Federal Watchdog Finds Coal Safety Regulator Not Protecting Miners From Silica Dust

by Sydney Boles

11.16.20   The Mine Safety and Health Administration is not doing enough to protect coal miners from deadly silica dust, according to a new report from the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General. The IG found that MSHA's standards for exposure to deadly silica dust were out of date, and MSHA lacked the ability to issue fines when coal companies violate air quality standards. The IG also said the mine safety agency's sampling methods were too infrequent to guarantee that miners were protected… Continue Reading

House committee subpoenas Education Dept. staff over handling of failing for-profit colleges

by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

10.22.20   The House Education Committee issued subpoenas to career staff at the Education Department on Thursday seeking information regarding the federal agency's role in helping Dream Center Education Holdings as the for-profit college operator spiraled into insolvency. The legal request comes after more than a year of attempts by the committee to obtain documents and interviews from department personnel about the demise of Dream Center, owner of the Art Institutes, South University and Argosy Univer… Continue Reading

House Subpoenas DeVos Staff in Probe of For-Profit College

by Lauren Camera

10.22.20   House Democrats subpoenaed three career staff members at the Education Department on Thursday as part of their ongoing investigation into the Trump administration's role in allowing Dream Center, the operator of two now-defunct for-profit colleges, to mislead students and continue operating the schools despite losing their accreditation. Citing a U.S. News investigation into attempts by department officials to obstruct the investigation, Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott issued… Continue Reading

Democrats Intensify Legal Scrutiny of DOL’s Gig-Worker Proposal

by Ben Penn

10.07.20   Democratic lawmakers and state attorneys general are amplifying attacks on the Labor Department's proposal on independent contractor status, using requests to extend an abbreviated public comment period to preview a potential legal challenge. In recent days, Democratic coalitions of 17 senators and attorneys general from 21 states plus the District of Columbia submitted letters to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia that criticized the agency for only providing 30 days to receive public input on its … Continue Reading

Democrats ask DeVos to review South Carolina grant program that uses COVID-19 relief funds

by Sophie Tatum

10.06.20   Two members of Congress on Monday accused South Carolina of creating a "voucher scheme" using COVID-19 relief money. In a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, and the chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, wrote that the "scheme" may violate the text of the CARES Act and the Education Department's guidance. "We write regarding South Carolin… Continue Reading

The pandemic could widen the achievement gap. A generation of students is at risk.

by Maya King and Nicole Gaudiano

09.23.20   In New York City, the nation's largest school district, teachers and students of color say they don't feel safe returning to school. Many of their schools lack windows that open, an ample supply of soap, masks or working ventilation systems - making it nearly impossible to navigate live classes in the middle of a pandemic. An hour's drive from the U.S. Capitol, about 27,000 Baltimore city school children - 1 in 3 students - do not have computers vital for virtual school. Thousands lack reliable… Continue Reading

New Trump administration rule could make it harder for gig and contract workers to have rights as employees

by Eli Rosenberg

09.22.20   The Department of Labor released a rule proposal on Tuesday that could make it more difficult for those engaged with contract work to be classified as employees, in what labor advocates described as a potential blow to protections for workers. Labor advocates say the proposal would raise the threshold for contract workers, which includes gig workers, to be considered employees, a category that comes with significantly more protections. The proposed rule is the first of a multistep process wit… Continue Reading

DeVos Loses Latest Fight Over Rerouting Aid To Private School Students

by Cory Turner

09.11.20   A controversial rule backed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and meant to reroute millions of dollars in coronavirus aid to K-12 private school students, has been shut down, at least temporarily. The U.S. Education Department announced Wednesday that the rule is no longer in effect, after a federal judge determined that the department had not only "acted beyond its authority" but misinterpreted the will of Congress. At the center of this months-long fight between DeVos and public schoo… Continue Reading

DeVos Borrower Defense Rule Under Investigation by Inspector General

by Lauren Camera

09.10.20   The inspector general is probing the Trump administration's plan for how it will process more than 210,000 loan-forgiveness claims from borrowers defrauded by for-profit colleges. THE EDUCATION Department's Office of Inspector General is investigating the new formula established by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that's used to decide how much federal student loan debt relief that borrowers who have been defrauded by colleges can receive. According to sources familiar with the inspector gener… Continue Reading

'Children Are Going Hungry': Why Schools Are Struggling To Feed Students

by Cory Turner

09.08.20   Six months into schools' pandemic-driven experiment in distance learning, much has been said (and debated) about whether children are learning. But the more urgent question, for the more than 30 million kids who depend on U.S. schools for free or reduced-price meals, is this: Are they eating? The answer, based on recent data and interviews with school nutrition leaders and anti-hunger advocates across the country, is alarming. Among low-income households with children who qualify for free or … Continue Reading

Federal Government Relaxes Rules on Feeding Low-Income Students

by Kate Taylor

09.05.20   The Agriculture Department, under pressure from Congress and officials in school districts across the country, said on Monday that it would allow schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to any child or teenager through the end of 2020, provided funding lasts. Advocates for the poor hailed the announcement as an important step to ensure that more needy children are fed during the coronavirus pandemic. It was a partial reversal by the department. Previously, the agency had said that when scho… Continue Reading

DeVos to enforce school testing mandates amid pandemic

by Michael Stratford

09.03.20   The Trump administration plans to enforce federal standardized testing requirements for K-12 schools despite the pandemic, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced to state leaders on Thursday. DeVos told state school chiefs in a letter that they should not expect the Education Department to again waive federal testing requirements as it did this spring amid sudden school closures. The decision to suspend testing requirements in March and April was the "right call" then, DeVos wrote, "given … Continue Reading

USDA Rebuffs Waivers It Sees As Path to ‘Universal School Meals’

by Megan U. Boyanton

08.21.20   Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, under bipartisan congressional pressure to maintain expanded food options for children during the coronavirus pandemic, rejected a move he said would amount to "a universal school meals program." With the fall semester kicking off both virtually and in-person, lawmakers want all options on the table if classrooms are forced to lock their doors once more-a fear turned reality over the past few weeks for schools from Michigan to Mississippi. House Education an… Continue Reading

Trump is doing nothing to prevent another Beirut in Texas. We want to know why.

by The Editorial Board

08.20.20   Beirut's deadly Aug. 4 blast has prompted a U.S. House committee to urge the Trump administration to revive dormant efforts to toughen safety standards for dangerous chemicals - including one that has killed hundreds and injured thousands of Texans through the years. That's most welcome news - even though it's not likely by itself to have any meaningful impact so long as the Trump administration remains uniformly hostile to regulations that impose costs on businesses, no matter how urgent the s… Continue Reading

Funding for school facility improvements a requirement for safe reopening

by Elizabeth Beardsley, Scott Brown, Mary Filardo and David Terry

08.13.20   Before the pandemic, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated a stunning 41% of America's school districts needed to replace or update heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in at least half of their schools - representing 36,000 schools nationwide. During the coronavirus pandemic, these building systems have become essential in helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, yet the focus has been on masks, cleaning, spacing of desks and other steps. School facilitie… Continue Reading

Betsy DeVos publicly absent as critical decisions are made on public school reopenings

by Heidi Przybyla

08.12.20   DETROIT - As public schools grapple with the challenge of reopening during a pandemic, public education advocates are criticizing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for working remotely from Michigan, where she owns a sprawling waterfront estate with a round-the-clock security detail paid for by taxpayers. And while keeping herself largely physically distanced as the coronavirus continues to spread, DeVos has been a forceful advocate for President Donald Trump's demand that schools reopen in full … Continue Reading

Many workers don’t get new paid sick leave, because of ‘broad’ exemption for providers, report finds

by Eli Rosenberg

08.11.20   A government watchdog said in a report out Tuesday that the Labor Department "significantly broadened" an exemption allowing millions of health-care workers to be denied paid sick leave as part of the law Congress passed in March to help workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March to ensure workers at small- and medium-size companies were able to take paid leave if they or a family member became sick with the coronavirus. The… Continue Reading

Watchdog: Labor Department Falling Down On Enforcing COVID-19 Sick Leave Law

by Emily Peck

08.11.20   At a time when workers around the country are increasingly desperate to hang on to their jobs, the Department of Labor, led by Eugene Scalia, is failing to enforce the benefits and protections they're entitled to at work. The Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division has not done enough to raise awareness of ? or enforce ? a new paid sick leave law passed to deal with COVID-19, according to a report from the department's Office of the Inspector General released publicly Tuesday. The wa… Continue Reading

Why Black Workers Will Hurt the Most if Congress Doesn’t Extend Jobless Benefits

by Emily Badger, Alicia Parlapiano and Quoctrung Bui

08.07.20   When Congress expanded unemployment insurance this year to meet the staggering economic toll of the pandemic, it had one less-noticed effect: It made America's fractured jobless benefits system more fair. Starting in April, the federal government provided $600 weekly payments to unemployed workers in addition to state jobless benefits, smoothing sharp differences between more and less generous states. It also broadly expanded who qualified, removing barriers for lower-wage, seasonal and gig wor… Continue Reading

Democratic Lawmakers Decry NLRB’s Reorganization Plan

by Robert Iafolla

08.06.20   The National Labor Relations Board's top lawyer plans to reorganize case handling in seven Western regional offices later this month, a move that would take authority away from more experienced leadership, according to senior Democratic lawmakers who are among those who oversee the agency. The reorganization will "undermine the NLRB's ability to fairly and effectively protect workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act," the lawmakers said in a statement announcing letters of protest… Continue Reading

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