What Should Educators Keep an Eye on in Washington this Summer?

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide update information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Congress is headed out of town today for the week-long July 4 recess next week.  Check your local July 4 parades and picnics—Members of Congress often show up there and it is a great time to connect with them!

 What Can we Expect When Congress Returns July 8?

  • Congressional Schedule
    The Congress returns July 8 for about four weeks. Then they head into the August recess.  They will be back for about four weeks in September. This equals about 27 legislative days left before the October 1 beginning of the FY 2020 fiscal year. Conventional wisdom holds that the closer we get to being all consumed by the next election, the less Congress will get done. Time is short, but there are always surprises!
  • Appropriations
    Once again, we may be facing a government shutdown in October. Before that time all 12 appropriations bills must be completed, and some action on the debt ceiling must be taken. (The debt ceiling is when the government is about to exceed its borrowing authority and thus, must increase the amount it can borrow, in order for the government to continue to function.) This is a tall order with only 27 legislative days.
  • Higher Education Act
    The Senate HELP Committee has been working for months on a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Yet the long-awaited draft has yet to materialize.  The big hold up appears to be how colleges and universities should respond to allegations of sexual assault on campus—a provision housed in Title IX of federal civil rights law.  In fact, HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) asked a bipartisan group of six senators to meet to try to resolve this issue. 

What Should We be Watching in the Federal Agencies?

  • Department of Education
    The Department of Education appears to have several proposed higher education regulations cued up. The first is out and in the comment period, which lasts until July 12.  This one proposes easing some accreditation requirements—accreditation being the gateway to access federal student financial aid.  Other regulatory proposals to watch for are likely to address faith-based institutions, TEACH grants, and distance learning.
    For more information, read Student Assistance General Provisions, the Secretary’s Recognition of Accrediting Agencies, the Secretary’s Recognition Procedures for State Agencies.
  • Department of Labor
    This week the Department of Labor issued a proposed regulation that would expand apprenticeship grants, which historically have gone to partnerships between private business groups and others to provide training opportunities. The proposal allows industry groups, nonprofits and others to apply to become “standards recognition entities”—groups that would certify and monitor the quality of new apprenticeship programs. 

    This may be an invitation to private entities to join with states to become “standards recognition entities” offering alternative certification and potentially lower standards for teachers, pushing teaching in the direction of an occupation rather than a profession. A few years ago an entity applied to the Department of Labor to train teachers under an apprenticeship model. Fortunately, that application was denied after strong opposition from professional education organizations. Comments are due by August 26.

To learn more, link to U.S. Department of Labor Makes Major Announcements on Apprenticeship Expansion

Continue reading the full Washington Update on my website to learn more.

Wishing you a wonderful 4th!  

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant