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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant

Congress Winds Down with Packed Agenda

U.S. Capitol

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.

The Senate returns to town today after Thanksgiving recess. Most pressing is the December 11 deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Meanwhile pressure to address an out-of-control pandemic with a fiscal relief bill does not appear to be in sight. And President Trump continues to challenge the outcome of the Presidential election. 

The 116th Congress Moves Toward a Shaky Finish

Progress with finalizing the FY 2021 spending bill is underway, but the outcome is far from certain. The four corners (Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate) have been meeting and appear to be in agreement on top line spending numbers. The four corners also agree that they want a bill. President Trump remains a wild card. 

One of four outcomes is possible:  1) Congress completes all the funding bills by December 11 and the President signs them into law;  2) Congressional negotiators are making  good progress by December 11 and extend the current level of funding for a week or so while they continue to negotiate; 3) Congress passes a temporary funding measure through March or so, essentially punting decision-making into the next Congress; 4) Congress passes a bill before the end of the year and the President refuses to sign it causing a government shutdown. My money is on number 2. Congress is notorious for stretching out finalization of bills right up until the Christmas break.  It’s hard to imagine a government shutdown—even in the midst of the craziness these days—that seems a bridge too far.

Leading and Engaging Faculty in Teacher Preparation Reform: The Role of Deans

Webinar, Personal development and e-learning concept on blurred abstract background.AACTE is proud to partner with the CEEDAR (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform) Center to bring you a webinar focused on a special issue brief, Leading and Engaging Faculty in Teacher Preparation Reform: The Role of Deans, on December 16, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. ET.

The issue brief summarizes the experiences in leadership of six current and former deans who have been identified as engaging in successful collaborative reform efforts within their colleges. AACTE and CEEDAR look to their experiences to support leaders, like you, in understanding the actions they took and the strategies they employed that may be useful to other leaders of educator preparation programs (EPPs) who are committed to restructuring curricula and programs in their own settings.

What Can We Expect for Education with a Biden-Harris Administration?

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.

Welcome to the world of President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris.

What Might a Biden Presidency Mean for Education?

When President-elect Joe Biden told the nation that educators will have “one of their own” in the White House, a sigh of relief and a whiff of optimism were palpable among the education community. Referring to his wife, Jill Biden—a long time community college professor—he also said that “teaching isn’t just what she does, it’s who she is.”  Thus, the president-elect sets the tone for the next four years of one of the most pro-education administrations in our lifetimes.

Biden named his transition teams this week, including the one for education. Led by Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute and former head of the Obama Administration education transition team, the group is comprised of a number of former Obama appointees as well as union leaders. The team is working on compiling both potential nominees for political positions in the Department of Education as well as fleshing out policy priorities and a timeline. 

Is Your School of Education in Compliance with Federal State Authorization Regulations?

As of July 1, 2020 all universities were required to comply with 2019 federal state authorization regulations.  Among the requirements in these complex regulations is one related to all programs that fulfill educational requirements of a profession that requires licensure or certification. Included among these programs are those in schools and colleges of education—for teachers, psychologists, school counselors and more.  Every university with such programs is required to make public, for each state, whether the program does or does not meet such requirements.  For example, a special education teacher preparation program at a university in Florida must disclose whether its requirements would lead to certification in Minnesota.  

MSU determined to provide a university-wide compilation of program requirements in relation to state certification requirements rather than a college by college compilation. Who was involved? What is the utility of doing it this way?

At MSU, compliance with this requirement took a village and included substantial support from university-level offices. First, the General Counsel’s office and Registrar’s office worked with administrators from across campus to develop a plan for compliance with both these regulations and also the similar reporting about online programs required by NC-SARA. This group identified the sequence of necessary work and set out due dates for various pieces. Second, staff from the General Counsel’s office and Registrar’s office met as needed with individuals from colleges, in addition to continuing to meet with the ad hoc group that created the process. In response to a request from colleges, the university also took care of all the relevant notifications to current students, which was a great help.

As Congress Heads Home, Agenda in Flux

The US CapitolThis 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.

The Senate Passes Funding Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown/ COVID Funding Bill Remains Stalled

The federal fiscal year ended on Wednesday, September 30 at midnight. That day, the Senate passed a bill (with a 84-10 bipartisan vote) to keep the government funded at last year’s level temporarily—a stopgap measure called a Continuing Resolution. The House passed the same bill last week with a bipartisan vote. The President signed the bill a few hours after the deadline—early Thursday morning—so that functioning and funding of the federal government continues uninterrupted.  The bill expires December 11, after the election, leaving a lame duck session of Congress to deal with it. 

In the House, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) was absorbed in trying to come up with a last-minute deal with the White House to secure a long-awaited next COVID relief package. She met repeatedly with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who appears to be the White House’s lead on this, but did not achieve a final deal. So, she turned to her Democratic colleagues in the House and passed a trimmed-down version of the HEROES Act—their COVID relief bill that passed several months ago, but made no headway in the Senate.

Tides Continue to Shift on Capitol Hill as Election Approaches

Close-up of a bright classical pillar

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.

Passing of RBG Alters Landscape Moving Forward in Congress

The sudden passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg a week ago—and the subsequent immediate determination by President Trump that he would move a nominee to fill the vacancy quickly—have altered the DC landscape dramatically. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) quickly assembled the 51 votes he needs for confirmation of her replacement. Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsay Graham (R-SC), has indicated that confirmation hearings for the new nominee may take place the week of October 12. All roads lead to a final floor vote in the Senate before the November 3 election, possibly on Halloween. The Democrats will be unable to block this vote. The only way it could fail is if three Republican Senators oppose the nominee. Two have indicated that they are opposed to this vote prior to the election (Sen. Collins of Maine and Sen. Murkowski of Alaska), but the elusive third appears out of reach.

Congress Aims for the September 30 Finish Line

Sunset sky over the US Capitol building dome in Washington DC.

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.

Congress Looks to Avoid Government Shutdown after Failing to Move COVID Relief Bill

Remember your students who waited until the last minute to turn in their assignments? Well, they are all Members of Congress now! Congress will walk right up to the September 30 deadline before passing a short-term measure that will avoid a government shutdown and keep federal funding flowing.  Called a “Continuing Resolution”—or CR—the bill will be a “simple extension” to continue current levels of funding for the time being. The White House, Senate and House leadership agree that this must be passed by the deadline and a shutdown must be avoided. 

Two outstanding questions remain. The first is: What will the expiration date be for the CR?  The answer is anywhere between mid-December and March.  

The second outstanding question is what will and will not be attached to the CR? While all parties are agreeing on a “clean” CR—meaning no “poison pill” amendments—there are always what are known in Washington-speak as “anomalies.”  These are friendly changes to law, which are not supposed to be controversial. Of course, ensuring that all parties agree that something is not controversial can be a challenge. Given that passage of a COVID relief bill failed to make progress last week, there will be pressure to add COVID-related provisions to this bill.  Most anticipate that there will be no further action on a COVID relief bill until after the election in November. Stay tuned for some action on the CR next week.

Can Congress Deliver on a Much Needed COVID Relief Package

Financial aid concept, Life buoy lifebelt with money bagSenate Republicans Reveal Proposal for Next COVID Relief Package—a Nonstarter for Democrats

We ended the week with the chasm between Democrats and Republicans looming as the clock ticks toward recess and campaigning, not to mention expiring unemployment benefits, expired eviction prohibitions and schools and higher education struggling with reopening plans. Leader McConnell revealed the HEALS Act—the Senate Republican response to the House Democratic HEROES Act—as the opener for negotiations on the next COVID relief package. A third proposal, CCERA, was put forward by Senate Democrats. A comparison of education spending in the three bills reveals the following:

Congress Stalls in Developing Next COVID Relief Package

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.

COVID Relief Package Progress Stalled

The Congress is scheduled to go into recess in two weeks.  The election is about 100 days away.  The nation is in crisis.  Yet this week brought us a back and forth between the White House and Senate Republican leadership that yielded leaks of morsels about a proposed COVID relief package followed by retractions, clarifications and proclamations by individual Republican Senators that they have not seen any proposals nor been able to weigh in. Democrats are growing antsy—with two proposals on the table—HEROES Act in the House and  the Coronavirus Childcare and Education Relief Act in the Senate. they are ready to negotiate.  But no one is at the table yet.

A Senate Republican leadership bill was promised this week. A sketch of a proposal was leaked with the caveat that nothing had been finalized or agreed to. With Monday and Tuesday focused on honoring Rep. John Lewis in the Capitol, the business week will be short.  The promise of that August recess is looking dim. With the federal unemployment checks scheduled to end at the end of the month and 1 in 5 workers now collecting unemployment benefits, much is at stake. Educators in both higher education and K-12 are struggling to make decisions now about school openings with little clear guidance and no sure knowledge of when or if there will be additional federal support.

Educators Disrupting Racism: One Journey

Jane West and Ashley WhiteIn Part 2 of this Q&A feature, AACTE consultant Jane West, a former teacher with a doctorate in special education and 30 years of policy experience in the nation’s capital, and Holmes Program Alumna Ashley L. White, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin and 2019-20 Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow, share their mentoring/mentee relationship and how it has evolved over time to address race. (Read Part 1.)

Q:  Describe a good white ally.

White: This is not an all-encompassing definition and I am not the monolithic expert—I am speaking from my experiences in dealing with White people all my life, some who get it and many who do not. Allies of any kind have to accept the reality of system and practices that have put them in a position of privilege while disenfranchising others (e.g., the notion of heterosexuality or “able-bodies” as superior forms of existence). Allies must value the whole over the self. Allies must recognize that if one suffers, all suffer, even if not immediately. Allies must embrace their ignorance and lack of understanding in order to counteract these.

As it pertains to the subject of racism in society, racism in education, White allies have to accept the reality of racism in every system and they also have to accept that no matter the topic, particularly as it relates to education, issues of race cement long-standing inequities that cannot be resolved without centering the issues of race.  In other words, White allies don’t avoid our country’s foundation, which is built upon individual and systematic racism for the gain of the dominant class. White allies must learn to be quiet when Black and Brown folks are speaking about their experiences and perspectives. White allies must learn not to interrupt and to question themselves, especially when they feel defensive, undermined, or fearful. White allies have to stop hiding behind rhetoric of equity and understanding when their actions demonstrate the very opposite. White allies have to be willing to ask questions, not to prove they are right, but because they know they are wrong.

Educators Disrupting Racism: One Journey

In Part 1 of this Q&A feature, AACTE consultant Jane West, a former teacher with a doctorate in special education and 30 years of policy experience in the nation’s capital, and Holmes Program Alumna Ashley L. White, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin and 2019-20 Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow, share their mentoring/mentee relationship and how it has evolved over time to address race.

Q: What is the nature of your mentoring relationship?

Jane West and Ashley WhiteWhite:  Through my doctoral work, I became very interested in disability policy. It was through this interest that I met Jane.  Anyone who knows about SPED/disability policy knows Dr. Jane West. What I didn’t know before interacting with Jane is that, while she was an advocate for the interests of special education and students with disabilities, she was aware of the structural and ideological inconsistencies that float right beneath the surface of the equity rhetoric that dominates disability advocacy.     

West:  I had the good fortune to meet Ashley as a doctoral student through her work with The Higher Education Consortium for Special Education—an organization with which I consult. Ashley was keenly interested in advocacy and policy—my areas of focus—so we formed a natural alliance. I was, and am, pleased to mentor her in those areas as she navigated her doctoral work and her career.

Senate Debates Funding for Re-opening Schools

Students wearing masks outside school building

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.

Action Expected in July on Next COVID Relief Bill: Education in the Crosshairs

Beginning next week, we expect to see the Senate take up the next COVID relief bill.  The House has passed their version of the bill and Senate Democrats have introduced their version of the bill, so the next move is up Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  His bill may be unveiled next week.

Education has become a high profile and contentious matter for this bill, as the president has determined that the economy cannot move forward unless schools are fully open in person so that parents and college employees (and workers in related businesses) can return to work in person. Multiple agendas are woven through this debate, which will become even more prominent as decisions are made about whether to apply conditions to any further COVID relief funding for education. 

Opening Schools in the Fall Is a Political Hot Potato

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.

U.S. Capital Rotunda

It’s been a busy — if not dizzying — week in DC – from movement on funding bills in the House to Trump Administration threats to withhold education funding and withdraw non-profit tax status from schools that do not fully open in the fall.  The rest of July will likewise be action packed and fraught as Congress sprints to the August recess. 

House Appropriations Subcommittee Adopts Education Funding Bill for FY 2021
On Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations, chaired by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), adopted a spending bill for FY 2021, which begins October 1. 

Because the bill was required to stay within previously agreed upon budget caps, there were only modest increases for education. Overall, education spending was increased by 1.7%, or $1.2 billion, bringing federal education spending to a total of $73.5 billion.

Will Congress Provide Support to Reopen Schools During COVID-19?

Student and Teacher in classroom wearing masks

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.

Re-opening Schools During COVID-19:  Will the Federal Government Help?  

The topic of reopening schools is demanding attention at all levels of government—both for K-12 and higher education. The questions far outnumber the answers and the keywords seems to be flexibility and local decision-making. With governors, public health agencies, state and local school leaders, parents, and teachers all weighing in, the web of perspectives is complex. Finding a path to ensure public safety, equity and access to effective education is the challenge of the day. And finding the money to do what needs to be done—and in the midst of a polarizing election cycle—is looking like a herculean task.    

This week, the House Committee on Education and Labor held its second hearing related to education and the pandemic, Inequities Exposed: How COVID-19 Widened Racial Inequities in Education, Health and the Workforce.  In his testimony about education, John B. King Jr, president and CEO of the Education Trust, highlighted ongoing inequities in both K-12 and higher education and how COVID-19 has exacerbated them.  He urged the federal government to act and recommended the following provisions for the next COVID-19 relief bill:

Schools Struggle to Reopen During Pandemic: Will Congress Help?

Law and Education ConceptThis 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.

Police Reform in the Wake of George Floyd’s Death: Is it Coming?  How Will it Affect Schools?

The purview of state and local government police reform is rapidly moving into the realm of the federal government. House Democrats have acted quickly, introducing a sweeping bill, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 with 200 sponsors. Republicans in both the House and Senate are feeling the pressure and discussions are underway, albeit for a far more limited approach. The White House is sending mixed messages, on the one hand calling for reform and on the other, calling for law and order. 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is taking the lead for Republicans in the Senate and has been in conversation with the White House. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a top Trump ally in the House, said he will release his own plan shortly. Senate proposals appear to feature the improvement of federal data collection on the use of force and no-knock warrants as well as police training. White House spokespersons said that ending qualified immunity, which protects police officers from civil lawsuits, was a nonstarter.

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