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2 in 3 borrowers plan to pay their rent with their student debt savings
Borrowers say they’ll also pay for non-essentials, like vacations, smartphone, drugs and alcohol too. Plus, why most school dress codes suck and a convo on COVID boosters with a White House official.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome back to Supercreator, your guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how creative professionals work and live in the new economy.
In today’s post, findings from a new survey on how borrowers plan to spend the money they’ll save from Biden’s student loan debt relief plan plus insights from a government watchdog report on the impact of inequitable dress code on marginalized students. I also share a conversation with a Biden administration official who makes the case for why young people should get the updated COVID vaccine and what the future of the White House pandemic response will look like beyond this year.
But first, an update on yesterday’s story on the letter that House Progressives sent to President Joe Biden calling on his administration to make future US military and economic assistance conditional with Ukraine entering peace talks with Russia.
In a stunning about-face, Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Tuesday withdrew the letter, calling it a distraction from the overwhelming support the congressional Democrats, including the signatories of the letter, have shown towards Ukraine.
Jayapal said she accepted responsibility for the ill-timed release of the letter, but appeared to throw aides under the bus with by explaining it was “released by staff without vetting.”
This sent Twitter into a tizzy with Capitol Hill reporters, lawmakers and congressional staff debating whether it’s ever OK for a boss to blame subordinates for a gaffe of the initial letter’s magnitude and explaining the logistics of how these letters circulate through the Hill and outside advocacy groups to dispute Jayapal’s my-staff-did-it defense.
This ordeal puts a terrible blemish on the Progressive Caucus headed into the next Congress. The majority of Americans are with the group on most issues but public opinion is only one part of policymaking. Institutional power is another critical component. And critics of the caucus have seized on this debacle as the latest reason not to take it seriously despite the significant role progressives played in shaping the Democratic agenda for President Biden’s first two years.
It will be interesting to see how Jayapal and the broader caucus respond going forward because I have a feeling the fallout will reverberate for days, weeks and months to come.
Borrowers plan to cover the necessities with student loan relief
The Biden administration is prohibited from canceling any student debt until a federal appeals court rules on an emergency request from six Republican-led states to block the program, but that hasn’t stopped borrowers from thinking about what they’ll do with the money they save each month from the relief.
In a new survey shared with Supercreator from Intelligent, an organization that publishes data and resources to empower students, at least two in three nonwhite borrowers between the ages of 18-44 would spend their monthly savings on rent/mortgage, groceries, medical care/debt, child care debt or transportation. More than half said they will spend their savings on child care.
“This survey affirms what we knew: that student debt cancellation will be life-changing for families across the country and President Biden’s historic decision to cancel student debt will bring meaningful relief to millions of people by helping them make ends meet, build generational wealth, and more,” Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts said in a statement to Supercreator. “Black and brown families have been systematically denied the opportunity to build generational wealth due to discriminatory policies and so we know those borrowers have often had to take on far more student debt to pursue an education. In this moment of overlapping crises, it’s critical that everyone eligible receive this important relief, and I urge borrowers to continue submitting their applications for relief as soon as possible.”
What’s interesting about the survey responses is that Democrats spent most of last year attempting to pass legislation that would lower the costs of these essentials. And this past weekend, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats that they would prioritize policies like reauthorizing the expanded child tax credit and approving paid family and medical leave, free universal pre-K, affordable housing and bills to combat gas and grocery price gouging if Dems hold on the majority after the midterms. (Of course, the House passed legislation on these issues during this Congress but it stalled in the Senate. Even if the Democrats held the House, it would still be virtually impossible to send a bill to President Biden’s desk without additional Senate seats.)
The survey also found that borrowers would spend their savings on non-essentials as well with 73 percent of applicants saying they are likely to spend their extra money on non-essentials, including vacations, smartphones, and drugs or alcohol. Other popular choices for non-essential spending include vacation (46 percent) or eating out at restaurants (46 percent) were also popular answer choices.
There’s no word yet on when the court is expected to decide on if the president’s plan can proceed. But as I reported on Tuesday, the administration is moving full steam ahead reviewing the more than 22 million applications it has already received as of last week and preparing them for transmission to loan servicers.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Rep. Pressley’s statement.
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Government watchdog reveals inequities in school dress codes
The Government Accountabllity Office on Tuesday released a report that found that dress codes typically restrict items most frequently worn by girls, students of color and LGBTQ+ students. Even worse: Schools remove these students from the classroom at significantly higher rates compared to their peers, which leads to an increased risk of poor academic outcomes and higher dropout rates.
School is one of the first spaces where most successful professional creators first gave themselves permission to express their imagination. Future innovation is threatened when kids are forced to defend who they are and how they want to show up in the world instead of developing the skills required to realize their brilliance.
“No student should be denied access to an education simply for expressing their full authentic selves — be that their gender identity, their racial or cultural background and/or their religious faith,” Cheryl Greene, director of Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools, said to Supercreator in a statement. “Enforcing discriminatory policies in an environment of learning and discovery does nothing but make children experience shame and isolation for living as their authentic selves [and] lays the the groundwork for bullying from their peers and hostility from the adults who are tasked with making them feel safe.”
GAO analyzed a nationally representative sample of public school district dress codes to examine characteristics of dress codes, reviewed Department of Education data and relevant studies on dress code discipline and interviewed academic researchers and officials from national organizations, school districts, and the Education Department to assess the enforcement of dress codes and how Education supports school districts.
The report found that school districts often cite safety as the reason for having a dress code. But many dress codes include elements that may make the school environment less equitable and safe for students, including rules involving measuring students’ bodies and clothing, which may involve adults touching students and ules about students’ hair, hair styles, and head coverings, which may disproportionately impact Black students and those of certain religions and cultures.
The GAO made four recommendations to the Education Department for the agency to provide resources that help school districts design equitable dress codes and collect and distribute information on the prevalence and effects of informal removals and non-exclusionary discipline. Department officials told GAO they are considering options to provide helpful resources to stakeholders and the public, but as of September 2022, it had not provided information on dress codes. A spokesperson for the Education Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Greene of the HRC Foundation told Supercreator that to develop an inclusive dress code, schools should remove policies steeped in gender stereotypes such as “skirts only” rules for girls, remove discriminatory rules that focus on Black and brown and non-Christian youth such as “no [locs]” or “no long hair on boys” or “no head coverings.” Districts should also get rid of distracting code infractions often meant to embarrass youth, and encourage students to dress in a manner that is comfortable to them.
The GAO report was a response to two separate congressional requests from House Democrats to examine the intentional underreporting of suspensions in K-12 schools, including using informal removals, and to look into the enforcement and consequences of school dress codes on students.
In conversation with Dr. Cameron Webb: “The updated COVID booster just makes a lot of sense”
President Biden received his updated COVID vaccine on Tuesday afternoon and reiterated his call for Americans, especially older adults, to roll up their sleeves and follow suit.
But several twenty- and thirtysomethings I know, both in my personal life and through reporting this newsletter, feel lukewarm to the idea of getting another shot, especially when the prevailing wisdom is that infections affect us in less severe ways than seniors.
This made me curious about how the White House is thinking about its outreach to younger folks. So I hopped on Zoom with Dr. Cameron Webb, senior policy advisor for equity and member of the White House COVID Response Team, to chat about the issue.
As we head into Thanksgiving and winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, Dr. Webb said the main upside to receiving an updated booster is to avoid the disruption of a COVID infection if there’s something you can do that measurably decreases your likelihood of an infection.
“People don’t want to be sitting home for five days or more because they recently had an infection so this is a good way for you to best navigate the holiday season.”
From a scientific perspective, the updated vaccine gives your immune system “circulating neutralizing antibodies” that specifically fight the version that public health officials see in communities right now.
“That’s important because it’s going to reduce your likelihood significantly of an infection over the next few months, Dr. Webb said. “It doesn’t make it impossible for you to get COVID-19 but it means that your body is prepared to stop COVID from really having an impact on you at all much more so than if you weren’t vaccinated.”
It’s worth noting, Dr. Webb said, that COVID’s effects extend beyond acute infection and the updated vaccine also plays a role in minimizing the likelihood of Long COVID.
“I think when we put those together and kind of our emerging and growing understanding of the science, one thing is absolutely true and that's that people need to be as protected as possible heading into this holiday season,” he said. “And that's all people it has an effect for you, but also for your family and your community. You put those together, it just makes a lot of sense.”
From the moment President Biden took office, the administration promised to make equity a cornerstone of its COVID response. But as you know, the E word is one that can feel hollow without action behind it.
“I’m a physician and a lawyer and I have a job at a hospital here in Virginia and the administration pays me a whole full-time salary to come in and focus on equity and focus on how we get these resources and tools to the hardest-hit, highest-risks communities. I think that’s part of is,” Dr. Webb said. “They’re investing in personnel to have people drive this equity work, not just have the equity work live in a talking point here or there, but it’s people’s full-time job to focus on equity.”
Beyond the staff, the administration has centered equity by adapting its campaigns at the community level with new national, local TV, radio, print, social and digital ads designed for Black, Latino, rural and AAPI communities. And today, the Department of Health and Human Services will launch a new push to work with national and community-based organizations to reach people where they are both with information and with pop-up clinics so folks are hearing from people they trust and not just government overlords.
Dr. Webb also pointed to data transparency as another example of making sure that everybody in every community has access to these resources and tools that show the administration’s work to lift us out of the pandemic.
Going forward, it’s likely the COVID vaccine will become an annual recommendation like the flu shot, but Dr. Webb was noncomittal on if the vaccine will always be free and as widely available as they’ve been up to now. (95 percent of Americans living within five miles of a place that has a vaccine site, White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told reporters on Tuesday.)
While the administration has enough updated vaccines for this fall and winter, it currently lacks funding for beyond this year and congressional Republicans seem disinterested in approving additional investments in the response. What you’re likely to see is some of the COVID response moving into commercial spaces that typically provide the other vaccines we rely on to stay safe.
Some of that remains to be seen what will happen in the future,” Dr. Webb said. “I think, for the time being, we really want to take advantage of the fact that these vaccines are free, they're accessible, they're available to take full advantage.”
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