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Capitol Hill Addresses Spending, Student Loans, HBCUs and LGBTQ+ Rights

Graduation hat with diploma and moneyThis weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.    

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, Congress passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Omnibus Spending Bill. The FY22 bill includes increases for education, but not nearly at the level that was originally requested by the Biden Administration. Considerable work lies ahead to secure a robust federal investment to support rebuilding and diversifying the special educator and specialized instructional personnel pipeline.

Congress Passes Omnibus Spending Bill for FY2022

Late Wednesday evening, the House passed key appropriations items: a fiscal year (FY) 2022 omnibus appropriations package and Ukraine relief. A separate COVID-relief package was removed due to objections from some because it paid for some new spending by withdrawing unspent state aid and from others who did not think more aid was warranted now. The legislation then went to the upper chamber with the Senate passing the FY2022 spending bill late Thursday evening by a 68-31 vote- avoiding the need for another continuing resolution.

The long awaited FY2022 omnibus appropriations package is a $1.5 trillion spending bill that includes $79 billion for Department of Education and keeps the government funded through October. The bill offers a $2.9 billion increase over last year’s new funding to the Department of Education but rescinds $550 million more of previously enacted Pell Grant funding than did last year’s bill, meaning the net impact on education funding is an increase of $2.3 billion, or 3.2%. The bill provides increases to all but four education programs but are significantly pared back from both Congress and the Administration’s proposed FY 2022 levels. President Biden had originally proposed $102.8 billion for the Department of Education — a 41% increase.  

Key programs related to educator preparation and support include IDEA Personnel Preparation with a $5 million increase, the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program received a $7 million increase, the Hawkins Centers of Excellence received an $8 million increase, and Title I received a $1 billion increase.

For the first time in a decade the bill includes earmarks, now known as “Community Project Funding/Congressionally Directed Spending.” For education, there is $140 million for K-12 projects in the innovation and improvement account, $2.3 million for vocational rehabilitation projects, and $249 million for higher education projects within the total $325 million for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

Key Programs Related to Educator Support and Preparation

   
Program    
   
Current level FY 2021   
   
2022 President’s Request; Discretionary   
   
House  Recommended
FY 2022 level    
   
Senate  Draft
FY 2022 level   
   
FY2022   
FINAL   
 
   
IDEA   Personnel Preparation    
   
$90.2 M   
   
$250 M   
   
$250M   
   
$200M   
   
$95M   
 
   
Teacher   Quality Partnership Grants   
   
$52.1 M   
   
$132 M   
   
$132 M   
   
$90M   
   
$59M   
 
   
Hawkins   Centers of Excellence   
   
$0   
   
$20 M   
   
$20 M   
   
$20M   
   
$8M   
 
   
Title I   
   
$17 B   
   
$37 B   
   
$36 B   
   
$33B   
   
$18B   
 
   
Title II   
   
$2.143B   
   
$2.149 B   
   
$2.3 B   
   
$2.2B   
   
$2.17B   
 
   
IDEA Part B   
   
$12.9 B   
   
$15.5 B   
   
$15.5 B   
   
$15.5B   
   
$13.3B   
 

While we are always thankful for increases to federal programs that ensure all students have access to profession-ready educators, many believe the FY 2022 omnibus is a lost opportunity to provide meaningful support to these programs at a time when they are more necessary than ever. That being said, we remain especially grateful that this package was able to cross the finish line and avoid a full year continuing resolution, a scenario that could have made future increases for education funding even more of a challenge. Congress has been vocally supportive about the need to improve the educator pipeline to ensure fully certified educators are reaching all children. Now is the time to turn that sentiment into action. Advocates will continue to work vigorously with policy makers to address the crisis of the educator shortage. 

Biden Administration Signals They May Extend Student Loan Payment Freeze

According to reports around Capitol Hill, earlier this week, officials in the Department of Education instructed the companies that manage federal student loans to hold off  on sending required notices to borrowers about their payments restarting. The news comes as just last week, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain during an interview suggested the Administration would consider an additional pause, “The president is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he’ll extend the pause,” “Joe Biden right now is the only president in history where no one’s paid on their student loans for the entirety of his presidency,” Klain said, adding that the White House would make a decision on whether to use executive action to cancel student debt “before the payments resume.”

House Passes Resolution Condemning HBCU Bomb Threats

On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a resolution H. Con Res 70 (117), condemning the dozens of bomb threats made to historically Black colleges and universities since the start of the new year. The resolution was first introduced by Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) in February. Last Thursday, the Senate passed a similar resolution, S. Res. 534 (117), that was introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). Congress has previously asked the Department for greater flexibility in how HBCUs can use COVID relief funds to strengthen public safety on campus- the Secretary has said it is up to Congress to make such a decision.

In the States 

On Tuesday, the Florida state legislature passed the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans educators from discussing sexual orientation with young students. Republican leadership in the state has pushed for the legislation in recent months suggesting that it strengthens parental rights. “We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” Florida Governor Rick DeSantis told reporters at a press conference this week. LGBTQ+ supporters including President Biden, say the proposal represents a broader attack on the LGBTQ+ community. “I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” President Biden wrote in a tweet in February. “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona denounced the bill this week stating:

“The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.” 

The Georgia legislature introduced a bill this week that would prohibit discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in some private school classrooms. Georgia joins the growing number of states that have introduced similar measures this year.

New Resources for Educators

  • The School Superintendents Association (AASA) made its 2021-22 salary and benefits study available. AASA found that the median salary for superintendents ranged from $105,000 to $228,541, depending on district size. It also found that female superintendents earn approximately 96% of what male superintendents earn.
  • FutureEd issued an analysis on how school districts across the country are spending their COVID relief dollars. The analysis is the first to detail the way relief money is flowing through local education agencies, and examines spending plans from 3,056 school districts and charter organizations educating 60% of the nation’s public-school students.

Follow me on twitter @brennan_kait.

Do you have questions about Washington Update? Want more information? Email me: kaitlynbrennan88@gmail.com


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