Author Archive

Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant

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.

Who are the Candidates for the Biden Secretary of Education?

Welcome to Washington’s “end of the semester” sprint. Will that FY 2021 spending bill cross the finish line by the end of the year or be pushed into next year for the new Congress to grapple with?  Will the President refuse to sign the bill and cause a government shutdown? Will there be another COVID relief bill any time soon? And how about the Biden Secretary of Education?

Congress Punts FY 2021 Funding Bill and COVID Relief Package until Next Week

They say there is nothing that focuses the mind like a deadline. In Washington, that means moving the deadline to the edge of the cliff before acting. This week, the House and Senate agreed to extend the December 11 deadline for funding the government to next Friday, December 18, giving them an additional week to negotiate and finalize the $1.4 trillion bill.  President Trump is expected to sign the bill, called a continuing resolution, but he is a hard one to predict. 

Consensus on a bi-partisan COVID relief bill seems to be growing on one day and shrinking the next. Many appear hopeful that another week could bring them to closure so that the COVID relief bill and the FY 2021 spending bill could be packaged together and delivered to the White House as an early Christmas present.  There could also be a further extension of the deadline, even through Christmas. Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) has said she is not leaving town without a deal on both. 

AACTE Sends Policy Priorities to Biden-Harris Education Transition Team

Hand writing Policy List with red markerThe nation’s transition to the 46th presidential administration are underway. AACTE provided the Biden-Harris Administration’s Education Transition Team with its policy priorities for the coming year. Much of AACTE’s priorities stem from its advocacy throughout the year to increase the federal investment in education in PK-20, with a specific focus on recruiting and sustaining candidates in its education preparation programs.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, educator preparation stands at a dangerous crossroad. The college and university programs that prepare our teachers, principals, school counselors, and other essential education professionals are experiencing a debilitating wave of closures and faculty layoffs.

IDEA45: The Personnel Who Deliver the Promise

45th Anniversary of IDEA

Jane WestThis article originally appeared on the Department of Education website and is reprinted with permission.

I began my journey as a special educator in 1973. My first job was as a paraprofessional for students with emotional disturbance. The program was intended to transition students who had been in psychiatric hospitals back into public school. Our classroom was housed in a trailer on the playground of an elementary school in the Bronx.

Fresh out of college with a degree in literature, I was very keen on poetry. With the support of the teacher in charge of my class, I developed a curriculum on poetry. Much to my delight, the students were all in. They wrote some magnificent poems. Shortly after we finished the unit, the principal announced a school wide poetry contest. Elated, I met with him and provided the students’ work for submission to the contest. After looking at the poems briefly, he returned them to me saying, “There is no way those students could have written those poems.” I was devastated.

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.

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