressive critics of the accreditor are getting impatient.
— The Education Department last June terminated the federal powers of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, citing “significant and systematic noncompliance” with federal rules for accreditors. But that decision has been on hold while the department reviews an appeal from ACICS.
— It’s not clear when the Biden administration plans to rule on the appeal, filed in July. At stake in the decision is federal funding for dozens of for-profit colleges accredited by ACICS.
— The appeal was sent to US Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten after Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recused himself from the matter. Cardona appeared to publicly back the ACICS‘ termination during congressional testimony last year — comments ACICS has seized on as evidence that the Biden administration prejudged the process’ outcome.
— Our New Jersey colleague Carly Sitrin asked Marten at an event last month about the status of her final decision on ACICS. “I don’t know about that,” Marten responded.
— An Education Department spokesperson declined to confirm to Morning Education whether Marten was still overseeing the appeal. “The process remains ongoing, and the Department is doing a thorough review before any decisions are made,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
— By the numbers: ACICS accredits 37 schools that collectively enrolled more than 16,600 undergraduates and received about $160 million in annual federal student-aid funding, according to the Education Department’s latest data on accreditors.
— Long running saga: The Obama administration first terminated ACICS in 2016 after it drew the ire of many Democrats for accrediting for-profit college giants ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges until their collapse. After a federal judge dinged the Obama-era decision, then Education Secretary Betsy DeVos immediately reinstated ACICS in 2018 (though she, too, ultimately ruled the accreditor had violated some federal standards).
— Democrats blasted the Trump administration for taking a friendly approach to ACICS, which many progressives view as emblematic of lax oversight of for-profit colleges. But critics of the accreditor are now wondering why the Biden administration has taken so long to act.
— “How many students have enrolled in subpar programs at ACICS schools over the last nine months? How many millions of dollars have flown out the FSA’s doors never to return?” said Aaron Ament, president of Student Defense, which sued the Trump administration about its handling over the ACICS. “What is the Department waiting for to rule on the appeal?”
— “Not sure what the hold up is, but @usedgov really needs to act already,” Michael Itzkowitz, senior fellow for higher education at Third Way, said on Twitter. “These students don’t know if their degree will be from an accredited institution. These schools — the good ones — also need to find an accreditor that actually ensures quality for its students.”
— ACICS, for its part, has argued that it’s been unfairly singled out for criticism. Its appeal argues that the Education Department’s process for deciding its fate was “riddled with procedural defects and tainted by prejudicial politicization.” The accreditor also hinted at a legal challenge, saying the department’s position was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with the law.”
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HAPPENING TODAY — “EGGucation!” on the South Lawn of the White House. The annual White House Easter Egg Roll will be education-themed this year as First Lady Jill Biden hosts some 30,000 people for the event, including thousands of military families. The White House says the South Lawn will be “transformed into a school community, full of fun educational activities for children to enjoy.”
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FLORIDA REJECTS 41 PERCENT OF NEW MATH TEXT BOOKS: Florida officials are rejecting dozens of proposed mathematics textbooks from being used in public schools, claiming the instructional materials either fall short of state standards or touch on prohibited topics such as critical race theory, POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury reports from Tallahassee.
— the state announced on Friday it would not include 54 of 132 textbooks submitted by publishers, most of which had been proposed for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
— “It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement.
— The rejection of new textbooks marks the latest effort by DeSantis and other Florida Republicans who want to restrict how schools teach students about issues like race, racism and gender identity.
USDA UNVEILS RURAL SCHOOL FUNDING: The Agriculture Department announced more than $238 million in funding from bipartisan infrastructure law for the Secure Rural Schools program on Friday, which aims to help states and counties fund local services otherwise at risk because of a decline in timber sales revenue, reported Pro Agriculture’s Ximena Bustillo . Payments will begin to roll out in the coming days.
— How it works: The infrastructure law reauthorized the program — which provides funding for projects on rural roads and schools and federal lands and for county projects — for fiscal years 2021 through 2023.
— So money for forests: The Forest Service gets a portion of program funds to support projects that improve forest conditions. Resource advisory committees, made up of residents representing varied interests and areas of expertise, review and recommend projects that meet their local needs, according to USDA.
LATEST ON STUDENT DEBT CANCELLATION — White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed last week that canceling student loan debt using executive action is “still on the table” in the Biden administration.
— “Yes, still on the table. Still on the table,” Psaki said to applause during a taping of the Pod Save America podcast Thursday night.
— The Biden administration has extended the pandemic-related moratorium on federal student loan payments until the end of August. Psaki said the White House would decide whether to extend that relief yet again — as many Democrats want — in the coming months.
— The key line: “Between now and August 31, it’s either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision … about canceling student debt,” Psaki said.
— A teacher set up a school for Ukrainian refugee children in Romania: NPR.
— In several states, teachers get their biggest raise in decades: The New York Times.
— California needs more medical workers, but are they being stalled at community colleges? The Fresno Bee.