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How Will Impeachment Proceedings Affect the Congressional Agenda?

Capital with STOP barricade

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.

It’s been quite a week in DC.  The most impressive news is having our home team—the Nationals—win the World Series, despite their substantial underdog status. Other than that, the House voted to proceed officially with the impeachment process on a totally partisan basis—and that promises to suck the oxygen out of any sort of Congressional agenda for months.

Are we Headed to a Government Shutdown … Again?

While the Senate made progress on funding bills this week, big hurdles remain. The Senate passed a package of four appropriations bill with a bipartisan vote of 84-9, the first funding bills to pass the Senate. However, Senate Democrats blocked movement on the package of two large spending bills:  Defense and Labor/HHS/Education. They are not happy that President Trump is insisting on funding for his border wall and that the Labor/HHS/Education bill’s spending level is so low.

Sen. Schumer (D-NY) raised the specter of President Trump prompting a government shutdown by refusing to agree to funding bills—particularly if funding for his border wall is not included at the level he desires.  Schumer noted that as impeachment moves forward, President Trump will be looking for diversions and a government shutdown will be tempting. “I’m increasingly worried that President Trump will want to shut down the government again because of impeachment,” Schumer said. “He always likes to create diversions. I hope and pray he won’t want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment.” Learn more.

House Committee Adopts Higher Education Act Rewrite Along Partisan Lines

On Thursday, the House Committee on Education and Labor adopted their Higher Education Act rewrite, HR 4674, with a partisan vote. Committee Chair Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) has indicated that he would like to see the bill, the College Affordability Act, on the House floor for a vote before the end of the year.  The bill is massive—1,200 pages with a $400 billion price tag—and makes a number of complex and significant changes to the law, which has not been reauthorized since 2008. HR 4674 was introduced two weeks ago, leaving higher education advocates scrambling to unpack the complex bill. 

Key features of the passed bill include a mechanism for tuition-free community college; increasing  the amount of Pell grants; making Pell Grants available for high-quality, short-term programs where students can quickly build competitive skills in high-demand jobs; allowing current student financial aid debt holders to lower their interest rate; and changing the rules for for-profit colleges’ participation in federal student financial aid.

Watch the markup and view a list of all amendments that were offered.

The Nation’s Report Card is Not a Good one for Students

This week the 2019 results were released from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP),  a student achievement assessment periodically taken by about 600,000 students in reading and math.   A few take aways include:

  • The average 8th grade reading score declined in more than half of the states
  • The average 4th grade reading score declined in 17 states
  • Math scores remained relatively stable in most states
  • Only 35% of fourth graders were proficient in reading
  • In general, the highest performing students are stagnating while lower performing students are losing ground

Superintendent of public instruction in Virginia, James Lane, noted the increase in schools of students who are impacted by poverty and trauma, and that the system needs to recruit and retain high-quality teachers who are equipped to meet the needs of a changing student population. Learn more.

Wishing you a great weekend.  I will be in New Orleans next week for the annual Teacher Education Division of Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) conference. Hope to see you in NOLA!

Continue reading the full Washington Update on my website for more information. Follow me @janewestdc.

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant