FLOTUS and Cardona hit the road again | #Education | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

With help from Bianca Quilantan

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Weekly Education: Coronavirus special edition. Each week, we will explore how the pandemic is reshaping and upending education as we know it across the country, from pre-K through grad school. We will explore the debates of the day, new challenges and talk to movers and shakers about whether changes ushered in now are here to stay.

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.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SPOTLIGHTS COMMUNITY COLLEGE: First lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona are heading to Illinois today to visit a community college. Cardona and the first lady will be joined by Democratic Gov. J. B. Pritzker as they visit Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Ill.

It’s Cardona’s first visit to an institution of higher education since he was confirmed last month. He’s largely focused his attention on K-12 schools as part of his school reopening tour across the country.

Community colleges have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. While college enrollment overall has declined during the pandemic, the number of students attending community colleges has fallen the most. Enrollment at two-year public colleges fell by nearly 10 percent last fall, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

The Biden administration’s focus on community colleges comes as the White House is expected in the coming weeks to unveil its proposal to make community college free for students. “We’re expecting an aggressive, high-profile push for America’s College Promise and our colleges are extremely enthusiastic about it,” David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges, told Morning Education.

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes major new funding for community colleges. The package would dedicate $12 billion for schools to upgrade their physical and technological infrastructure as well as $48 billion in new workforce training programs.

— But, as Bianca reports this morning, there’s a fight already brewing over the push for free community college: Community colleges see it as a boon after years of financial struggles, while some four-year colleges see it as a potential threat to their sagging enrollment.

— “If you really want to screw things up, pit the sectors against one another,” said J. Noah Brown, president of the Association of Community College Trustees. “When the sectors are pitted against one another, as you can well imagine, community colleges tend to lose more. I’m very worried about it.”

Meanwhile, federal funding for community colleges will be front and center at a House hearing this week. The Appropriations subcommittee overseeing education funding will hold a hearing on federal investment in community colleges on Tuesday.

IT’S MONDAY, APRIL 19. WELCOME TO MORNING EDUCATION. Please send tips to your host at [email protected] or to my colleagues, Juan Perez Jr. at [email protected], and Bianca Quilantan at [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

PROGRESSIVES UNHAPPY WITH BIDEN EDUCATION DEPARTMENT’S STANCE IN COURT: A group of progressive activists this morning is sending another letter to Cardona, saying they’re concerned the Biden administration isn’t moving quickly enough to dismantle the Trump administration’s “disastrous legacy” on student loans and for-profit colleges.

The groups, led by Demand Progress, are criticizing the Biden administration’s defense in court of Trump-era policies, including the repeal of the gainful employment rule and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ rewrite of regulations governing online colleges. The Biden administration has indicated it wants to change both of those policies, but it has continued to fight legal challenges to them brought by Democratic attorneys generals and other groups.

The progressive organizations also take issue with the Biden administration siding with DeVos in her legal effort to avoid having to testify about her handling of borrower defense claims (more on that in a bit).

— “The Biden Administration has an opportunity to reverse the damage to the American education system brought on by DeVos’s disastrous tenure,” the letter says. “In order to do so, the Department of Education must stop doubling-down on defending the Trump Administration’s positions in every case involving student lending issues.”

EDUCATION NOMINEES UP FOR A VOTE THIS WEEK: The Senate HELP Committee has scheduled a vote Wednesday on Biden’s picks for the No. 2 and 3 officials at the Education Department. The committee will take up the nominations of Cindy Marten to be deputy secretary and James Kvaal to be undersecretary of Education.

Both Marten and Kvaal appear to be on track for swift committee approval. Sen. Richard Burr, the top Republican on the evenly divided panel, has said he’s likely to support both nominees.

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