Will we ever see a new education funding bill from the Congress?
Can we expect any progress from Congress that addresses school shootings?
Will you let the Department of Education know your thoughts about attracting, preparing and retaining qualified teachers? They are asking for your ideas!
Congress is back in session, and bi-partisanship is increasingly looking to be something we see only in the rear-view mirror.
September 30 -- the end of the federal Fiscal Year - is looming, and Congress is getting edgy. Seeing that there is no way to resolve differences in all of the spending bills in that timeframe, Congress has moved to postpone the showdown. The House passed a Continuing Resolution to keep all government funding at current levels through November 21. The Senate is expected to pass it next week and the President is expected to sign it. On November 22, the challenges will remain.
Meanwhile, several of the 12 individual funding bills are moving through the Senate Appropriations process. You will recall that last week the markup of the Labor/HHS/Education funding bill was suddenly canceled. This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee did not move that bill forward, but they did release both the text of their bill, a summary and the Committee report. Links are below.
The funding levels for education in the Senate proposed bill, as expected, are quite a bit lower than in the House passed bill. The Senate bill provides for $71.4 billion in discretionary funding for education; the House bill proposed $75.9 billion and the President requested $64 billion. Note than none of the voucher/choice proposals put forward in the President's Budget proposal were funded in either the House or Senate bills. Below are some comparisons between the two bills of some key programs of concern to educators:
|Program||Current FY 2019||President's FY 2020||House passed FY 2020||Senate Committee FY 2020|
|Title I ESSA||15.86 B||15.86 B||16.86 B||15.86 B|
|Title II ESSA||2.056 B||0||2.556 B||2.056B|
|IDEA Part B||12.364 B||12.364 B||13.364 B||12.364 B|
|IDEA Personnel Prep||87 M||87 M||98 M||87 M|
|HEA Teacher Quality Partnership Grants||43 M||0||53 M||43 M|
|IES Total||615 M||522 M||650 M||615 M|
|Special Education Research||56 M||54 M||61 M||56 M|
"GAO Report on Teacher Shortages.-The Committee requests that GAO provide a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate on trends and factors contributing to school districts challenges with teacher recruitment and retention. The report should include, but not be limited to, a review and analysis of challenges recruiting and retaining special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and teacher aids; the extent to which licensure requirements are waived or modified to address shortages; and geographic and demographic characteristics of districts facing the greatest challenges or shortages."Congress will close up shop at the end of the month, returning on October 15, leaving only a few weeks to make progress before the Continuing Resolution ends on November 21. The pressure to act will continue -- but bipartisanship will become more illusive as election politics close in. Are we headed to another government shutdown? Hard to tell.
The House Committee on Education and Labor approved H.R. 4301 this week after a contentious and partisan debate about school shootings. With all Democrats supporting the bill and all Republicans opposing it, the Committee adopted the bill with a 27-22 party line vote. Committee Chair, Bobby Scott (D-VA) said the bill was necessary to advance evidence-based legislation that will ensure the safety of our schools. Ranking Republican on the Committee, Virginia Foxx (R-NC), said the bill was unnecessary and not about school safety, but rather about gun politics.
The bill defines both a "school shooting" and a "mass shooting" and requires the Department of Education to report annually on the number of school shootings, how many people were killed, demographics of shooters and victims, motivations of shooters, types of firearms and ammunition used and how the firearms were acquired. Information about safety and prevention measures in place at the time of the shooting would also be reported.
Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who lost her son to gun violence, and Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), 2016 National Teacher of the Year who was teaching in Connecticut on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, were original co-sponsors of the bill. When Rep. Foxx offered a substitute amendment (which failed on a party line vote), Rep. McBath called it "cowardly" and Rep. Hayes called it "gutless." "This amendment goes so far as to delete the word 'shooting' from the bill," Hayes said. The bill which passed is supported by both the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and multiple other education and gun control organizations.
This week the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment examined the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. New York City art teacher Kelly Finlaw shared her challenging journey in attempting to have her loans forgiven after 10 years of successful teaching and making the required loan payments. She clearly articulated her frustration with repeated mis-information and lack of information provided by her loan servicers. She is now stuck with over $100,000 of debt after following all the rules to qualify for total forgiveness after 10 years of public service.
While invited to speak at the hearing, the CEO of the company which administers PSLF - Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)--declined to participate. The Department of Education contracts with PHEAA to administer this program. Recent data reveal that 99% of those who have applied for loan forgiveness under this program have been rejected. See: https://edlabor.house.gov/
This week the House, on a bipartisan basis, passed a bill called the FUTURE Act, HR 2486. This bill would extend funding for a program that has been in place for a decade and is due to expire September 30. The bill continues funding for programs at HBCUs, HSIs, Tribal Colleges and other Minority Serving Institutions for two years. However, Senate HELP Committee Chair, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) blocked the Senate from taking up the bill arguing that it should be part of a broad Higher Education Act reauthorization proposal. "I favor a long- term solution," Alexander said.
Sen. Alexander has been negotiating a comprehensive Higher Education reauthorization bill with ranking committee member Patty Murray (D-WA) for months, however that effort seems to be stalled. Multiple issues are sticking points, including provisions related to sexual assault on campus. Murray said "We should pass the bipartisan FUTURE Act instead of playing politics with valuable and under-resourced institutions."
Alexander said he would begin working with the HELP Committee next week on a higher education package. Many speculate that this will involve an effort to package bi-partisan provisions, leaving out those on which there is no agreement. The package might include a streamlined FAFSA application, the College Transparency Act and expanded Pell Grants for incarcerated students. Sen. Murray and other Committee Democrats have repeatedly indicated that they do not want to support a piecemeal reauthorization that is less than comprehensive.
6. Opportunity to Make Your Voice Heard!
On September 12, The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPPA) declared victory when the U.S. Department of Justice dismissed the U.S. Department of Education's appeal of a federal court ruling which found Sec. DeVos engaged in an "illegal delay" of IDEA regulations designed to ensure that students with disabilities of color are protected from over and under identification, segregation and harsh discipline. The Trump Administration had attempted to delay the implementation of these regulations which were required to go into effect July 1, 2018. The regulations require States and school districts to measure, examine and, when appropriate, reduce significant disproportionality in the identification, placement and disciplining of students of color with disabilities. Thus, the regulation is now back in force.
For background see: https://www.nytimes.com/
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education has posted a blog describing its "Effective Personnel for All: Attract, Prepare and Retain." OSEP has issued an invitation for comments from the field:
"This blog is meant to further these efforts by soliciting your feedback. We invite you to share your thoughts on how we can best support States in their work to Attract, Prepare, and Retain Effective Personnel. Sharing your challenges and successes can make a difference for others facing similar challenges."Comments are due by September 30. See: https://sites.ed.gov/ 7. New Resources for Educators