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Congressional Agenda Includes Education Funding and Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

Dollars and coins in glass jar with education fund labelThis 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.

Funding Bills Move in the Senate, but Not for Education

November 21, less than a month away, is the date the government runs out of money.  The ball is in the Senate court, as they have yet to pass any appropriations bills on the floor. Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has teed up passage of the first package of funding bills, which Democrats have said they will support. But that package does not include education spending, which is in the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill.

Because resolution is highly unlikely within the 3 weeks left before the deadline, the likelihood of a continuing resolution, which keeps funding at current levels, is great.  Some believe it will be only for a few weeks— into December—forcing continued action before the end of the year. Others believe a yearlong continuing resolution, taking us through September 2020, is likely.

Of course, the specter of impeachment proceedings is of tremendous significance, as that would sideline any and all other Congressional business. As Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chair of the Appropriations Committee noted “I think looming over all of it is what the House might do on impeachment, and if they do, and when they do it. When it comes over here, it becomes the order of the day.”

House Committee to Mark Up Higher Education Act Reauthorization Bill Next Week

The House Committee on Education and Labor has scheduled a mark up for H.R. 4674, the College Affordability Act, on Tuesday, October 29. The markup is likely to run two to three days. The 1,200-page bill was introduced last week by Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) and represents the first comprehensive reauthorization proposal for the Higher Education Act (HEA) in this Congress.

The education policy community has been pouring over the bill all week, comparing it to current law, to other higher education proposals and conferring with committee staff to clarify intentions and legislative language.  It is a complex task!  Furthermore, Chair Scott plans to offer a substitute bill at the markup on Tuesday, which will include multiple changes based on the feedback the office has received over the last week – from both Members of the House and education and related interest groups. 

At this point, the bill is receiving mixed reviews. While there is considerable support for increases in funding for student financial aid and institutional support and authorization levels for a number of programs, there is concern about the complexity and increased administrative burden that the bill would place on colleges and universities. There are a number of provisions in the bill that promote community colleges and AA degrees as well as extending some student financial aid to short-term job training programs. The federal role in accreditation of institutions of higher education would be more pronounced with a requirement for outcomes-based assessment of institutions.

It will be interesting to see what changes Chairman Scott has made to the bill when he brings it to the Committee for markup on Tuesday. 

Learn more.

 Education Commission on the States: New Analysis on Teacher Shortage and State Policy

The Education Commission on the States (ECS) has issued a very interesting report: 50-State Comparison: Teacher Recruitment and Retention.

Continue reading the full Washington Update on my website for more information.

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant