This week, the House of Representatives passed an omnibus appropriations bill, which included the funding for the Department of Education. The omnibus bill included seven spending bills; generally, the House and Senate prefer to pass the 12 appropriations bills, which largely fund the federal government, individually. However, a congested legislative calendar caused this course of action.
The omnibus bill proposes a 41% increase for the Department of Education, an unprecedented boast in spending. It also recommends significantly increasing the funding for many of the programs AACTE supports.
The Senate has not started its work on its appropriations bills and it is unclear if senators will support the funding increases provided for by the House. The annual spending bills must be signed into law by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. However, because the process is far behind schedule, Congress will likely pass a continuing resolution before then, which will fund the government at current levels (another option is to pass neither the appropriations bill nor a continuing resolution and allow the government to shut down, but that is unappealing to most members of congress).
Registration for AACTE’s second virtual Day on the Hill is now open. Day on the Hill is the Association’s premiere advocacy event and provides AACTE members with the opportunity to engage directly with their Members of Congress about the importance of teacher preparation and related legislation. Advocacy training sessions will take place September 21-22, and virtual congressional visits will be held September 23.
Earlier this year, AACTE reconstituted the Higher Education Task Force. The task force, which was previously led by AACTE, will share information about the policy work underway in the teacher preparation world with our higher education colleagues and inform Congress and other key officials about important developments related to the field. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the change of administrations and other factors, the task force was dormant for a short time. But AACTE’s colleagues eagerly accepted our invitation to rejoin.
Task force participants are from the major associations of higher education, whose members are presidents of institutions of higher education. Members include the American Council on Education (ACE), American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and UNCF.
AACTE will close its offices tomorrow in recognition of Juneteenth, which honors the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to enforce the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Until that day, June 19, 1865, Black men, women, and children in Texas remained enslaved, despite the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth, as named by the newly freed citizens, is celebrated annually on June 19. Congress voted this week to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
AACTE staff pauses its work to reflect on the violence, including murder, that our Black, Latinx, Native American, Asian-American Pacific-Islander, and Transgendered populations are particularly experiencing, in addition to the long history of violence against these groups of people. AACTE condemns, in the strongest terms, this violence and invites all its colleagues to work together to create a society in which no one should fear for their lives based on the color of their skin or gender identity.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation, endorsed by AACTE—the Rural STEM Education Research Act (HR 210.) The legislation supports research and development to increase access to STEM education opportunities in rural schools and to provide teachers with the resources they need to teach more effectively.
The bill also directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a prize competition to advance research and development of creative technologies for expanded broadband access. This bill further provides for assessments of Federal investments in rural STEM education to be conducted by the National Academies and the Government Accountability Office. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and passed the House with bipartisan support. It is unclear if the Senate will approve the bill.
President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) in March, which includes $122 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. The ARP ESSER funds are intended to help state educational agencies and school districts safely reopen and address the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s students. AACTE has developed the Educating the Future, Today toolkit to help members navigate conversations with state or local education leaders, encouraging them to use ESSER funds to staff classrooms with teacher candidates.
These funds provide a unique opportunity for school districts and educator preparation programs to address the teacher pipeline. As the U.S. Department of Education’s noted in its COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs, ARP ESSER funds can be used to staff classrooms with teacher candidates, thereby providing them with practical experience while helping alleviate the challenges teachers are encountering with the transition back to in person teaching.
To effectively amplify the voice of members to policy makers to better help them understand what is happening in the field and offer sound policy recommendations, AACTE partners with other organizations to highlight the importance of certain issues.
For example, AACTE is a member of the Committee for Education Funding (CEF). CEF was founded in 1969 with the goal of achieving adequate federal financial support for our nation’s educational system. The coalition is a voluntary, nonprofit, and nonpartisan group. AACTE is one of more than 100 member organizations that represent the full spectrum of education—early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, higher education, adult and career education, and educational enhancements such as libraries and museums. CEF’s current campaign is “5 Cents Makes Sense,” which calls for 5 cents of every federal dollar to be spent on education. The campaign’s official hashtag is #5Cents4EdFunding.
Through AACTE’s conferences, meetings, surveys, and even informal conversations, AACTE staff members stay well informed about the successes and challenges of your educator preparation programs (EPPs). The government relations team is particularly attuned to the challenges where the federal government can play an important role in contributing to solutions and is in regular touch with members of congress and their staffers. AACTE provides input into legislative proposals, offering feedback as to why a provision may or may not be effective and providing information from you about current trends—including the impact of the transition to remote teaching because of COVID-19, ongoing racial injustice, declining enrollment in EPPs, the cost of college, and financial challenges future educators will face.
AACTE is an amplifying voice between you, members who are doing the important work in the field, and policy makers, who need to understand what is happening in the field to offer sound policy recommendations. Recently, President Biden announced the American Families Plan, which includes an unprecedented $9 billion to help address our nation’s teacher shortage. The plan calls for, among other things, doubling the annual amount of TEACH grants from $4,000 to $8,000 per year; $2.8 billion for year-long, paid teacher residency programs and Grow Your Own programs; $400 million for teacher preparation at minority-serving institutions (MSIs); $900 million for the preparation of new special educators; $1.6 billion for educators to obtain additional certifications in high-demand fields such as special education and bilingual education; and $2 billion to support the development of teachers as leaders and high-quality mentorship programs for new teachers and teachers of color.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act in 2013, we have seen several states pass legislation that makes it more difficult for certain populations to register to vote and/or cast their ballot. Many of these bills disproportionately impact communities of color and/or low-income voters. This effort has intensified in 2021.
According to one count, as of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. The various pieces of legislation relate to making voter registration more onerous, allowing local elections officials purge voter rolls, limiting early, in-person voting, and/or tightening voter identification requirements, among other things (there are a handful of states that are trying to make it easier for those of voting age to legally register and cast their ballots).
Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action
President Biden recently signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which includes $122 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. These funds are provided to state educational agencies and school districts to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students.
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced how much each state will receive through ARP ESSER and that the funds will be available for use through September 2023. The ARP ESSER funds are designed to help alleviate some of the challenges school district leaders face to “hire, recruit, and retain quality staff during severe labor market shortages while providing supplemental emergency benefits and compensation during the pandemic.”
AACTE encourages our members to collaborate with their local partner districts to allocate the ARP ESSER funds towards strengthening the educator workforce by supporting residency models, grow-your-own programs, and other innovative approaches to develop a pathway into teaching. Increasing financial support for teacher candidates is critical to developing and sustaining a diverse, profession-ready teacher workforce. Funding to support teacher candidates could be in place by as early as this fall to assist schools as they fully re-open and to help children overcome learning loss due to the pandemic.
AACTE today expressed its appreciation to Congress for passing the American Rescue Plan Act. The legislation was passed to help the nation recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation and the world. The Act includes funding to support schools and colleges in creating safe learning environments to enable P-12 students and teachers to successfully return to face-to-face instruction as soon as possible. President Biden is expected to sign the Act into law.
While there are calls to immediately open schools and colleges, teachers and others are hesitant to return unless their safety can be assured. AACTE believes this legislation is critical to helping the nation’s schools to do just that—reopen safely.
With the new administration at work and a new congress well underway, the need for AACTE and its members to engage with their elected officials is as important as ever. The existing shortfall of highly trained educators has been exacerbated by COVID-19. According to one study, prior to the pandemic, 100,000 classrooms in the United States were staffed by instructors who were unqualified for their jobs; in one month alone, 469,000 public school district personnel nationally lost their jobs and roughly 27% of teachers say they are considering leaving their job, retiring early, or taking a leave of absence because of the pandemic. Congress must understand the consequences of the shortage and what needs to be done to address it.
Your voice is key to educating lawmakers.
The Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy, one of AACTE’s standing committees, is hosting a session during the AACTE Annual Meeting to educate attendees about President Biden’s priorities for education and the composition of Congress and legislation it may consider. The session will also focus on AACTE’s legislative priorities, as well as strategies to move them forward. The committee will also share how to use your voice and share your experience with your elected officials.
Do you have questions about this session? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The events of January 6 shocked the nation. We witnessed a challenge to our democracy that none of us could ever have imagined.
Just days before, senators and representatives were peacefully sworn in to the 117th Congress. On Wednesday, the joint session of the United States Congress was just beginning to count the electoral college votes for president and vice president when rioters stormed into the United States Capital, one of the nation’s most treasured buildings.
Fortunately, order was eventually established, and the joint session continued its work. This was the final step before Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in as the U.S. president and vice president, respectively, on January 20. It also means that Democrats will control the House of Representatives, Senate and White House and give them significant leverage to implement their legislative priorities.
What does all this mean for AACTE, its members, and the students they work with?
Not many of us will shed a tear now that 2020 is behind us. The outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in a long and difficult year for students, families, schools, and colleges. Virtually, no part of our nation (or the world) was untouched. But with the start of 2021, we hope that the worst is behind us.
The country will see a new congress sworn in on January 3 and, on January 20, Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the 46th president and vice-president of the United States of America.
Despite 2020 being in our rear-view mirror, the challenges we face due to COVID-19, the related economic collapse, and a politically divided country remain.