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EDUCATORS for America Act is Re-Introduced in Congress

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.

It was another busy week in Washington — with conversations surrounding the debt limit continuing to dominate much of the conversation. As you will recall, last month House Republicans passed a bill which ties the debt limit to appropriations by raising the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through the end of next March, whichever happens first, in exchange for a wide range of proposals to decrease government funding. The cuts to federal funding would include capping federal funding at fiscal year (FY) 2022 levels- a nearly 22% cut to non-defense discretionary programs (i.e., education)- while also limiting spending growth to 1% every year over the next decade.

The EDUCATORS for America Act is Re-Introduced in the 118th Congress

Last week, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D-NC) re-introduced the EDUCATORS for America Act. This legislation is essential for retaining, growing, and diversifying our educator workforce and pipeline.

The EDUCATORS for America Act will help build that pipeline in the following ways: 

  • Authorizing $500 million annually for grants to support states in developing and implementing a statewide strategy for meeting their educator workforce needs, including ensuring an inclusive and equitable workforce that supports the recruitment, preparation, and retention of populations that are underrepresented in the field of education, including teachers of color, first generation college students, and teachers with disabilities.

  • Authorizing $500 million annually to support educator preparation programs and partnerships including:

    • Updating and expanding the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program to focus on residency programs, strengthen the principal and school leader preparation programs, and enable partnerships to address the need for early childhood educators, school librarians, counselors, and other specialized support personnel.

    • Reauthorizing the Honorable Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-serving institutions in expanding and strengthening their educator preparation programs.

    • Providing recruitment and completion grants to educator preparation programs to ensure that students have the wrap around supports they need to graduate.

    • Establishing an education careers opportunity program to expose middle and high school students to the education profession.

    • Increasing the capacity of educator preparation programs to meet the needs of the field, including supporting school leader development, faculty professional development and training, offering doctoral fellowships, and promoting innovation and resiliency.

  • Streamlining the data and reporting requirements for teacher preparation programs to focus on key measures related to program quality and addressing identified workforce needs. Calls for the National Center for Education Statistics to convene an expert panel to make recommendations on a robust and concise set national indicators on the size, diversity, and quality of the teacher workforce, and the equitable distribution of profession ready teachers.

  • Removing financial barriers to entering the education profession by:

    • Doubling the TEACH grants to $8,000 per year and providing additional protections and options to prevent the conversion of grants to loans.

    • Including the costs of clinical experiences in the cost of attendance for awarding financial aid.

    • Providing educators and teachers in high need fields credit towards loan repayment as they serve rather than waiting 5 to 10 years to earn forgiveness.

In addition to Senators Reed, Casey, and Luján, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

In a statement, AACTE President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone expressed AACTE’s support for the legislation saying:

“I know I speak on behalf of everyone in educator preparation — and current and prospective educators across the country — when I express my sincere thanks to Senators Reed, Casey, and Luján, and to Representative Adams and all of the bill co-sponsors for their exceptional leadership on addressing the critical shortage of educators. This legislation lowers barriers to becoming an educator and funds continued innovation in educator preparation. It is also an expression of deep support for educators as the front-line sustaining the education and well-being of our young people, their families, our communities, and our larger civic and democratic values.”

You can read the press release on EDUCATORS for America in its entirety here.

OCR Releases Annual Report for FY2022

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released its annual FY2022 report. The  report is submitted under Section 203(b)(1) of the Department of Education Organization Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96–88, which provides: “The Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights shall make an annual report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress summarizing the compliance and enforcement activities of the Office for Civil Rights and identifying significant civil rights or compliance problems as to which such Office has made a recommendation for corrective action and as to which, in the judgment of the Assistant Secretary, adequate progress is not being made.” 20 U.S.C. §3413(b)(1).

In a statement, Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights praised the work of her Office saying:

“This report describes those successes, in addition to reflecting the variety and persistence of civil rights harms students continue to experience as part of their education, notwithstanding our national aspirations and guarantees to the contrary. Each complaint reflects hope that government will fulfill Congress’ nondiscrimination promise, helping to make rights real in the nation’s schools. We in OCR take seriously and work to honor that hope, reflecting back our best judgment about when laws we enforce are violated and what school communities need to remedy those harms. The work of civil rights includes ensuring that acts of injustice become opportunities for change, which is why we partner with schools to find solutions that work for all students.”

In FY 2022, OCR completed the following:

  • Resolved the second highest number of investigations in our history — 16,515 cases —while processing the highest volume of complaints in our history — 18,804 complaints — with 18% fewer staff than we had had in FY 2016 when we last most closely approximated our current complaint volume, at 16,720 complaints
  • Initiated an unprecedented and targeted 100 proactive compliance reviews
  • Published seven sets of resources and guidance addressing sex discrimination and disability rights
  • Provided 186 technical assistance presentations
  • Responded to 633 inquiries and 826 FOIA requests
  • Developed revised regulations to propose across our jurisdictional areas
  • Collected CRDC data with a 100% reporting rate from required submitters
  • Onboarded 47 additional staff
  • Revised their Complaint Processing Manual in July 2022 to clarify our processes and add a new tool for resolution to help manage our caseload and meet complainants’ and recipients’ interest in efficient resolution

Read the report in its entirety.

NAEP Scores Show Declines in Student Performance in Civics and History

Last week, results from The National Assessment of Educational Progress test, known as the Nation’s Report Card, showed a 5-point decline in average scores in civics among America’s 8th graders. This is the first time civic scores have fallen since the federal government began testing children under the current framework in 1998. In fact, student performance across all history domains tested — democracy, culture, technology, and world role — all saw decreases.

In a statement Secretary Cardona said:

“The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress further affirms the profound impact the pandemic had on student learning in subjects beyond math and reading. It tells us that now is not the time for politicians to try to extract double-digit cuts to education funding, nor is it the time to limit what students learn in U.S. history and civics classes. We need to provide every student with rich opportunities to learn about America’s history and understand the U.S. Constitution and how our system of government works. Banning history books and censoring educators from teaching these important subjects does our students a disservice and will move America in the wrong direction.”

New Resource for Educators

  • The CEEDAR Center, AIR, Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, and AACTE together released a new toolkit: Take a Seat at the Table, The Role of Educator Preparation Programs In Teacher Registered Apprenticeship Programs. With the projected shortfall of teachers hovering around 200,000 by the 2025-26 school year, state leaders are looking for ways to intervene and increase the pipeline of teachers into schools. Teacher registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) can potentially fill this high-priority workforce need. In the new brief, the, experts share the importance of why input from educator preparation programs (EPPs) is essential in creating these programs. The authors examine why EPPs are best positioned to co-develop teacher RAPs and the benefits of being included at the table. In addition, the brief includes helpful resources and teacher apprenticeship program examples.

Wishing you all a wonderful week. Until next time, see you on Twitter! Kait @brennan_kait.

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