Author Archive

Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant

Biden Proposes American Families Plan: $9 Billion for Teacher Development

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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.  

If your head is spinning with President Biden’s massive proposals for new investments in education, you are not alone!  In addition to the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), two more proposals are on the table. And these are in addition to the annual appropriations process yet to unfold.  This could be a banner and historic year for education investments; but there is a long road ahead and advocacy is a must.  

President Biden Proposes the Largest Increase in Education Funding in History

Dollars and coins in glass jar with education fund label, financial concept. Vintage tone wooden background with dramatic light.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 Biden Administration is setting new records for promoting massive investments in education – unprecedented investments that could transform American schooling.  But Congress would have to agree, and therein lies the rub!

President Biden Unveils Massive “Skinny” Budget

Earlier this month, the White House unveiled President Biden’s budget proposal outline for FY 2022.  Referred to as a “skinny budget”, this $1.5 trillion proposal provides the rough contours of his vision for $753 billion in defense spending and $769 billion in non-defense discretionary spending – the latter representing a 16% increase driven in large part by major funding boosts to education programs. In fact, this proposal represents a 41% increase in pre-pandemic spending for the Department of Education – the largest request any President has made since the creation of the Department in 1979.

How Would President Biden’s $2.5 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal Impact Education?

White HouseThis 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.  

President Biden Unveils Massive Infrastructure Bill with Billions for Education

On Wednesday, President Biden took his first steps towards a months-long sprint to pass a $2.5 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill. The robust plan includes an emphasis on rebuilding America’s schools, broadband access, and increasing access to Community Colleges. Biden is proposing  $100 billion to help repair crumbling classrooms and build new public school buildings. The plan includes $50 billion in direct grants for school construction and an additional $50 billion through bonds. The allocation is slightly less than what House Democrats have proposed in their school construction legislation. The bill, H.R. 604 (117), introduced by House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) calls for $100 billion in direct grants and another $30 billion in interest subsidies on bonds that states or school districts issue to pay for school construction. The President’s plan also has provisions aimed at allowing schools to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental policies, including helping school kitchens “go green by reducing or eliminating the use of paper plates and other disposable materials,” according to a White House fact sheet.

White House Administration Promotes Rescue Funds to Reopen Schools

Children in school wearing masks and practicing social distancingThis 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. 

 Biden Administration: COVID Funds, School Reopening, FY 2022 Budget Proposal               

Last week, on the heels of the National Safe School Reopening Summit , President Biden announced that $81 billion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds would be released to all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The funds will support efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in person learning, keep schools open once students are back, and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students.

Ahead of the Summit, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the launch of a new Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative, a partnership between the Department, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association. The partnership is intended to help states use ARPA funding to develop high-quality summer learning and enrichment programs for all students, with a focus on addressing the needs of student groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The announcements are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to provide states, schools, and communities with the resources and support they need to return to in-person learning safely and quickly, and achieve the President’s goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his  Administration. Cardona also announced  that as part of this effort, he will travel to local school districts over the coming weeks to listen and learn from them, and to help more schools and districts in their efforts to reopen and stay open. The Secretary will then report back to the White House on what he learns.

Massive Funding Will Soon Flow into Schools and IHEs

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 Biden Agenda Continues to Unfold

The Biden Administration is on the brink of distributing the nearly  $122 billion  in new COVID relief funding for the nation’s K-12 schools, which the Education Department said would be made available  to states “this month.” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona notified state officials on Wednesday about the share of funding they would receive from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that President Biden signed last week. States and school districts “should plan to expend these funds to safely reopen schools as expeditiously as possible this spring, sustain their healthy operations, and address the significant academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of their students,” Cardona wrote in the letter to state school chiefs.

Cardona joined White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki for her daily press briefing  on Wednesday. During the Q&A with the press pool, Cardona touched on COVID-19 relief, school reopening, and standardized testing. The Secretary told reporters  he didn’t plan to change the Education Department’s decision on standardized testing, which was announced in February before he was confirmed by the Senate. “The guidance that we provided at the agency last month is the guidance that we’re going with moving forward on assessments to see where students are after this pandemic,” Cardona said.

Education Receives Unprecedented Funding in American Rescue Plan Act

Concept meaning agree to give or allow something requested someone Authorize action.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. 

President Biden Signs Massive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act

On Thursday evening, just before a primetime address to the nation, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

The House gave its final approval of the bill on Wednesday. Congressional Republicans, who voted en masse against the bill, have criticized the deal for funneling money to schools that haven’t offered in-person instruction despite earlier rounds of pandemic relief.

ARPA includes $122.8 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). ESSER funds will be distributed to states in the same way that the last two federal rescue packages were distributed: based on their relative Title I, Part A funding. The first $800 million of ESSER funding must be used by states to provide educational and wraparound services to students experiencing homelessness. The bill requires states to distribute the remaining $122 billion in the following manner :

  • Local Education Agencies (LEAs) ($109.8 billion): Ninety percent of funding will be distributed to districts based on their relative share of Title I, Part A funding.
  • Lost Learning Time ($6.1 billion): States must use at least 5% of their ESSER funding “to address learning loss by supporting the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning, extended day, or extended school year programs, and ensure such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on [students of color, students from families experiencing low-incomes, students with disabilities, English language learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and students in foster care].”
  • After-School Programs ($1.2 billion): A minimum of 1% of state funding must be used for after-school programs that address students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.
  • Summer Enrichment Programs ($1.2 billion): At least 1% of funding must be used by states to provide students with evidence-based summer learning programs.
  • Administration Costs ($610 million): States can spend up to 0.5% of their funding on the costs of administrating this program.
  • Remaining State Funds ($3 billion): States will be allowed to use these funds on any of the allowable uses in the act.

LEAs will be required to use at least 20% of the funds they receive ($22 billion) to address lost learning time for students. They will have the freedom to spend the remaining 80% ($87.8 billion) of funding based on local needs and priorities. Senate Democrats are circulating a Congressional Research Service memo with estimates of Education Stabilization Fund totals for states and institutions of higher education (IHE). It breaks out funding by state for the K-12 fund, the non-public schools, and the higher education fund (by state and by type of IHE). The last pages aggregate each state’s total from all three emergency relief funds.  

In the final bill, a number of amendments approved by the Senate were included that increased funding for students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, and sought transparency in school district’s plans for reopening and addressing continuity of services.

  • As amended, the legislation provides $2.6 billion in additional funding for state special education grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. In addition, the legislation provides $200 million for special education preschool grants, and $250 million for infants and toddlers with disabilities, both under the IDEA.
  • The Senate took $2.75 billion out of the House bill’s K-12 relief fund and earmarked it for private schools. Governors would allocate this money.
  • Maggie Hassan (D-N.H) offered an amendment that will ensure schools are transparent in their plans surrounding reopening and learning opportunities. The amendment says that within 30 days of receiving this new relief funding, school districts will have to publish “a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services.”
  • Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK) introduced an amendment that was agreed to by the Senate that provides $800 million help identify students experiencing homelessness, and to provide those students with wraparound services.

Other elements of the bill that are worth noting include:

  • States and schools must reserve roughly 25 percent of the stabilization fund for learning recovery (e.g. summer school and extended-day programs).
  • $350 billion is available for state and local governments.
  • $7 billion is available to help students and educators connect to the internet and provide them with connected devices, through the federal E-Rate program.
  • $39 billion will go to early-childhood programs, including Child Care and Development Block Grants and a stabilization fund for child-care providers.
  • Language in ARPA would punish states that want to enact/expand a new voucher tax credit by requiring them to pay back the equivalent amount of federal aid dollars as the tax credit they are issuing.
  • Families can claim up to $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 for children up to age 17 for one year to help combat the economic damage of the pandemic. House Democrats are looking to make the tax change The current tax credit is up to $2,000 per child. 

The bill also includes about $40 billion for higher education—about half of which will go to emergency funding in grants to students. ACE President Ted Mitchell said that while the amount of higher ed funding “falls short of our most recent estimate of at least $97 billion in student and institutional needs, it still represents the largest federal effort so far to assist students and families struggling to cope with lost jobs or reduced wages and colleges and universities facing precipitous declines in revenues and soaring new expenses.” Additional funds will go to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions. A provision is included in the bill that would exempt all student loan forgiveness from federal taxes for five years, perhaps paving the way for expanded student debt cancellation.

As I close, I offer a big shout out to one of our own—Kim Knackstedt—who has been named as the first White House Director of Disability Policy. With her Ph.D. in special education and several years of experience working on Capitol Hill, Kim is imminently qualified for this position.  I know you join me in congratulating her!

And a big thank you to Kaitlyn Brennan for her research and writing for this Washington Update.

Read the full Washington Update on my website for more information.

Cardona Takes Office Amidst School Openings and Spring Assessments Controversies

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.

Biden Administration Forges Ahead on School Reopening/Vaccines for Teachers as Secretary of Education Cardona Takes Office

American flag on a blackboardOn Tuesday evening Miguel Cardona was sworn in as the nation’s new Secretary of Education. The Senate voted 64-33 to confirm Cardona, a former public school teacher, principal and state superintendent. Cardona assumes the Education Department’s top job as the debate around how to safely reopen schools has grown increasingly bitter. President Biden in response is now walking a political tightrope, reassuring teachers they should be prioritized for the vaccine while recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that vaccinations should not be a prerequisite for reopening schools. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last month that vaccinating all teachers against COVID-19 before reopening schools is “non-workable,” Cardona wasted no time, diving into the debate over school reopening—with a USA Today op-ed posting as his swearing-in ceremony concluded. In the article, Cardona reaffirmed his commitment to safely reopening schools, announcing that he will convene a “national summit on safe school reopening” later this month.

Biden Administration Proceeds with Key Education Policy, Names Education Appointees

Congress Moves on COVID Relief Bill

This week Congress moved closer to the enactment of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan— the COVID-relief reconciliation  bill with hundreds of billions of dollars for education, child care, and other education-related needs. The bill is expected to pass in the House this evening. All Democrats are likely to vote for the bill, and possibly some Republicans.

The bill will move to the Senate next week for consideration where the goal is to finalize the bill by March 14, when the current expanded unemployment insurance expires. Several education groups have come forward in support of the bill. Republicans appear likely to oppose the bill holding that it is too much money and that the process has not been bipartisan. However, since the Senate requires only 51 votes to pass the bill, even with all Republicans opposing it, it will pass.

Congress Advances COVID Relief and Secretary of Education Confirmation

U.S. Capitol

Biden’s COVID Relief Proposal Moves Forward in the House

As per the requirements of the Budget Resolution that passed earlier this month, the shift was made this week to committees of jurisdiction. Eleven committees are involved in the House and each must draft an individual bill in compliance with the instructions in the Budget Resolution. Then the Committees submit those bills back to the Budget Committee, which creates the overall $1.9 trillion package to be considered by the full House. The same process is supposed to occur in the Senate—all with the deadline of March 14 when current COVID unemployment supplements expire.

Three Committees include important provisions related to education. The first—the Committee on Education and Labor—finalized their $170 billion proposal for education, over twice the annual budget for the Department of Education.  The Committee approved the measure, 27-21, along party lines after considering more than 30 amendments, several of which were intended to require schools to reopen for in-person instruction. The $170 billion is comprised of $130 billion for K-12 schools and $40 billion for higher education. Led by Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the Committee package also includes an increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour, which Republicans oppose.

Confirmation of New Secretary of Education Moves Forward

Capitol building Washington DC sunlight USA US congressThis 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.

House and Senate Press Forward with First Steps to Pass Biden COVID Relief Package

In dramatic moves in both the House and Senate last week, the stage was set to enact President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. Early in the week the House passed a Budget Resolution followed by Senate passage of a Budget Resolution early Friday morning—with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Harris. The Budget resolution is the shell that will initiate the creation of legislation that will form the COVID-19 relief package. Because the Senate Resolution is different from the House resolution, the House will next take up the Senate version and pass it so that both bodies are working from the same playbook.           

Congress Moves Ahead with Biden Agenda

The US Capitol building with a waving American flag superimposed on the skyThis 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. 

Biden’s Executive Action and Political Appointments 

This week, President Biden continued with his executive action blitz—signing a series of orders, actions, and memorandums aimed at rapidly addressing the coronavirus pandemic and dismantling many of the former administration’s policies. Among the orders signed to date are several of keen interest to educators, including the restoration of  DACA, the repeal of the Trump order on race and stereotyping, an extension of the pause on student loan collection through September, and an order requiring the Department of Education to issue guidance on school re-openings during the pandemic.

Almost a week after being sworn in, President Biden is seeing his Cabinet start to come together. This week the Senate confirmed  Antony Blinken, as Secretary of State, Janet Yellen,as Secretary of the Treasury, Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense, and Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence—all with bipartisan votes. Biden awaits confirmation of numerous key Cabinet nominees to lead important agencies—including Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the CIA.

The Biden-Harris Era Begins

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.

 Just two weeks after a riotous mob vandalized the Capitol, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the steps of the very same building. Setting the tone of unity, President Biden urged us to “see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors” and to “join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.” With three living former presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama) from both sides of the aisle joining together to send a message of support to incoming President Biden, a hopeful tone is set for moving forward.

With astounding speed, the new Administration got right to work. President Biden signed 17 executive orders, memoranda, and proclamations on the first afternoon of his Presidency. Among them were orders to rejoin the Paris climate accord, end the former Administration’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim and African countries; impose a national mandate requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by all federal employees; and to pause Federal student loan payments through September.    

On Thursday, the president took further  executive actions that aligned with his pledge to reopen most K-12 schools in his first 100 days in office. These orders will help support the reopening goal by way of developing a national strategy to get the coronavirus under control. One executive order  will direct the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide reopening guidance to schools with a focus on masking, testing and cleaning. A separate presidential memorandum will offer reimbursement to schools for purchases of personal protective equipment through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund.

Looking Ahead to the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress

White House

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.

Yesterday, President-Elect Biden revealed his massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan, hoping to jump start consideration in Congress. The goal of the education portion of the bill is to provide enough support for a robust vaccination plan, treatment, and funding to reopen a majority of K-8 schools safely within 100 days.  The proposal provides $170 billion for K-12 and higher education. To date, the Congress has enacted almost $113 billion for the Department of Education in COVID relief funds. 

Of the $170 billion in education funds, $130 billion would be for K-12 relief intended to cover technology needs; counseling, support for social, emotional, and academic needs of students; provision of smaller classes’ PPE, extra transportation; cleaning costs; and more. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund includes $35 billion for public colleges, public and private HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions to provide online learning and emergency grants to students. A Governors’ fund is allocated $5 billion to support education for areas that have been the hardest hit by COVID, from pre-K through higher education. In addition, $350 billion is made available for state and local fiscal relief, a portion of which may be used for education. Funds are provided for regular testing for teachers and students, per recommendations from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Unpacking the Invasion of the Capitol and the 117th Congress

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 Capitol, U.S. Flag, and Declaration of indeoendenceThe 117th Congress Begins

Members of the 117th Congress were sworn in on January 3. Just three days later, they faced the unimaginable trauma of a breach of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters disrupting the certification of the electoral votes that would confirm Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Despite the mayhem, chaos, and fear, after the Capitol was cleared, lawmakers went back to work and at 3 a.m. on January 7 confirmed the results of the election. Challenges to the electoral results by over 100 Republican Members of Congress were defeated, as both Republicans and Democrats—including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)—railed against the tactic.

Just days before the Capitol breach, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was voted in, once again, as the Speaker of the House—albeit by a narrow margin. The vote seals Pelosi in the record books as the first woman, and the first person in six decades, to regain the speaker’s gavel—now twice—after losing it.

The Financial Crossroad of Teacher Education

Teacher wearing mask in classroom

Administrators and faculty of educator preparation programs (EPPs) have long been concerned about the challenge of attracting students to a profession where college affordability and financial compensation discourages them from pursuing teaching as a career. However, due to the pandemic, the concern is growing. Our nation’s educational system is at a critical crossroad where teacher shortages and budget cuts are colliding. On one hand we have teachers who are retiring early amid health concerns or being furloughed, and on the other hand, we have EPPs with shrinking programs and enrollment. This is the perfect storm many education leaders have feared, and the impact will be acute if we do not find ways to encourage diverse and talented students to enter a career in education.

To start, we need to address the financial challenges that future educators face, including a high student loan debt to earnings ratio and lack of awareness of scholarships and loan forgiveness at the federal, state, and university levels. Recently, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) released the Issue Brief, How Do Education Students Pay for College?, based upon data from the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). According to the data, by the time education students graduate, 76% of them have taken student loans, and the average amount they borrow is nearly $28,000.

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