WV knew sanctions loomed if federal Title IV audit again filed late – Charleston Gazette

West Virginia’s public colleges will need to come up with about $245 million in the next month after the U.S. Department of Education slapped financial sanctions on the schools, said Paul Hill, chancellor of the state agency that oversees four-year colleges.

The sanctions, which affect the colleges’ access to Title IV funds, came after the state Department of Administration was late three years running in submitting an audit of incoming federal money.

State officials knew months in advance that if they were late submitting this year’s audit, the colleges would be sanctioned, documents obtained by the Gazette-Mail show. Hill’s agency, the Higher Education Policy Commission, which oversees four-year colleges, tried to go around the Department of Administration to submit its own audit information and prevent the colleges from getting into trouble.

“This could have undermined the institutions,” Hill said, adding that state officials are close to finding a solution.

The sanctions will be in effect for five years, and the Education Department can increase them at any time.

Most students pay for school with Title IV, a wide group of funds that include the Pell grant and federally subsidized student loans. In previous years, the federal education department would give schools the money directly, and the school would disburse that money to students, according to Jessica Kennedy, spokeswoman for the HEPC.

Kennedy said the sanctions require the schools to have that money up front, keep records of its dispersement, and then ask the federal department for reimbursement.

Students often get a combination of money from Title IV and state grants or scholarships. Money from the state may be used only to pay for tuition and fees. The federal money also may be used for living expenses. Often, the refund students get after school starts is money from Title IV, Hill said.

With the beginning of most colleges’ fall semesters about a month off, it’s unclear how many colleges will have enough cash on hand to front the money.

Representatives from West Virginia University and Marshall University said that, because they had just learned of the sanctions, their schools were still figuring out what to do.

When colleges are on similar sanctions, Hill said, the education department reimburses them in about two weeks. That would be tough, he said, but not as tough as it would have been if the reimbursement came multiple weeks or months later.

“For example, if you have a payroll that comes due right in the middle of that, which is likely to be the case, and the institutions do not have a lot of cash on hand, then there is a process we’re working on whereby funds can simply be loaned out from the treasury,” Hill said. “Then, when the situation passes, the funds would be moved back.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of Revenue would not confirm this plan, but Hill said Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy seemed open to it when the two men spoke Thursday.

“We don’t think every school is going to be in that case,” Hill said. “The larger schools — the ones that have more cash on hand — they’re going to be able to use their own cash and not have a significant problem.”

The federal department almost slapped similar sanctions onto the colleges last year, documents show. State officials sent a letter to the department in August, successfully persuading it to lift the sanctions.

The Department of Administration submitted its audit late that year because, in the 2015 fiscal year, the state installed a new “enterprise resource planning system,” and government agencies encountered problems with it, according to a copy of the letter. New pension-reporting requirements also added to the delay, the letter reads.

A federal Department of Education official wrote back to say the department had considered the circumstances and wouldn’t enact the sanctions. The official warned, however, that submitting audits late is considered a “serious violation” and that, next time, the department would enact the sanctions.

When it came time for this year’s audit, Hill said, he wasn’t worried that the state would be late again. But the Consolidated Public Retirement Board took until five days before Christmas last year to compile audited information about retirement liabilities.

“For some reason, and I don’t know the answer to this, that has been taking a long time. It held things up last year, and it held things up this year,” Hill said. “We weren’t able to complete our work until that was finished. All that said, we finished. Everybody in higher education got everything in on time.”

Hill learned that the state would be late submitting its auditing in the first week of March, documents show. At the time, the colleges already had submitted their audit information. In another letter to the department, on March 15, he wrote that officials with the Department of Administration were aware of the due date but, most likely, would not complete their work by the March 31 deadline.

Hours after the Gazette-Mail asked the Department of Administration about the late audits Thursday morning, Gov. Jim Justice sent out a blistering statement. He said he would get to the bottom of who’s to blame for the delays, vowing that “heads will roll.”

The Gazette-Mail sent a list of questions to Justice’s press secretary, Grant Herring, about the late audit and what the governor plans to do about it. Herring would not answer the questions.

“The release speaks for its self,” Herring wrote in an email.

Diane Holley-Brown, a spokeswoman for the Department of Administration, also did not respond to calls or an emailed list of similar questions.

All five members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Friday afternoon, asking her to reconsider the sanctions. The sanctions, the members wrote, would be most damaging to low-income students who have done nothing wrong.

“The people who will be harmed most by these sanctions are the low income students who rely on federal financial assistance to attend colleges,” the letter reads. “In fact, a delay in the disbursement of federal funds could result in institutions not being able to keep their lights on or make payroll, which would disrupt services to students.”

This isn’t the first time the state’s congressional delegation went to bat with DeVos. Previously, her department cut funding for two college programs that help low-income and first-generation students succeed at college.

At WVU, school officials rounded up a figure on an application by $2 and lost more than $200,000 that would have funded its McNair Scholars program. At West Virginia State University, the school mistakenly added $104 on a supporting document with its application and lost half-a-million dollars that would have funded its Upward Bound program.

DeVos has not said whether her department will reconsider giving the schools that money. In light of that, state officials are cautiously hopeful the department will reverse course and remove the sanctions.

Reach Jake Jarvis at jake.jarvis@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-7939 or follow @newsroomjake on Twitter.

Teachers to march against Trump’s education agenda – The …

Teachers are planning to gather on the Mall in D.C. on Saturday to march in support of public schools — and against the Trump administration’s efforts to slash federal education funding and expand private-school vouchers.

Organizers of the “March for Public Education” say they expect several thousand demonstrators at the D.C. event, which is set to begin at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. And they expect thousands more to show up for sister marches in 15 cities around the country, including Detroit, Austin, Miami and Lincoln, Neb.

They say they want to send a message that public education is essential to a strong democracy, and that the Trump administration’s proposal to cut federal funds by nearly 14 percent — while reinvesting in private-school vouchers and other forms of choice — is unacceptable.

“We’re educators that care about our profession, and we’ve just felt that public education is under threat,” said Steve Ciprani, a high school social studies teacher in West Chester, Pa., who is co-chairing the march.

Ciprani said he and other teachers were inspired to organize the demonstration after attending the Women’s March on Jan. 21, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. Two days later, he started a Facebook group dedicated to an education march, he said — and within a week, it had attracted 5,000 members.

The Women’s March took place just days after Betsy DeVos struggled through a rocky Senate confirmation hearing that turned her into an Internet meme and a household name. She was a target of critics then and has remained one since taking office in February, as the administration has rolled back consumer protections for student loan borrowers, narrowed its approach to civil rights investigations and proposed slashing federal funding for teacher training, after-school programs and work-study programs for college students.

“Months later, we still have the same concerns that we had in February about her leadership,” said Pavithra Nagarajan, a former teacher now studying for a doctorate at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

DeVos — who was most recently the target of protests in Denver, where this week she addressed a gathering of conservative lawmakers — has pushed back against the notion that she’s opposed to public schools. She supports ensuring a range of choices for all families, she says, dismissing critics of her push for school choice as “flat-earthers” and “defenders of the status quo” who are content to perpetuate a system that has failed too many struggling students.

Saturday’s march was planned to coincide with a national meeting in D.C. of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers union. Expected speakers include AFT Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, as well as representatives of the NAACP and the immigrant youth advocacy group United We Dream.

House panel cuts education budget, but not nearly as much as …

CtMirror.org

A school bus drops off students at a school in the south end of Hartford.

Washington – House appropriators rejected many of President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to education, but trimmed some programs and eliminated others – including one that provides the state and local school districts with $25 million in teacher training grants each year.

House appropriators also failed to adjust this year’s Pell grant awards for inflation, a move state officials say will cost Connecticut students $6 million in college financial aid next year.

Trump proposed cutting the budget for the U.S. Department of Education by about $10 billion in fiscal year 2018.

But the House Appropriations Committee, in a bill that would also fund the Labor Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, cut the education department’s budget overall by about $2.4 billion, with $2.1 billion of that coming from teacher assistance grants that provide Connecticut with about $25 million a year.

Studying in the Bridgeport High School library.

The House bill won’t be the final say on federal education funding, but it does signal that members of Congress, including its Republican leaders, have little enthusiasm for cutting money for schools too deeply. The Senate has not finished work on it’s education appropriation bill, but traditionally it’s been more generous than the House’s.

The bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee, which could be amended when it’s considered on the floor, would slightly increase funding for special-needs students while making small cuts to Title I grants for low-income students and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program that funds after-school programs.

That could hurt Connecticut, which benefits from federal after-school programs and 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants, which run between $25,000 and $200,000 a year and help pay for programs in Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury and other communities in the state.  (See here for which communities.)

But the damage is much less than what was proposed by the Trump budget – which completely eliminated those programs.

Still, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, called the bill “fundamentally anti-teacher.”

“It eliminates more than $2 billion for Supporting Effective Instruction grants – or teacher training – which helps reduce class sizes and give teachers evidence-based professional development,” DeLauro said.

Connecticut and local school districts receive about $25 million a year through the grants. Bridgeport, one of the state’s lowest-performing districts, has received $2 million so far this fiscal year from this program. Hartford has received $2.9 million.

Lawmakers completely rejected Trump’s student loan proposals.

The president’s budget would eliminate subsidized Stafford student loans, which give students a repayment grace period. Under the program, the federal government pays the interest on these loans while students are in school and for six months after graduation.

Last year, students attending college in Connecticut received $203 million in subsidized Stafford loans.

The CT Mirror

Students on campus at Norwalk Community College

House appropriators decided to keep the program intact and also kept the Perkins loan program alive, which was on the chopping block in Trump’s budget.

Perkins loans are low-interest federal loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial needs.

Trump also wanted to end a student loan forgiveness program, which was designed to clear student debt for those who work for 10 years in teaching, community policing or other professions deemed to be in the public interest. The House bill keeps this program fully funded.

But House appropriators failed to adjust next year’s Pell Grant awards for inflation.

Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, called this “the most painful proposal” put forth by the White House and the congressional appropriators.

He said it would prevent Connecticut students from receiving an estimated $165 increase to their 2018-2019 maximum Pell Grant awards.

“For CSCU students, this will represent an estimated loss of $6 million annually,” Ojakian wrote. “This is particularly disturbing for our community colleges, where 34 percent of the student body, or 25,065 students — received a federal Pell Grant in 2015-2016.”

House Republicans at odds with Trump’s proposed higher …


WASHINGTON, D.C.  —  The Capitol dome at dusk on Aug. 13, 2013. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

House Republicans issued a 2018 budget bill Tuesday afternoon that rejects several higher education cuts proposed by President Trump but upholds plans to pull billions of dollars in reserves out of the Pell Grant program for needy college students.

Ahead of a markup slated for Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released the full funding report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies that provides money for programs placed on the chopping block in the White House budget.

Instead of eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the committee wants to set aside the same $733 million keeping the program afloat this year. It also maintained the existing funding for the federal work-study program that helps students work their way through college, rather than cut the program’s funding in half, as Trump proposed.

Trump had sought nearly $200 million in cuts to the TRIO and Gear Up programs, which help disadvantaged students in middle and high schools prepare for college, but appropriators are pouring $60 million and $10 million more into each respective program. Policy analysts anticipated that the White House proposal would run into bipartisan resistance on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have historically supported the college-readiness programs, albeit with modest appropriations.

Not all programs earmarked for cuts by the White House are safe. House appropriators still want to eliminate all funding for Child Care Access Means Parents in School, a program that subsidizes campus-based day care for low-income parents earning a degree. Committee members blamed budget constraints for the cut, while the White House and Education Department has said “subsidizing expenses associated with child care is not consistent with the department’s core mission.”

Resources for the campus child-care program have been stretched thin as the number of parents in college has grown from 3.2 million to 4.8 million in the past 20 years, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. The percentage of public institutions with centers on campus is dwindling, and without support from the federal government, many worry that student parents will struggle to remain in school. Still, student parents could get a bit of a reprieve: The committee is recommending $4 million more in funding for existing child-care programs within the Department of Health and Human Services.

The House GOP is standing with Trump on drawing down the reserves for the Pell Grant program, calling for a $3.3 billion recision on top of the $1.3 billion cut outlined in the fiscal 2017 spending agreement. The committee maintained level funding for the program, but advocacy groups say raiding the reserves could jeopardize the program in the future.

Forty organizations representing students, consumers and colleges sent a letter Tuesday urging House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and ranking member Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) to oppose the cut.

“Cutting an additional $3.3 billion in FY18 would put much‐needed investments to strengthen the Pell Grant further out of reach, and place the program at risk of future cuts to grant amounts or eligibility that would exacerbate student debt and limit access to higher education,” the organizations wrote. “To support students, the American workforce and a growing economy, Pell dollars must remain in the Pell Grant program.”

The American Federation of Teachers, one of the 40 groups involved in the letter, is planning a rally Wednesday on Capitol Hill to speak out against education budget cuts.

House panel cuts education budget, but not nearly as much as Trump

CtMirror.org

A school bus drops off students at a school in the south end of Hartford.

Washington – House appropriators rejected many of President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to education, but trimmed some programs and eliminated others – including one that provides the state and local school districts with $25 million in teacher training grants each year.

House appropriators also failed to adjust this year’s Pell grant awards for inflation, a move state officials say will cost Connecticut students $6 million in college financial aid next year.

Trump proposed cutting the budget for the U.S. Department of Education by about $10 billion in fiscal year 2018.

But the House Appropriations Committee, in a bill that would also fund the Labor Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, cut the education department’s budget overall by about $2.4 billion, with $2.1 billion of that coming from teacher assistance grants that provide Connecticut with about $25 million a year.

Studying in the Bridgeport High School library.

The House bill won’t be the final say on federal education funding, but it does signal that members of Congress, including its Republican leaders, have little enthusiasm for cutting money for schools too deeply. The Senate has not finished work on it’s education appropriation bill, but traditionally it’s been more generous than the House’s.

The bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee, which could be amended when it’s considered on the floor, would slightly increase funding for special-needs students while making small cuts to Title I grants for low-income students and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program that funds after-school programs.

That could hurt Connecticut, which benefits from federal after-school programs and 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants, which run between $25,000 and $200,000 a year and help pay for programs in Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury and other communities in the state.  (See here for which communities.)

But the damage is much less than what was proposed by the Trump budget – which completely eliminated those programs.

Still, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, called the bill “fundamentally anti-teacher.”

“It eliminates more than $2 billion for Supporting Effective Instruction grants – or teacher training – which helps reduce class sizes and give teachers evidence-based professional development,” DeLauro said.

Connecticut and local school districts receive about $25 million a year through the grants. Bridgeport, one of the state’s lowest-performing districts, has received $2 million so far this fiscal year from this program. Hartford has received $2.9 million.

Lawmakers completely rejected Trump’s student loan proposals.

The president’s budget would eliminate subsidized Stafford student loans, which give students a repayment grace period. Under the program, the federal government pays the interest on these loans while students are in school and for six months after graduation.

Last year, students attending college in Connecticut received $203 million in subsidized Stafford loans.

The CT Mirror

Students on campus at Norwalk Community College

House appropriators decided to keep the program intact and also kept the Perkins loan program alive, which was on the chopping block in Trump’s budget.

Perkins loans are low-interest federal loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial needs.

Trump also wanted to end a student loan forgiveness program, which was designed to clear student debt for those who work for 10 years in teaching, community policing or other professions deemed to be in the public interest. The House bill keeps this program fully funded.

But House appropriators failed to adjust next year’s Pell Grant awards for inflation.

Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, called this “the most painful proposal” put forth by the White House and the congressional appropriators.

He said it would prevent Connecticut students from receiving an estimated $165 increase to their 2018-2019 maximum Pell Grant awards.

“For CSCU students, this will represent an estimated loss of $6 million annually,” Ojakian wrote. “This is particularly disturbing for our community colleges, where 34 percent of the student body, or 25,065 students — received a federal Pell Grant in 2015-2016.”

Chicago Public Schools principals to see a slight rise in per-pupil …

Chicago Public Schools principals will see a slight increase in the amount of money they receive per student in the coming academic year, district officials said Thursday, though a substantial portion of the additional funds will go toward increased personnel costs.

Despite the increase in per-pupil funding, officials said a projected decline in enrollment of about 8,000 students for the 2017-18 school year will mean district-operated schools be getting $43 million less than they did last year. CPS attributed the “vast majority” of the funding reduction to the expected drop in enrollment, though the district said it also expected to see a decline in other funding — including federal dollars.

CPS said its Student Based Budgeting rate will increase to $4,290 per student, compared with the $4,087 rate dealt to schools at the beginning of last school year.

“This SBB increase is intended to cover schools’ increased expenses, such as personnel costs, not new investments,” the district said Thursday.

Bruce Rauner has promised to veto to plan the coming year. The legislation is expected to send the district an additional $300 million for its 2018 fiscal year.

CPS chief Forrest Claypool, in a statement Thursday, again blamed Rauner for “holding children across the state hostage as bargaining chips for his political agenda.”

House Committee Rejects Democrats’ Bid to Restore Education Funding, Protect Teacher Training

July 19, 2017

Carolyn Phenicie


Dems unsuccessfully try to restore “peculiar and disproportionate” cuts to Title II funding

Republican leader wants to “do more” on Head Start, early childhood in future, touts common ground

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Connecticut Educators Protest Federal Budget Cuts

Educators from Connecticut joined a union-led rally outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday during a day of lobbying as a House subcommittee debated the federal education budget.

Jan Hochadel, president of AFT Connecticut, said the House Republican budget released this week is a “cruel to kids” budget.

“It’s the students that suffer,” she said in a phone interview from Washington.

House Republicans are seeking to cut the Education Department’s budget significantly less than the $9.2 billion in cuts that President Donald Trump had proposed.

Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that deals with education spending.

“This bill is fundamentally anti-teacher,” she told the committee Wednesday morning. It eliminates $2 billion in teacher training grants, she said.

Hochadel said members of AFT Connecticut were in town for a conference and traveled to Capitol Hill Wednesday for the rally and to meet with Connecticut’s congressional delegation.

House Committee Rejects Democrats’ Bid to Restore Education Funding, Protect Teaching Training

July 19, 2017

Carolyn Phenicie


Dems unsuccessfully try to restore “peculiar and disproportionate” cuts to Title II funding

Republican leader wants to “do more” on Head Start, early childhood in future, touts common ground

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

TCNJ receives $91K federal grant to train teachers

EWING — The College of New Jersey has been awarded a $91,000 federal grant to provide environmental education training to local teachers.

The college was one of about 30 selected for the Environmental Protection Agency’s grant nationwide.

Associate professor Lauren Madden says the project team is partnering with the college’s Sustainability Institute to create a professional development program for 50 teachers in 10 elementary schools across central New Jersey.

Each team of five teachers will participate in a series of five workshops focused on how best to incorporate environmental sustainability education into their curriculum, Madden said.

The training is designed to increase environmental literacy and promote the protection of local water sources in teachers’ communities and schools.

Each team will develop a project and receive subawards to put their ideas into practice.

Cristina Rojas may be reached at crojas@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaRojasTT. Find NJ.com on Facebook.