Shutdown Ends, Highly Qualified Teacher Provision Extended
As you have surely heard, late Wednesday night lawmakers reached a deal to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. The shutdown lasted 16 days, and in the end Republicans agreed to a bill that looked almost identical to what they had rejected three weeks earlier: a debt-limit increase until February 7 and an extension of federal funding through January 15. The Republicans won only one minor victory—a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the processes used for verifying the income of subsidy recipients under the newly established health-care exchanges.
Congress included in the bill a 2-year extension of the provision that labels teachers-in-training as highly qualified and allows them to be concentrated in the neediest schools. Because Congress used the budget bill as a vehicle for this provision, there was no opportunity for public debate; federal education policies like this should be part of the deliberations during the overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, where a democratic and transparent process allows for robust examination of the proposed policies. Furthermore, by extending the provision through the 2015-2016 school year, Congress missed an opportunity to use data to inform federal policy, specifically a report that the Department of Education will release in the next year on the distribution of teachers-in-training.
Prior to the shutdown, members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality (CTQ)—90+ organizations representing civil rights, disability, parent, student, grassroots and education groups, including AACTE—advocated to eliminate the provision or, at most, to limit it to a short-term extension. Over the summer, there were attempts to attach a permanent extension to the student loan bill that was then under consideration, and CTQ successfully prevented its inclusion. Unfortunately, because of the government shutdown, congressional offices were closed while the budget bill was under development this week, and CTQ representatives were not able to meet with staff to continue to advocate against any extension, or for limiting the extension to 1 year.
The coalition will continue to engage on this issue. We look forward to a time when Congress can address this troubling provision comprehensively during the ESEA reauthorization process.
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Associate Director of Government Relations, AACTE
Manager for State and Federal Policy, AACTE