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NCES Releases Alarming Data on School Staffing

This 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.

Department of Education logoOn Friday, Congress passed a short-term spending measure that keeps the government funded at its current levels through December 16 and averts a government shutdown. Now is the time to flex your advocacy muscles — tell your story and encourage your Members of Congress to advocate for and support the highest possible investments in the educator workforce and pipeline in the final FY23 spending bill.

Congresses Passes Short-Term Funding Patch — Averting a Government Shutdown

On Friday, just before the lower chamber left DC for the extended recess leading up to the midterms, the House passed a short-term government funding patch, more commonly referred to as a continuing resolution or CR. The CR keeps the government funded at its current levels and averts a government shutdown. The measure passed with a 230-201 vote, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in support. The stopgap funds will keep the government funded through the midterm elections until December 16 and provides additional funding for Ukraine and disaster relief. The CR does not include the additional funding the Administration requested for student loan administration, or any other additional funding for the Department of Education.

While the vote is one of the House’s last acts before leaving town until the Nov. 8 midterms- House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro said congressional leaders may also have to consider additional disaster relief funding in response to Hurricane Ian before the end of the year. Republican Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida are already asking appropriators to act swiftly on an aid package for the state “at the earliest opportunity,” noting that Hurricane Ian “will be remembered and studied as one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States.”

NCES Releases Alarming Data on School Staffing

This week, The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released the latest data from the August 2022 School Pulse Panel. The data shows that more than half of U.S. public schools were understaffed to begin the 2022-23 school year with special education teachers and transportation staff identified as being the hardest to fill.

As of August, when the latest NCES survey was administered to roughly 900 public campuses, close to 80% of schools with at least one job opening reported it was either very or somewhat difficult to hire fully certified special education and math teachers. Ninety-four percent reported those same levels of difficulty when it came to finding transportation staff. School leaders most often identified a lack of qualified candidates as the greatest barrier to filling these rolls. The top five most understaffed positions were special education teachers, transportation and custodial staff, mental health professionals and general elementary school teachers.

In a statement, NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr said  “…while many schools say that the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more challenging to fill positions, 20 percent of schools say that they were already understaffed before the pandemic began.”

Biden- Harris Administration Reverses Decision on Student Debt Relief

On Thursday, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that borrowers who have federal student loans that are owned by private entities would no longer qualify for the debt relief program. The administration had previously said those borrowers would have a path to receive up to $10,000 or $20,000 of loan forgiveness. The Department has said that borrowers who applied prior to September 29, 2022 to consolidate their loans into the Direct Loan program will still be eligible for debt relief, but that the path will no longer be available to borrowers after the new guidance. A spokesperson from the Department said the policy change will affect only a small percentage of borrowers with the most recent federal data showing as of June 30 there were 4.1 million federal borrowers with $108.8 billion in loans held by private lenders.  

While it is not entirely clear why the Administration made the decision to reverse course on forgiveness for this subset of borrowers – the announcement comes as a number of states have filed lawsuits against the Administration for taking steps to forgive federal student loans held by private entities. For example, in Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt argued in a lawsuit that the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, which owns and services federally guaranteed student loans, faces economic harm from the debt relief program.

New Resources for Educators

  • The Office of the Inspector General released findings from an investigation that indicate children served by more than 25% of Head Start grant recipients were found to have been abused, left unsupervised, or released to an unauthorized person between October 2015 and May 2020. The investigation documented at least 1,029 incidents across 27% of Head Start grantees.

Until next time, see you on Twitter! Kait @brennan_kait

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