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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant

Congress Averts Debt Crisis for Now, New Resources for Educators

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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. 

Congress has been working hard this week, even though they are out of session. Negotiations on the reconciliation bill continue intensely behind the scenes, and next week promises to be action packed when they return.  

Default Averted: President Biden Signs into Law Short-Term Measure to Raise the Debt Ceiling

On Thursday, President Biden signed into a law a bill to raise the debt ceiling, averting a default on the nation’s financial obligations through at least December 3.  The House interrupted their scheduled recess and voted on the Senate passed measure earlier in the day. As you recall, last week the Senate passed the short-term debt ceiling extension with  a party line 50-48 vote–though 11 Republicans ultimately joined with Democrats to get the required 60 votes to overcome the legislative filibuster.

Congress Keeps Government Open, Confirms Department of Education Appointees

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. 

It’s been a tense week in Washington as a vote to save the nation from default hovered on the horizon. With a temporary solution in place, the rest of the year promises to be a continued set of cliff hangers.  

First Log Jam Broken in Congress—More to Come

Last week, President Biden signed into a law a Continuing Resolution to fund the government through December 3, thus avoiding a government shutdown. The stopgap measure was the first of four major pieces of legislation on Congress’s agenda. At the start of this week the other three—bi-partisan infrastructure, reconciliation, and legislation to raise the debt ceiling—remained in limbo. But, on Thursday evening 11 Senate Republicans joined with all Democrats to pass a short term solution  to the debt ceiling.

Congress Plows Forward on Complex Legislative Agenda

Education Funds Hanging in the Balance

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 Struggles to Move Forward

Since returning from the August recess Members of Congress have been scrambling to get four major pieces of legislation passed and ultimately to keep the government running. As you will recall, the big four are: a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, legislation to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the government from heading into default on its obligations, the bi-partisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill.  Last week we reported that the four trains appeared to be moving down the track and were poised to avoid a collision after all—this week, we’re on standby.

House Passes Stopgap Funding Bill and Reconciliation Gains Momentum

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.

Gavel in front of U.S. flagAs you will recall, after returning last week from the August recess Members of Congress were off to the races to get four major pieces of legislation passed and ultimately to keep the government running. The big four are the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the reconciliation bill, a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, and legislation to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the government from heading into default on its obligations. On Tuesday evening House Democrats took an initial step towards warding off a government shutdown, passing a short-term spending bill that would keep the government funded through early December and lift the limit on federal borrowing until after the midterm elections in 2022.

Congress Reconvenes with Lots at Stake for Education

Clock and American currency. Time is money 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.

Members of Congress are in a Race Against the Clock with Critical Deadlines Looming this Fall 

Members of Congress are in a race against the clock to get four major pieces of legislation passed and ultimately to keep the government running. The big four are the bi-partisan infrastructure bill, the reconciliation bill, a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, and legislation to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the government from heading into default on its obligations.

The first bill, the bi-partisan infrastructure bill, passed the Senate before the August recess. It is now up to the House to act. However, the bill’s progress is tied to the fate of the second bill—reconciliation (which is a Democrat only initiative)—which is described further below. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised Democrats that she will hold a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27. She also pledged to approve the partisan reconciliation bill—a $3.5 trillion plan for social programs (including education)—in conjunction with the bi-partisan infrastructure bill. By tying those two bills together she is hoping to keep her caucus on the same page, with both moderates and liberals supporting them both.

House Marks Up Proposed Build Back Better Act

Signing paperwork with a fountain paperwork. The image has added grain and styling.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 following is an interim update on the big development in the House this week—the Committee on Education and Labor’s markup of the long-awaited Reconciliation bill, which features significant investments in the educator workforce.  

The House Education and Labor Committee Begins Mark Up on Reconciliation Proposal 

As you will recall, several months ago President Biden proposed two significant investments in the nation’s infrastructure—both human and physical: the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The human infrastructure component is now being developed by Congress, in the form of a reconciliation bill. Yesterday, the House Education and Labor Committee began to mark up its portion of the reconciliation proposal. The 289 page proposal, with a $761 billion price tag—otherwise known as the Build Back Better Act—is part of the larger $3.5 trillion proposal.

As described by the Committee, the proposal would lower costs for families, secure good-paying jobs for American workers, and set a strong foundation of America’s children. The three major education programs in the bill include Universal Pre-K, Tuition-Free Community College, and Child Care.

Expect an Explosion of Work and Tight Timeline in September

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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.

Here is what to keep on your radar for Congress’s return to work in mid-September:

Passage of a Continuing Resolution (CR)

Passage of a CR would prevent a government shutdown on September 30 when the current fiscal year expires. While there has been movement in the House and the Senate on FY 2022 appropriations bills, it is impossible that they could all be completed by the September 30 deadline. Thus, a temporary extension of current funding levels will be on the agenda. The dicey political aspect of this is that Senate Democrats may attach the “must pass” debt ceiling limit extension to this bill, putting Republicans in a difficult spot. In recent times Republicans have balked at increasing the cap on the debt limit demanding spending cuts in exchange for their votes. The high wire act here is that a government shutdown is at stake if the bill is not passed by September 30. Who will blink first?

Action on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

If the Senate has passed the bill before they adjourn, all eyes will be on the House. Politically, the bill is in a vise with Democrats seeking to ensure that their own members will hang tight for the next move after this bill passes—which will be the Democrats-only reconciliation bill. Democratic leadership, particularly in the House, has pledged not to move this bill unless the reconciliation bill (see below), is moved simultaneously. At the heart of this is Senate Democrats holding all 50 members—from the liberal and the conservative wings of the party–together to support the reconciliation bill. Without all 50 members, the bill would fail, as no Republicans are likely to support it. Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) believes that tying the two bills together (bipartisan infrastructure and partisan reconciliation), she will ensure the 50 Democratic votes needed in the Senate, as well as her own Democratic caucus, which also holds a slim majority. Her fear is that some Democrats in the Senate may bail after the bipartisan bill is passed. So, the fate of these two is intertwined in the politics of a closely divided Congress.

Momentum in Congress Pushes Funding and Infrastructure Bills Forward

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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.  

This week, Members of the House of Representatives completed debate on a seven-bill appropriations package, which includes the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. As you will recall, the bill includes a 41% increase for the Department of Education, bringing the total to $102.8 billion. 

Nearly 200 amendments were filed to the FY2022 Labor-HHS Education bill with 15 education amendments taken up for debate. Three of the amendments added relatively small amounts of funding to programs, but these increases were offset by equal or larger cuts to Departmental Management.  The result of the combined amendments cuts the total Department of Education funding by less $89,000. The funding changes include

Congress on a Mad Dash Before August Recess

U.S. currency under graduation cap

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.  

It’s hard to believe we are already approaching the end of July. Congress is feeling the pressure, like the night before your paper is due and you haven’t started it yet. 

House Committee Appropriations Bill Delivers Home Run for Ed Prep

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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. 

It’s been a week for celebration for education advocates. The House Appropriations Committee delivered on President’ Biden’s goal of a 41% increase for education for next year.  This unprecedented investment is beyond gratifying. It feels like the decades of advocating that we have all been engaged in has really paid off! We still have a long way to go, but we are out of the gate with great momentum!

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY2022 Education Spending Bill

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The Committee voted in favor of the bill by vote of 33 to 25,  a party line vote. No substantial amendments were made to any education provisions during the full committee markup.

Washington Update: Education Spending Bill and Changes to TEACH Grants

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House Appropriations Committee Set to Move on Education Spending Bill

While many Members of the Senate traveled home this week for a scheduled state work period, Members of the House of Representatives kept things moving on Capitol Hill setting funding levels for the FY2022 appropriations bills.

The House Appropriations Committee voted on allocations for each of the FY2022 appropriations measures which are moving through the House with hopes of meeting the September 30 deadline. Referred to as 302(b) allocations—these numbers reflect how much money is available for each of the 12 appropriations bills. Essentially, this is the House Democrats’ opening offer for proposed funding levels for FY2022. The Senate has not yet taken a position on 302(b) allocations for their versions of the bills and that could delay movement down the road.

Turning a Crisis into an Opportunity to Invest in Teachers

Teachers and staff from UCLA Community School meet with UCLA professors to discuss the various research projects happening at the school.

“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Rahm Emanuel, Former Mayor of Chicago

In the past year, our nation’s educational system faced an epic crisis brought about by the pandemic, leaving education leaders wondering when relief would be in sight. That relief arrived on March 11, 2021, when the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) was passed by Congress, allocating approximately $130 billion for the K-12 education system and nearly $40 billion for the higher education system. As the Biden-Harris administration launches into action with the massive rollout of unprecedented education funding, school districts now have the financial resources and the opportunity to collaborate with educator preparation programs (EPPs) to tackle a long-standing crisis—the shortage of professionally qualified educators.

Congress Faces Packed Summer Agenda

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 Will Sprint to the Fall with a Packed July Agenda

Rotunda, US Capitol Dome Statues Inside Washington DC  Painted by Constantino Burundi 1865  Resubmit--In response to comments from reviewer have further processed image to reduce noise, sharpen focus and adjust lighting.As we head into the final week of June, Congress is poised for an intense July. Between the upcoming July 4 recess and the coveted month-long August recess, there are only a few legislative weeks in which to complete action on critical measures to keep the wheels of the federal government in motion. This week, the House began marking up the first two (of 12 in total) appropriations bills. Many insiders report that the House is on track to pass most, if not all, of the appropriations bills in July. But the Senate is still lagging well behind with no set plans for markups or floor consideration. However, the markups and floor considerations of appropriations bills are just one piece of the larger, more complicated summer Congressional agenda.

Congress Moves Forward on Education Funding for FY 2022

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.  

Congress Cranks into Gear to Move Budget and Appropriations Bills 

This week, education advocates were pleased to learn that the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee in the House will be marking up their FY 2022 spending bill on July 12.  This represents the first significant move toward the September 30 finish line when new funding levels need to be determined.  Education advocates are holding their breath, hoping to see the massive education spending investments requested by President Biden reflected in the House bill. His request includes a 41% increase for the Department of Education and significant new investments to address issues in the teacher pipeline, including unprecedented increases in funding for educator preparation programs.

Lawmakers Continue to Politicize Teaching About Racism

Poster like illustration about Black and White race relations using words and icons as design elements to show some of the issues that arise when racial harmony or discord are discussed.

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 Attack on Critical Race Theory Continues 

In a Washington Update last month, we offered a distressing summary of how the teaching of our nation’s racial history has been thrown into the heart of the political arena. Unfortunately, the trend is continuing and gaining traction. Last week, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee,  announced her support for two bills intended to block the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools. This week Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced a resolution condemning the use of critical race theory in K-12 schools and teacher preparation programs. “Critical race theory has no place in American schools,” Blackburn said in a statement. “This resolution is an important step to prevent the far left from pushing their radical political agenda in our classrooms.”

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