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Federal Reforms to Student Loans, Biden’s Plan for Child Care, and the Vaccine Mandate in California

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: Sec. Cardona Unveils Additional Reforms to Student Loans, Biden’s Plan for Child Care, and the Vaccine Mandate in California

Sec. Cardona Unveils Additional Reforms to Student Loans

The Biden administration had done considerable work this year to alleviate the burden of student loan debt across the nation—forgiving loans for defrauded students whose schools took part in deceptive practices, and also relieving debt for borrowers who have total and permanent disability. But this past week has seen several additional reforms. US Department of Education officials recently announced fixes to the notorious Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program—streamlining and simplifying the way the program is run, in some cases with retroactive effect. Created in 2007, PSLF had promised to wipe away remaining debts after graduates worked for ten years in a nonprofit or government job and made on-time student loan payments. However, due to convoluted rules, mismanagement, and even misconduct on the part of some loan servicing companies—98 percent of borrowers who have applied for PSLF have wound up being rejected. The Department anticipates that the new changes will impact 550,000 borrowers, including 22,000 who may become immediately eligible for loan forgiveness.

Monday’s article in The Day credited some of the new policy to strong relationships forged with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona right here in Connecticut. US Representative Joe Courtney—who has criticized the Trump administration for not respecting the spirit of the program in its handling of PSLF—is a strong proponent. In September, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong was also part of a coalition of 21 attorneys general who asked the Department of Education to address PSLF. This morning, he said he would continue to work on a more permanent fix to the program.

Secretary Cardona also announced on Friday that the Department will resurrect an Obama-era student aid enforcement unit that investigates instances of potential misconduct by for-profit colleges. Under the Trump administration, the office had been gutted by former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Biden’s Plan for Childcare

Over the weekend, the New York Times explored the crisis underpinning Democrats’ efforts to overhaul US childcare. The story exposes how exorbitant childcare costs impact several everyday American families, who often spend more on care than their mortgages. Although childcare costs are high for families, early childhood teachers nationwide are among the lowest-paid workers in the country. Connecticut—which was 50,000 childcare slots short even before the pandemic—has the fifth highest cost of childcare in the country. Childcare workers in this state earn an average salary of only $26,800.

Part of President Biden’s sweeping $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” package is a proposal to cap childcare expenses at 7% of parents' income, offer subsidies to childcare centers, and require them to raise teachers' wages. Just yesterday, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that it was time for Democrats to make cuts in order to secure passage, aiming for a total package of about $2 trillion.

California Mandates COVID Vaccine for Students

Earlier this month, California announced plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for school—alongside longer established preventative shots, such as for measles. The mandate will take effect after the COVID vaccines for children have been fully vetted by the federal government. Much like Connecticut's newly passed legislation removing non-medical exemptions to school immunization requirements for new students starting next year, California has likewise eliminated exemptions based on personal beliefs. However, as an editorial for the Los Angeles Times observed yesterday, California law still prohibits the governor from mandating new inoculations without permitting personal belief exemptions. In other words, those who are vaccine hesitant in the Golden State will still be able to opt their children out of the COVID-19 vaccine. Will Connecticut follow suit?

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