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Washington Update, July 12, 2019


Dear Colleagues:


In the meantime, Congress came back to Washington this week with a boatload of work to do in the short few weeks before the next recess, in August. It could be a long hot summer.

1. First up: Budget and Funding

When Congress left for July 4 recess, the House had passed almost all of the 12 required funding bills and the Senate had not begun with any of the 12 bills. September 30 marks the end of the fiscal year; without the new spending bills signed into law, a government shutdown will be in the offing. With Congress scheduled to be in recess most of August, the pressure is on.

The holdup is the budget - or the overall spending caps which the House, the Senate and the White House must agree to. While the House adopted its own budget caps, they are higher than those which the Senate or the White House will accept. Added to the mix is the pending need to raise the debt ceiling (this is the borrowing limit for the federal government, which routinely needs to be raised to avoid default). Thus, the pressure is on from three corners: budget, FY 2020 funding bills and debt ceiling. These three dire needs are in the mix together and there is an effort to wrap their resolution into one package - possibly before the August recess.

Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is pursuing an agreement with the Senate and the White House which would involve setting budget caps for two years and increasing the debt ceiling in a single package to pass this month. With the budget caps set, the way is paved to proceed to complete the 12 spending bills. Educators remain jazzed by the education spending levels in the House Labor/HHS/Education spending bill. The increases are much needed and a push to include those levels in the Senate bill continues, though they are likely to represent the high water mark.


2. Senate Confirms New Higher Education Leader for Department of Education

On Thursday, the Senate voted 56-37 to confirm Robert King as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. King has been a higher education official in Kentucky and head of the State University of New York System. He has worked as a senior adviser to the Department since last year.


3. American Federation for Teachers Sues Sec. DeVos over Loan Forgiveness

Yesterday the AFT filed suit against the Department of Education alleging it has mismanaged the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program to the extent that it is violating the constitutional due process rights of borrowers, who are now teachers. To date 864 of the 76,002 claims for loan forgiveness have been approved. In other words, only 1% have been approved so far.

Last year, House Republicans -- led by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), ranking member of the Committee on Education and Labor - proposed a bill (the PROSPER Act) which would have eliminated the program. The bill received pushback from Democrats and a number of Republicans who support PSLF. A Democratic bill, the Aim Higher Act, proposed to expand the PSLF program. In addition -- a number of Senators, led by Sen. Kaine (D-VA) and Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) -- have introduced a bill which would expand the program and enable borrowers to have half of their loans forgiven in five years, rather than waiting the 10 years as is currently required. Many educators are eligible for this program and many have been frustrated by how it is being administered.


4. Hearing on Teacher Preparation and Support in House Next Wednesday at 10:15 AM

Next Wednesday, July 17, The Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee and the Higher Education and the Workforce Investment Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing titled 'Educating our Educators: How Federal Policy Can Better Support Teachers and School Leaders." The two subcommittees are part of the full Committee on Education and Labor. Witnesses for the hearing have not yet been announced, but it is likely that they will include experts from both higher education and PK-12. Tune in at 10:15 and you can watch the hearing, which will take place in 2175 Rayburn House Office building, the Committee hearing room.


5. New Resources for Educators

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