Congress Tackles Appropriations, HEA in Advance of Recess, Elections
It’s an election year – the full U.S. House of Representatives and one third of the U.S. Senate are up for re-election – which makes for interesting legislative times. Elections are just 4 months out, and we have about 7 legislative weeks left in the 113th Congress.
The primary season has essentially ended, and we’ve seen some shockers – including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) losing his primary election and subsequently resigning his leadership position. As we approach the August recess and fall election season, some important work is under way in both the House and the Senate.
Continuing Resolution Likely for FY 2015 Appropriations
The appropriations process for fiscal 2015 is in full swing. However, despite wanting to move through the normal appropriations process, the Senate has hit a snag – so we are looking at a continuing resolution (CR, which mostly maintains current funding levels but can include some larger adjustments) for the time being. It is unclear at this time if the CR will expire in the lame-duck congressional session after the election or extend into the 114th Congress, which starts in January. (Note: As the 113th Congress ends, so do all the bills introduced during its tenure; the 114th Congress will start with a clean slate, so any bills will need to be reintroduced.)
House, Senate Release Draft HEA Documents
Both the House and the Senate are working to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The House Committee on Education and the Workforce laid out its main principles in a white paper: empowering students and families to make informed decisions; simplifying and improving student aid; promoting innovation, access, and completion; and ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role.
Committee staff have told AACTE to expect language later this year for Title II of HEA, which addresses teacher preparation programs.
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), released a discussion draft of HEA and is seeking comments from stakeholders. The outline of the discussion draft can be found here, and the full draft is here. (Note: Title II starts on page 85.) This draft includes the Teacher Quality Partnerships, with some updating/streamlining of the program. In addition, a new section proposes a new state competitive grant through which recipients would create an “Educator Preparation Program Accountability and Improvement System.” This system would assess all educator preparation programs within a state, establish performance levels for the programs, and inform interventions for low-performing programs. This plan is modeled after the teacher preparation program regulations that we are expecting out the Department of Education (see below). In this section of the HEA draft, the committee also changes some of the data reporting requirements.
The HELP Committee’s press release includes this request for comments:
To facilitate the submission of feedback and suggestions from interested stakeholders, Chairman Harkin’s office has created the following email – HEAA2014@help.senate.gov – for the submission of feedback. Any submissions for consideration should be submitted no later than August 29, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
As AACTE continues its in-depth analysis of the Senate draft, we will also continue to work with both the House and the Senate as these bills move forward. Of course, if a full reauthorization of HEA is not completed by the end of the year, the process will begin again in January with the 114th Congress – where there will be a leadership change on the Senate’s HELP Committee. Should the Republicans take the Senate, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is expected to become chair; if Democrats keep the Senate, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) would likely become chair. Either of these scenarios could bring some drastic changes to the bill in the 114th Congress.
Teacher Preparation Regulations Still Pending
Meanwhile, we have not forgotten about the pending teacher preparation program regulations that are still expected from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at some point, potentially this summer.
AACTE met with staff at OMB in June to discuss our concerns with the regulations. You can see the public record of who attended as well as the document we shared here. We were joined by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which shares our concerns. OMB will not share its timeline for release of the proposed regulations for public comment nor how long that public comment period will be. AACTE will keep you informed of any progress and supply you with resources for the public comment period.
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