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Bipartisan Christmas Miracles Come to Washington

Bipartisan agreement

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

Funding Agreement on the Horizon! No Shutdown Anticipated

December 20, a week from today, is the deadline for Congress to pass funding bills to keep the government in business and avoid a government shutdown. After weeks of handwringing, a bipartisan $1.3 trillion deal seems to have been brokered whereby all appropriations bills will be passed in the House and the Senate next week. While no details of the bills are yet available, it appears that one of the breakthroughs was an agreement to keep the amount of funding for the border wall (President Trump’s priority) at the current level of $1.375 billion.

Education advocates are eager to see if any of the significant increases in the House bill will be retained in the final package. All fingers are crossed in anticipation of next week. Learn more.

Higher Education Mini Bill Enacted: Are There Implications for Reauthorization?

The second surprising bipartisan deal emerged as a bill to amend the Higher Education Act.  Passed by both the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support on the same day (Tuesday), this bill represents just the sort of Christmas present education advocates hope for.  The bill, dubbed the FUTURE Act (HR 5363), restores over $250 million in funding for historically black colleges and universities and simplifies the student financial aid application by allowing data sharing between the Department of Education and the IRS.

There is some speculation as to what the victory with this mini-higher education bill means for the broader reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Has some momentum been lost?  Does this foreshadow positive bipartisan working relations that could continue momentum toward a broader bill? We will all have to stay tuned!  We will be looking to 2020 to see if the House passes their version of the reauthorization bill and if the Senate puts forward a bipartisan version for consideration. Learn more.

New Proposed Regulations for TEACH Grants Released

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed a new rule—open for comment until January 10, 2020—and which would update the TEACH grant regulations. According to DeVos, “This proposed rule ensures educators who received TEACH Grants and who are meeting their service requirements do not have their grants converted to loans improperly or as a result of confusing bureaucratic paperwork.” Learn more.

New Resources for Educators 

  • The Learning Policy Institute is out with Interactive Map: Understanding Teacher Shortages in California. A few key findings include the following:
    • The number of substandard credentials issued—a key indicator of shortages—has nearly tripled across California since 2012. In 2017-18, they accounted for nearly half of all new credentials
    • In 42 districts—mostly small and in rural communities—not a single new hire for the 2017-18 school year was fully credentialed.
  • The Center for American Progress has published What to Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs. Key findings include:
    • From 2010-8, nine states have experienced an enrollment decline of over 50%; Oklahoma’s decline is 80%
    • There is a 28% decline in students completing teacher prep programs
    • Alternative route programs outside of higher education have experienced a 42% increase; Texas’s enrollment in these programs is greater than any other state

In closing, I’d like to offer a hearty congratulations to Joan McLaughlin who will begin her second term as Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research at Institute of Education Sciences! 

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

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant