Some questions:

The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida forms a cloud over Congress, but will there be action?

Will Congress ever deliver on a spending bill for the rest of the year?

Is there hope for a bipartisan Higher Education Act reauthorization?

Washington Update, Feb. 23, 2018


Dear Colleagues:

Like you I'm sure, I am overwhelmed by the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. But likewise, I am so encouraged by the leadership and activism of the amazing students there. There is a lot of talk about meaningful policy change in Washington with a range of ideas being floated. An analysis of the various proposals is beyond the scope of this blog, but I fully anticipate (and hope) that this dialogue will be reflected in a constructive manner in multiple venues - through funding and appropriations as well as education-related bills. I will do my best to keep you posted. In the meantime, lead on Douglas students, lead on!

1. FY 2018 Appropriations: Will the March 23 Deadline be Met?

Despite the fact that we are almost 5 months through the 2018 Fiscal Year, the Congress has one month -- until March 23 -- to finalize spending that will take us to September 30. October 1 is the start of the FY 2019.

With the budget deal cut to raise the spending levels for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending, the next step is to divvy up the pie between the 12 appropriations bills. Education advocates are urging that the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill receive its fair share. This is critical for retaining and possibly increasing funding for education programs. But so far these 12 allocations appear to be undetermined, or at best a mystery.

With Congress in recess this week, little activity was apparent. They return on Monday, so hopefully there will be new developments.

2. Higher Education Reauthorization Update

Today is the deadline for the submission of recommendations to the Senate HELP Committee regarding proposals for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. This bi-partisan request from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is a hopeful sign for the possibility of a bi-partisan bill. Virtually every education organization in Washington will be providing comments. Below is some information from a few of the letters submitted.

From the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education and the Teacher Education Division of CEC:

The Higher Education Act and the Teacher Shortage

HECSE and TED have become increasingly alarmed about the shortage of teachers, particularly special education teachers, in recent years. One of the all too common responses to the shortage in states has been to lower the standards for entry into the profession. Given the results noted above for students with disabilities, we know that lowering the bar for teachers will not bring us the student outcomes needed in PK-12 for students with disabilities to move successfully into higher education and eventually into the workforce. Teachers need strong preparation in order to learn evidence-based strategies, such as how to provide multi-tiered systems of support, positive behavioral interventions and supports and universal design for learning. These are not skills that are learned on the fly. HECSE and TED want to draw a straight line between student outcomes and teacher preparation.

A recently released report concluded: "Evidence shows that underprepared, out-of-field, and substitute teachers typically depress student achievement and have higher attrition rates...Research has found that special education training significantly improves teachers' capacity to effectively teach students with special needs." (Learning Policy Institute, 2017)

We are compelled by the following facts:

The Higher Education Act plays a critical role in attracting and retaining teachers into the profession, particularly those in high need fields such as special education.

Many organizations concerned about the teaching profession converge on a similar set of recommendations in their letters. For example, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), HECSE, and TED all recommend: The question as to whether we will actually see a reauthorization bill from the Committee remains. Time will tell.

3. New Resources for Educators

 My daffodils are peeking up - about 3 inches and unstoppable at this point. Always a thrill, though tempered by the memory that this used to happen in mid-March!

I will be participating in AACTE's annual convening next week. Hope to see you there. Look for the next Washington Update on March 9.


Jane E. West Ph.D.
Education Policy Consultant
Cell: 202.812.9096
Twitter: @janewestdc

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