Director of Government Relations
House and Senate Move on Education Funding Bills
Congress returned from August recess and hit the ground running on its work funding the federal government as the September 30 deadline looms.
U.S. House of Representatives Action
You might recall that the House passed four appropriations bills as a single package at the end of July. The House determined it would move the eight remaining appropriations bills to the floor as a single package – including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) bill – immediately after August recess. A call for amendments went out in early August.
With the U.S. Congress and the Trump Administration continuing to work in June and July, we also continue to monitor their activity, including the funding of key programs for educator preparation. If you joined us for Day on the Hill earlier this month, you got a sense of what’s unfolding and how you can engage. If you missed Day on the Hill, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with Federal Update webinars to let you know where your advocacy can make an impact.
Registration is now open for the next few Federal Update webinars, available exclusively to AACTE members. Take a moment to mark your calendar and sign up online so you can stay informed and engaged! We will offer these updates twice each in June, July, and September (but like the Congress, we’ll take August off).
On June 7, AACTE honored U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and U.S. Senator Benjamin E. Sasse (R-NE) for working with AACTE and its partners to rescind the U.S. Department of Education regulations on teacher preparation programs. The lawmakers received the 2017 AACTE Congressional Leadership Award, which is presented during AACTE’s Day on the Hill to recognize members of Congress who have played a strong leadership role in support of the profession.
On May 23, President Trump issued his detailed Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget request, fleshing out the “skinny budget” blueprint released in March. The plan cuts education programs considerably overall while carving out space and funds for new programs focusing on choice opportunities. (See the related statement issued by AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson.)
On May 10, AACTE was pleased to submit a letter to members of Congress on behalf of 141 organizations and their state affiliates recommending full funding for Title II-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The letter went to leaders of the education subcommittees working on appropriations in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives for Fiscal Year 2018, in light of the recommendation in the president’s request to eliminate this $2.295 billion program (see the “skinny budget” released in March, and I’ll have another article soon about the full proposal being issued today).
On Friday, April 28, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) extending funding through May 5 to avoid a federal government shutdown. Then working through the weekend, lawmakers reached an agreement on an omnibus appropriations bill (see PDF), which now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for approval to fund the government through September 30.
The omnibus encompasses 11 of the 12 federal appropriations bills, as the remaining one – for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs – was completed last year. Included in the education section, which begins on page 1010 of the omnibus bill, is direction for the U.S. Department of Education to begin the work of offering year-round Pell grants. The Teacher Quality Partnership grants and the Special Education Personnel Preparation program are flat-funded. Title II-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the School Leader Recruitment and Support Grants, and the overall budget for the Institute of Education Sciences are reduced. Details on these areas can be found here.
Why bother engaging in advocacy?
As we say on AACTE’s Advocacy Center: “It sounds funny, but at least where public policy is concerned, it’s true: If you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu. The educator preparation profession engages in advocacy to help shape policy that will affect the field. While AACTE advocates on behalf of the profession at the federal level, your voice as a constituent is also critical – in Washington, DC, as well as in state and local issues.”
It’s a common question: “What is happening in Washington, DC?”
Well, AACTE is happy to fill you in. We offer free monthly webinars to update members on the latest developments on Capitol Hill and beyond that have implications for the educator preparation profession. We even offer the same webinar twice in a row to accommodate different schedules and time zones.
On March 27, the federal regulations for teacher preparation programs were rescinded, along with other regulations (including those for the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, regarding accountability, state plans, and data). Your advocacy and efforts over the last 6 years since this endeavor began have paid off!
Your Title II data reporting and the state report cards are still required by law. Remember, the regulations were on top of what you were already required to do through the Higher Education Act.
Today, President Trump issued a blueprint of his budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 that includes a 13% cut to education spending, eliminating or dramatically reducing funding for several programs of importance to educator preparation.
As with any new presidential administration, this request was issued late in the typical fiscal cycle and is more of a blueprint than a full budget request. This overview articulates priorities, but we will have to wait for details in the full request expected later this year. The blueprint conveys a clear focus on cutting programs, deregulating, and streamlining the federal government.