Some questions:

Are federal education programs really funded at the highest level ever?

What is in that massive spending bill to address gun violence?

How did Sec. DeVos fare in testifying before Congress this week?

Washington Update, March 23, 2018


Dear Colleagues:

As the White House moves deeper and deeper into more scandals than I can keep track of, Congress finally passed what is likely the final significant legislation that will be passed before November elections. And on top of that came a spring snow storm shutting down the government on Wednesday!

1. Congress Finally Approves Massive Funding Bill with Last Minute Veto Threat

Today President Trump held his nose and signed a massive $1.3 trillion funding bill claiming it was filled with wasteful spending, yet because of increases for the military and the border wall, he decided to sign it. The funding bill, six months overdue, rejects virtually all of the President's proposals for education, including the voucher program. The bill keeps the government going through September 30. The Department of Education received a $3.9 billion increase bringing it to $70.9 billion, the highest level ever (not including the 2009 Recovery Act). While this is good news, we have to remember that if education funding had kept pace with inflation, it would have reached $74.8 billion. Our advocacy will continue!

Some key education program funding levels in the bill:

Early Education

Selected K12 Programs IDEA Programs Institute of Education Sciences Higher Education Other

To read the 2000+ page bill:

The explanatory statement for education and related programs:

2. Congress and White House Respond to School Shooting Tragedies

With another sad school shooting in Maryland last week, the ongoing activism of the high school students from Parkland, and tomorrow's March for Our Lives, the pressure has continued for national policies to address school safety and gun violence. Not surprisingly, responses are wildly different depending on political party. Without question the most controversial proposal has been President Trump's recommendation to train and arm teachers to carry guns. This has drawn outrage from virtually all educators and many lawmakers and generated talk of a federal provision to prevent federal funds from being used for this purpose. That may well continue to arise if the federal government moves to use funds for this purpose. A few provisions to address gun violence were tucked into the spending bill which just passed, and they are described below.

Some key aspects of the policy dialogue:

White House proposals:

School Discipline Guidance in the crosshairs:
House Democrats Hold Forum on School Safety
Gun violence provisions in the spending bill:

For House Judiciary Committee hearing:

For Rep. Bobby Scott's letter on discipline guidance:

For Democratic Forum on School Safety:

For more on School Safety Forum:

3. Secretary DeVos Testifies Before House Appropriations Subcommittee

On Tuesday Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified before the House Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education about the President's FY 2019 Budget proposal. The hearing was rife with challenges from both Democrats and Republicans, including the following:

For hearing:

4. Texas Finalizes Draft Special Education Plan

Texas has been under federal investigation due to its arbitrary cap requiring that only 8.5% of students could receive special education services. The national average is 13%. The cap used by Texas illegally denied services to tens of thousands of students entitled to IDEA services. This week Texas officials released their draft plan to revise their policies. The plan indicates that the state will allocate $65 million to school districts to assist them in locating and identifying students who were improperly denied services. State education officials are accepting public comments on the plan until April 6 before the plan is submitted to the US Department of Education.

The Texas draft plan:

5. New Resources for Educators

Congress has now headed home for a two week recess. I'm headed to the Washington Mall tomorrow with hundreds of thousands of my closest friends for the March for our Lives. See you there!


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

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