Washington Update: The Senate Returns

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.

The Senate returned on Tuesday from August recess and all eyes quickly turned to appropriations. Members in the House return this coming Tuesday and there will already be a full agenda of action to both enact a necessary extension of government funding to start on October 1 and avoid a government shutdown (otherwise known as a continuing resolution) and passing FY 2024 government funding bills. With only three weeks remaining until the end of the fiscal year this will certainly be a busy and stressful time in Washington. Although Congress has been on recess for the past month, the work in DC doesn’t stop — a lot has happened since our last update. Let’s dive in.

Ranking Member Cassidy Releases Report on the Legislative Role of Congress as it relates to Artificial Intelligence

On Wednesday, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a white paper, Exploring Congress’ Framework for the Future of AI: The Oversight and Legislative Role of Congress Over the Integration of Artificial Intelligence in Health, Education, and Labor. The paper examines the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence (AI) and how Congress should regulate the technology. The report ends with a call for stakeholder input on “ways to improve the framework in which these technologies are developed, reviewed, and used” by submitting comments to HELPGOP_AIComments@help.senate.gov by September 22. Read the white paper in its entirety.

Department of Education Issues New Policy Brief

Earlier this year, the Department of Education called on state and local leaders to utilize five key policy levers to Raise the Bar and eliminate educator shortages: increase compensation, expand access to high-quality and affordable educator preparation programs, promote career advancement and leadership opportunities for educators, provide high-quality new teacher induction and job-embedded professional learning throughout educators’ careers, and increase educator diversity.

In response to this call, the Department issued a policy brief which outlines efforts to support the first three of the strategies outlined above. The brief highlights progress made to address shortages, shares new data on education jobs by state, and notes states’ progress implementing key strategies to address shortages, including increasing compensation, increasing enrollment in educator preparation programs, and, in collaboration with U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), expanding Registered Apprenticeship Programs for K-12 teachers. Read the policy brief.

Two Convenings Focused on Educator Diversity to be Held in the Coming Year

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced that they will host two convenings focused on educator diversity in the coming year. According to a press release issued by DOE, the two events, the Teach to Lead Summit and the Conference on Equity in Opportunity, will take place in Denver, CO beginning October 2023, and will bring together key educational leaders for national conversations about the importance of educator diversity in our nation’s schools.

In a statement, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona praised the initiative saying in part:

“To Raise the Bar for learning conditions in our schools, we must make sure every student in every community has equitable access to outstanding educators who represent the diversity of the communities they serve and are well-supported, well-prepared, and fully empowered to lead in the classroom…Both of these events will provide educators, school leaders, and state and local officials with opportunities to share new and exciting ways to grow the workforce with additional diverse and talented educators. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to work with state and local leaders to invest in our educators and provide students with the rich learning experiences and academically rigorous education they deserve.”

To learn more about the convenings, read the Department’s press release in its entirety.

Biden-Harris Administration Launches New Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment Plan

Last month the Biden-Harris Administration announced that it has launched its updated income-driven repayment application tool on StudentAid.gov and that student loan borrowers can now officially enroll in the Saving on A Valuable Education (SAVE) plan. The plan is part of President Biden and Vice President Harris’ broader efforts to make college more affordable and support students and borrowers. Prior to the roll out of the SAVE plan,  the Biden-Harris Administration has approved the cancellation of more than $116 billion in student loan debt for 3.4 million borrowers — the Administration reports that the new SAVE plan will save millions of borrowers money on their monthly payments.

OCR Issues Dear Colleague Letter on Race and School Programming

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on Race and School Programming to guide schools on lawful programs to promote racially inclusive school communities. This resource clarifies the circumstances under which schools can — consistent with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations — develop curricula and programs or engage in activities that promote racially inclusive school communities. The letter follows the release of a January 2023 OCR Diversity & Inclusion Activities Under Title VI fact sheet that confirmed for educators, parents, and students that diversity, equity, and inclusion training and similar activities generally are consistent with Title VI.

OSEP Seeking Comment on How Scholars Report Service Obligation

OSEP is looking for comment on how scholars report their service obligation. Comment period ends September 28, 2023. The Department is especially interested in public comment addressing the following issues: (1) is this collection necessary to the proper functions of the Department; (2) will this information be processed and used in a timely manner; (3) is the estimate of burden accurate; (4) how might the Department enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (5) how might the Department minimize the burden of this collection on the respondents, including through the use of information technology.

Read the request and comment.

New Resources for Educators

CIDDL is currently seeking participants for AI workgroup in special education research and personnel preparation. The goal is to support a collaborative group of leaders in the field to create a blueprint for the use of artificial intelligence to impact education and the lives of students with and without disabilities. Read more about the work group and complete the application. 

Wishing you all a positive and productive start to the new academic year. It feels great to be back.

Until next time, see you on …X (formerly known as Twitter). Kait @brennan_kait