Washington Update by Jane West

Washington Update by Jane West

March 9, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

It’s been busy in Washington for the last two weeks.  An early case of March Madness!

1. Appropriations – March 23 Deadline Looms

March 23 is the deadline for the Congress to complete action on all 12 FY 2018 appropriations bills. (Note that fiscal year 2018 is half over!)  News continues to dribble out about how the money will be distributed between the 12 appropriations bills.  Not surprising, the Labor/HHS/Education bill seems to be the most difficult one to finalize, because:

1) it includes more money than any of the other bills;

2) it has to include much of the new spending required by the budget agreement, such as  $3   billion to address the opioid crisis and $2 billion to address college cost and access to higher ed;

3) it is a magnet for controversial policy riders such as abortion-related provisions; and

4) last,but not least, CHIMPS.

“What in the heck are CHIMPS?” you might ask!  Well suffice it to say CHIMPS are a strategy used by funders to increase discretionary spending. CHIMPS stands for Changes in Mandatory Programs and means that new funds can be generated for other spending when mandatory programs are rescinded, delayed or otherwise limited.  Republicans are reported to have demanded that CHIMP savings be limited to $14 billion for all the bills-- $5.1 billion less than in 2017.   The Labor/HHS/Education bill is being asked to absorb most of the reduction which, when added to the new required spending noted above, would not leave much for other programs.

So, bottom line – the additional funds we thought we might have for education programs may be evaporating.  But we don’t really know for sure.  The House has indicated that it may bring up the bill – called an Omnibus – which would include all 12 appropriations bills (Labor/HHS/Education too)—early next week.   Another possibility is that they include 11 bills in the Omnibus and leave the Labor/HHS/Education bill for later. This is generally not a good scenario, as there is little bargaining to be done within the confines of the one bill.  Another possibility is that the Labor/HHS/Education funding bill becomes yet another continuing resolution – meaning most accounts are the same as they were in FY 2017, or flat funding.  But how the new budget agreement would affect such a CR is a big question, and repeated CR’s are generally disliked by everyone.

Complicating this situation further is the fact that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) announced that he will leave Congress on April 1 after 40 years in office.  He cited health challenges.  He is the 10th longest serving Senator in the history of the Senate.  It is likely that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) would serve as interim chair.  A few weeks ago House Appropriations Committee chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) announced his upcoming retirement.

And Congress is scheduled to go out on a week-long spring recess beginning Monday March 25 – the Monday after the Friday, March 23 deadline for the spending bill.  Members of Congress will be eager to get back to their districts (remember, election year!), so this motivation  may take it over the finish line.

Meanwhile the FY 2019 appropriations process is underway.  On March 20, Sec.  DeVos  is tentatively scheduled to testify about the President’s budget proposal to the House Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations.

To become an expert on CHIMPS:  https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-budget/restricting-use-of-chimp-savings-would-backtrack-on-bipartisan-budget-deal


2. Legislators Struggle to Respond to the Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida

While no bills are on the docket for consideration related to gun control or strengthening background checks, at least two are gaining traction in relation to potential school resources.  In addition, several Members of Congress are requesting additional funds for programs which could provide school based safety and mental health services and the Senate has scheduled a hearing on the Parkland shooting.

Two key bills which educators are keeping an eye on are:

  • THE STOP School Violence Act of 2018 (HR 4909) (S. 2495)
    • A bi-partisan bill introduced by Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL), Rep. Ted Deutch ( D-FL), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY); the bill now has 71 cosponsors – Republican and Democrat
    • The bill may come up on the floor for a vote in the House next week
    • The Senate has introduced  a companion bill led by Sen. Hatch (R-UT) and Klobachar (D-MN), with multiple bipartisan co-sponsors including Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) who has been outspoken since the Sandy Hook massacre
    • The bill authorizes funds in the Department of Justice to provide grants to states to support schools in providing evidence-based programs that prevent violence before it happens
    • Advocates have raised some concerns about the bills related to the potential use of funds by private as well as public schools and how due process will be ensured for students.
  • The School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act (Senate – no bill number yet)
    • Led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate HELP Committee, and co-sponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.),Todd Young (R-Ind.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL),  and several other Republicans;
    • Amends Title II and IV of ESSA to broaden the use of funds for school safety and violence prevention; directs the Sec. of Education to create a School Safety and Violence Prevention National Technical Assistance Center; reauthorizes and updates the Children and Violence program of the Public Health Service Act; authorizes the Secretary of HHS to conduct new students on children at risk of developing mental illness; creates a Presidential l Interagency Task Force to improve school safety and prevent school violence.
    • One concern raised by educators about this bill is that it authorizes infrastructure expenditures with ESSA funds (such as metal detectors) when ESSA funds are already spread too thin.
    • It is rumored that there may be an effort to attach this bill to the omnibus spending bill

In the House, Chair of the Ed and Workforce Committee Virginia Foxx (R-NC) along with ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) have asked appropriators to increase funding for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants authorized under ESSA to the authorized level of $1.6 billion.  The program is currently funded at $400 million.  In the Senate, 30 Senators have submitted a letter to appropriators urging “the highest possible level” of funding for the program in the FY 2018 funding bill.  This program can be used to provide support services for students and teachers.

Finally, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), has scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday titled  "See Something, Say Something: Oversight of the Parkland Shooting and Legislative Proposals to Improve School Safety."

For Sen. Alexander’s bill see:  https://www.wate.com/news/tennessee/sen-lamar-alexander-introduces-school-safety-bill-to-senate-floor/1018010302

For the Senate STOP Act see:  https://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/releases?ID=88C4B2FD-F3DE-4DEB-A018-B91483D285BB

For House STOP Act: https://rutherford.house.gov/media/press-releases/congressman-john-rutherford-announces-bipartisan-stop-school-violence-act

For Senate Hearing:  https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/see-something-say-something-oversight-of-the-parkland-shooting-and-legislative-proposals-to-improve-school-safety


3. Higher Ed Reauthorization: House Bill Criticized by Department of Education Inspector General

The PROSPER Act, the House Republican reauthorization bill, awaits time on the House floor for consideration.  But every week there seems to be new criticism which will likely lessen the probability of it finding a slot on a crowded agenda.  This week the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Education wrote a letter concluding that the bill would eliminate provisions of the law that are meant to hold colleges accountable for the taxpayer dollars they receive.

The letter notes:

“Innovations to modes of delivery of education through distance education, direct assessment, and competency-based education that may improve access to and more-timely completion of postsecondary education each present a new challenge to comply with statutory requirements while ensuring a cost-effective quality education to justify the Federal investment. Oversight of the programs by the Department continues to be a significant management challenge reported by my office, and reliance on accrediting agencies and states for oversight in their roles defined by the HEA has not always been effective to protect students and taxpayers.”

Letter from OIG:  https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/misc/lettertocongressonoighearecommendationsmarch2018.pdf


4. Voucher Bill for Military Families Introduced

Impact Aid is a $1.3 billion program which provides funds to support public schools where a tax base is limited due to a military base, Native American Reservation or national park.  Bills have been introduced in the House (HR 5199 by Rep. Jim Banks R-Ind) and in the Senate (S 2517 by Sen. Tim Scott R-SC and Sen. Ben Sasses R-Neb) which would allow funds to be used for military families in Education Savings Accounts which would pay for private school tuition.  Groups such as the national Military Family Association oppose the bills. Sec. DeVos has indicated support for the bills, which were based on a Heritage Foundation proposal.

See:  https://www.sasse.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=EF535D19-86ED-44FE-82F0-660536D406A2


5. Department of Education Releases Final Priorities for Discretionary Grant Programs

On March 2, Sec. DeVos issued her final priorities for discretionary programs.  The determination of such priorities is standard procedure for Secretaries of Education intended to promote the policy goals of the Administration.  Not surprisingly school choice is on Sec. DeVos’s list.

Last Fall the Secretary proposed 11 priorities and sought comment from the field.  The final list includes the proposed 11 altered slightly.

Those priorities are:

-Empowering Families and Individuals to Choose a High-Quality Education that Meets Their Unique Needs
-Promoting Innovation and Efficiency, Streamlining Education with an Increased Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, and Providing Increased Value to Students and Taxpayers
-Fostering Flexible and Affordable Paths to Obtaining Knowledge and Skills
-Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens
-Meeting the Unique Needs of Students and Children with Disabilities and/or those with Unique Gifts and Talents
-Promoting STEM Education, With a Particular Focus on Computer Science
-Promoting Literacy
-Promoting Effective Instruction in Classrooms and Schools
-Promoting Economic Opportunity
-Protecting Freedom of Speech and Encouraging Respectful Interactions in a Safe Educational Environment
-Ensuring that Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational Options

For the announcement of priorities:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2018-04291.pdf?utm_campaign=pi%20subscription%20mailing%20list&utm_source=federalregister.gov&utm_medium=email\


6. Secretary DeVos Proposes Postponing IDEA Disproportionality Regulation

The Obama Administration wrote an IDEA regulation, known as “significant disproportionality,” intended to address the overrepresentation of minority students in special education and discriminatory practices in relation to placement and school discipline. The regulation, in response to a GAO report, created standard metrics for states to use in determining disproportionality.  Historically states have used different methodologies and few have been flagged for disproportionality.  Sec. DeVos proposed delaying the implementation of the rule for two years (from 2018 to 2020) for K-12 students and for four years(from 2018 TO 2022) for students ages 3-5 served by IDEA Part C.  The federal register notice indicates that several concerns have been raised about the regulation.  It notes:

“A number of commenters suggested, for example, that the Department lacks the statutory authority under IDEA to require States to use a standard methodology, pointing out as well that the Department's previous position, adopted in the 2006 regulations implementing the 2004 amendments to IDEA, was that States are in the best position to evaluate factors affecting determinations of significant disproportionality.

Similarly, one detailed comment expressed concern that the standard methodology improperly looks at group outcomes through statistical measures rather than focusing on what is at the foundation of IDEA, namely the needs of each individual child and on the appropriateness of individual identifications, placements, or discipline. Further, a number of commenters suggested that the standard methodology would provide incentives to LEAs to establish numerical quotas on the number of children who can be identified as children with disabilities, assigned to certain classroom placements, or disciplined in certain ways.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) issued a statement blasting the proposal.  Sen. Murray said that Sec. DeVos “"made it clear in her confirmation hearing that she didn't understand an important federal law protecting students with disabilities, and this latest move shows that she hasn't made much progress since,"  Rep. Scott noted "Clearly, leaving ... significant disproportionality unregulated has done a disservice to millions of students of color with disabilities and exacerbated the 'school to prison pipeline. We cannot continue to ignore these disparities."

The Department of Education is asking for comments on the proposal.  They are due May 14 and may be submitted following the directions noted in the federal register below.

See:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/02/27/2018-04102/assistance-to-states-for-the-education-of-children-with-disabilities-preschool-grants-for-children



7. New  Resources for Educators

  • The Education Trust has issued Funding Gaps 2018 An Analysis of School Funding Equity Across the US and within Each State.  School districts serving the most minority students receive about $1800, or 13%, less per student in state and local funding than those serving the fewest students of color.See: https://edtrust.org/resource/funding-gaps-2018/
  • Bellwether Education Partners has issued Women in the Education Workforce: The Impact of State Teacher Pension Systems on Women’s Retirement a nonprofit, is out with new analyses that find that female educators earn lower salaries than their male counterparts throughout their working careers, which in turn leads to lower retirement benefits. See: https://www.teacherpensions.org/resource/women-education-workforce-impact
  • The Century Foundation issued The Future of Statewide College Promise Programs noting that at least 16 states have statewide free or debt-free college programs.   See: https://tcf.org/content/report/future-statewide-college-promise-programs/
  • The First Five Years Fund is out with Early Learning in State ESSA Plans: How States are Using the Law which describes state efforts to support early learning using ESSA.See: https://ffyf.org/resources/early-learning-state-essa-plans-states-using-law/
  • New Leaders issued a policy brief Prioritizing Leadership: An Analysis of State ESSA Plans.  It found that:
    • 24 states plan to use the new 3 percent set-aside for school leadership
    • 41 states acknowledge leadership in their plans to improve high-need schools
    • 36 states intend to invest in teacher leadership
    • 21 states are expanding high-quality principal preparation programs
    • 11 states are rethinking and investing in principal supervisors

See:  https://newleaders.org/press/new-leaders-releases-policy-brief-state-essa-plans/

  • The Education Commission of the States issued an analysis Governors’ Top Education Priorities in 2018 State of the State Addresses which considers priorities governors laid out in their state of the state addresses this year.

See: https://www.ecs.org/governors-top-education-priorities-in-2018-state-of-the-state-addresses/.

  • The National Association of Charter School Authorizers issued Leadership Commitment Judgement Elements of Successful Charter School Authorizing considering what it takes to be a high quality authorizer. See: https://www.qualitycharters.org/research/quality-practice-project/
  • The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools issued Key Trends in Special Education in Charter Schools:  A Secondary Analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection 2013-2014 reporting that charter schools tend to serve students with disabilities in more inclusive settings.

See:  https://www.ncsecs.org/crdc-analysis-13-14

  • The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) and the College & Career Readiness &   Success (CCRS) Center issued a new policy brief How ESSA and IDEA Can Support College and Career Readiness for Students With Disabilities: Considerations for States. See: https://www.ncsecs.org/crdc-analysis-13-14
  • The National Center on Learning Disabilities and Understood.org have developed an Endrew F. Advocacy Toolkit providing practical tips for developing an IEP that leads to success for students with learning and attention issues.  The tool kit includes information from last year’s Supreme Court case Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District which held that IDEA “requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

See: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/your-childs-rights/basics-about-childs-rights/download-endrew-f-advocacy-toolkit

I’ll be in Boston next Friday visiting my best friend – since 6th grade! (There is nothing like such friends who knew you before you were fully formed.  They are real treasures.)  Next Washington Update will be March 23. I sure hope I’ll be reporting on a completed FY 2018 funding bill with lots of increases for education!  J

See you on twitter  @janewestdc




February 23, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Like you I’m sure, I am overwhelmed by the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  But likewise, I am so encouraged by the leadership and activism of the amazing students there.  There is a lot of talk about meaningful policy change in Washington with a range of ideas being floated.  An analysis of the various proposals is beyond the scope of this blog, but I fully anticipate (and hope) that this dialogue will be reflected in a constructive manner in multiple venues – through funding and appropriations as well as education-related bills.  I will do my best to keep you posted.  In the meantime, lead on Douglas students, lead on!

1. FY 2018 Appropriations:  Will the March 23 Deadline be Met?

Despite the fact that we are almost 5 months through the 2018 Fiscal Year, the Congress has one month --  until March 23 -- to finalize spending that will take us to September 30.  October 1 is the start of the FY 2019.

With the budget deal cut to raise the spending levels for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending, the next step is to divvy up the pie between the 12 appropriations bills.  Education advocates are urging that the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill receive its fair share.  This is critical for retaining and possibly increasing funding for education programs.  But so far these 12 allocations appear to be undetermined, or at best a mystery.

With Congress in recess this week, little activity was apparent.  They return on Monday, so hopefully there will be new developments.


2. Higher Education Reauthorization Update

Today is the deadline for the submission of recommendations to the Senate HELP Committee regarding proposals for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  This bi-partisan request from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is a hopeful sign for the possibility of a bi-partisan bill.  Virtually every education organization in Washington will be providing comments.  Below is some information from a few of the letters submitted.

From the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education and the Teacher Education Division of CEC:

The Higher Education Act and the Teacher Shortage

HECSE and TED have become increasingly alarmed about the shortage of teachers, particularly special education teachers, in recent years. One of the all too common responses to the shortage in states has been to lower the standards for entry into the profession. Given the results noted above for students with disabilities, we know that lowering the bar for teachers will not bring us the student outcomes needed in PK-12 for students with disabilities to move successfully into higher education and eventually into the workforce. Teachers need strong preparation in order to learn evidence-based strategies, such as how to provide multi-tiered systems of support, positive behavioral interventions and supports and universal design for learning. These are not skills that are learned on the fly. HECSE and TED want to draw a straight line between student outcomes and teacher preparation.

A recently released report concluded: “Evidence shows that underprepared, out-of-field, and substitute teachers typically depress student achievement and have higher attrition rates...Research has found that special education training significantly improves teachers’ capacity to effectively teach students with special needs.” (Learning Policy Institute, 2017)

We are compelled by the following facts:

  • Special education is the field with the greatest teacher shortage with 48 states and DC reporting shortages.
  • Those prepared through alternate pathways with less coursework and student teaching are 25% more likely to leave their schools and the profession than those who are well prepared.
  • Teacher preparation program enrollment is down 35% in the last  years (Learning Policy Institute, 2017).

The Higher Education Act plays a critical role in attracting and retaining teachers into the profession, particularly those in high need fields such as special education.

Many organizations concerned about the teaching profession converge on a similar set of recommendations in their letters.  For example, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE),  HECSE, and TED all recommend:

  • Continuing and strengthening loan forgiveness programs for teachers including the Stafford Loan Forgiveness for Teachers, Direct Loan Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and Loan Forgiveness in Areas of National Need (note: they would be eliminated in the House Republican reauthorization bill, the PROSPER Act)
  • Strengthening and continuing TEACH grants for prospective teachers (note: they would be eliminated in the PRPOSPER Act)
  • Strengthening and continuing the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants in Title II (note: they would be eliminated in the PROSPER Act)

The question as to whether we will actually see a reauthorization bill from the Committee remains.  Time will tell.


3. New Resources for Educators

My daffodils are peeking up – about 3 inches and unstoppable at this point.  Always a thrill, though tempered by the memory that this used to happen in mid-March!

I will be participating in AACTE’s annual convening next week.  Hope to see you there.  Look for the next Washington Update on March 9.

See you on twitter @janewestdc




February 15, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

I write this with a heavy heart as we again live through another tragic school shooting.  Like you, I will do all I can to urge our policy makers to step up here.  This has got to stop.

News from Washington is below.

1. The New Budget Deal – Good News for Education!

Last week, Congress finally came together to pass a massive bi-partisan budget deal that paves the way for possible increases, or at least fewer cuts, for education.   But there is more work to be done!

What you need to know:

  • The deal includes a temporary funding patch until March 23, giving Congress time to put together the final spending bill for FY 2018.
  • The budget agreement waives the sequester requirements for two years (note they are left in place for 2020 and 2021) and lifts the budget spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending.
  • The new budget spending cap for defense has risen to $700 billion for FY 2018, about a 10% increase over current levels.
  • The new budget caps for NDD spending (which includes education) are $579 billion ($63 billion above sequester level) for FY 2018 and $597 billion for FY 2019 (also $63 billion above sequester level)
  • The following spending will be required in the new funding bills moving forward:
    • $3 billion to address the opioid crisis
    • $2 billion for veterans
    • $10 billion for infrastructure
    • $2 billion to address college cost and access for higher education
    • $2.9 billion on child care
  • Emergency funding for hurricane affected areas is included including $2.7 billion to the Department of Education to address hurricane education recovery expenses
  • Also included in the bill is a provision to raise the debt ceiling, the government’s borrowing limit, that runs through March, 2019 – past the November 2018 election.

The next step for legislators is to divvy up the new pot of funds between the 12 appropriations bills – these are known as “302(b)” allocations.  The subcommittee which funds education, the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations subcommittee, will be fighting for its fair share and education advocates are actively weighing in.   Even after the subcommittee receives its allocation, funds will need to be distributed for programs beyond education – including the National institutes of Health, always a bipartisan priority for increases.  In addition, some of the funds noted above as required will come out of this bill, such as money to address college cost and the opioid crisis.  There will be a lot of advocacy underway in the next few weeks with education advocates making their case for their favorite programs.

See: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/08/politics/budget-vote-congress-shutdown/index.html

See: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/us/politics/congress-budget-deal-vote.html


2. President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Proposal

On Tuesday, the Trump Administration issued their FY 2019 budget proposal.  As the proposal did last year, it recommends new spending for choice programs and eliminates or shrinks multiple existing programs – this year a total of 39.  Overall, the proposal recommends $63.2 billion in discretionary funds, a 5% or $3.6 billion decrease below the FY 2017 level.

Key aspects of the proposal include the following:

  • Expanded choice
    • A new $1 billion Opportunity Grants programs whereby states could apply for funding for scholarships to private schools for low income students who attend schools identified as needing improvement under ESSA; school districts participating in the ESSA-authorized weighted student funding pilot could use funds to expand open enrollment systems
    • Provides $500 million (an increase of $160 million) for charter schools
  • For ESSA programs
    • Eliminates 13 programs totaling $3.9 billion
    • Eliminates $2 billion for Title II, which provides professional development for educators
    • Eliminates $1.1 billion for after school programs
    • Eliminates $50 million for Comprehensive Centers
    • Title I: flat funding
    • Eliminates funding for SEED programs (teacher and school leader enhancement projects) of $65 million
  • For special education
    • All programs funded under IDEA are recommended for  slight increases, for example Personnel Preparation under IDEA is recommended to go from $83.1 million to $83.7 million
    • Special Olympics funding is eliminated
    • Funding for the National Center for Special Education Research at IES is flat funded at $54 million
  •   Career Pathways and Higher Education
    • Pell grants are expanded to include in eligibility “high quality short-term programs that provide students with a credential, certification or license in demand field.”  Currently Pell grants are only available for students who attend institutions of higher education
    • Flat funding of $1.1 billion is recommended for Career and Technical education prioritizing expanded apprenticeships and STEM programs
    • Elimination of  GEAR Up programs which prepare students for success in colleges  at $339 million
    • Elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants which support undergraduates with financial need at $733 million
    • Simplification and consolidation of student loan programs
    • Flat funding of $11.8 million for programs to support students with intellectual disabilities in higher education

Other programs recommended for elimination in the President’s budget include:

  • Teacher Quality Partnership Grants……………………………………………………….$43 million
  • Statewide data systems at IES……………………………………………………………..$32.3million
  • Regional Educational Laboratories at IES……………………………………………….$54.4 million
  • Javits Gifted and Talented Education……………………………………………………..$12 million
  • Special Olympics……………………………………………………………………….…………..$12.6million
  • Supported Employment Grants……………………………………………………………$27.5 million
  • Comprehensive Literacy Development/Striving Readers……………………..$190 million
  • School leader recruitment and support program……………………….…………$14.5million

In a bit of an ironic twist, Sec. DeVos has announced that she will donate her salary ($200,000) to charities.  She will divide the money equally between 4 organizations, one of them being Special Olympics, which was recommended for a $12.6 million elimination in her budget proposal.

This budget proposal, like President Trump’s previous one last year, is likely dead-on-arrival in the Congress.  You will recall that few, if any, of the proposals put forth by the President were adopted.  In particular, the new school choice program (similar to the one proposed this year) did not make it through the congressional appropriations process; however, charter schools did receive an increase.

For a full description of the budget proposal see: https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget19/index.html


 3. Higher Education Act Reauthorization Update

The House Republican bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (aka the PROSPER Act, HR 4508) is waiting for floor time in the House.  You will recall that this was a partisan bill opposed by all Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  Recently the CBO issued a score for the bill noting that it would reduce federal aid to students by nearly $15 billion over 10 years, but simultaneously increase spending by $2.2 billion over the same period.  (Details in link below) A number of organizations, including the Association of Land Grant Universities (APLU) have weighed in noting that the bill would be “an alarming setback for students.”  More organizations are expected to weigh in with concerns.   Give the CBO score,  the growing opposition to the bill and the limited time available on the House floor to consider legislation, its future is uncertain.

In the Senate a bipartisan request for input on reauthorization was issued this week by Sen. Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Murray (D-WA).  They are urging all stakeholders to submit their suggestions by next Friday, Feb. 23 to [email protected]    If you  have suggestions, this is your chance!

This is the first solid act of bipartisanship to date in the Senate on the reauthorization.  While the talk of a bipartisan approach was encouraging, it is even more encouraging to see this joint invitation.

More on CBO estimate: https://thehill.com/opinion/education/373677-the-prosper-act-will-increase-spending-on-higher-education

More on CBO estimate: https://www.nasfaa.org/news-item/14369/PROSPER_Act_Results_in_Net_Loss_in_Student_Aid_CBO_Analysis_Shows

APLU letter: https://www.aplu.org/news-and-media/News/aplu-to-lawmakers-house-hea-reauthorization-bill--would-be-an-alarming-setback-for-students


4. House Adopts Bill to Limit the Rights of People with Disabilities

The House of Representatives voted 225-192 today to endorse a provision that would undermine the rights afforded to people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), HR 620. This bill would require a person with a disability who believes they have experienced discrimination in a public accommodation to have to wait as long as 6 months before proceeding with resolution.  No other civil rights law requires formal legal advance notification and such a waiting period before proceeding.  Advance notice is always an option, but not one required by law at the expense of proceeding with enforcement.

Opposition to the bill was robust.  House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), one of the authors of the ADA 27 years ago pleaded with Majority leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) urging him not to bring the bill up on the floor.   Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) , Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and others spoke passionately against the bill.  Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) blasted the proposal calling it an assault on disability rights and a non-starter in the Senate.  Hundreds of disability and civil rights organizations weighed in against the bill and conducted an aggressive advocacy effort.

No companion bill has yet been introduced in the Senate.

On a personal note, I have to say as an individual, among many thousands of others, who worked to create the ADA, this is a sad setback.  I intend to advocate as vigorously as I can to stop this bill from moving forward.  I invite you to join me.  I’ll be on twitter @janewestdc

See comments of Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) during floor debate:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfRKOyeqv6Q&feature=youtu.be

See: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/620

See:  https://c-c-d.org/fichiers/UPDATED-CCD-and-Allies-Letter-of-Opposition-for-The-ADA-Education-and-Reform-Act-of-2017-H.R.620-Sept-7-2017.pdf

See:  https://www.aclu.org/other/hr-620-myths-and-truths-about-ada-education-and-reform-act


5. New Resource for Educators

  • Chiefs for Change has released a paper, The Network Effect Harnessing the Power of Teacher Leadership Networks to Sustain  Progress in Tennessee

See: https://chiefsforchange.org/policy-paper/5665/



Wishing you a peaceful and restful  holiday weekend.


Best, Jane





February 2, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

With such a packed agenda you would think Congress would be busy at work….But don’t forget, it’s an election year.

1. Government Shutdown Looming Again for February 8

Since the last government shutdown just last month, Congress has continued to angst over the same issues that resulted in the stalemate with no resolution on the horizon.  Unable to resolve DACA and immigration changes and unable to come to agreement on lifting budget caps, Congress appears to be poised for a fifth short term “continuing resolution” which would fund the government through March 22.  With the current short term funding bill ending next Thursday talk of a shutdown is muted, as neither Democrats nor Republicans feel like such a move scores political points for them.  However, the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House is a fly in the ointment, balking that they may not support a fifth short term extension without an increase in defense spending.  Including such an increase without a comparable increase for non-discretionary domestic spending would lose Democratic votes in the Senate and, thus, doom the extension.

For most of this week House and Senate Republicans have been at their retreat in West Virginia, thus limiting business days for Congress to two.  Next week, on Wednesday, the House and Senate Democrats head off to their retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, again limiting the days in session to two.   It appears that the House will attempt to pass the fifth short term spending bill on Tuesday going through March 22.  That would mean that the Senate would have only Tuesday to take it up as they will be out of session the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, with the State of the Union Address this week, President Trump began the kick off of the FY 2019 Fiscal year.  His budget proposal is due out February 12.  Often the State of the Union address foreshadows priorities for the budget.   However, it is hard to tell if that will be the case this year for education.   For example, despite school choice and vouchers being a priority for this Administration, there was no mention of this in the speech.   Likewise, his focus on vocational education, asking Congress to “invest in workforce development and job training” and “open great vocational schools” runs counter to last year’s budget proposal which called for cutting career and technical education more than $1 billion.

See: https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-washington-post/20180202/281822874241852


2. Higher Education Act Reauthorization Update

This week the Senate HELP Committee held its third hearing in preparation for rewriting the Higher Education Act.  Next week a fourth hearing will be held on considering the costs of attending higher education.  In what appears to be less-than-bipartisan moves, Committee Chair Sen. Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Sen. Murray (D-WA) issued dueling sets of principles for reauthorization.  Sen. Alexander’s release is a white paper drafted by his staff, the goal of which is get input from higher education stakeholders.

Highlights of the paper released by Sen. Alexander:


  • The Higher Education Act dates back to 1965; it has been reauthorized 8 times, the last time being in 2008
  • The paper provides an overview of current federal accountability requirements and considers possibilities for updating the measures
  • The goal is to update accountability measures for higher education to ensure that students are receiving an education worth their time and money
  • The strategy is to modernize and simplify federal requirements for institutions of higher education to participate in the federal student loan program by creating more effective accountability measures related to the repayment of federal student loans.
  • In 2016-17, the federal government provided about $123 billion in financial aid for about 13 million students in college

Principles for an Updated Accountability System

  • Return on investment for students and tax payers matters
  • The federal government should not promote access to programs and institutions where students leave with excessive debt
  • Programs of study matter
  • Historically eligibility for student financial aid is based on institutional eligibility rather than particular program eligibility; “By evaluating individual programs instead, the federal government can help students and institutions target resources more effectively.”

Sen. Alexander is asking for input from every corner of the higher education community – students and families, professors, institutions and others. Input is requested in writing and is due to the HELP Committee by 5 pm February 15.  All comments will be shared with Ranking member of the Committee, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).  (see link below to provide comments)

Meanwhile, Sen. Murray said that Sen. Alexander’s principles  "would move us in the wrong direction and make it very clear we have some serious and tough issues to work through as we negotiate a comprehensive reauthorization of this important legislation, but I remain hopeful we can get this done as quickly as possible." She noted the law should put "students and taxpayers first — and that means strengthening our existing accountability provisions for schools that could be taking advantage of students, not weakening or eliminating them. And we should be holding all colleges accountable for successful outcomes for all groups of students."

Highlights of Democratic principles released by Sen. Murray:

  • Affordability – to tackle the burden of student loan debt
  • Accountability – to ensure the provision of a quality education that leads to a real chance of getting a good job with a living wage
  • Access – for working and middle class families and historically underrepresented groups such as students with disabilities
  • Protecting the rights and safety of all students – including addressing sexual violence and the rights of all protected groups of students

The Democratic principles also note that improving teacher preparation programs is a priority in order to increase diversity of the workforce, reform programs and address teacher shortages.

Chairman Alexander said that the committee will be writing its reauthorization bill in the next few weeks.  How bipartisan this process will turn out to be remains to be seen.

Sen Alexander: https://www.help.senate.gov/chair/newsroom/press/alexander-seeks-input-on-higher-education-accountability-measures-to-ensure-students-receive-degrees-worth-their-time-and-moneya

Sen. Murray: https://www.help.senate.gov/ranking/newsroom/press/murray-higher-education-reauthorization-including-accountability-should-put-students-and-taxpayers


3. New Resources for Educators

Washington Update will return February 16. Wishing you an early Happy Valentine’s Day!  Hug the ones you love, and maybe even those you don’t!





January 26, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Congress continues to punt, ever moving the goalpost down the road as FY 2018 spending looks at the possibility of overlapping with the FY 2019 budget.  Don’t forget – it’s an election year.  This being the case, we can anticipate more talk than action.

1. Shutdown Over….the Beat Goes On

With the short-lived shutdown fading into the distance past, Congress now looks ahead to the new deadline of February 8 for reaching a budget deal for FY 2018 spending.  Now almost 4 months into the fiscal year, funding level uncertainty for FY 2018 will likely run into the beginning of consideration of spending levels for FY 2019.  The President’s budget proposal is due out shortly after the State of the Union address (January 30), on February 12.  It officially begins budget season by proposing funding levels and program eliminations for education and the rest of the government.  I think we can safely predict that school choice will continue to be a priority.

An important breakthrough in the logjam materialized this week when Senate Democrats decided to drop their demand to link a DACA fix to the spending bill.  It appears that the shutdown taught them that this linking does not go over well – as some interpreted it as holding funding for citizens hostage to determining the fate of undocumented immigrants.   So it appears that the DACA situation will be addressed separately, outside of the spending bill.   With President Trump offering a compromise of a 10-12 year path to citizenship for DACA enrollees in exchange for $25 billion to build a US-Mexico border wall (in addition to other immigration limitations), a compromise could be in the offing.  However, Minority Leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), has already indicated opposition to the proposal.

The decoupling of immigration policy from funding leaves the sticky wicket of the budget caps as the primary matter to resolve in order for funding to proceed.   As you will recall the current budget caps are lower than many of the proposed FY 2018 spending bills which are on the table.   Therefore, Congress can’t move those spending bills forward until those budget caps are raised.  Educators are advocating for raises that are equitable between defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending.  Rumors are that military spending might increase as much as $70 billion above the cap for FY 2018 and $80 billion for FY 2019 – an increase far above even the White House’s request.  It appears that offers of increases between $45 billion and $50 billion over the next two years for non-defense discretionary spending are on the table; however, Democrats are seeking at least $60 billion.  If these caps can be resolved by February 8, we can call it real progress.  If not, anticipate another move in kick the can down the road.

It is important to note that every time there is a short term spending bill without a budget cap agreement, across the board cuts are made for almost every education program in order to keep the overall spending below the cap. This is because the sequester level cap for non-defense discretionary spending for FY 2018 is lower than it was for FY 2017.  Congress applied a small (0.6791 percent) across-the-board cut to all funding in the CR.  While this effects education programs differently due to a range of factors, such as forward funding, the following cuts are in place:

  • Title I (grants to local educational agencies), cut from $15.460 billion to $15.386 billion as a result of the across-the-board cut in the CR
  • Title II (supporting effective instruction state grants), cut from $2.056 billion to $2.044 billion
  • IDEA (special education grants to states), cut from $12.003 billion to $11.940 billion, and
  • Career and technical education, cut from a total of $1.125 billion to $1.117 billion

Next week, from Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, House and Senate Republican Members of Congress will hold their annual retreat, this year at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.   President Trump is scheduled to attend.  On the agenda will be the legislative goals for Republicans for 2018.  Stay tuned!




2. Higher Ed Act Reauthorization Intersects with ESSA Implementation

You will recall that the House has moved its Republican vision for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (the PROSPER Act) through the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The next step is for this bill to be brought forward on the floor of the House for consideration, which could be early in the spring.   Since all Democrats opposed the Committee bill, it is likely that they will have their own vision for reauthorization as developments unfold.

The Senate HELP Committee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has completed two hearings and has another one scheduled for next week -- precursors to the release of a Higher Ed Act reauthorization bill. Sen. Alexander has stated his intention of marking up a bill in Committee in the spring. While he has noted that his approach will be bipartisan, there is little evidence of that to date.  However, at the last hearing, he announced that Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos will be meeting with him and with ranking Democrat Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to discuss the approval of ESSA plans.  He further noted that he has found no instance where approved plans have violated ESSA.  Sen. Murray has repeatedly raised concerns about plans that have been approved that do violate the law.  She has further noted that this could poison the water for a bipartisan Higher Education Act reauthorization process.




3. National School Choice Week

President Trump declared the week of January 22 National School Choice Week.  He noted “My administration is refocusing education policy on students.  We are committed to empowering those most affected by school choice decisions and best suited to direct taxpayer resources, including states, local school boards, and families.”  As a presidential candidate Trump promised a $20 billion school voucher program.  As president he requested a $168 million increase for charter schools and $250 million for a new private school choice program.  Congress has not adopted his proposals to date.  Trump noted that “29 of the 31 empirical studies on the topic find that freedom of school choice improves the performance of nearby public schools.”

The school choice week proclamation began under President Obama in 2011.   School choice celebrations have been held across the country this week.






4. New Resources for Educators

  • The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education released a report A Pivot Toward Clinical Practice, Its Lexicon and the Renewal of Educator Preparation. The report includes 10 proclamations including:
    • Clinical practice is central to high-quality teacher preparation
    • Clinical partnerships are the foundation of highly effective clinical practice
    • Sustainable and shared infrastructure is required for successful clinical partnerships
    • Teaching is a profession requiring specialized knowledge and preparation. Educators are the pedagogical and content experts.  It is through the assertion and application of this expertise that they can inform the process and vision for renewing educator preparation.


  • New Leaders released Prioritizing Leadership:  An Analysis of State ESSA Plans. The paper finds that every state has committed to using some of its ESSA funds to support school leaders, including principals, superintendents and teacher leaders. Among the findings:
    • 24 states plan to use the new 3 percent set-aside for school leadership
    • 41 states acknowledge leadership in their plans to improve high-need schools
    • 36 states intend to invest in teacher leadership
    • 21 states are expanding high-quality principal preparation programs
    • 11 states are rethinking and investing in principal supervisors


  • Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest released Special Education Enrollment and Classification in Louisiana Charter Schools and Traditional Schools. The study found that:
    • the enrollment of students with IEPs in public charter schools is lower than in traditional public schools, however the gap is declining
    • the gap also varied by disability type – the enrollment of those with emotional disturbance was higher in charter schools; but higher in traditional public schools for every other disability group
    • charter school enrollment is associated with an increased likelihood of being declassified as requiring an IEP. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=4495

Wishing you a great weekend.  It’s hard to believe that 2018 is almost 1/12 over!

See you on twitter @janewestdc




January 12, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Congress left town for the long holiday weekend with a potential January 19 government shutdown still looming.  When they get back to town next Tuesday, some decisions will have to be made…or not.

1. Congress Struggles to Cut a Deal to Avoid January 19 Government Shutdown

There was lots of huddling in Washington this week with Republican and Democratic members of Congress meeting at the White House and various bipartisan negotiations underway in the House and Senate.  The precipitating deadline for the negotiations is January 19 when funding for the government expires unless Congress acts.  In typical fashion, this “must pass” bill has attracted numerous high profile and unresolved issues as a vehicle for resolution.  Two of these key items are lifting budget caps and addressing DACA – individuals illegally brought into the country who have grown up here.

Educators have been very active on DACA. Without successful resolution by March, thousands of teachers would lose their eligibility to work and face deportation.  Thousands of students in both K-12 and higher education would face deportation.  The American Council on Education, representing college presidents, and the American Federation for Teachers, on behalf of K-12 teachers, have been leading these efforts on behalf of education.

The Budget caps are equally as sticky as DACA.  Both sides agree that they need to be addressed to lift the sequester-level caps for FY 2018 before funding for the rest of the year can be resolved.  But how much they should be raised and how those increases would be distributed remain sticking points.

The Senate cannot secure passage of a bill without bi-partisan support. It is difficult to see how that support would be secured unless a deal is reached on DACA, the budget caps and other issues before January 19.  There is speculation that another short term continuing resolution would be passed next week to keep the government running into mid-February and buy time for continued negotiations.  Republicans have little appetite for a government shutdown, but they will have to give the Democrats something to gain their support for a fourth temporary funding bill.  Needless to say bi-partisanship is in short supply in DC these days.



2. Department of Education Civil Rights Nominee Draws Opposition… and Support

The Senate HELP Committee was expected to vote this week on the confirmation of three key education political appointments at the Department of Education.  That voting session was postponed amidst growing criticism of Kenneth Marcus, the nominee to lead the office of civil rights.  The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 31 other civil rights groups submitted a letter opposing his nomination.  They raised concerns about his response to questions during his confirmation hearing noting that he "failed to demonstrate an understanding of Title IX's inclusion of gender identity in its protection from discrimination based on sex and gave evasive answers that did not acknowledge the overwhelming case law on the subject."

However, Jennifer Braceras, a former Republican Commissioner on the US Commission on Civil Rights, penned an op-ed supporting Marcus and describing his credentials as “impeccable.”




3. Changes for Education Committee in the Senate

The result of the addition of a Democrat to the Senate (Doug Jones from Alabama) changes the margin of the chamber to 51 Republicans - 49 Democrats (this includes the two Independents).  This results in a shift in the proportion of Democrats to Republicans sitting on Committees.  Moving forward Republicans will have a one vote margin on Committees.

Tina Smith, who joined the Senate for the second session of the 115th Congress taking the place of Al Franken, will take Franken’s seat on the Senate HELP Committee. Newly elected Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) will also join the HELP Committee. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has left the HELP Committee to join the Finance Committee.



4. Department of Education Issues Report on Special Education Violations in Texas

This week the Department of Education issued a damning report calling out multiple violations of IDEA in the state of Texas.  The report was initiated prior to the election of President Trump and is the result of regular monitoring conducted by the Department of Education on state implementation of IDEA. The report confirms the Houston Chronical reporting from 2016.

Texas implemented an illegal initiative to cap the number of students who could receive special education services at 8.5%.  The national average is 13%.  IDEA assures special education services for all students who qualified for them, not just a certain percentage.  The Department of Education determined that the percentage of students identified as eligible for special education services in Texas dropped from 11.6% in 2004 to 8.6% in 2016.  Thus the state of Texas illegally denied special education services to tens of thousands of students who were eligible for them.  The Department has told the state to come up with a plan to address student who were denied special education services.

Sec. DeVos issued a statement noting that “Far too many students in Texas had been precluded from receiving supports and services under IDEA.”  She said she is working with Texas education Commissioner Mike Morath “on resolving these issues.”  Gov. Gregg Abbott has directed Commissioner Morath to come up with a draft action plan within a week.  He also requested legislative recommendations to ensure compliance with IDEA.





5. New Resources for Educators


As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s legacy this weekend, I think his words hold particular resonance these days: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.   If you read this blog, I know you are speaking up and I add my voice to yours.

Washington Update will be taking a break next week, January 19. I’ll be leading a group of doctoral students as they look behind the policy making curtain in DC. I’ll also be advocating with colleagues on behalf of great teachers and leaders who serve students with disabilities.   I’ll be back January 26.

See you on twitter @janewestdc



January 5, 2018
Dear Colleagues:
Happy New Year!  I hope you return to your work renewed and motivated for an exciting New Year.  Congress heads back next week to face the mountain of work it put off at the end of the year.  There is a lot on the agenda – that’s for sure!
1.       Government Shutdown…..or Not….January 19
When members of Congress rushed to the airport in late December, they  left a mountain of unfinished business behind.  The most pressing deadline is January 19 – when the government will shut down if they don’t act on a funding bill.   Since the bill is a “must pass” bill, the stakes are high and the Democrats have more leverage than they often do.  The bill will also act as a magnet for high profile controversial matters. Without the support of Democrats the bill won’t fly and Republicans would likely be held accountable for closing the government.  (Unlike with the tax reform bill which only required 51 votes in the Senate, the funding bill requires 60 votes – meaning that at least some Democrats must support it in order for it to pass.)
Complicating coming to agreement on the funding bill are the following items of unfinished business:
  • Agreement on new budget caps.  The Senate and the House have both put forward some funding bills that bust the existing budget caps – meaning that to enact the funding levels they want, they must change the caps.  But the Republicans and Democrats are in strong disagreement about how those caps should be changed.  The Democrats are demanding parity – meaning they want the amount of funding raised for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs (including education) to be the same as the increase for defense spending.  Republicans generally want the defense cap raised, but not the NDD cap.  Thus, tense negotiations ensue.
  •  Immigration status of DREAMERS.  Democrats are insisting on addressing the status of the millions of undocumented young immigrants before they face ejection from the country in March, when the current Obama era policy expires.  Thousands of teachers and students are at risk.  Republicans are insisting on new provisions for border security in exchange, i.e. building a wall between the US and Mexico.  Talks between the White House and leaders in Congress are not revealing much progress.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program.  This got temporary reprieve in the last continuing resolution, but needs to be addressed again.
  • Stabilizing Obamacare.  This is a Democratic priority.
  • Disaster relief.  Prior to adjournment the House passed an $81 billion relief bill for areas affected by hurricanes and fires, but the Senate did not act on it. 
  • Debt Ceiling.  The country will hit the limit of its borrowing authority in the next few months and the Congress must vote on increasing it.  This dilemma often draws out intense opposition from fiscal hawks and demands for more spending cuts. 
Chairman of the House Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee in the House, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is already talking about the need for a fourth temporary spending bill to buy more time for negotiations.  On the other hand, Democrats are unlikely to agree to such a short term extension unless the see significant progress on their priorities, particularly immigration.
Republican leaders are huddling with the President at Camp David this weekend to talk about the legislative agenda for 2018.  High level bi-partisan leadership meetings are expected at the White House next week.   So stay tuned.
2.      Higher Education Rewrite on the Agenda for 2018
At the end of 2017, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed their version of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act – HR 4508, the PROPSER Act.  All Republicans voted for the bill and all Democrats opposed it.  The next stop would be consideration on the floor of the House with Democrats expected to offer a substitute bill.   However, finding floor time for the bill may prove to be a challenge given other matters on the legislative agenda as noted above.
The PROSPER Act raised many concerns for educators relating to the teaching profession – including:
  • Elimination of Title II, the teacher preparation title, including the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants
  • Elimination of the TEACH grants which support teacher candidates in high need schools and fields
  • Elimination of three loan forgiveness programs for teachers, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
Meanwhile, Senate HELP Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), has said that he will work with Democrats – most notably Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking Democrat on the Committee – to draft a bipartisan reauthorization bill.  He hopes to mark it up this spring and hearings as early as this month are anticipated.  Since this appears to be Sen. Alexander’s final year as chair of the Committee (because of chairmanship term limits in the Senate), he is likely to be highly motivated to get a result before he steps down.  Sen. Alexander has been talking about fixes to the Higher Ed Act for years – particularly simplifying the FAFSA (student aid application) and cutting down on regulations.   Undoubtedly this stems back to his days as President of the University of Tennessee and US Secretary of Education.  Having seen his success with a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, he seems well poised and highly motivated for another legislative outcome. 
The House bill is a non-starter in the Senate if that is to be a bi-partisan process.   A number of targeted bi-partisan bills have been introduced in the Senate addressing issues such as FAFSA simplification, risk-sharing and access and accountability.  These bills may be where the Senate rewrite starts – with bi-partisan measures already on the playing field. 
3.       Make Up of Congress Shifting as 2018 Mid-Term Elections Approach
This week two new Democratic Senators were sworn into office for 2018 – Tina Smith (D-MN) replacing Sen. Al Franken who stepped down over sexual misconduct charges and Doug Jones (D-AL) who took the seat that Jeff Sessions held prior to his appointment as Attorney General.  Thus the balance of power has shifted by one, with the Republicans now holding 51 seats and the Democrats 49.  Sen. Franken was an active member of the HELP Committee and his resignation leaves a vacancy for Democrats to fill.
Three Republican Senators have announced that they will not seek re-election next year – Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Bob Corker (R-TN) and most recently Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  Sen. Hatch is the longest serving Republican in the Senate and a former chair and long term member of the HELP Committee.  No Senate Democrats have indicated that they will not seek re-election. 
In the House 40 Representatives have indicated that they will not seek re-election – 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats.  In addition 7 Democrats and 10 Republicans have indicated that they will run for other offices – including Senator and Governor.
Many astute political observers believe the 2018 mid-terms are shaping up favorably for the Democrats to take the majority in either one or both of the Chambers. In the House Democrats would need to pick up 24 seats to take the majority.  In the Senate far more Democrats than Republicans are up for re-election in 2018, thus making a Democratic takeover an uphill battle even though they would only need to pick up two seats to establish a majority. 
4.       Latest Action on Political Appointees at the US Department of Education
5.       New Resources for Educators
Hope you are staying warm where you are.  DC is in a deep freeze in more ways than one!
See you on twitter @janewestdc


December 21, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

Cngress passed the critical government spending bill tonight on the heels of the big tax package, but pushed many big decisions down the road as they headed to the airport for the Christmas holiday.

1. Tax Package Enacted

On December 20, the Congress completed action on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the first major tax overhaul since 1986.  Passed largely along partisan lines in both the House and the Senate (though several Republican House members voted against it because of the SALT changes noted below and the impact that would have on high local and state tax areas such as CA and NY), the final legislation – which will be signed by the President in the coming days – includes a number of provisions of concern to educators.

  • Interest on student loans remains tax deductible
  • Tuition waivers for graduate students working as teaching or research assistants will continue not to be taxed
  • The $250 deduction for teachers who spend that amount on school supplies remains
  • Changes for State and Local Tax deductions (SALT) will be limited to $10,000 for property and income or sales tax, thus potentially limiting public funds available in states to support education
  • The expansion of the 529 college savings plan to include up to $10,000 for private K-12 schools remains, though the option of using those funds for home schooling expenses was deleted because of a Senate reconciliation rule
  • Private colleges and universities with endowments of $500,000 or more and at least 500 tuition paying students will be taxed on those endowments at a 1.4% rate

While Sec. DeVos praised the K-12 private school deduction, she noted that it would not help low-income students.  Rather it is likely to be a windfall to private schools by families who can already afford private school.

In a related Congressional moment, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce had a hearing schedule with Sec. DeVos for 2 pm on Dec. 20.   That conflicted with a White House celebration of the new tax package, and next thing you know…. the hearing was canceled thus enabling the Republican House members on the Committee to attend the White House event.


See:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/us/politics/tax-bill-vote-congress.html

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/12/21/daily-202-10-reasons-democrats-think-the-tax-bill-will-be-a-political-loser-for-trump-s-gop-in-the-midterms/5a3b0db430fb0469e883fd41/?utm_term=.677d139d7e94

2. Congress Avoids Government Shutdown by Avoiding Decisions

In a predictable but always drama-filled end of year crunch, the Congress postponed decisions on many pressing issues on the policy agenda to enact what is called a “clean CR.”  This means there are minimal policy riders and anomalies and funding for all government agencies stayed  pretty much the same…..until January 19, when they will be back at it, looking at another potential government shutdown if they don’t act.

Some key features of the CR include:

  • Continued funding for most programs, at the current levels, including education
  • $2.85 billion to keep the Children’s Health Insurance Program going through March 31
  • A four week extension of spy powers for foreign intelligence survellience
  • Waiver of “PAYGO” for the tax bill that was just passed; without this $150 billion a year in cuts to Medicare and other federal programs would be triggered in order to pay for the increase in the deficit caused by the tax bill
  • Extra funds for a number of defense programs

Congress will return on January 3 and face the continued need to address the budget caps.  If they are not raised across the board cuts for most programs are likely to ensue.  Republicans are eager to lift the cap for defense spending; but Democrats are insisting on similar increases for non-defense spending like education.  This has caused a stalemate.

See: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/us/politics/house-republicans-government-shutdown.html


 3. New Disaster Relief Aid Package Passes the House but Fails in the Senate

The House also passed a disaster relief bill before leaving town for recess; however the bill failed in the Senate where Democrats said it was insufficient, especially for Puerto Rico, and Conservatives held that it was too expensive.


The $81 billion package included $2.9 billion directed to schools and colleges affected.   Most of the funding would be assistance to restart school operations and provide emergency aid for displaced students.  The Federal Work Study Program (SEOG) and the Fund for the Improvement of Postesecondary Education would be awarded $200 million for distribution. In order to assist defraying the costs of colleges enrolling displaced students, the package would provide $120 million.   School districts serving homeless children displace by the disasters would have a total of $25 million available.  Finally, $35 million would be provided for the Project School Emergency Response to Violence grant program.  Additional funds would be set aside for the Inspector General to oversee the funding and for the Department’s administrative costs.

This proposal would have been funded outside of the budget caps (emergency or supplemental funding) and would thus not have been a part of the funds subject to the budget cap.

The disaster relief bill will be revisited next year.


See: https://beta.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-congress-disaster-shutdown-20171221-story.html

4. DOJ Guidance Addressing Employment of People with Disabilities Rescinded

Obama-era guidance that required states and local governments to better integrate employees with disabilities into workplaces was rescinded by the Department of Justice.  The guidance was a part of the implementation of the Supreme Court's 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. that required states to protect people with disabilities against exclusion from public services.

See: https://www.ada.gov/withdrawn_olmstead.html

See: https://web.archive.org/web/20170119232648/www.ada.gov/olmstead/olmstead_guidance_employment.htm


5. New Resource for Educators

  • Ed Trust has issued Trends in ESSA State Plans, finding that “what we are seeing so far is not encouraging….For all the talk about equity surrounding ESSA, too many state leaders have taken a pass on clearly naming and acting on schools’ underperformance for low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities and English learners.”

See: https://edtrust.org/resource/trends-state-essa-plans/


This will be my final update for 2017 as we are off to Jamaica tomorrow. Wishing  you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.  Let’s hope for a more productive Congress for education in 2018!






December 15, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

Congress continues at a frenetic pace likely to finish a tax bill this year, but punting spending decisions into next year.

1. Tax Overhaul on the Verge of Enactment

The House and the Senate appear to have come to agreement on a final package, which should be released later today with votes expected next week.   While the details of the final agreement have not yet been made public, information leaking out indicates the following in relation to education:

  • The proposal to tax as income waived tuition for graduate students who are working as research or teaching assistants is scrapped
  • Deductions for interest on student loans would be retained
  • Changes to SALT (state and local tax deductions) appear to include a limit of  $10,000 for property and income or sales tax
  • 529 college savings plans are expanded to for the first time include up to $10,000 in deductions for private schools and home schooling expenses

Only 51 votes are needed in the Senate to pass the bill.  Republicans can afford to lose two votes from their 52 members assuming VP Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote.  Sen. Corker (R-TN) is likely to vote against the bill.  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been in the hospital all week so his presence to vote next week is not known.  Republicans remain optimistic that they will have the votes needed to pass the bill before Christmas.

2. Budget/Appropriations Action to Prevent Dec. 22 Government Shutdown

Dec. 22 marks the deadline for Congress to extend government spending and avert a government shutdown.   The deal currently in the works envisions the House passing a bill next week which would only expand defense spending and leave all other spending flat.  The Senate would most likely reject that bill and change it so it simply extends funding as is for both defense and non-defense accounts through January 19.  In the meantime negotiations continue over spending caps for defense and non-defense spending in the long term.  It also appears that a fix for the DREAMERS will be kicked into next year as well.  To be continued……

3. House Education and Workforce Committee Adopts Higher Education Act Rewrite Eliminating Teacher Provisions

In a 15 hour marathon markup with consideration of 60 amendments, the House Education and the Workforce Committee adopted a bill (HR 4508- the PROSPER Act) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.  Over strong objections of Democrats and multiple higher education organizations, who urged the Committee to delay the markup for more time to digest the 600 page bill, Republicans moved the bill forward anyway.  The final vote on the bill – all 23 Republicans voting yes and all 17 Democrats voting no --  reflected the sharp divide among House Republicans and Democrats in terms of how to update the nation’s system of higher education.

Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) described the bill as changing the status quo, providing more information to let students make choices about college and financial aid, ensuring a limited federal role while requiring accountability, and cutting through red tape.  Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) criticized the bill for making college less affordable and accessible, and for relaxing requirements of for-profit institutions instead of increasing the maximum Pell grant, expanding better loan repayment and forgiveness options, and supporting students and institutions.  (Thanks to the Committee for Education Funding for this summary!)

The following provisions were eliminated from the current version of the Higher Education Act, removing all support for teachers and teacher candidates:

  • Title II, the teacher preparation title, including the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants
  • TEACH grants to support teacher candidates in high need fields and schools
  • All three loan forgiveness programs for teachers, including the popular Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Rep. Fredrica Wilson (D-FL) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) offered an amendment to reinstate Title II programs, including the teacher quality partnership grants, as well as the TEACH grants. In addition to Reps. Wilson and Polis, the following Democratic representatives spoke in favor of the amendment:  Rep. Takano (CA), Rep. Rochester (DE), Rep. Susan Davis (CA), Rep. Bonamici (OR) and Ranking Member Scott (VA).   Many noted that removing these provisions in the midst of a teacher shortage is unwise.   Chairwoman Foxx spoke against the amendment and it failed along party lines with a vote of 22-17.

Chairwoman Foxx intends to bring the bill to the House floor for consideration in early 2018.  On the Senate side, Chair of the HELP Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has indicated he would like to prioritize a rewrite of the Higher Education bill in early 2018.  It is anticipated that the Senate process will be more bi-partisan.




4. Federal Communications Commission Votes Down “Net Neutrality”

In a highly contested partisan vote, the FCC passed a provision to end “net neutrality,” an Obama era requirement intended to ensure equal access to the internet.  This is of grave concern to educators – in both K-12 and higher education sectors as they are so dependent upon fast and high quality internet access for instructional purposes.  Twenty one Democratic Senators sent a letter to the FCC urging them to postpone the vote until the education concerns they raised were addressed.  That did not occur.  Multiple lawsuits are anticipated.

Letter from Democratic Senators: https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/121217%20Net%20Neutrality%20Repeal%20Ed%20Impacts.pdf

5. Update on Nominees for the Department of Education

The following nominees for the Department of Education leadership positions have been confirmed by the Senate HELP Committee.  They await final confirmation by all members of the Senate, after which they will begin their jobs.

  • Mick Zais was approved with a party line vote – 12 voting yea and 11 voting nay.  He is nominated to be the second-in-command, Deputy Secretary, at the Department.  He is a retired Army brigadier general and former superintendent of South Carolina schools.
  • Jim Blew was approved by the Committee with a party line vote of 12-11 to be Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.  Blew is the former director of the education advocacy group Student Success California.  He is already working at the Department as a special assistant to the Secretary.
  • Johnny Collett was approved by the Committee with a voice vote.  He is nominated to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  He currently serves as director of special education outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers.

These three nominations join that of Carlos G. Muniz, nominee for General Counsel, who also awaits floor action in the Senate.

  • Frank T. Brogan of Pennsylvania was nominated by President Trump to be the Assistant Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education. Brogan most recently served as chancellor of Pennsylvania’s public universities. He was formerly Florida’s Commissioner of Education in 1994, Lieutenant Governor of Florida from 1998 to 2002, president of Florida Atlantic University until 2009 and then chancellor of Florida’s public universities. A native of Ohio, Mr. Brogan was the first member of his family to attend college—earning a bachelor's degree in education magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University.  The Senate HELP Committee has not yet scheduled a confirmation hearing for Brogan.


6. Department of Education Seeks Comments on Delaying Special Education Disproportionality Rule; Plans New Policies on Title I ESSA and Charter Schools

The Education Department announced that it will seek comments on whether the Obama-era disproportionality regulation should be delayed by two years.  The regulation provides a standardized way for states to determine over-representation of minority students in special education.  It was developed on the heels of a GAO report in 2013 which indicated that states use a variety of methods to make the determination and only a few have been flagged for problems, data indicating that it is a widespread problem.  The rule is scheduled to take effect in July 2018.

The Department also announced it would be altering regulations on Title I of ESSA and changing priorities and requirements for charter schools.

See:  https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201710&RIN=1820-AB77

Statement of Rep. Bobby Scott: https://democrats-edworkforce.house.gov/media/press-releases/scott-condemns-action-to-seek-delay-of-rule-addressing-inequities-in-special-education

Letter from civil rights and education groups: https://civilrights.org/letter-re-enforcement-idea-provisions-regarding-significant-disproportionality/

7. DeVos Testifying Dec. 20 before House Education and the Workforce Committee

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has scheduled a hearing on Dec. 20 at 2 pm with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education.”  This will be the first time the Secretary has testified before this Committee.

Watch livestreamed here:  https://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=402192

8. Resources for Educators

  • Bellwether Education Partners and Collaborative for Student Success issued an analysis of ESSA state plans. Multiple education policy experts reviewed 34 ESSA state plans which were submitted to the Department of Education this fall.  They conclude that most plans were “uncreative, unambitious, unclear, or unfinished.”  The plans examine how states will hold students accountable for progress, among other matters.

For a list of experts conducting the analysis: https://bellwethereducation.org/independent-essa-state-plan-peer-reviewers

For the report see: https://checkstateplans.org/

  • The Center on Education Policy issued “Planning for Progress: States Reflect on Year One Implementation of ESSA”.  This report provides results from a survey of 45 state education agencies regarding the implementation of ESSAThe report highlights states’ views on ESSA’s shift in control from the federal government to states and school districts regarding accountability and school improvement activities; stakeholder involvement in state plan development; state capacity to implement ESSA requirements; and the U.S. Department of Education’s assistance in implementing ESSA.

See: https://www.cep-dc.org/displayDocument.cfm?DocumentID=1487

  • The National Center on Teaching Quality is out with its 2017 State Policy Yearbook Database evaluating states in terms of multiple policy goals including teacher diversity initiatives, principal evaluation and support systems and state support for teacher leadership opportunities..

See:  https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/home

  • Virginia Governor signs order to address teacher shortages.

See: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2017-12-12/virginia-governor-addresses-teacher-shortage-with-emergency-action

Wishing you a relaxing weekend.

See you on twitter @janewestdc




December 8, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

In keeping with tradition, the Congress has proceeded to cram months’ worth of work into the waning days of 2017.  The crunch is on!

1. Tax Bill Heads to Conference with Big Losses at Stake for Education

The Senate passed its version of the tax reform bill early last Saturday morning.  Now that both chambers have passed bills, they are in conference working on a final compromise bill that will be signed by the President.   Some key provisions in one bill or the other that are generating concern for educators are:

  • Possible elimination of $250 deduction for teacher expenditures on class materials (though the Senate bill would increase it to $500)
  • Possible end of tax deduction for interest on student loans
  • Possible new tax on tuition that is waived for graduate assistants
  • New taxes on endowments of some private schools
  • Reduction of State and Local tax (SALT) deduction which would result in less funds for education at state and local levels
  • Expansion of 529 savings plans (which are currently for higher education only) to K-12 education allowing $10,000 to be deducted for private school tuition

Educators are actively sharing their concerns about the bills, but the legislation appears to be on a fast track headed to the President’s desk as soon the end of the month.


2. Government Shutdown Avoided…..for Now

Late Thursday, the Congress passed a measure to continue government spending through Dec. 22, thus avoiding a government shutdown….for now.  The bill passed the House 235-193, mostly along party lines, and slipped easily through the Senate with a 81-14 vote.   This short term stop gap spending bill buys more time for the Congress and the White House to continue negotiating to resolve some tough issues.  Budget caps on spending need to be raised in order for long term spending bills to be enacted.  As per usual, at the end of the year all unfinished policy business is thrown on the table as Congress puts together  this “must pass” bill for Dec. 22.  Matters include addressing undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children (DREAMERS), continuation of CHIP, the children’s health care programs, and funding for hurricane relief – all priorities for Democrats.

It will be a busy two weeks before the Congress heads out for Christmas vacation.


3. House Republican Higher Education Reauthorization Bill Mark Up Likely Next Week

Committee on Education and the Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the House Republican version of a Higher Education reauthorization bill late last week, H.R. 4508, the PROSPER (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform) Act.    The bill is expected to be marked up in Committee next Tuesday.  It is unlikely that any Democrats will support the bill and multiple amendments are anticipated from Democrats, which will likely fail along party line votes.  Key concerns in the bill related to teachers and teacher education include:

  • Termination of Title II, the teacher preparation title which includes the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, data collection and accountability measures for teacher preparation programs
  • Termination of the TEACH grants which support teacher candidates in high need fields
  • Termination of three loan forgiveness programs used by teachers: Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Loan Forgiveness for Teachers and Loan Forgiveness for Service in Areas of National Need (for teachers in high need fields like special education)

See: https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=402157

Summary of bill:  https://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/ACE-Summary-of-House-Prosper-Act.pdf

4. HELP Committee Holds Confirmation Hearings on Civil Rights and Special Education Leaders for Department of Education

On December 5, the Senate HELP Committee held a confirmation hearing for two key nominees at the Department of Education:  Kenneth Marcus to lead the Office for Civil Rights and Johnny Collett to lead the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  Marcus faced intense questioning from Democrats about the Department’s scrapping guidance related to transgender students, revising campus sexual assault rules and relaxed enforcement of civil rights laws by shying away from investigating possible systemic discrimination.

Collett faced questions about the possible roll back or delay of regulations which set out a formula for states to determine disproportionality in special education and address it and vouchers for students with disabilities.  He was asked if he thought the Department of Education should notify parents of students who use vouchers that they would be losing their rights under IDEA, to which he responded that he did not think the Department had the authority to do that.  He said he would work with stakeholders to consider the recommendations of a recent GAO report documenting parents’ lack of awareness of their loss of rights when they choose to use vouchers for private schools.

Sen. Alexander (R-TN) , Committee Chair, asked all nominees if guidance had the force of law, to which they replied “no.”  Alexander is a staunch critic of President Obama’s proliferation of guidance and his Administration’s efforts to enforce it.

The Committee could vote on these nominees before the holiday break.   It would be surprising if they are rejected by the Committee.  The question is how much Democratic support will they receive.

See hearing here:  https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/department-of-education-and-department-of-labor-nominations


5. Education Advocates Rally to Save Two Equity Initiatives: Disproportionality Regulation and Discipline Guidance

The Department of Education is considering eliminating, delaying or modifying two key Obama era policy initiatives related to equity.  The first addresses the disproportionate representation of minority students in special education.  In response to a GAO recommendation, the Department determined a standard formula for states to use to make this determination and then to take action if disproportionality is determined.  Indications are that the Department may delay or revise this initiative.

Guidance on discipline is in response to the discriminatory use of discipline practices in schools, such as suspension and expulsion – in relation to students of color and students with disabilities.  Advocates argue that such discriminatory practices result in a school to prison pipeline for these groups of students.

On December 7 Rep. McEachin (D-VA ) and Rep. Maloney (D-NY) hosted a briefing on over-identification and discipline in special education in a House office building.  Today, the US Commission on Civil Rights hosts a briefing The School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Intersections of Students of Color with Disabilities. The briefing is part of an investigation that will examine school districts’ compliance with federal laws designed to ensure the safety of students of color with disabilities against discrimination.

National disability, education and civil rights organizations have called for Sec. DeVos to keep the regulations and guidance in place.   An “In Class Not Cuffs” advocacy initiative is being led by Educators for Excellence.

Civil Rights Commission briefing:  https://www.usccr.gov/press/2017/12-08-Sunshine-Act-Notice.pdf.

Watch briefing live streamed beginning at 9 am: https://www.youtube.com/user/USCCR/videos

Letter from disability organizations: https://www.c-c-d.org/fichiers/CCD-Disproportionality-LTR-FINAL-with-Sigs.pdf

In Class Not Cuffs:  https://e4e.org/take-action/get-involved/tell-sec-devos-inclassnotcuffs

6. Department of Education Issues  Q & A on Endrew  IDEA Supreme Court Decision

Following the March 2017 Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v Douglas County School District, the Department of Education issued a Q and A clarifying the scope and purpose of a free appropriate education which is required under the law.  The Q&A explains the case and provides a summary of the Court’s final decision and prior case law addressing the FAPE standard. The document also explains how FAPE is currently defined and clarifies the standard for determining FAPE.


7. New Resources for Educators

  • The American Institutes for Research (AIR) issued “State Accountability Under ESSA: Fall 2017 Submissions. The report provides results of an analysis of ESSA state plans submitted this fall to the Department of Education to implement ESSA in terms of the accountability systems they put forward.


  • FairTest issued a report “Testing Reform Victories Surge in 2017: What’s Behind the Winning Strategies?”  The report documents how states are moving away from using standardized K-12 student test scores for matters such as teacher evaluation, including:
    • States with high school exit exams dropped from 25 to 13 since 2012.
    • Seven states halted the use of student scores to judge teachers.
    • Ten states now allow parents to opt their children out of some or all exams.
    • Increasing implementation of performance assessments by states and districts. New Hampshire’s pioneering program now involves half the state’s districts

See:  https://www.fairtest.org/fairtest-report-test-reform-victories-surge-in-2017.

Here’s hoping you are headed toward a great holiday vacation.  My family is off to Jamaica this year -- real change of pace for us!




December 1, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

As promised, this week was a roller coaster in Congress.  With the tax reform bill thumping toward Senate passage, the spending and budget stalemate threatening a government shutdown and the Higher Education Act reauthorization process underway, education advocates are busy indeed.

1. Tax Reform Progresses in Senate – Education Advocates Trying to Stop a Train that has Left the Station

This week  the Senate Budget Committee adopted, on a 12-11 partisan vote, the Tax Cuts and Job Act (TCJA) – the tax reform bill. At this writing, the bill is being debated on the the Senate floor and final passage could come today.   A strategy offered by Republicans who are concerned about exploding the debt with this bill – which would trigger an automatic slow down in tax cuts if economic growth assumed by the bill does not occur – was rejected by the Senate parliamentarian last night.  Some Republicans who are concerned about the exploding deficit, such as Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), are calling time out.  But the speeding train seems to be rolling fast.

If the bill goes through it will require program cuts to be made – on the chopping block will be Medicare, Medicaid, IDEA and others.   There are multiple provisions in both the House and Senate bills would mean cuts for education.  Higher education could lose deductions for student loan interest,  experience new taxes on graduate tuition benefits and some endowments and experience shrinkage in charitable deductions because of loss of tax provisions.  The elimination of the SALT provisions could significantly lower funding states and locals have available for public education across the board.

At a hearing in the House yesterday, the  highly respected director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, issued a cautionary warning about the bill, noting that anything that diminishes the talent of the next generation joining the workforce is concerning.   Margaret Spellings, former Sec. of Education under George W. Bush and current president of the University of North Carolina system said that the tax bill would be a “self-inflicted setback in the national effort to build a more competitive, better educated citizenry.”  Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos said she is encouraged by GOP efforts to fix the nation’s broken tax system.

When and if the Senate passes the tax bill they will head to conference with the House where they will need to compromise on differing provisions to finalize a bill for the President’s signature.  Education advocates across the board will continue to oppose the many provisions in the bill which will harm education and set the table for deep cuts in the future.



2. December 8 Deadline to Avoid Government Shutdown Looms

December 8 marks the end of the Continuing Resolution – the temporary funding bill passed because Congress was unable to come to a one year spending agreement by Sept. 30.  Congress must act by Dec. 8 in order to avoid a government shutdown and keep funding for all federal agencies flowing.   Two of the key complicating factors are: 1) budget caps in place for defense and non-defense spending must be raised in order for the funding bills currently on the table to be adopted and 2) Democrats are insisting on addressing DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) by enacting some version of the DREAM Act as part of the deal.   Any funding bills must pick up at least 8 Democrats in the Senate in order to pass; so the stakes are high and each side is calculating its leverage daily.

The current strategy seems to be to pass yet another short term continuing resolution that runs through December 22 and use those two weeks before the holidays to come to agreement on new spending caps for defense and non-defense spending.   Then another short term continuing resolution would be passed through January or February giving appropriations committees time to finalize their bills and adjust them to be in line with the new budget caps.  At any rate, what is on the table is a possible government shutdown if compromises cannot be secured.

Over 80 education and related organizations sent a letter to the Hill this week urging an agreement on new budget caps which would ensure that education spending receives its fair share.

Letter urging new budget caps:  https://secure.aacte.org/apps/rl/res_get.php?fid=3644&ref=rl


3. Higher Education Act Reauthorization on a Roll

This week House Republicans unveiled their partisan proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act while the Senate HELP Committee worked to keep a bipartisan face on reauthorization in a hearing on simplifying the student aid application process.  The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, led by Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC) has indicated that she may mark up this bill in Committee as soon as Dec. 7.  Sen. Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate HELP Committee, announced that he would like to see a Senate version of reauthorization move through his Committee in the first quarter of 2018.

Rep. Foxx’s bill, HR 4508, the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act), was consponsored by Rep. Brett Gutherie (R-KY) upon introduction.  In a press release they noted that the bill is designed to meet the needs of today’s students and provide flexibility to innovate for tomorrow’s workforce.

Some key losses in the bill – with a focus on teacher education:

  • Eliminates three key loan forgiveness programs used by teacher candidates, including the public service loan forgiveness program and loan forgiveness for teachers who go into high need fields;
  • Eliminates TEACH grants which provide tuition for teacher candidates in high need fields;
  • Eliminates Title II, the teacher education title, which authorizes the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants and multiple data collection and accountability provisions;

What is new in the bill:

  • Consolidation of student aid into three programs:  one grant, one loan and one work-study program;
  • Easing requirements for for-profit institutions, such as elimination of the 90/10 rule;
  • Creation of a new Title II program: “Expanding Access to In-Demand Apprenticeships” a new $183 million program for partnerships between business and higher education leading to “high-wage, high-skill and high demand careers.”

Education advocates will be scrutinizing the 542 page bill over the next several days and issuing statements.  Democrats were not a part of developing the bill and will likely be coming up with their own proposal.

House Republican Higher Ed Bill:  https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=402157

Senate HELP Committee hearing: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/reauthorizing-the-higher-education-act_examining-proposals-to-simplify-the-free-application-for-federal-student-aid-fafsa


4. Senate HELP Committee Hearing on the Confirmation of Two Education Nominees on Dec. 5;  New Head of the Institute of  Education Sciences Nominated 

The Senate HELP Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Dec. 5 for two important nominees at the Department of Education;  Kenneth Marcus of Leesburg, VA is nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Johnny Collett of Georgetown, KY is nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  The hearing will be live-streamed.

In addition, the White House announced the intention to nominate Mark Schneider to serve as director of the Institute of Education Sciences.  Schneider is currently vice president and fellow at the American Institutes for Research and served as commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics under President George W. Bush.

Watch hearing live Dec. 5 at 10 AM: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/department-of-education-and-department-of-labor-nominations

More on Kenneth Marcus: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/10/30/many-groups-are-reserving-judgment-trumps-pick-head-office-civil-rights-exception

More on Johnny Collett:  https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/



5. DeVos Considering Revisions to Discipline Guidance; US Commission on Civil Rights Forum on Disparate Impact of Student Discipline Policies

In 2014, the Obama Administration adopted guidelines intended to address the systemic problem of low-income, minority students and students with disabilities facing disparate treatment in terms of discipline – in particular out-of-school suspension and expulsion. Last week Sec. DeVos met with a group of teachers and parents who made the case that such policies can keep dangerous children in school and cause a disruptive school environment.  Sec. DeVos has indicated that she is looking closely at this guidance.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), lead Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, noted that school discipline policy must consider the deeply rooted inequities, including pervasive racial bias that disproportionately harm students of color and contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Several education and civil rights organizations have coalesced to support the continuation of the school discipline guidance, organizing an “In Class, Not Cuffs” campaign.  On December 8 at 9 am the US Commission on Civil Rights will hold a hearing in Washington on equity and discipline policies.  Speakers have not yet been announced.  The inequitable impact of student discipline policies on students with disabilities will be a focus.


US Commission on Civil Rights: https://www.usccr.gov/

For “In Class, Not Cuffs” see: https://mobilize4change.org/l4iXcfk and https://e4e.org/inclassnotcuffs


6. New Resources for Educators

  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued “A Punishing Decade for School Funding” The report indicates that in 2015 29 states provided less total school funding per student than they did in 2008 when the recession kicked in.

See: https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding

  • The Government Accounting Office released an analysis titled “Private School Choice:  Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents are Notified about Changes in Rights for Students with Disabilities.”  GAO examined 27 voucher and education savings account programs in 14 states and DC during 2016-17.  They found no more than half of all schools participating in voucher type programs mention students with disabilities anywhere on their website, including in admissions, services and academics.   GAO found that over 80% of students enrolled in private choice programs designed for students with disabilities were enrolled in programs that provided either no information or inaccurate information about the loss of IDEA rights. Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos noted that parents’ choice to enroll their children in private school may “outweigh any rights conferred by IDEA or services provided by public schools.”   GAO recommended an amendment to IDEA requiring states to notify parents about changes in  special education rights if a parent moves a child with disability from public to private school.

See: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-94

  • Politico reported “How Washington Winks at Violent Discipline of Special Needs Kids” which documents continued horrific seclusion and restraint procedures in schools with faulty data collection at the Department of Education and lacking federal oversight.



7. ICYMI –42nd Anniversary of IDEA

Lost in the cavalcade of policy action this week was the 42nd Anniversary of IDEA on Nov. 29.  There were no big events or statements from the White House as there have been in the past, though Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) did issue a statement.  Stopping to take stock of how far we have come is hard to do in these challenging times.  But maybe it can help us gain some equilibrium.  Forty two years of zero reject and full participation of students with disabilities in public education remains something to celebrate.  Just for a moment, let’s focus on our progress.

Okay, that’s over.  Back to work. J

Have a great weekend.  See you on twitter @janewestdc



November 20, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

Congress paused in the midst of a massive tax reform bill to head off for Thanksgiving recess this week.   They will return November 27 to a packed agenda.

1. Tax Reform:  Winners and Losers

Earlier this fall Congress adopted a Budget resolution paving the way for a tax reform bill with a whopping price tag of $1.5 trillion!  Because the bill is being considered under an arcane procedure called reconciliation (allowed because the budget resolution was adopted), only 51 votes are needed to pass the bill in the Senate.   Partisanship continues to prevail in Washington.

The House passed its bill, H.R. 1 – the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act -- with a vote of 227-205.  Thirteen Republicans broke rank and voted against the bill.  All Democrats opposed it. Work then moved to the Senate where the Finance Committee adopted the bill, again along party lines, with a vote of 14 to 12.  When the Senate returns next week they intend to take the bill up on the floor, heading to a conference and final legislation on the President’s desk for Christmas.

While the House and Senate versions of the bill differ, many analysts believe that both bills are skewed toward giving the biggest tax breaks to wealthy Americans.  What is certain is that adding such a large sum to the deficit will place immense pressure on existing government spending, including education programs, for big cuts.  If a bill such as this becomes law, Congress will undoubtedly begin to turn its attention to cutting programs in an effort to pay for the expanded debt.

While a full comparison of the tax bills is well beyond the scope of this blog (and this blogger!), below are some specific concerns of education advocates, in addition to the overall pressure the bill would put on the government for spending cuts across the board:

  • SALT: The State and Local Tax Deduction is under threat in both bills. The House bill would cap the local property tax deduction at $10,0000 while the Senate bill eliminates the deduction all together.  Losing or limiting this deduction will mean less funding for public education at the state and local levels.  Cuts in SALT were the key reason 13 Republicans in the House opposed the bill.
  • Teacher Expenses: Currently a teacher may deduct up to $250 paid for supplies or training.  The House bill eliminates the deduction while the Senate bill doubles it to $500.  (Note: it’s a sad commentary that we don’t think twice about teachers paying for supplies for their jobs out of their own pockets. Wish we were debating that!)
  • College Savings Accounts: “Unborn children” are eligible as college savers in both the House and Senate bills.   The House bill expands the 529 college saving accounts into the K-12 sector, replacing the existing Coverdell accounts.
  • Higher Education:  Deductions for student loan interest, college tuition and expenses and tax breaks for university employees and graduate students would be eliminated in the House proposal, but remain in the Senate proposal. The House bill also repeals the lifetime learning credit. Both bills include a 1.4% excise tax on earnings of endowments at private universities, though the criteria of eligibility differ.

A central feature of both bills is lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% with the intention of additional funds becoming available for expanded job creation.  A key difference in the bills is the last minute inclusion in the Senate bill of the repeal of the individual mandate under Obamacare.   The provision would result in between $300 and $400 billion in savings which could help to pay for tax cuts.  However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13 million people would lose their health insurance if it is adopted.

The mood on Capitol Hill seems to be skewing toward passage of the bill as Republicans believe they must score a legislative win before the end of the year.  However, much negotiating remains to be done.  And don’t forget that last minute McCain (R-AZ) vote that sank the Obamacare repeal earlier in the year.   With a number of Republican Senators not running for re-election (e.g. Sen. Flake – AZ and Sen. Corker – TN), and a number of moderate Republicans holding out (e.g. Sen. Collins – ME and Sen. Murkowski – AK), wheeling and dealing is guaranteed.  Education advocates will be at the table weighing in.

See:  https://www.cbpp.org/blog/cbo-and-jct-estimates-show-senate-bill-skewed-to-top-harmful-to-low-and-middle-income-americans

See:  https://www.fool.com/taxes/2017/11/05/7-hidden-changes-to-education-tax-breaks-in-the-go.aspx


2. What about FY 2018 Appropriations?

On December 8, the continuing resolution which is keeping the government temporarily funded, will expire.   Congress must act to keep the government from closing down.  In all likelihood, another short term funding bill will be passed to give Congress time to complete the tax reform bill and consider the fallout that will have in terms of spending.   Also in the mix is the sequester, which is a set of automatic spending cuts which will go into effect unless an amendment to the Budget Act is adopted.   And just in case you thought this wasn’t complicated, throw into the mix the looming expiration of the debt ceiling, which requires government action to enable further borrowing.  It’s a Christmas tree – Washington style.


3. Movement on Department of Education Political Appointees

Last week the Senate HELP Committee held confirmation hearings on two appointees and a nomination was announced.

Brigadier General Mitchell Zais, USA (Ret.)  was nominated to be Under Secretary, the # 2 slot at the Department.  The former South Carolina Superintendent of Education and former president of a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Zais faced questioning from the Committee.  James Blew, former director of the Walton Family Foundation’s K012 reform efforts and national president of StudentsFirst, was nominated to be Assistant Secretary  for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.  Blew also faced the Committee last week.  Both Zais and Blew were questioned by Democrats on the Committee about their support for vouchers and the enforcement of civil rights laws.  Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asked Zais about recent research on the impact of vouchers on student achievement.  Franken cited studies which found that vouchers had negative effects on reading and math.   Noting he was unaware of those studies, Zais  said that “ whenever we give parents an opportunity to choose a school that is the best fit for their children, there are improved outcomes.”

Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking Democrat on the Committee noted concerns that Zais had indicated that 5 year olds are too young to learn and that abstinence-only sex education and creationism should be taught in schools.

Johnny Collett was nominated to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Collett is currently the Director of Special Education Outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers. He previously served as Director of the Division of Learning Services and State Director of Special Education at the Kentucky Department of Education. A former special education teacher, he also served on the board of directors of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.  Statements of support were issued from the National Disability Rights Network, the National Council for Learning Disabilities and the Council for Exceptional Children.   The Senate HELP Committee has not yet scheduled a confirmation hearing.

See:  https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/nominations34

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/11/15/trump-nominee-for-no-2-spot-at-education-department-stumbles-on-key-questions-at-confirmation-hearing/?utm_term=.6804696f19bb

See: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/11/15/president-donald-j-trump-announces-intent-nominate-personnel-key

See: https://www.ncld.org/archives/blog/statement-from-mimi-corcoran-on-the-nomination-of-johnny-collett-as-assistant-secretary-of-the-office-of-special-education-and-rehabilitative-services

See: https://www.ndrn.org/en/media/releases/646-press-release-osers-nominee.html

See: https://www.cec.sped.org/~/media/Files/News/Johnny%20Collett%20Nomination%20Announcement.pdf


4. New Reports of Interest

The National Council for Teacher Quality has issued a report on state efforts to address the equitable distribution of experienced and effective teachers intended to ensure that low income and minority students have equal  access to such teachers.

See: https://www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Educator_Equity_Best_Practices

AASA, the Superintendent’s Association and the Rural School and Community Trust have issued a report with recommendations about ensuring equity in education for rural students.  See:https://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/Resources/AASA_Rural_Equity_Report_FINAL.pdf

The Education Commission of the States provides an overview of the multiple different state governance structures in education:  https://www.ecs.org/k-12-governance-structures/

The Rand Corp has issued a report considering the outcomes and economic returns of early childhood. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1993.html

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Enjoy that turkey and stuffing.  See you on twitter @janewestdc




November 3, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

The big news in DC of course is tax reform.   A number of education provisions are on the table.  With an ambitious timeline, Congress has plunged into a morass that is traditionally one of the most challenging.

1. Tax Reform Overhaul Bill Unveiled in the House of Representatives

With a sense of urgency, House Republicans--supported by President Trump--have released their tax reform bill.   The Committee on Ways and Means plans to mark up the bill next week with a goal of passing it on the House floor by Thanksgiving.  The President has said he would like to sign it by Christmas to give Americans a big beautiful Christmas President.

Two significant industries and traditional Republican allies – housing and small business – have come out against the bill.   As analysis continues to unfold, education advocates are united in opposing the bill as it looks to drive funds away from both K-12 education and higher education.  One association,  Ed Reform Now, has called this “the Betsy DeVos Tax Cut bill.”

The price tag of the bill is $1.51 trillion over a decade.  Key costly provisions in the bill are the:

  • corporate rate tax reduction which will cost $1.4 trillion over a decade
  • reduction of individual  rates, which will cost $961.2 billion
  • expanding the child tax credit at the cost of $640 billion
  • repeal of the alternative minimum tax with a $735 billion price tag

The bill includes the elimination, modification or consolidation of a number of provisions intended to at least partially pay for the increases; however they do not add up to even coming close to covering the price tag.  Some of the key education related trouble spots include:

  • a tax on private college endowments
  • provisions cutting state and local tax deductibility (SALT)
  • elimination of Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits
  • elimination of the deductibility of student loan interest
  • elimination of tuition remission for employees and graduate students in higher education
  • elimination of a $250 deduction for teachers to cover classroom expenses
  • end of Coverdell Accounts which families could use to cover $2000 of K-12 costs in favor of an expanded “529” plan to enable families pay for private school options worth up to $10,000

The key point to remember is that whenever less money flows into federal coffers, as will surely be the case if this bill is enacted, pressure to cut funding for discretionary programs, including education, grows.  Politically, the big question is “Can Congress pull this off?”  After the failure of a similarly rushed-through reform bill (health care), the pressure is on for the Republicans to succeed.  Hurdles remain, particularly when the bill moves to the Senate, and time will tell.

House summary of the Tax bill: https://waysandmeansforms.house.gov/uploadedfiles/tax_cuts_and_jobs_act_section_by_section_hr1.pdf

Center Budget and Policy Priorities Analysis: https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-budget/republican-plans-to-cut-taxes-now-cut-programs-later-would-harm-students-and

Ed Week Analysis:  https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2017/11/taxes_school_choice_trump_GOP_biggest_education_shift.html?cmp=soceml-twfdbltz-ewnow&print=1

Ed Reform Now analysis:  https://edreformnow.org/betsy-devos-tax-cut/ 


2. Status of Trump Appointees to the Department of Education

Kudos to Politico for offering up this summary of the status of Trump Administration political appointees to the Department of Education.   After 9 months in office, of the 15 positions which require confirmation by the Senate, President Trump has moved to pursue 8 nominees. Only two nominees have actually been confirmed by the Senate and are in place – Secretary DeVos and Peter Oppenheim,  Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs and former senior staffer for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).  A third nominee, Carlos G. Muñiz, has been approved by Committee to be General Counsel, and awaits a floor vote.

Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 7 by a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie.

Deputy Secretary of Education
Trump announced on Oct. 3 that he intends to nominate Mick Zais, who most recently served as superintendent of South Carolina schools.

No nominee. The Trump administration has considered scrapping the position, which is optional under the law establishing the organization of the Education Department. James Manning, whom DeVos appointed as a senior adviser to the undersecretary, is currently serving as the acting undersecretary.

Chief Financial Officer
Trump on Oct. 27 announced his intention to nominate Douglas Webster, who is currently the director of risk management at USAID. The duties of the chief financial officer are being performed by Tim Soltis, a career official.

General Counsel
The Senate HELP Committee on Oct. 18 approved, by a 12-11 vote along party lines, the nomination of Carlos G. Muñiz, a Florida attorney and former deputy to Attorney General Pam Bondi. His nomination is awaiting action by the full Senate. Steven Menashi, whom DeVos appointed as a deputy general counsel, has been serving as the acting general counsel.

Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs
Peter Oppenheim,, an aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), was confirmed to the post through unanimous consent in the Senate on Aug. 3.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
Trump announced on Oct. 26 that he intends to nominate Kenneth Marcus, the president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, for the role. Candice Jackson, whom DeVos appointed as the deputy assistant secretary for strategic operations and outreach, has been leading the Office for Civil Rights on an acting basis.

Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education
No nominee. Jason Botel, whom DeVos appointed as deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education has been serving in the role on an acting basis.

Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education
No nominee. Kathleen Smith, whom DeVos appointed as a senior adviser to the assistant secretary for postsecondary education, has been serving in the role on an acting basis.

Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
No nominee. Kimberly Richey, whom DeVos appointed as deputy assistant secretary, has been serving as acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services.

Commissioner Rehabilitation Services Administration
No nominee.

Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical and Adult Education
Trump announced on Sept. 9 that he intended to nominate Michigan state Rep. Timothy Kelly and the White House said it sent Kelly's nomination to the Senate on Oct. 3.

Director of the Institute of Education Sciences
No nominee.

Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
Trump announced on Sept. 28 that he intends to nominate Jim Blew, director of the education advocacy group Student Success California. His nomination has not yet been sent to the Senate.

Assistant Secretary, Office of Communications and Outreach
No nominee. Nathan Bailey, DeVos' communications director, has been delegated the authority to perform the duties of the assistant secretary for communications and outreach.


3. New Education Civil Rights Alliance Created

This week a new alliance intended to protect the civil rights of students was created with funding from the Ford Foundation.  Called the Education Civil Rights Alliance, the group will offer an antidote to many of the Trump Administration’s proposals, focusing on safeguarding the rights of students with disabilities, immigrant students and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.  The Alliance is comprised of over two dozen education and civil rights organizations including the ACLU, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, GLSEN, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Disability Rights Network.  The Alliance may file lawsuits against the Trump Administration if they determine rights of students are being violated.




4. New Educator Preparation Accreditor Seeks Public Comment on Standards

Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) is a new accrediting organization  for educator preparation programs.  Developed by teams of educators, the framework outlines standards for candidate performance and program practice, the accreditation process and means for ensuring capacity for consistent decisions.  AAQEP is inviting feedback from educators and others through the end of November.  A final framework will be posted in January 2018.

Draft Accreditation framework:   https://www.aaqep.org/uploads/1/0/9/3/109302791/aaqep_expectations_for_feedback_published_version_nov._1_2017.pdf

Online feedback form:   https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScoqQoxPxyA67KfTBsz454XGJzy4ka2Rm_KoxdJEp_ILGP4XA/viewform

Website: https://www.aaqep.org/

For background:  https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/10/12/yet-another-group-sets-out-to-accredit.html


5. Revealing Interview with Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos

An in-depth interview conducted by Politico with Betsy DeVos offers a number of interesting reflections from her.  For example, Sec. DeVos thinks she was poorly prepared for her confirmation hearing by the transition team.  This is a must read!



6. New Reports of Interest

  • Little Evidence and Big Consequences: Understanding Special Education Voucher Programs from the Center on Education Policy.   The website describes the report as follows:

This report examines the characteristics of state special education voucher programs along with the evidence base on their impact, effectiveness, and quality. The report, which finds that the program characteristics differ considerably across states and that the research is small, dated, and often funded by voucher proponents, identifies major questions and concerns about these programs that have yet to be fully addressed by researchers or policymakers.

See:   https://www.cep-dc.org/displayDocument.cfm?DocumentID=1486

  • Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement from the Learning Policy Institute.  The website describes the report as follows:

This brief examines the research on community schools, with two primary emphases. First, it explores whether the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opens the possibility of investing in well-designed community schools to meet the educational needs of low-achieving students in high-poverty schools. And second, it provides support to school, district, and state leaders as they consider, propose, or implement a community school intervention in schools targeted for comprehensive support.


  • Lights Off: Practice and Impact of Closing Low-Performing Schools by the National Education Policy Center.  The website describes the report as follows:

This report provides an extensive analysis based on the most comprehensive dataset ever assembled for school closure research, including 1,522 low-performing schools that were closed across 26 states between 2006 and 2013. The report finds that even when holding constant academic performance, schools were more likely to be closed if they enrolled higher proportions of minority and low-income students. It also finds test score declines, relative to the comparison group, for two groups of students displaced by closures: those who transferred to schools with a prior record of relatively lower test-score performance and those who transferred to schools with equivalent past test-score performance. The slightly less than half of students who transferred to higher performing schools showed academic improvement relative to their matched peers. In general, although the reviewers found this to be a careful and rigorous study, they see a few missed opportunities. First, the report’s focus on some tenuous analyses (involving pre-closure transfers) obscures its most important findings – disproportionality in school closures and inadequate numbers of higher quality receiving schools, leading to performance declines for most. Second, the reviewers are concerned about statistical modeling choices and matching challenges that may threaten the validity of subgroup analyses (charter school students). Finally, the reviewers would have liked to see the report acknowledge the inescapable moral dimensions of school closure: The communities most likely to be negatively affected are unlikely to have participated in closure decisions.


We are finally seeing some gorgeous fall leaves in DC.  I hope you are too.  See you on twitter @janewestdc




October 27, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

With a budget resolution now in place, Congress turns its attention to tax reform – a political “must do” for Republicans before they head into next year.  The potential implications for education are significant.   And don’t forget December 8 is the deadline to complete a funding bill for education (and everything else) for the remainder of FY 2018.  There are only 20 days left when both the House and Senate will be in session before the Dec. 8 axe falls.   We are headed into a busy pre-holiday season.

1.  With A Budget Agreement Secured, Congress Looks to Move a Tax Reform Bill

This week the House completed work on a budget resolution, setting the stage for passage of a tax reform bill which will only need the support of Republicans in order to become law.   The budget resolution which passed the House with a close vote of 216-212 included 20 Republicans voting against it as well as all Democrats.  (The same budget resolution passed the Senate earlier this month.) The tax cut bill, which is likely to be revealed next Wednesday,  will  trim taxes by as much as $1.5 trillion over the next decade.  The House and Senate have adopted an ambitious timeline, hoping to complete work on the bill by Thanksgiving!

How those cuts will be paid for is a matter of great concern for those in the education community and beyond.  There are at least three areas for educators to focus on:

  • There are about $31 Billion worth of provisions in the tax code that directly affect education, $29.5 Billion of them in higher education.  They could be at risk.
  • SALT:  State and Local Tax deduction:  because of this deduction funds are available to benefit K-12 schools; this provision brings $17 Billion per year to K-12 schools.  It could be on the chopping block.  SALT being in jeopardy is a key reason why 20 Republicans in the House voted against the Budget Resolution.
  • If tax cuts are adopted without commensurate savings in expenses the deficit will grow dramatically.  This will create pressure down the road for Congress to cut discretionary programs, such as education, to address the exploding deficit.

Putting the tax reform bill together and passing it is no small task, exacerbated by the short timeline and the intense political pressure.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) noted that hundreds of lobbyists would soon be descending on Capitol Hill to make their case as to why certain tax provisions are critical for their industry or their cause.   He compared it to a white-water rafting trip where “we’re about to go through Class 5 rapids, which is the biggest rapid you can go through.  We’ve got to make sure everybody stays in the boat, and we get the boat down the river.”

See:  How Governments Support Higher Education Through The Tax Code

See: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/analysis-5-ways-tax-reform-affect-educators


2. Department of Education Seeking Comments on Discretionary Priorities

The Department of Education has issued proposed priorities for its competitive grants.  They are out for public comment, with comments being due November 13.   These priorities, which are traditionally issued by the Department, apply only to discretionary funds, which total about $4 billion. The vast majority of the Department’s spending is distributed through formula grants or to students based on eligibility (e.g. student loans and Pell grants).

The priorities are generally used to further focus competitive grant proposals by, for example, awarding additional points for those who address the priorities.  The 10 priorities are broad and encompass expanding school choice, promoting innovation and efficiency, developing students as citizens, meeting the unique needs of students with disabilities and those with gifts and talents, expanding computer science, promoting effective instruction in classrooms and schools and improving school climate.

The proposed priorities include proposed definitions, such as one of “educational choice” which encompasses private schools, private online providers, private tutoring providers, community or faith-based organizations and private education providers.

See:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/12/2017-22127/secretarys-proposed-supplemental-priorities-and-definitions-for-discretionary-grant-programs

3. Department of Education Begins to Deliver on Reducing Regulatory Burden

In complying with the Administration-wide effort to reduce regulatory burden, the Department of Education indicated it will be rescinding almost 600 pieces of subregulatory guidance which are described as out of date.  The rescissions are as follows:

  • Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE):  from 228 guidance documents, 97 will be withdrawn
  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS):  from 169 documents, 72 will be withdrawn
  • Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE): from 1171 documents, 398 will be withdrawn

Early this week the announcement of the extinction of 72 documents from OSERS provoked an outcry from the disability community and some Democrats concerned about what would be lost in the rescissions.  Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) called it “the latest in a series of disturbing actions taken by the Trump Administration to undermine civil rights for vulnerable Americans.”   Special education advocates scrambled to review the 72 documents and find the more current documents which replaced them.  The National Disability Rights Network wrote to Acting Assistant Secretary of OSERS Kim Richey recommending that in the future a specific rationale accompany each decision for rescission and include the guidance which has superseded the rescinded documents.  Such an approach would enhance transparency they noted.

Following the announcement of the 72 guidance rescissions, a draft federal register notice was leaked which indicated that Sec. DeVos was considering delaying or ending the special education disproportionality regulation which is intended to ensure that minority students are not inappropriately classified as needing special education.   The Department indicated that the draft federal register notice had been revised, but the new version has not yet been made public.  This leaked draft provoked a twitter outcry from Democratic legislators.

  • Tim Kaine (D-VA): “why is it that key civil rights protections for students always seem to be on the chopping block for @BetsyDeVosED?”
  • Bob Casey (D-PA): “seems Betsy DeVos is on a mission to decimate basic protections for students at all levels”
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “Instead of continuing this Admin’s civil rights attacks, @BestsyDeVosDC should be expanding opportunities for all. Clearly, she is failing.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, issued a statement noting that “There can be no further question:  Secretary DeVos is dead set on rolling back all the progress we’ve made for our children of color and students with disabilities.  If Secretary DeVos indeed moves forward with this action, she will be pushing IDEA’s promise of educational equity further out of reach, worsening the school to prison pipeline and so much more – with students of all ages and backgrounds paying the price.”

Additional announcements about regulatory roll backs are expected from the Department over the next several weeks.

Department announcement:  https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USED/bulletins/1c07774

List and reasons for OSERS rescissions: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/reg/eo13777/eo13777-osers-outdated-guidance-list-reasons-20171020.pdf

Summary of phone call regarding OSERS rescissions: https://www.ndsccenter.org/wp-content/uploads/Summary-of-OSERS-stakeholder-call-10-24-17.pdf.

COPPA statement on OSERS rescissions: https://copaa.site-ym.com/news/371171/COPAA-Statement-on-OSERS-Decision-to-Rescind-Guidance-Documents-.htm

Bobby Scott statement:  https://democrats-edworkforce.house.gov/media/press-releases/scott-statement-on-rollback-of-guidance-on-special-education-

4. Personnel Coming and Going

President Trump has nominated Kenneth Marcus to be the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.  He must be confirmed by the Senate and will likely face a barrage of questions about changes in civil rights policy, particularly Title IX roll backs, since President Trump has taken office.

Read about him here:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_L._Marcus

Chris Minnich, long- time executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is stepping down on January 12 to return to Oregon, where he is from.  He will be the head of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), a non-profit focusing on assessments.

See:  https://www.ccsso.org/News_and_Events/Press_Releases/CCSSO_Executive_Director_Chris_Minnich_to_Step_Down.html

4. New Resources for Educators

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.  I will be on a silent retreat listening to that voice in my head!

See you on twitter @janewestdc




October 20, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

This is a special issue of Washington Update on the theme of Entrance to the Profession:  Innovation or Lowering Standards?  Let me know what is happening in your state!

Entrance to the Profession:  Innovation or Lowering Standards?

In the last few weeks, I have increasingly encountered news of states “reforming” entry paths to become a teacher, generally motivated by addressing critical teacher shortages, with special education at the forefront.   I put “reforming” in quotes because I am not quite sure of the implication.

  • Does it mean creating new options that attract career-changers with different standards because that makes sense for people from other careers?
  • Does it mean new strategies to reach out to diverse audiences and eliminate unintended barriers?
  • Does it mean early recruitment in high schools?
  • Does it mean giving credit for life experiences that substitute for formal teacher preparation?  If so, what would those life experiences be, for example for special education?
  • Does it mean eliminating barriers that are simply bureaucratic hurdles, particularly in relation to initial state certification?
  • Does it mean strengthening clinical preparation and induction to address both teacher readiness on day one and teacher turnover in the early years?
  • Does it mean treating teaching like an apprenticeship where you learn on the job?
  • Does it mean simply lowering the bar?
  • Does it mean trying anything that is new and different since the shortages are so pressing leaving states, superintendents and principals desperate to find alternatives for substitute teachers?
  • Or is it all of the above?
  • Is it clear that the “reforms” underway by states are in compliance with federal law?

I don’t have the answers, but I think the questions are important.  Some policy context is offered below and some examples of some state “reforms” in process.


Federal Policy Context – NCLB and ESSA

With the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 came the elimination of the 13 year old federal requirement for teachers to be “highly qualified”  that was part of No Child Left Behind.  While that requirement was controversial, and reinterpreted through amendments a number of times, it did require that teachers meet a sufficient level of content knowledge , hold at least a BA and have full state certification.  In addition, it codified alternate routes to teaching allowing participants to serve as the teacher of record for up to three years so long as they were enrolled in a preparation program leading to full certification and receiving ongoing high-quality professional development and supervision.   With these federal requirements removed, all decision making about determining readiness to enter the profession rests with the state.  There is no longer a federal floor for content knowledge, nor a federal requirement for those pursuing alternate routes to be enrolled in programs that lead to full certification or receive ongoing professional development and supervision.   The “highly qualified” provision was replaced by state authority to determine the credentials of teachers.  Certification is the portal for entry and this is where many states are experimenting with new provisions.

See: https://www.nea.org/assets/docs/Backgrounder-HighlyQualifiedTeachers.pdf


Federal Policy Context – IDEA

When ESSA was enacted and it eliminated the “highly qualified” provision, it also amended IDEA to eliminate the term “highly qualified;” however, the new provisions in IDEA which define requirements for special education teachers are not the same as those in ESSA.  For one, in IDEA special education teachers must have a BA.  No such requirement exists in ESSA.  In addition, special education teachers must have:

  • Obtained full state certification as a special education teacher – including participation in alternate routes, as defined under NCLB, or
  • Passed the state special education teacher licensing exam and
  • Hold a license to teach in the state as a special education teacher.

Thus when a special education teacher enters the classroom through an alternate route, the previous requirements of NCLB apply, in particular the teacher must be receiving high-quality professional development, intensive supervision, assume the functions of a teacher for no more than 3 years and be progressing toward full certification.

In addition, IDEA references “qualified personnel” a number of times.   How these new provisions interact with that concept, is a consideration for further analysis.

See:  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2009-title34-vol1/pdf/CFR-2009-title34-vol1-sec200-56.pdf

See: https://www.apta.org/FederalIssues/ESSA/


Teacher Shortages

Teacher shortages across the country have been growing over the last few years.  The Learning Policy Institute has researched shortages and their causes extensively and notes the following:

  • In 2015-16 there was a national teacher shortage of about 60,000
  • Special education is the field with the greatest shortage with 48 states and DC reporting shortages; STEM fields and foreign languages also experience significant shortages
  • 90% of high poverty schools have experienced a teacher shortage
  • If current trends continue, the shortage could rise to 112,000 by 2018
  • Teacher preparation program enrollment is down 35% nationally in the last 5 years
  • Teacher replacement costs, fueled by teacher turnover and shortages,  is approximately $8 billion per year
  • Teachers of color leave schools and the teaching profession at a rate higher than white teachers – 18.9% for teachers of color and 15% for white teachers
  • Those prepared through alternate pathways with less coursework and student teaching are 25% more likely to leave their schools and the profession than those who are well prepared
  • Reasons for teachers leaving include poor compensation, lack of administrative support, dissatisfaction with working conditions, dissatisfaction with testing and accountability pressures  and lack of opportunities for advancement
  • Some states and geographic regions have more extensive shortages than others

See:  https://www.scribd.com/document/324144856/A-Coming-Crisis-in-Teaching-Learning-Policy-Institute#from_embed

For a list of state by state shortage areas see:  https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/pol/tsa.pdf

Examples of Certification “Reform” from States


An Alabama State School Board resolution allows districts to hire adjunct teachers – people who are not certified – to work up to half time.  Details of the provision include:

  • Adjuncts must have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Adjuncts must have a clean background check
  • Adjuncts may not teach early childhood, elementary or special education (thus they may teacher academic subjects and in career and technical areas)
  • Adjuncts must work under the guidance of a mentor
  • Adjuncts are not required to seek certification unless they want to work more than half time
  • There is no limit on the number of adjuncts a district may hire



The Connecticut State Board of Education is considering pairing back certification requirements and creating new alternate pathways.  Areas of focus are bilingual, math, science and special education.



Responding to an audit that described the current certification system as broken, Minnesota has adopted a new four tier certification system which will take effect next summer.    A key feature related to the shortages below:

  • Tier 1: teachers obtain a one year license with a four year degree in any subject or, if they are teaching in a technical field, a two year degree and professional certification or work experience.  The school district must vouch for the teacher’s skills and show that they cannot find a more qualified candidate.  These one year licenses may be renewed indefinitely in technical fields and shortage areas.


New York

  • New York City charter schools which operate under the auspices of SUNY may now certify their own teachers
  • Prospective teachers in these charter schools must fulfill just over a week of practice teaching
  • Prospective special education teachers need to fulfill a week of “observing and working with” students with disabilities as well as 10 hours of discipline training and a week of general field experience
  • Teaching candidates do not have to be trained by certified teachers
  • The teachers’ union just filed suit to prevent this initiative from moving forward




In response to the teacher shortage:

  • People may be licensed to teach with no preparation in teaching, rather a BA degree and passage of a test



West Virginia

West Virginia has proposed changes to reduce some licensing requirements, in part to address  shortages.  The proposal was out for public comment which ended October 10 and final action is pending.  The proposal includes:

  • Clarifications regarding requirements for receiving permanent teaching certification with an MA and the coursework required
  • Exemptions from the PRAXIS pre-Professional Skills Test for people with five years of directly related work experience and an MA in the content area for which the license is sought
  • Exemptions from the PRAXIS Pre-professional skills test for people with a BA and an overall GPA of 3.5



Also in response to the shortage, Wisconsin has slipped a provision into its state budget proposal that would fund the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) as an alternative route option.  Superintendent of Education Evers is opposed to the provision.  ABCTE is a low-cost online fast track program for those who have a Bachelor’s degree.  ABCTE is controversial and has been challenged as lacking in efficacy.


In my next look at this issue I’ll highlight some promising and innovative practices to strengthen the profession, address shortages and expand diversity in the profession simultaneously.

I look forward to hearing from you!   Let me know what is happening in your state!

In the meantime see you on twitter @janewestdc




 October 6, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

As a beginning of a last big push before the end of the year to bring home an accomplishment for President Trump, the House and the Senate both moved forward an FY 2018 budget resolution which would pave the way for tax reform – the #1 priority for the governing Republican party.  Then they headed home for next week’s recess period.  Look for your Senators and Representatives back home – a great time to visit with them about your priorities!

1. FY 2018 Budget Moves Forward in the House and Senate

On October 5, the House approved H. Con Res. 115, the 2018 budget resolution, thus paving the way for tax reform before the end of the year.  By a vote of 219 to 206, with 18 Republicans in opposition, the resolution is now ready to meet the Senate version (in progress) for conference to create a final deal.

While the resolution in and of itself is not significant, the fact that it opens the door for tax reform with only 50 votes required in the Senate is critical.  The House resolution plots a path toward ending the annual budget deficit in a decade.  Trillions of dollars of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, among other programs, would make this possible.  Democrats argued against the proposal saying it would balance the budget on the backs of vulnerable communities.  The tax reform proposal under development (which would be enabled by this budget proposal) has been criticized by Democrats as favoring cuts for the wealthiest citizens and doing little for low and middle income citizens.  The House budget resolution also calls on various Committees to come up with $205 billion in savings, including the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee passed its version of the 2018 budget which would enable adoption of a tax reform measure that could add up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade.  This bill will be taken up by the full Senate later in October when they return from recess.  A conference to create a final resolution is expected in November.

What does all this have to do with education, you might be thinking about now?  Here is my answer:

  • If tax reform moves forward and requires big cuts in domestic spending, education will be in the cross hairs;
  • If the State and Local Tax (SALT) is eliminated, state and local funds for education will feel the squeeze;
  • Reduction or elimination of federal student financial aid programs could become a part of the effort to reduce spending and subsidize tax reform.

And don’t forget education funding for FY 2017 expires on December 8.  By then the Congress must act to either extend the continuing resolution or pass a new appropriations bill.  Of course a government shutdown is always an option too!





2. Senate HELP Committee Considers Early ESSA Implementation

On October 3, the Senate HELP Committee assembled a panel  to consider how states are planning to implement ESSA.  With all plans now on the desk of the Secretary, and at least 14 approved so far, legislators wanted to know how its going.  Titled “Unleashing State Innovation”, the hearing focused on three states with plans which have been approved and described by some as strong examples.

Witnesses were:

  • Candace McQueen, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Education
  • John White, State Superintendent of Education, Louisiana
  • Christopher Ruszkowski, Secretary of Education, New Mexico Public Education Department
  • David Steiner, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy

Innovations which were highlighted include a “ready graduate indicator” in Tennessee; an expanded focus on career and technical education in Louisiana and expanded student services in New Mexico.  Louisiana has developed a new evaluation system for teacher preparation programs with required on-site visits and consideration of the performance of new teachers.  New Mexico has prioritized teacher leadership as a strategy for retaining teachers and strengthening the profession.  Louisiana requires all seniors in teacher prep programs to serve as “resident educator” in a classroom with a mentor teacher in order to complete their preparation program.  Mentors are trained and provided with additional pay.

While Steiner praised the plans of the three states represented on the panel, he noted that federal oversight is critical.  He noted several areas of concern where states may be lagging:  an articulation of meeting the “evidence based” requirements of the law; a lack of focus on teacher quality and equitable distribution; articulation of criteria for low performing schools; limited description of interventions for low performing schools; no clear definition of “consistently underperforming” for a subgroup; different standards for high school diplomas and ratings based on student performance in relation to other students rather than proficiency standards.

The template that has been provided by the Department of Education does not include a number of provisions required by the law, so many states may  not address  them in their plans.  Examples include how “evidence based” strategies will be determined and utilized; how states are defining “experienced” and “effective” teachers and how equitable distribution of teachers will be measured, monitored and addressed if needed.

Sen. Casey (D-PA) raised concern that the utilization of Universal Design for Learning in student assessments is required by the law but rarely addressed in state plans.  Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) raised the concern that students with dyslexia are rarely identified until third grade and by that time they are failing to learn to read.  He urged early identification and intervention.  New Hampshire was reported to have universal screening for dyslexia in grade 1.  McQueen noted that Response to Intervention was assisting with early intervention and improved instruction in Tennessee.

Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed concerns about ensuring that the civil rights guardrails in the law are clearly implemented and that full compliance with the statute becomes apparent.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called on Sen. Alexander to invite Sec. of Education DeVos to testify which received a terse reply from the Chairman saying she could raise that in private with him if she wanted to but not at the hearing.

Plans will continue to be reviewed at the Department of Education and modifications/approvals will be announced in the next few months.

For a video of the hearing and all written testimony see: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/the-every-student-succeeds-act-unleashing-state-innovation

For ESSA state plans submitted to the Department of Education see: https://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplan17/statesubmission.html


3. ADA Notification Bills

The House of Representatives has had three bills introduced to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act – all intended to require plaintiffs to have additional opportunities to correct violations prior to civil action.  One of the bills, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, H. R. 620, introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and  with 60 co-sponsors – both Republicans and Democrats – has been endorsed by the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 15-9.   The next stop for this bill would be the House floor.

Many business organizations, such as the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, are supporting the bill.   Citing the need to “restore the integrity of the ADA”, the organizations argue that “drive-by” lawsuits have been an unintended consequence of the law filed by those seeking a monetary judgement, not removing access barriers. If  property owners are given notice of infractions and the opportunity to address them, the law will be better implemented they argue.

The disability community is united in opposition to the bill arguing that it places a new burden on those intended to be protected by the law requiring them to prove denial of access and adding significant obstacles to the existing process.  The result, they argue, would be a delay in access for those protected by the ADA.  We can expect vigorous opposition from the community, just like we saw with the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill recently.

Disability Community letter opposing HR 620: https://www.advocacymonitor.com/letter-opposing-the-ada-education-and-reform-act/

Letter supporting HR 620: https://www.advocacymonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/9-25-17-The-ADA-Education-and-Reform-Act-of-2017-Letter.pdf


4. New Education Publications of Note

The Education Commission of the States offers a new guide for state policy makers to facilitate their understanding of student assessments.


AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has developed a number of resources to assist educators in addressing issues of equity, including a toolkit, a multimedia library and webinars.


The Education Trust describes how state leaders can ensures equitable access to effective teachers for disadvantaged students. They provide practical guides for state, local and school leaders.


The Clayton Christensen Institute has published “The State Innovators Toolkit: A Guide to Successfully Managing Innovation under ESSA.”


The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching describes their strategies and documents outcomes in strengthening teacher preparation.  They describe the standards they use and  partnerships between K-12 and teacher preparation programs.


The National Council on Teacher Quality takes issue with recent reports (most notably from LPI as covered in last week’s Washington Update) related to teacher turnover and teacher shortages.


ll the best to you for a wonderful long holiday weekend.  Keep those tweets coming @janewestdc





September 29, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

This week witnessed another stunning defeat for Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare with disability rights activists flooding Capitol Hill leading the opposition and shutting down a hearing on the bill.   But it may not be over….

1. The Big Picture:  The Budget and Reconciliation

Once again Senate Republicans could not muster the 50 votes required to defeat Obamacare and thus abandoned their plan for a floor vote this week.  Republican leadership quickly pivoted to tax reform as their next priority.  The first step is the passage of a new FY 2018 Budget Resolution.  The Budget resolution will serve as the vehicle for tax reform and include the reconciliation strategy which enables the Senate to pass a bill with only 50 votes rather than the usual 60.

The House Budget Committee has reported out its version of the Budget Resolution for FY 2018 and it will likely be voted on by the full House next week.  It is anticipated that it will pass with most, if not all, Democrats opposing it.  The resolution from the committee calls for billions of dollars of cuts in non-defense discretionary spending (the pot which include education) and a particular directive to the House Education and the Workforce Committee to cut $5 billion, which education advocates believe may be targeted toward cutting student financial aid.  The Senate Budget committee released their blueprint today and will likely vote on it next week. It does not include a directive to the Senate HELP Committee to cut funding, a relief to education advocates.   Also missing from both proposals is any provision which would promote vouchers or otherwise drive public education dollars to private schools.  Republican leaders are working hard to shift the focus of work to tax reform and hope to deliver some sort of victory before the end of the year.

There is continued speculation that Obamacare repeal may be revisited, perhaps by using the FY 2019 Budget proposal.  In the meantime, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair and ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, have reactivated their efforts to address the shortcomings of Obamacare by shoring up the health insurance markets.  With such an impressive history of working and delivering results in a bi-partisan way, this is a hopeful development for a functioning Congress!

MSNBC: Protesters dragged from health care repeal hearing: https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/protesters-dragged-from-health-care-repeal-hearing-1054878275685




2. President Trump Issues Directive on STEM Education

In a somewhat ironic twist, President Trump this week issued a directive requiring a $200 million investment in STEM education – despite his budget proposal calling for a $9 billion cut to education programs, many of which support STEM education.  The investment will come from existing funds and be targeted by Department “priorities” listed for grant proposals rather than the creation of a separate new grant program with repurposed funds.  In addition the Department might issue guidance and technical assistance to implement the initiative.  Computer science will be a particular focus with an intention to reach historically underserved populations, including women and minorities.  Increasing STEM teachers is also a focus.  The directive states: “The Department of Education, therefore, should prioritize helping districts recruit and train teachers capable of providing students with a rigorous education in STEM fields, focusing in particular on Computer Science.”



3. ESSA: Implementation Unfolds

With all ESSA state plans now submitted to the Department of Education, ESSA enters a new phase of implementation.   There are multiple efforts underway to analyze the plans and gain an understanding of what decisions states are making.  Next week the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on ESSA titled  “Unleashing State Innovation.”   Witnesses include Commissioners of Education from Tennessee, Louisiana and New Mexico.  The hearing will likely be very interesting considering that Sen. Murray, ranking Democrat on the Committee (in conjunction with Rep. Bobby Scott, ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee) issued sharp criticism of the Department’s review of the plans:  https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2017-09-18%20ESSA%20statutory%20requirements%20letter.pdf

You can view the hearing here on Tuesday at 10 AM: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/the-every-student-succeeds-act-unleashing-state-innovation

Future Ed has released a report analyzing the 36 states and DC which have chosen to use chronic absenteeism as an accountability indicator:  https://www.future-ed.org/whos-in-chronic-absenteeism-under-the-every-student-succeeds-act/

The Advocacy Institute and the National Down Syndrome Congress have joined forces to develop a template for disability advocates to use in analyzing ESSA state plans, and applied that template to multiple plans releasing their own analyses: https://www.advocacyinstitute.org/ESSA/ESSA-StateDraftPlanAnalysis.shtml

Education Reform Now has issued a summary of what, in their view, are the essential equity requirements of ESSA: . https://edreformnow.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ESSA-Bright-Lines-Final.pdf

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has issued an analysis of state equity plans under ESSA based on the submissions of the first 16 states and the District of Columbia:  https://www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Educator_Equity_Best_Practices

The Center for American Progress released an analysis of the first 16 state and DC ESSA state plan submissions in relation to school accountability : https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2017/08/04/436963/school-accountability-first-round-essa-state-plans/


4. More New Reports:  Teachers, Teachers, Teachers

The Learning Policy Institute is out with a new report:  “Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It.”  The report finds that over 100,000 classrooms are filled with underprepared teachers and that number will likely rise.  It notes that annual teacher attrition is about 8% and accounts for about 90% of the demand for new teachers.  High teacher turnover rates cost over $20,000 per teacher for every teacher who leaves an urban district.  For special education, the turnover rate is 46% higher than that for elementary teachers.  See: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/teacher-turnover-report

The Center for American Progress has two new reports out related to teacher diversity.  The first examines the diversity gap across time and state by state.


The second considers the intersection of diversity and selectivity : https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2017/09/14/437667/america-needs-teachers-color-selective-teaching-profession/

The Education Commission of the States provides a 50 state analysis of teacher licensing reciprocity – a strategy cited by some as an effective way to address the shortage and criticized by others as promoting “robbing from Peter to pay Paul” and lowering teacher standards. https://www.ecs.org/ec-content/uploads/Teacher_License_Reciprocity_.pdf

The Southern Regional Education Board’s Teacher Preparation Commission has issued a report calling for increased data collection:  https://www.sreb.org/news/commission-calls-data-systems-improve-teacher-preparation

Wishing you a great final September weekend!  See you on twitter @janewestdc




September 15, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

TGIF!  I hope you have had a great week.  The House left town Thursday after passing its mega spending bill.  The Senate will be in next week, but just for three days.  All eyes look ahead to what’s next:  enactment of DACA, the wall, tax reform, new “deals” between President Trump and his best friends, Chuck and Nancy?  It’s an unfolding mystery with a lot at stake and we are staying tuned!

1.  House Passes Mega Spending Bill with Big Cuts to Education

Just before heading for the planes, trains and automobiles, House Members passed a $1.2 trillion spending bill, which will undoubtedly be rejected by the Senate.  The bill passed with a 211-198 vote—not an overwhelming victory for sure.  But the House now has full bragging rights about completing action on all 12 of the required appropriations bills before the Sept. 30 deadline when the government’s fiscal year ends – an accomplishment that is hard to come by and hasn’t actually happened in many years.  Over 460 amendments were debated on the floor.

For education, the bill includes a $2.4 billion cut for education from last year’s level. The House adopted an amendment by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) to increase spending for after-school programs by $100 million. The funds would be taken from the administration budget for the Department of Education.  The House rejected an amendment by Rep. Jason Lewis(R-MN) to increase funding for Career and Technical Education and one offered by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) to reduce funding for three administrative offices at the Department.  An amendment offered by Joe Courtney (D-CT) to increase funding for charter schools was rejected. To the relief of education advocates, an amendment which had been filed by Rep. F. Rooney (R-FL) to cut funding for IES by one third was withdrawn.

The Senate Labor/HHS education appropriations bill is more generous than the House bill.  It funds education with a $29 million increase over FY 2017 spending, not including the recission from the Pell grant surplus.  So this leaves an approximate $2.5 billion gap between the two bills for education funding—a gap that is more like a chasm that will be challenging to straddle.  One area where the bills are in agreement is in rejecting the Trump Administrations proposals for expanding school choice.  Neither bill includes those recommendations.

As you will recall, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that carried all government spending, including education, through December 8 at last year’s level.  So negotiations are likely to begin shortly to determine a funding bill which would take effect when the Dec. 8 provision expires.




2. Cuts to Student Financial Aid and School Choice Expansion May Ride the Reconciliation Train

On September 30 the FY 2017 budget resolution will expire. The House is poised to pass it’s FY 2018 budget resolution as early as the end of this month.  The Senate will likely markup its proposal this fall in Committee and seek to resolve it with the House quickly so that a final Budget Resolution will be in place.

The Congress needs a new Budget resolution for FY 2018 in order to use the reconciliation procedure to pass controversial measures with only a 51 vote majority in the Senate.  Without the protection of the budget reconciliation process, the Senate must have 60 votes to pass a measure, thus requiring bipartisan support.

Discussions indicate that the big ticket item which the Congress will try to move under this new Reconciliation bill will be tax reform.  However, many education advocates believe it could also be a vehicle for consolidating and/or eliminating some student financial aid programs as well as the Trump Administration’s school choice proposals.  Of particular concern to educators are the public service loan forgiveness programs which some have targeted for elimination.  Some of these programs offer significant incentives to public school teachers, particularly those in high need fields such as special education and STEM, as their loans are forgiven over a period of time in which they are serving as teachers. Many are skeptical that reconciliation would also take up school choice proposals, as there is little appetite for them on Capitol Hill and many choice advocates do not want to see the federal government more involved with school choice. However, the Administration remains committed to pursuing them.


3.  Secretary DeVos On a Back-to-School Field Trip

Like her predecessors, Secretary Betsy DeVos headed out for a back-to-school bus tour this week.  Dubbed “Rethink School”, the tour covers 6 states (Wyoming and head to Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana) and features “creative ways in which education leaders are meeting the needs of students in K-12 and higher education.”  Her visits to 13 schools spanned traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools home schools, 4 year colleges and community colleges.  DeVos has been met with some protestors along the way.

One particularly interesting stop was at Firefly Autism House in Denver – the private school where a student (named Endrew) who was the center of a recent Supreme Court decision attends.  The Court found that school districts must meet more than a “de minimus” standard when providing an education to students with disabilities.  Endrew’s parents removed him from public school and placed him at Firefly believing his needs were not being met in the public system.  The parents were seeking tuition reimbursement from the school district.  On the tour DeVos noted that the notion of minimum progress for students with disabilities was “preposterous” and that parents should not have to sue their way to the Supreme Court.

There has been some talk that the Department might issue guidance on the Endrew decision, but none has been forthcoming to date. Given the work underway at the Department to shrink guidance, policy letters and regulations, that seems unlikely.  However, the Department has set up an email address for parents to seek answers to questions about the Endrew decision from the at [email protected]




 4.  Two Divergent New Reports Out on Teacher Prep

The Council of Chief State School Officers is out with Transforming Educator Preparation: Lessons Learned from Leading States.  The product comes from the work of the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation, a multi-year collaborative of states and national education organizations dedicated to ensuring that teachers are “learner ready” from their first day in the classroom.  The report includes tips for success in achieving results and highlights multiple examples of states which are innovating in areas such as licensure, preparation program standards and approval and using data to measure success and continued improvement.  An audit tool for states to use is included.

The second report, New Colleges of Education – A Path for Going from Concept to Reality, offered by Education Reform Now, offers quite a different perspective. Co-authored by Michael Dannenberg, the Department of Education staffer who is generally credited with drafting the now- repealed teacher preparation regulations, the report asserts that teacher preparation is generally broken and the path to progress is through a new accrediting entity – one which eliminates the “fox guarding the henhouse” structure currently in place at CAEP, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

The report offers three policy options: create a new accrediting entity for teacher prep; work with an existing accreditor to create a separate commission for teacher prep; or takeover an existing accrediting entity.  The new entity would be comprised of employers of graduates of teacher prep programs, including state and local superintendents and charter school leaders.  The new accreditor would focus on learning gains of K-12 students taught by program graduates and assessments of employers as to whether the graduates of programs were adequately prepared. Furthermore, the report recommends that the Secretary of Education utilize existing authority to enable a teacher prep program that is not a part of an institution of higher education to gain access to federal student financial aid so long as outcomes are validated by an entity authorized to do so by the Secretary. The report concludes that “the cartel of teacher preparation program providers needs to be broken up.”




5. New OECD Report Shows Low Earnings for Teachers

This week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development issued Education at a Glance 2017, new data from 34 countries comparing education on multiple variables.  A few key findings include:

  • Only 66% of 4 year olds were enrolled in preschool in the US in 2015, compared to the OECD average of 87%
  • In 2016, 45% of US adults ages 25-64 held a post-secondary degree, compared to the OECD average of 36%
  • S. teachers earn less than 60% of salaries of other workers with a similar education, landing the U.S. at the bottom compared with teacher earnings of other OECD countries.



6. CAP Report on Teacher Diversity and Tough Certification Standards:  At Odds?

The Center for American Progress issued a report this week considering whether the two goals of increasing the diversity in America’s workforce and raising standards for entry into the teaching profession are compatible.    The report proposes prioritizing both goals and pursuing solutions such as increased cultural competency among today’s educators thus inspiring a more diverse set of future educators.    The report considers the possibility of making candidate diversity and ability equally important in the recruitment and selection of teachers.    Exemplars are reviewed.



7. Consensus Statement on Social/Emotional Learning Released

This week a group of 28 experts on social and emotional learning issued a set of consensus statements affirming the interconnectedness of social, emotional and academic development.  “The Evidence Base for How We Learn:  Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development” was unanimously issued by the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development at the Aspen Institute.  The report recommends a greater use of social/emotional learning in classrooms and training for educators.  The report draws from brain science, medicine, economics, psychology and education research and considers how social/emotional competencies can be taught throughout life.  Authors believe the dialogue now should not be about whether schools should highlight social/emotional learning, but rather how they should do it.


Here’s wishing you a fun-filled weekend that brings you back refreshed and ready to roll on Monday!

Don’t forget to visit me on twitter @janewestdc




September 8, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome to fall! In usual form, Congress has pushed much of its business into a handful of legislative days before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.  The agenda is packed and moving fast.

1. President Trump Joins Democrats to Move Comprehensive Funding  Package and More

In a surprise and unanticipated move President Trump aligned with Democratic leaders in the Congress to package three “must do” initiatives and move them quickly.  With pressure from the need to provide relief to hurricane victims, this unlikely coalition agreed on packaging over $15 billion of hurricane relief with a temporary stop-gap funding bill to keep the government open and a provision to raise the debt ceiling.   The legislation was adopted by the House with a vote 316-90 and the Senate 80-17. It runs through December 8.  Funding for education programs will continue for now at their current levels.

Congress returned from summer recess facing both the debt ceiling and passing a funding bill to keep the government alive into the next fiscal year -- both always challenging to pass and usually political footballs.   Passage of this bill takes the pressure off for a few months and gives Democrats the upper hand in negotiations that will be needed to carry the government forward after December 8.




2. Senate Committee Passes Education Funding Bill

On September 7, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a Labor/HHS/Education spending bill for FY 2018.  Funding levels for education are more generous than those in the House bill and virtually all of President Trump’s proposals were rejected.  While there is a slight increase in education spending over the FY 2017 level, that was accomplished by utilizing funds from the Pell surplus – a move that worries many education advocates.

Below are some comparisons of funding for education programs for FY 2017, President Trump’s proposal and the House and Senate FY 2018 Committee bills.  The next step in the process comes as the December 8 deadline approaches when new funding bills must be passed.

FY 2017 Trump Request House Com. Bill Senate Com. Bill
Title I $15.46B $14.88B $15.46B $15.48B
Title II $2.06B 0 0 $2.06B
IDEA Part B $12 B $11.9 B $12.2B $12B
IDEA State Personnel Dev. $39M $42M $39M $39M
IDEA Personnel Prep $84M $84M $84M $84M
Higher Ed program for students with ID $12M $12M $12M $12M
Teacher Quality Partnership $43M 0 0 $38M


IES Total $605M $617M $605M $600M
Special Ed Research (subset of IES) $54M $54M $54M $54M


3. Full House Considers Package of 8 Funding Bills, Including Education

Despite the pressure of September 30 being relieved by the passage of the short term funding bill, the House is considering a package of 8 appropriations bills, called a “minibus.”  The remaining 4 appropriations bills have already been adopted by the House.  Passage of this minibus would give the House bragging rights that they have completed their business in regular order and in a timely fashion.  Beyond that, it is not clear what the impact would be as the Senate is way behind the House and some appropriations bills that have progressed are at vastly different spending levels than those in the House.  In addition the House bill exceeds the budget cap for defense spending by over $70 billion which would require a change to the Budget Act for passage.

The House will consider hundreds of amendments to the minibus next week over several days.  One which is troubling to educators is a proposal by Rep. F. Rooney (R-FL) to cut one third of the funding for the Institute of Education Sciences.  The House is expected to consider the education portion of the bill in the middle of the week.


4. Five Past Secretaries of Education Urge Congress to Enact DACA

President Trump generated an outpouring of opposition from all corners of the education world when he called for the end to DACA – the executive order that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children to remain in the country.  Higher education organizations have been particularly vocal in their concerns and education groups are urging Congress to act swiftly – before the 6 month deadline – to enact DACA, or something similar, into law.

Five past Secretaries of Education joined to write a letter to Congress calling for a legislative fix.  Secretaries John King, Arne Duncan and Richard Riley from the Democratic side and Secretaries Margaret Spellings and Rod Paige from the Republican side noted that “Terminating DACA administratively without a legislative solution would cause hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to lose their jobs, their legal status and their protection from deportation.”

They further added, “DACA was always a temporary fix, a band-aid designed to hold until Congress acted.  That time has come.  As you well know, bipartisan legislation known as the DREAM Act has been introduced every Congress since 2001 to address this issue.  The DREAM Act would create a path for these young Americans to earn legal status and eventually citizenship, like generations of hardworking immigrants before them.”


5. Have We Lost Sight of Education as the Cornerstone of Democracy?

A recent article in the Atlantic Magazine by Erika Christakis argues that our debate about education has become more of a debate about a private consumable than a public good.  She says “I am more concerned with how the current discussion has ignored public schools’ victories, while also detracting from their civic role.”  She believes our lost faith in public education has led us to false conclusions.   A certified public school teacher herself, Christakis holds we are suffering from neglecting instruction in democracy in our schools.  Read this thoughtful article here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-war-on-public-schools/537903/


Cheers for a great weekend.

Let me know if you have questions.

See you on twitter @janewestdc




May 23, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

I want to provide you with an overview of the budget released today by President Trump for FY 2018.  Called by many “draconian” and “an end to public education as we know it,” it recommends severe cuts of over $9 billion or 13% to the US Department of Education.  It eliminates or reduces spending for several existing programs while recommending $1.2 billion for new school choice programs.  Below are more detailed highlights.

Biggest Losers:

                For K-12

  • Title II-A of ESSA: Formula grant for states and local districts to support personnel development and related work: eliminated -- $2.1B
  • 21st Century After School Programs: eliminated –$1.2B
  • Title I of ESSA: cut by 4% or $600M
  • Title IV-A of ESSA: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants: eliminated -- $400 M
  • Career and Technical Education: cut by 13% or $148M
  • Literacy Development Grants: eliminated -- $190 M
  • Javits Gifted and Talented Education: eliminated -- $12M
  • Special Olympics: eliminated -- $10M

For Higher Education

  • Teacher Quality Partnership Grants: partnerships between K-12 and higher education to prepare new teachers for high need fields in residency programs: eliminated -- $43M
  • Pell Grants: scholarships for low income students: $3.9B rescinded; maximum individual grant frozen at $5,920 – less than 30% of the cost of the average four year college
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG): colleges provide grants to low income students: eliminated -- $733M
  • Work Study: helps colleges pay students for working while they are in school: cut by $490M (almost in half)
  • Federal TRIO Programs: supports low income, first generation and other needy students to attend and graduate from college: cut $142 million (15%)
  • Student Loans: Cut by $143B over ten years through changes that will raise debt students incur
    • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (often used by teachers): eliminates this option that forgives the remaining balance on student loans for borrowers in an income-driven repayment plan who work full time in public service and who make on-time payments for 10 years.

Biggest Winners: SCHOOL CHOICE

  • FOCUS (Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success): a new $1B grant program which would provide funding to school districts that agree to adopt weighted student funding combined with open enrollment systems that allow Federal, State and local funds to follow students to the public school of their choice. ESSA would have to be amended to allow for this.
  • Voucher Program: an addition of $250M for the Education Innovation and Research program to create a program for competitive awards for applicants to provide scholarships for students from low income families to attend the private school of their choice and to build the evidence base around private school choice.
  • Charter Schools: $167 M increase

Other Key Programs Which Were Level Funded or Cut or Increased Slightly:

  • IDEA Part B State Grants: cut 1% to $11.9B
  • IDEA Personnel Prep: flat funded at $84M
  • Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities: Flat funded at $12M
  • Institute for Education Sciences: increase of $12 M to $617M
    • Research in Special Education: flat funding at $54M
  • Office for Civil Rights: cut 2% to $107M

Remember that this budget is just a proposal.  Congress will now take a look at it (but not likely take it seriously) and create their own budget and appropriations bills.  However, this budget should serve as an action alert to those who are concerned about the overall health of public education and the particular programs that were targeted.  Strong advocacy is in order over the next few months as the Congress gets to work.

The full budget and budget justifications (elaborate explanations of each program and rationale for cuts/increases/flat funding) can be found here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget18/index.html

See you on twitter @janewestdc.




March 21, 2017

Special Edition of Washington Update:  Overview of President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget Proposal, the “Skinny” Version


On March 16, President Trump released a blueprint for his first budget proposal – for FY 2018 -- which begins October 1, 2017.  Known as the “skinny” budget, this blueprint will be filled in with greater detail about proposed specific funding levels for additional programs in May.  This skinny budget is a skeleton which leaves a number of questions unanswered, but does provide a broad framework.

The proposal fulfills President Trump’s campaign promises to shift funding from domestic spending to defense spending.  The budget boasts an increase of about $60 Billion for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.  These increases would be paid for by deep cuts in domestic spending with the Environmental and Protection Agency being hit the hardest with a 31% decrease.  The Department of Education is recommended for a 14% decrease.   All spending cuts come out of the small slice of “Non Defense Discretionary (NDD)” spending which represents only 15% of the federal budget.

Note that this is a proposal.   It does not carry the weight of law; rather it is a “wish list” and a recommendation to the Congress regarding funding levels.  It begins the budget process in the Congress which will continue through the summer and into the Fall whereby committees of jurisdiction will write and mark up bills outlining funding for every government program.  The numbers will become real after the Congress passes its appropriations bills for FY 2018, likely in the fall of 2017.

Many in Congress have described the budget as “Dead on Arrival,” which is a common response to President’s budgets no matter what the party proposing it.  Every program has champions in Congress, often from both sides of the aisle, so eliminating programs and/or cutting them significantly faces political challenges.  But the budget does set a marker which rallies responses either in support or opposition.  Most in the education community are deeply opposed to the cuts proposed for the Department of Education.

Overview of Proposed Department of Education Budget

The Department of Education’s proposed budget for $59 Billion represents a  13.5%, or $9 billion cut from the current level of funding.   In addition, there are increases recommended for some programs which are paid for by cuts in existing programs.

Winners in the President’s proposed education budget are primarily within the $1.4 B increase for school choice, featuring the following:

  • $1 billion for Title I of ESSA to allow funding to follow a student to the public school of his or her choice, sometimes called “portability”
  • $250 million new dollars for a new voucher program which would allow public funds to support private schools
  • $168 million increase for existing charter school program

Losers in the President’s proposed education budget include:

  • Elimination of $2.3 billion Title II A of ESSA, funds for teacher and leader development
  • Elimination of $1.2 billion after school program, 21st Century Community Learning Centers
  • Elimination of $732 billion higher education student grant aid – the Supplemental Opportunity Grants program
  • Elimination of $43 million Teacher Quality Partnership program which prepares new teachers in shortages areas via residency programs
  • Elimination of $190 million Striving Readers, a literacy program
  • Elimination of $72 million higher education international education and foreign language studies program
  • Cut of $104 million (32%) to GEAR UP, a program to recruit low income students into college
  • Cut of $92 million (10%) for TRIO, programs to recruit and support high need students in college
  • Rescinding of $4 billion from the Pell Grant surplus (grants for low income college students)

Programs which appear to be level funded in the President’s budget: (note that these could very likely change when the final budget proposal comes out in May; in other words they could be cut in the next iteration of the budget proposal)

  • IDEA Part B and discretionary programs including personnel preparation
  • Office for Civil Rights
  • Institute for Education Sciences, including special education research

Take Aways

  • Attached to this document is a table provided by the Committee for Education Funding which offers a chart for specific education programs comparing current funding levels to levels proposed in the “skinny” budget. (Thank you CEF!)
  • This is the time to begin actively communicating with Members of Congress about the programs you   The more they hear from constituents, the more aware they will be of the impact of individual programs on their communities and what their loss would mean.
  • Do not assume that because a program is not recommended for cuts in this “skinny budget” that it will not be recommended for cuts in the May full budget proposal.
  • Congress has already begun its process of hearings and consideration of FY 2018 funding for education. Stay involved throughout the spring and summer so you know the status of bills and funding levels as they move through the House and Senate.

February 10, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

It’s been a testy week here in the nation’s capital as the new Secretary of Education is sworn in and the Congress continues to grow even more partisan.

1. Betsy DeVos Squeaks by in VP Tie Breaker Vote and Offers an Olive Branch to her New Staff. After an all-night contentious partisan debate, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education on Feb. 7. For the first time in the history of cabinet confirmations, the Vice President cast the tie breaking vote. With a 51-50 vote which featured all Democrats and two Republicans (Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska) opposing, DeVos crossed the finished line and was, later that evening, sworn in as the new Secretary of Education by VP Mike Pence.

Democrats and multiple education and civil rights organizations waged a virtual war against the DeVos nomination. The nomination generated a level of unparalleled  grassroots activism; on the weekend and days before the final votes, a handful of Republican Senators were targeted with protests back in their states and deluges of phone calls to offices, with some offices topping 40,000. The Capitol switchboard reported unprecedented jams on the phone lines. A Utah constituent who reported being unable to get through to Sen. Hatch’s (R) office reportedly had a pizza delivered to him with a note asking him to vote against DeVos.

Some national organizations that have never taken positions on nominations came out against DeVos, including the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Both teachers unions opposed DeVos with vengeance. After the confirmation vote Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the NEA noted that “There will be no relationship with Betsy DeVos.”  The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said that the senators who voted for DeVos “were shamefully derelict in their constitutional duty of advice and consent.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, said that ‘She would start her job with no credibility inside the agency she is supposed to lead, with no influence in Congress--as the punchline in a late night comedy show- and without the confidence of the American people. A vote for Betsy DeVos is a vote for a secretary of education who is likely to succeed only in further dividing us on education issues.”

But DeVos had her supporters too. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) noted that President Trump…”chose an outsider, someone much like himself. …someone more interested in results, rather than paying homage to and feeding the education establishment right here in Washington D.C.” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce said that DeVos enters office with the “chance to prove to those who organized this malicious and personal campaign against her that they were wrong.” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate HELP Committee, said, “I think she’ll be an excellent secretary.” Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), one of two Republicans who voted against DeVos, tweeted “Although I did not vote in favor of Betsy DeVos, now that she’s been confirmed it is important we work together as she takes over.”

Indeed, DeVos appeared conciliatory and inclusive on her first day in office. In live-streamed comments to the assembled Department of Education staff, she said she wanted to “come together, find common ground and put the needs of our students first.” She said she was a “’door open’ type of person who listens more than she speaks.” Yesterday DeVos visited Howard University, an HBCU in Washington DC. Today she visited Jefferson Academy, a middle school in Washington, DC.

See: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/02/07/betty-devos-education-secretary-confirmation/97589282/

See: https://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/secretary-betsy-devos-remarks-department-education

2. House Rescinds Two Obama Era Education Regulations. On the other side of the Capitol on Feb. 7, the House passed resolutions revoking two sets of Obama education regulations: the ESSA accountability regulations (H.J. Res. 57) and the HEA teacher prep regulations (H.J.Res. 58).  H.J. Res. 57 was offered by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-In), chair of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education while H.J. Res. 58 was offered by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), new chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. Votes on both resolutions were largely partisan; however, a few democrats did cross party lines to support the repeal of each set of regulations. Education organizations are split on the accountability regulations, with many civil rights and related organizations actively supporting them. Few seem to be championing the teacher prep regulations which have garnered considerable skepticism from both the higher ed and K-12 community since their inception five years ago.

Many Democrats in both chambers are opposed to using the Congressional Review Act as a mechanism for repealing regulations believing that executive agencies should have the authority to regulate.

Both resolutions are expected to be introduced in the Senate soon, perhaps next week.

See:  https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=401239

See:  https://clerk.house.gov/evs/2017/roll085.xml

3. House Republicans Seek to Abolish Department of Education. Just as the Senate was confirming a new Sec. of Education, several House Republicans led by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), introduced a bill which would abolish the U.S. Department of Education. One sentence long, the bill states:

“The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

Original co-sponsors of the bill include: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).

Upon introduction Massie stated:

"Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students. Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school."

It is unlikely that this bill will garner enough support to move forward for serious consideration, but we shall see!

See:  https://massie.house.gov/newsroom/press-releases/rep-massie-introduces-bill-to-abolish-federal-department-of-education

4. New Report Out on the Impact of Cutting Medicaid on Education. AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has released Cutting Medicaid: A Prescription to Hurt the Neediest.  The report:

  • outlines findings from a AASA survey
  • highlights how students with disabilities and low-income students will be particularly impacted by a per-capita cap or Medicaid block grant
  • describes how communities will be economically affected by a per-capita cap or Medicaid block-grant for school districts
  • details the potential of districts to lose critical mental health supports for students that are reimbursable by Medicaid
  • notes how recent district efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to students and their families will be undermined by a block grant or per-capita cap

When Congress revisits a replacement for Obamacare, it will be examining Medicaid and making determinations that could significantly affect students and schools, particularly low income students and students with disabilities. This is important to watch.

See: https://aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/Resources/medicaid.pdf

5. Teacher Shortages Continue to Grow. The Learning Policy Institute issued Addressing California’s Growing Teacher Shortage:  2017 Update this week. The findings continue to paint a bleak picture concluding that shortages have worsened in the last year, particularly in special education, math and science. Findings include:

  • The number of teachers entering the field is near historic lows while the need for new teachers continues to rise
  • Significantly more students are being taught by underprepared teachers
  • More special education teachers are entering the classroom on substandard credentials than are entering with full credentials
  • Shortages disproportionately impact low-income and minority students

Recommendations to address the shortages include:

  • Targeted service scholarships or loan forgiveness
  • Teacher residency models and other high-retention teacher prep programs
  • Eliminate barriers to re-entry for retired teachers in shortage fields, or postpone their exit from the field

My thoughts:

There appears to be little to no evidence that teacher shortages are shrinking anywhere in the country. And the pipeline preparing future teachers continues to shrink. Lowering teacher standards to address the shortages is not a strategy that will lead to strong student outcomes. In my view, this is a national crisis. Any school reform initiative that may be put forward depends on a highly skilled workforce.  Without it, no reform will work. A thriving economy and a thriving democracy depend on a well-educated citizenry. It’s time for a national strategy to be developed and implemented to address this challenge.   What do you think? Tweet me at @janewestdc

See:  https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/addressing-californias-growing-teacher-shortage-2017-update-report

My rickety knee and I have decided to part ways next week. So I will be getting to know my shiny new knee and taking a break from Washington Update for a couple of weeks. I’ll be back as soon as I can, and hope to stay connected with you on twitter @janewestdc.


February 3, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

Betsy DeVos is on her way to be our next Secretary of Education; the teacher prep regs and the ESSA accountability regs are on the chopping block. But there are plenty of sticky wickets along the way.

1. Betsy DeVos:  A Political First?

Unless you were sleeping all week, you know the week was rife with drama around the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education. First there was the Senate HELP Committee meeting. Chairman Alexander (R-TN) called for a vote which yielded a straight party line result (12 Rs supporting and 11 Ds opposing). Democrats objected to the result noting that Sen. Hatch (R-UT) cast his vote by proxy, violating Committee rules and thus nullifying his vote. This would leave the vote at a tie: 11-11, therefore not moving her nomination to the floor with approval by the Committee. After much contentious back and forth among the formerly amicable and bi-partisan Committee members, Sen. Hatch returned to the Committee and cast his vote live. With a final vote of 12-11 the nomination of Betsy DeVos was forwarded to the full Senate with Committee support.

Later in the week, two Republican Senators -- both of whom are on the HELP Committee and had expressed reservations during the Committee vote -- announced that they would be opposing DeVos in the final floor vote. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) cited their reservations about her knowledge of public education and the multiple phone calls they had received raising further concerns. In fact, multiple Senate offices have been overwhelmed with calls opposing DeVos. One office I was in last week told me they had received 30,000 phone calls in opposition!  Many who attempted to call reported being unable to get through. Advocates have been aggressively pursuing targeted Republicans in hopes of finding one who would turn the tide, but to no avail as of yet.

Meanwhile DeVos supporters have prepared TV ads pointing the finger at her opponents as “full of rage and hate” since DeVos “angers the extreme left because she exposes their hypocrisy.  DeVos wants low-income kids to have the same choices that liberal elitists have for their families.”  One of the ads is sponsored by America Next, a group overseen by former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

The Senate voted at 6:30 this morning to proceed to full consideration of the DeVos nomination and a final vote on Tuesday. Debate on her nomination will likely begin Monday night. The vote line up appears to be 50 in support and 50 opposed with VP Mike Pence ready to cast the tie breaker which would result in a final 51-50 DeVos victory. If this occurs, it would be the first time in history that a cabinet nominee was confirmed by a tie-breaking vote from the Vice President.  Sen. Alexander and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer have both expressed confidence that she will be confirmed.

Many have speculated about whether DeVos will sustain damage as a result of this process if she does assume the Secretary’s position. She certainly has garnered more opposition than any nominee probably ever for this position. Her performance at her confirmation hearing will long be remembered for her grizzly bear comment and her lack of knowledge about IDEA among other things. Education groups which routinely work with the Department will likely approach her administration with great skepticism.





2. Congress Moves to Repeal ESSA Accountability Regs and Teacher Prep Regs

The House and Senate are moving to repeal a range of Obama Administration regulations across the federal government including in education. The top two on the target list for education were the subject of Resolutions introduced in the House this week. On Wednesday, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), chair of the House Subcommittee on k-12 education introduced House Joint Resolution 57 targeting the ESSA accountability regulations. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) introduced House Joint Resolution 58 which would rescind the teacher preparation regulations. Both resolutions are allowed by the Congressional Review Act, a law which enables Congress to repeal regulations within certain parameters. If they are overturned, the Trump Administration is prohibited from issuing “substantially similar” regulations. No one seems to know what “substantially similar” actually means, as it has never been tested. The Act has only been utilized once since its inception -- for repeal of an ergonomics rule years ago.

Both resolutions are likely to move quickly in the House, possibly as early as next Tuesday. The Rules Committee meets Monday at 5 pm to determine how they will proceed. While Democrats will likely oppose the overturning of the Obama regulations, Republicans will support the resolutions bringing probable swift passage since only a simple majority is required. Both sets of regulations have detractors and supporters in the education community. However, a broad set of 35 national stakeholder organizations (including both unions, higher education organizations and the NGA) have united to raise concerns about the teacher preparation regulations.

Since ESSA state plans are due in April or September, states are eager for clarity. If the accountability regulations are rescinded, there will need to be clear direction from the Department so states are able to move forward confidently in developing and submitting their plans. Supporters of the regulations argue that their repeal would cause confusion and muddle early implementation of ESSA.

The Senate is likely to introduce companion resolutions soon, but no word yet on when.





3. New Hires at the Department of Education

The following names have been listed as new hires at the Department of Education.

  • Matt Frendewey, former national communications director for the American Federation for Children (group Betsy DeVos chaired)
  • Nate Bailey
  • Michael Brickman
  • Gillum Ferguson
  • Ebony Lee
  • Laura Rigas
  • Jana Toner

4. Thoughts on the Future of Special Education: Supreme Court Meets the Trump Administration

Written by the parent of a young man with autism, this article offers interesting reflections on the future of special education.


Wishing you a wonderful Super Bowl weekend!  I will be in Philly avoiding all sporting events!

By the way, Washington Updates are now posted on my website in case you want to look back at them for reference https://www.janewestconsulting.com/

See you on the tweet machine @janewestdc


January 20, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

The changing of the guard is complete in Washington as Donald Trump has become the 45th President of the United States. It has been a high profile and controversial week in Washington for education.

1. Donald J. Trump Sworn in as President

President Donald Trump made his first comments about education today during his inaugural speech at the Capitol. He said we  have … “an education system flush with cash but leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”   Twitter blew up after this comment (do get on twitter if you aren’t!) challenging both aspects of the comment. In fact, funding for education in states is below pre-recession 2008 levels. The notion of students being deprived of all knowledge….well….seems a big exaggerated, don’t you think?

Education nominee Betsy DeVos appeared to be on the dais with other cabinet nominees at the swearing in at the Capitol. After the swearing in President Trump signed the official nomination forms, including the one for DeVos, offering  to Speaker Ryan a signing pen to pass on to her.

For inaugural address see: https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/politics/trump-inaugural-address/index.html

2. DeVos Vote Likely Tuesday January 31 at 10:00 AM in Senate HELP Committee

The hearing of Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos has been widely covered by the press and I hope you were able to listen in. The hearing is recorded and available on the HELP Committee website. (See link below.) Democrats grilled the nominee about a wide range of issues and repeated a refrain urging Chairman Alexander (R-TN) to allow more than one round of questioning at five minutes each. Chairman Alexander argued that he was following precedent. Because the Committee had not received the full financial disclosure materials or ethics agreement from Ms. DeVos at the time of the hearing, Democrats asked for more time to vet the nominee. Mr. Alexander was unyielding, offering only that he would not hold a committee vote on the nominee until her ethics form was complete.

Today the Committee received the full financial disclosure information (108 pages) in addition to the ethics agreement, so it appears that the Committee will vote on her nomination on January 31 at 10:00 AM ET unless new developments occur. The full Senate may well take up her nomination the week of Jan. 30.

DeVos made troubling comments at the hearing which have alarmed some education advocates, particularly in relation to special education:

  • At one point DeVos indicated that enforcement of IDEA would be up to the states. When asked  if all schools receiving federal funds should have to meet the requirements of IDEA, she responded that that was “worth discussion.” She later noted she was confused about the question related to IDEA and that when federal funds were involved the federal law must be followed.
  • She told Sen. Maggie Hassan (who is the parent of a young man with significant disabilities) that if confirmed she would be sensitive to the needs of special needs students. Hassan noted that what was of concern was not her sensitivity but her willingness to enforce the law.
  • When Sen. Collins asked if she would be willing to look for ways to fully fund IDEA to meet the 40% promise, DeVos urged consideration of a different approach – the federal money going to the students directly, rather than to the states (i.e. vouchers).

Other issues of concern include enforcement of Title IX requirements, robust civil rights enforcement, commitment to public schools, equal accountability for charter schools and other public schools, her lack of any experience in education, her potential conflicts of interest with her considerable investments and Board participation, her historic support of organizations that are opposed to LGBTQ equity, her apparent support of guns in schools and her favoring of voucher expansion. Many civil rights groups have come out opposing her nomination and urging Senators to vote against her. Many education organizations have issued letters of concern with some requesting delay on votes until she answers additional questions. (Senators submitted numerous questions in writing to her yesterday.) At the hearing Sen. Alexander included in to the record 92 letters of support for DeVos which he received, including one from a home schooling organization and one from Republican governors.

With the Senate being controlled by Republicans with a 52-48 majority, it appears that DeVos will receive the 50 votes she needs to be confirmed as Secretary of Education. (Remember Vice President Pence would be the tie-breaker in case of a 50-50 vote.) Though Sen. Murkowski (R-AL) expressed concern about the efficacy of vouchers in a rural state and Sen. Collins (R-ME) urged full funding for IDEA at the hearing, it does not appear at this point that any Republicans will be opposing her.

Recording of hearing:  https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-of-betsy-devos-to-serve-as-secretary-of-education

See:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/01/18/six-astonishing-things-betsy-devos-said-and-refused-to-say-at-her-confirmation-hearing/?utm_term=.55a988ffa2fc

See: https://www.civilrights.org/action_center/betsy-devos-is-public.html


3. Department of Education Summary of Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

For decades a number of loan forgiveness programs have been in place, intended as an incentive for people to become teachers. They have not been marketed widely, nor have they been used as extensively as they could be. Just before turning out the lights at the Department of Education, a summary of the options was released which could be very useful for potential teachers and for those seeking to recruit people into teaching. Given the substantial teacher shortages around the country, these program could make a big difference.



I will be out of pocket at a conference next week. Washington Update will return February 3. See you on twitter @janewestdc


January 6, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome to the New Year!  This is going to be an action packed January so let’s fasten our seatbelts!

1. The 115th Congress Reconvenes in High Gear

Wasting no time the 115th Congress reconvened on Jan. 3. Republicans are eager to flex their muscles and demonstrate results, given that they now control the Senate, the House and shortly the White House.

A first order of business is confirming President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees.  January may be explosive with back to back nomination hearings on controversial candidates.  Multiple hearings for multiple nominees are scheduled on the same day (e.g on Jan. 11, six different hearings are scheduled for 6 nominees in 6 different committees) as part of a strategy to confound Democratic opposition, which is building for some of the most controversial nominees, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General.  While Democrats will move to slow down the process by seeking additional disclosure information from nominees and asking lengthy questions at hearings and for the record,  it appears that most nominees in the end will be confirmed.  Republicans are hoping to have many nominee’s confirmed by the full Senate prior to the Jan. 20th swearing in.

The three policy priorities for the first 100 days look to be repealing Obamacare, eliminating many Obama era regulations (including in education) and beginning restructuring the tax code. This week the House began the process by passing a budget bill that sets the stage to roll back Obamacare.

Both the Senate and the House have confirmed their leadership for the 115th Congress with the most notable change being the election of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to be Senate minority leader, taking the place of retired Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Committee memberships are still falling into place and will sort themselves out over the next month.

2. Senate HELP Committee Hearing on Sec. of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos Set for January 11

One of multiple confirmation hearings set for Jan. 11 in the Senate is that of controversial Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education.  Democrats on the committee and many in the education community are working overtime digging into her background and raising concerns.  She will likely be portrayed as an enemy of public education lacking the qualifications for the job of Secretary. Democratic and related developments include:

  • Six Democratic Members of the HELP Committee (Whitehouse, Casey, Baldwin, Sanders, Franken and Warren) issued a letter to nominee DeVos asking for detailed clarification on her past political and financial activities related to a range of orgnizations;
  • Two progressive groups, End Citizens United and Every Voice called on the five Republican members of the HELP Committee who received campaign donations from DeVos to recuse themselves from the nomination vote; (DeVos allies responded that all Democratic Senators on the Committee who received campaign contributions from teacher unions should be asked to recuse themselves as well);
  • 33 civil rights groups and unions issued a statement of concerns about the DeVos nomination noting that her record “demonstrate{s} a lack of respect and appreciation for the diversity of our nation’s classrooms and fail{s} to recognize a long and pernicious history of discrimination against groups of students.”
  • The NEA and the AFT have crafted “Open Letter: A Commitment to Student Success in Public Schools” voicing dissatisfaction with the nomination and urging people to sign on.

Senate Republicans appear united in their support of DeVos. Chairman Alexander (R-TN) noted early on that she was an “excellent choice” to lead the Department and that the Committee would move swiftly on her confirmation. Former Presidential candidate and education reformer Jeb Bush has been an active supporter of Betsy DeVos and will likely continue to play a role if she is confirmed. At least two organizations have submitted letters of support for DeVos:

  • The Home School Legal Defense Association noted that she “is dedicated to building an education system that will effectively support and facilitate the education of all students, everywhere, no matter their background, interests or personal needs.”
  • The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools noted that “As a result of her work with organizations dedicated to education reform, countless children throughout America are now able to access a higher quality education.”

Reports are that Senators on the HELP Committee are receiving multiple calls both supporting and opposing DeVos. Calling your Senator to voice your opinion always makes a difference, as the offices keep tallies of how many are for and against, thus taking the temperature of their constituents. These calls do matter as Senators make up their minds how to vote.

Note that three new members of the HELP Committee have been announced:  For the Democrats Tim Kaine (VA) and Maggie Hassan (NH) and for the Republicans Todd Young (IN).

You can watch the hearing live (link below) Wednesday January 11 at 10 AM.  I will be there so follow me on twitter @janewestdc.

To watch hearing: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-of-betsy-devos-to-serve-as-secretary-of-education

See: https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/12/civil_rights_groups_blast_devos_diversity.html

For NEA/AFT letter: https://preaprez.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/nea-and-aft-call-to-action-against-devos-nomination/

 3. Trump’s Education Team Grows

The Trump team has announced that Rob Goad will serve as the education policy leader on the White House Domestic Policy Council, a role held for the last 8 years by former Kennedy staffer Roberto Rodriguez. Goad was a top staffer to Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), a prominent school choice champion in the Congress. Messer founded the Congressional School Choice Caucus, a group where Goad served as director. Goad also worked with the Trump team to devise the $20 billion choice proposal that has become the centerpiece of Trump’s education policy.

Trump’s landing team at the Department of Education has been joined by Kent Talbert, former general counsel for the department under George W. Bush, and Kathleen Madigan Rebarber, co-founder and president of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), a controversial teacher certification program.

See: https://greatagain.gov/agency-landing-teams-54916f71f462#.2m9ocnqoj

4. Obama Ed Department Securing Legacy in Final Days

On December 28 at 2:23 AM the Department of Education issued 25 emails (!) with a range of announcements including new regulations, guidance, reports, fact sheets and grant competitions.  The topics of the emails range from early childhood to higher education to literacy to research to Title IX violations. Among the announcements were three sets of guidance related to the civil rights of students with disabilities. Included is a parent and educator resource guide, a Dear Colleague letter and a question and answer document on the rights of students with disabilities in charter schools.

Still pending is the issuance of the final supplement not supplant regulations under ESSA which were quite controversial in draft form. With only two weeks left before the end of the Obama term, we may be at the end of the road.

See:  https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-equity-idea?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

  1. Teacher Recruitment Strategies Lacking

The Center for American Progress released a report examining the teacher recruitment strategies of school districts. They determined that strategies are "hyperlocal, untargeted, or nonexistent." The Center surveyed 108 districts and found that many are lacking in offering mentoring new teachers and recruiting diverse candidates. The report notes that an average district has "1.8 employees assigned to recruitment and a student population of 3,721.” Few travel to college or university job fairs and even fewer travel out of state for recruitment.

See: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2016/12/22/295574/to-attract-great-teachers-school-districts-must-improve-their-human-capital-systems/

Wishing you a relaxing weekend with good weather and good health!  See you on twitter @janewestdc


December 9, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Congress is wrapping up and leaving town and the Trump Administration is moving into place.

1. In Final Act, the 114th Congress Funds the Government Temporarily through April 28, and Moves  to Adjourn

Yesterday the House passed another continuing resolution (CR) which will fund the government through April 28, 2017.  Passed by a vote of 326-96, the bill includes a 0.19% across the board cut for all programs including education.  This cut keeps the funding level under the mandated budget caps for FY 2017.  Despite a last minute Democratic hold up over health care benefits for coal miners, the Senate is expected to follow suit and pass the bill today, sending both bodies home for the holidays.

One notable provision in the bill related to education is the funding made available (from current unobligated funds) for the DC voucher program – the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act.  This program was not supported by the Obama Administration and funding for it has been frozen.  This freeing up of this funding certainly reflects the new Administration’s anticipated support for expanding vouchers.

The April 28 date was chosen with the urging of the incoming Administration giving time to the new Congress to focus on confirming cabinet nominations and addressing the repeal of Obama Care in the early days of 2017.  April 28 will be anticipated as the next date where action must be taken to keep the government open and funds flowing.   At that time, deliberation for the FY 2018 budget (which should be in place by October 1, 2017) will also be well underway and the need to extend the debt ceiling will be paramount, requiring astute multitasking by all involved!

See: https://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394665

See: https://democrats.appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Summary%20of%20Dec2016%20CR.pdf

See: https://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/spending-stopgap-congress-232363


2. Department of Education Issues Final ESSA Regulations on Assessment

As it moves to the end of the Obama Administration, the Department of Education continues to issue final regulations under ESSA.  This week the assessment regulations were issued, including rules for new pilots where up to 7 states can experiment with new assessments.  This is a package of regulations that had consensus during the negotiated rulemaking sessions and little was changed since that time.  The controversial “supplement not supplant” regulations have not yet been issued.

See:  https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/essaassessmentfactsheet1207.pdf

See:  https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/12/obama_administration_releases_.html?_ga=1.67868309.589128606.1425909031


3. Teacher Preparation: Department of Education Issues Guidance on Regulations; NCTQ Issues New Report

Following up on the release of the final regulations on teacher preparation programs, the Department of Education issued guidance intended to assist in the implementation of the regulations, which are now in effect.  Discussions continue on Capitol Hill regarding  overturning the regulations early in the new Congress.  A number of national education and related organizations continue to object to the regulations and advocate repeal.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a new review this week which considers nearly 900 elementary teacher preparation programs.  The report notes that significant progress has been made, particularly in relation to reading instruction.  The report notes that just about a quarter of programs draw teacher candidates from the top half of college goers based on GPA/SAT/ACT scores; however selectivity has improved.  NCTQ bases its assessments of programs on a review of documents related to the program, such as syllabi.

See: https://www2.ed.gov/documents/teacherprep/teacher-prep-reporting-guidance.pdf

See: https://secure.aacte.org/apps/rl/res_get.php?fid=3123&ref=res

See: https://www.nctq.org/teacherPrep/findings/landscapes.do


4. Obama Administration Highlights Civil Rights Accomplishments in Education and the Need for Continued Vigilance

This week the Department of Education sponsored a gathering that featured past Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and current Secretary John King to reflect on the accomplishments and road ahead for the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education.  Many advocates are concerned about possible cutting back, or even elimination of this office, under a Trump Administration.  This has been an active office under President Obama. The Office issued a report documenting that over 76,000 complaints were received during the Obama Administration and a remarkable amount has been accomplished with a record low staff of 563 full time employees.  The office has been particularly active in relation to Title IX addressing sexual assault on campuses and the use of bathrooms of choice by transgender students.  The office administers the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) which has provided significant information that was vital to addressing matters ranging from the equitable distribution of experienced teachers to inequitable impact of school discipline procedures on minority students.

In a related report, the White House updated the status of work on school discipline which has been undertaken by the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.  Titled The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline, the report reviews a wide ranging set of activities and accomplishments intended to ensure that all students experience welcome and safe climates in school.

See: https://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/ocr/achieving-simple-justice.pdf?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

See: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/school_discipline_report_-_120916.pdf


5. Members of Congress Introduce Education Bills Just Before Adjournment

Two important education bills were introduced late this week, serving as markers for the 115th Congress.  Both bills will be re-introduced in the 115th Congress when additional co-sponsors will be sought.

HR 6472:  The Teachers and Parents at the Table Act introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).  This bill amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to create two advisory committees: one comprised of teachers and one comprised of parents.  The committees would provide feedback on the implementation and impact of ESSA to policy makers and make recommendations for improvements.

The RISE Act: The Respond, Innovate, Support and Empower Students with Disabilities Act introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).   This bill amends the Higher Education Act to clarify the documentation an institution of higher education must accept when considering whether an enrolled student has a disability, create a TA center to support students and families in accessing disability-relevant information about higher education and to support higher education faculty in accommodating students with disabilities and providing effective instruction.

For HR 6472:  https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/6472?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+6472%22%5D%7D&r=1

For the RISE Act:  https://www.ncld.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/RISE-Act-Updated-Text-12.6.16.pdf  and  https://www.ncld.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/RISE-Act-One-Pager-12.5.16.pdf


6. A Busy January:  115th Congress; the Trump Administration; the Supreme Court

The 115th Congress is expected to reconvene January 3 and work intensively on confirming President elect Trump’s cabinet nominees prior to his swearing in as President on January 20.  It is interesting to note that nominee for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s confirmation hearing before the Senate HELP Committee was held January 13 and he was unanimously approved by the full Senate on January 20.  We are expecting the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education nominee Besty DeVos to be around January 11, with Senate approval likely  a week or so later.  While Ms. DeVos will surely receive stringent vetting and extensive questioning (both at the hearing and in writing), it appears that she will move through the process rather swiftly – unless of course an unanticipated event occurs.  Other cabinet nominees will be on similar timetables.  Historically, the Senate leans toward approving a President’s cabinet nominations, even if there are stringent objections by some, as they are needed for the government to function and appointing the cabinet is considered part and parcel of winning the presidential election.  Only 51 votes (not the 60 often required) are required for confirmation.  Thus, even if all Democrats objected, nominees could be confirmed.

The Congress is also expected to bring up a bill in early January, called “Reconciliation,” which will allow for a fast track move to repeal Obamacare.  This bill also requires only 51 votes to pass in the Senate, so it is likely to move quickly.

Across the street at the Supreme Court, January 11 marks the day that the court will hear an important IDEA case:  Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.  The case involves a student with autism whose parents pulled him out of the county school district because they believed he was not making meaningful educational progress.  The parents argue that the school district should pay his private school tuition.  The case will consider the level of benefit that IDEA requires for a student e.g. should it be “meaningful,” or “some” or “just above trivial” etc.  Over 100 current and former members of Congress submitted a brief noting that “it strains credulity to think that Congress would have expended the time and effort to enact and amend {the IDEA}merely to give each student with a disability “just above de minimis’ educational benefit.”  Many national disability and related organizations also filed amicus briefs supporting the family.

See: https://heavy.com/news/2016/12/donald-trump-cabinet-nominees-approved-approval-process-will-be-rejected-confirmed-by-senate-block-democrats-republicans-filibuster-oppose-jeff-sessions-steven-muchin-votes/

See:  https://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/trump-cabinet-democrats-senate-232136

See: https://www.denverpost.com/2016/09/29/supreme-court-douglas-county-student-disabilities-case/


Washington Update will resume in January.   I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!  See you on twitter @janewestdc.   If you haven’t yet joined the twitter world, make it your new year’s resolution!  That’s what I did last year and now I’m hooked!



December 2, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

The Trump Administration is moving into place and the 114th Congress is moving toward closure next week.

1. Congress on the Brink of Passing Another Temporary Funding Bill Through March 2017

Next Friday, December 9, funding for the federal government will end; Congress is poised to pass another temporary funding measure which will continue government funds through the end of March, 2017.  It is likely that this next Continuing Resolution (CR) will keep virtually all programs funded at current levels with a small across the board cut, similar to the .5% cut that was included in the CR that is currently in place.  This funding measure may be unveiled as early as Monday, December 5.  It appears that Congress may well adjourn by the end of next week – a change of pace, as recent Congresses have frequently worked right up until Christmas.

Having a temporary FY 2017 funding measure in a position to expire at the same time the FY 2018 budget process is beginning will be complicated.  The Trump Administration will likely be releasing a funding blueprint for FY 2018 just as decisions need to be made on how to complete funding for FY 2017.  It is challenging to create a new budget when it is unclear what the last budget was.  To complicate this prospect, Congress is likely to invoke a budget-related process -- called reconciliation -- early in the new year. In fact, Congress may move two budget bills early in 2017 followed by two reconciliation bills, which will be used to repeal Obamacare and revise the tax code – two major Trump campaign promises.  Reconciliation is a preferred vehicle for significant change since it only requires a simple majority vote of 51 in the Senate, rather than the usual 60.  Thus, the bills could pass with no bi-partisan support.

These complex budget decisions will be underway as the Congress moves quickly to confirmation hearings for the new Cabinet members nominated by incoming President Trump.  January and February will be a busy time in Washington!

See: https://crfb.org/blogs/appropriations-watch-fy-2017


2. Department of Education Releases Final ESSA Accountability Regulations

As it wraps up business in the last days of the Obama Administration, the Department of Education issued final ESSA Accountability and State Plan regulations this week.  The original proposal proved controversial, drawing ire from teachers unions as well as HELP Committee Chair, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), both believing that the Department was overstepping its authority by prescribing additional requirements.  Sen. Alexander noted that he would have moved to overturn the earlier version of the regulation but is now carefully reviewing the final version.  The National Governor’s Association noted that the final rule was a compromise taking into account the needs of states and the civil rights community. Both unions continue to raise concerns over the incorporation of the 95% assessment participation rate into the accountability systems that states will develop.  Lilly Eskelsen Garcia, President of the NEA, noted that while there were improvements in the new regulations, they “continue to punish schools that do not test at least 95% of the students because parents decided to opt their children out of standardized testing.”

State plans on how they will implement the new law are due either April 3, 2017 or September 18, 2017.  The Trump team at the Department of Education will review and approve the new plans.  Some civil rights groups worry that the review may not be rigorous and may lean toward providing states wide latitude, as Republicans believe a key goal of ESSA is state flexibility.

Some key features of the regulations:

  • States have until the 2018-19 school year to identify schools for comprehensive and targeted support and improvement
  • States set their own ambitious goals and measurements of interim progress for academic outcomes
  • States will create robust multi-indicator statewide accountability systems for all public schools including all public charter schools; indicators must:
    • Be the same for all public schools
    • Include valid, reliable and comparable measures disaggregated by subgroup
    • Measure each of the following:
      • Academic achievement
      • Graduation rates for high schools and academic progress for elementary and middle schools
      • Progress in attaining English language proficiency
      • At least one state-selected indicator of school quality of student success (which may vary for schools in different grade spans)
    • State accountability systems must meaningfully differentiate schools by using summative determinations in at least three categories:
      • The categories can be the same as those that ESSA requires (needs comprehensive support and improvement; needs targeted support and improvement; other schools) or the state may develop it’s own system of summative determinations
      • States must report school’s overall result alongside performance on each individual indicator on a data dashboard or similar mechanism
    • While state accountability systems do not prescribe specific weights for indicators, there are guidelines to ensure that certain indicators are afforded “substantial” and “much greater” weight than others, as required by the statute
    • States much take into account whether the 95% participation rate for statewide assessments is met by each school as part of the accountability system
    • For schools which need improvement plans, they must review the inequitable distribution of teachers in terms of ineffectiveness, out-of-field placement and inexperience – and devise a plan for how to address inequities that are found.
    • Broad, robust and transparent consultation with a diverse representative group of stakeholders is required at multiple points during the design, development and implementation of state plans.

See: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/essaaccountstplans1129.pdf

See: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/index.html


3. President-Elect Trump  Nominates Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education

Incoming President Donald J. Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education.  DeVos is a high profile school choice and voucher advocate active in Republican politics as both a donor and party leader.  Her nomination was lauded by many notable Republicans including Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) who said this was “great news for those of us who care about educational freedom, local control for parents and more opportunity for all.”   Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called her an “outstanding pick.”  HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called her an “excellent choice” and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lauded her as a future Secretary of Education.  Some from the right raised concerns about her past support of Common Core, though she subsequently noted that she does not support Common Core.

On the left, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, which will conduct her nomination hearing, said she will want DeVos to address some of Trump’s troubling statements during the campaign and that she will want to explore civil rights, equal opportunity, Trump’s views on sexual assault and harassment and more.  Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a member of the HELP Committee noted that he has some serious questions for DeVos.   “I want to know how Congress would put someone who has spent her life trying to strip funding from public schools in charge of those very schools,” he said.

The Network for Public Education, headed by education activist Diane Ravitch, has launched an effort to defeat her nomination urging people to reach out to their Senators to oppose her.  “Betsy DeVos’ hostility to public schools makes her unfit to be secretary of Education…She has a long record of supporting private and religious schools, not public schools.  Those of us who believe that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good, must resist her nomination,” Ravitch said.

DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, have made donations to the re-election efforts of several Republicans who sit on the HELP Committee -- which will conduct her nomination hearing -- including Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

The nomination hearing in the Senate HELP Committee will likely take place early in the new year and it is guaranteed to be a rigorous vetting.

See: https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/307395-trump-offers-betsy-devos-job-of-education-secretary-report

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/trump-picks-billionaire-betsy-devos-school-voucher-advocate-as-education-secretary/2016/11/23/c3d66b94-af96-11e6-840f-e3ebab6bcdd3_story.html?utm_term=.7dda4e02140e

See: https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2016-11-23/betsy-devos-named-secretary-of-education


4. Trump Education Transition Team Transitioning!

This week a number of shifts were announced on the Trump transition and “landing” teams.  The “landing” team is the on-the-ground Trump staff in the Department of Education who work there ahead of time to understand the operations of the Department.

  • Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute left the transition team with no explanation.
  • Attorney Thomas Wheeler was named to the “landing” team at the Department of education.  Wheeler was general counsel to VP-elect Mike Pence when he was Governor of Indiana and has extensive experience representing schools on legal issues.
  • Robert Goad, a staffer of Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), officially joined the transition team.  Goad took leave from Messer’s office to help draft candidate Trump’s school choice plan.
  • Townsend McNitt, former HELP Committee staffer,  will serve as the “sherpa” for Betsy DeVos, guiding her through the confirmation process in the Senate.
  • James Manning, former education official in George W. Bush’s Department of Education, remains on the transition team as does William Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and former advisor to Sec. Margaret Spellings.



5. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) Will Chair House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Today House Republicans officially chose Rep. Virgina Foxx to replace Rep. John Kline (R-MN) as chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  A colorful conservative and frequent vocal critic of President Obama’s education policies, Foxx is a former community college president.

See: https://foxx.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398966


6. New Report to Guide States in Defining “Teacher Ineffectiveness” Under ESSA

ESSA requires states to create multiple definitions as they develop their accountability systems and write their first state plans.   Those include the definition of “inexperienced” “ineffective” and “out-of field” for teachers.  AIR’s Center on Great Teachers and Leaders has issued Teacher Effectiveness in the Every Student Succeeds Act: A Discussion Guide. The guide outlines four possible approaches in defining ineffective teachers:

  • Use evaluation systems to define “ineffective teacher”
  • Engage stakeholders to select from available indicators of effectiveness to develop a new measure for use statewide
  • Use the state definition of “highly qualified” teacher
  • Allow LEAs to develop a locally specific definition within a set of parameters

See: https://www.gtlcenter.org/products-resources/teacher-effectiveness-every-student-succeeds-act-discussion-guide


7. New Resource for Advocacy

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) has launched an Action Alert system as a part of its new Advocacy Center.  Anyone can sign up for the alerts.  You do not have to be an AACTE member to participate.  The alerts will let you know about issues related to teacher preparation as they come up on Capitol Hill and with the Administration.  They will provide an easy way to make your voice heard.    Use the link below to sign up.


Wishing you all a great weekend.  See you on Twitter @janewestdc!


November 18, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Washington Update is pleased to be back with you as we navigate through the end of the 114th Congress and the Obama Administration as well as the transitions to President Trump and the  115th Congress, which will begin in January, 2017.  There is a lot to consider in this new terrain!

1. The 114th Congress Reconvenes for the Final Lame Duck Session:  Education Spending on the Table

Congress adjourned before the election with a Continuing Resolution (CR) in place funding the government temporarily until December 9.  Since the election and the resulting strengthening of Republicans, there have been daily shifts in possible strategies regarding the next step in appropriations for FY 2017 (which we are in now and ends September 30, 2017).

Yesterday, House and Senate Republican leadership, in apparent consultation with the Trump team, determined that they will pass another CR which will take spending through the spring, possibly to March 31, 2017 or even later.   In the spring, when the Trump team is installed, they will have an instant vehicle for addressing the spending priorities of the new administration and policy riders which they favor.   At that time they will finalize the remaining 11 appropriations bills (including education) for the last half of the 2017 fiscal year.

This second CR, which will likely be completed by the December 9 goal, will likely not include policy riders but may include across the board cuts to every education program and/or some funding changes for specific programs (called anomalies).   Negotiations are underway now and when they are complete the CR is likely to move very quickly and Congress is likely to adjourn shortly after that.  In general, Republicans in the House, the Senate and the Administration are eager to focus their efforts strategizing for 2017 when they will control both bodies of Congress and the Administration.

See:  https://thehill.com/policy/finance/306529-gop-opts-for-short-term-spending-bill


2. Congressional Leadership for 115th Congress

Below are lists of Members of Congress who will serve in leadership positions in the 115th Congress.   All are important to education!  Some positions are still undetermined and will flesh out in the next weeks.

S. House of Representatives:


Speaker of the House: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) | @SpeakerRyan
Majority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) | @GOPLeader
Majority Whip: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) | @SteveScalise
Conference Chair: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) | @cathymcmorris
NRCC Chairman: Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) | @RepSteveStivers
Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) | @RepLukeMesser
Conference Vice-Chair: Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) | @RepDougCollins
Conference Secretary: Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) | @RepJasonSmith
Sophomore Representative: Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) | @RepMimiWalters
Freshman Representative: Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI)

In terms of Education and Appropriations leadership in the House, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) remains the likely new chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will likely be the new chair of the full Appropriations Committee.


House Democrats have not yet voted on their leadership for the 115th Congress.  A vote for minority leader, the role in which Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) currently serves, was postponed last week as Rep.Tim Ryan (OH) indicated his interest in the job.  The vote is now scheduled for November 30.

S. Senate:


Leader:  Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY)

Whip:  Sen. John Cornyn (TX)

Conference Chair:  Sen. John Thune (SD)

Policy Committee Chair:  Sen. John Barrasso (WY)

Conference Vice Chair:  Sen. Roy Blunt (MO)

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair:  Sen. Cory Gardner (CO)

It is expected that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will continue to chair the HELP Committee and that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) will continue to chair the Appropriations Committee.


Senate Democratic Leader and Chair of the Conference: Senator Charles Schumer (NY)

Democratic Whip: Senator Dick Durbin (IL)

Assistant Democratic Leader: Senator Patty Murray (WA)

Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee: Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI)

Vice Chair of the Conference: Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA)

Vice Chair of the Conference: Senator Mark Warner (VA)

Chair of Steering Committee: Senator Amy Klobuchar (MO)

Chair of Outreach: Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)

Vice Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee: Senator Joe Manchin (WVA)

Senate Democratic Conference Secretary: Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI)

In terms of Committee leadership, Sen. Patty Murray will remain ranking on the Committee on HELP as well as the Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations; Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) will now be ranking on the Appropriations Committee and Sen. Bernie Sanders will remain ranking on the Budget Committee.

See:  https://www.speaker.gov/press-release/house-republicans-elect-leaders-115th-congress

See:  https://www.rollcall.com/news/policy/mcconnell-re-elected-senate-gop-leader

3. The Trump Education Team

President-Elect Trump has named the following individuals to serve as education advisors on the transition team:

For agency action:  William Evers as the lead and Jim Manning as the Deputy.

For Policy Implementation:  Gerard Robinson as the lead and Townsend McNitt as the Deputy.

The education transition team is expected to be at the Department of Education early next week.

The list of possibilities for the Secretary of Education changes by the day!  As of press time, the following individuals were or are in the mix as possibilities.  They are not in any particular order.

Note that several are from or have served in Indiana, undoubtedly the influence of VP-Elect Mike Pence, former Governor of Indiana and school choice campion.  Note that Indiana is home to the largest voucher program in the country serving 33,000 students who attend private schools supported by public funding.


Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN):  leader in the House on school choice, member Committee on Education and the Workforce

Tony Bennet: Former Superintendent  of Education in Indiana

Mitch Daniels:  Former Governor of Indiana and President of Purdue Univ.

William Evers: on the Trump transition team for education, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, was sr. advisor to Bush’s Sec. of Education Margaret Spellings

Gerard Robinson: Fellow at AEI on education policy, former Education Chief in VA and FL

Tony Zeiss: former President of Central Piedmont Community College in NC

Michelle Rhee:  Former chancellor of DC Public Schools

Betsy DeVos:  American Federation for Children

Kevin Chavous:  American Federation for Children, former member of DC City Council

Jerry Falwell Jr. : President of Liberty University

Scott Walker:  Gov. of Wisconsin

Lisa Graham Keegan: former Arizona Education Superintendent

Hanna Skandera:  Secretary of Education for New Mexico

Eva Moskowitz: CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools (She has met with Mr. Trump and indicated that she will not serve as Sec. of Education;  Ivanka Trump is scheduled to tour a Success Academy Charter School in Harlem today.)

Interestingly, the Democrats for Education Reform posted a letter urging fellow Democrats not to work for President-elect Donald Trump. Shavar Jeffries, President of Democrats for Education Reform

noted that a Trump Sec. of Education “would become an agent for an agenda that both contradicts progressive values and threatens grave harm to our nation’s most vulnerable kids.”  Note that at least three candidates on the list above – Michelle Rhee, Kevin Chavous and Eva Moskowitz – are Democrats.

See:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/11/14/will-donald-trump-destroy-u-s-public-education/

See:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/news/education/wp/2016/11/17/advocacy-group-warns-fellow-democrats-dont-become-trumps-education-secretary/?outputType=accessibility&nid=menu_nav_accessibilityforscreenreader


4. Education Policy in the Trump Era

Three key areas of likely focus in education policy are emerging as the Trump team considers education appointments and Department changes.   The first is the promotion of school choice, a feature during his campaign and a position which all potential appointees for Secretary of Education share.  President elect Trump recommended a $20B school choice block grant which would expand charter schools and private school options for low income students  He proposed that the block grant program come from redirecting existing federal funds and that states would decide how the dollars would follow children to public, private, charter or magnet schools.  Both Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) have proposed expansive choice provisions, neither of which was adopted during the consideration of ESSA.


A second focus has been on cutting back the Department of Education, either eliminating it (which would likely prove difficult) or diminishing its funds and functions.  A target area could be the Office of Civil Rights, which has been very active under President Obama in enforcing Title IX, processing complaints related to disability and race discrimination in schools and working with the Department of Justice on matters such as rectifying bias in school discipline.  The Civil Rights Data Collection has also provided critical information related to the inequitable distribution of experienced teachers in terms of low income and minority students.  Many Republicans believe the Department has overstepped its authority in the Office of Civil Rights.  Civil Rights groups are on alert to defend Obama accomplishments in this area.

A third focus is likely to be deregulation of both higher education and PK-12 education.   Regulations such as the teacher preparation regulations and the gainful employment regulations (intended to reign in for-profit higher education) are at risk in the higher education realm.  Controversial proposals under ESSA such as the “Supplement not Supplant” regulations will certainly be on the chopping block in the PK-12 arena, in addition to guidance which may be rescinded.  Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), HELP Committee Chair,  has long been a vocal opponent of over-regulation and has spearheaded opposition to the Department’s “Supplement not Supplant” proposal.

Regulations could be rescinded or revised in a number of ways. Either the Congress could take action through legislation or the Department could begin what might be a long and arduous process of revising regulations.  This could require reposting notice, issuing a draft, collecting comments, analyzing comments and re-issuing  new regulations.  It might require new rounds of negotiated rulemaking, though that is unclear.  Suffice it to say that a quick signature on an executive order would not likely be an option to eliminate multiple education regulations instantaneously.  If the Congress considers legislation to repeal regulations, a number of questions arise, such as what the vehicle might be for such repeal; a stand-alone bill or a policy rider on appropriations bills are options.  Dates of adoption of regulations and cost of regulations also factor into what congressional actions might be chosen.

See:  https://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/donald-trump-school-choice-proposal-227915

See: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/11/donald-trump-on-education/507167/

See:  https://thinkprogress.org/drastic-education-cuts-could-be-coming-under-trump-650c1ed6e807#.vrq39pctw


5. Join Us on November 22 for a Webinar on Implications of the Election Results


How will the Presidential Election results affect P-20 public education, special education, and disability advocacy?  Over the next four years, new Washington leadership is likely to change many federal and state programs and policies including the role and responsibilities of the U.S. Department of Education.  In addition, ESSA, the Common Core, IDEA, school vouchers, higher education policy, and the scope of multiple education regulations will likely be reconsidered.   What are emerging signs about these anticipated changes?  Who might serve in key education roles in the Trump Administration?  How will the 115th Congress work with the Trump Administration? How do these changes affect the ongoing work of education advocates  To learn more about these questions and related topics, please join us for a FREE webinar on November 22, 2016 4:00-6:30 p.m. (EST) hosted by two leading Washington education policy experts:  Dr. Michael Gamel-McCormick and Dr. Jane West.

Dr. Michael Gamel-McCormick is the Associate Executive Director for Research and Policy at Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). Before joining AUCD, Michael was the Disability Policy Director for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions under the chairmanship of Sen. Tom Harkin. He was also senior education policy advisor for Sen. Harkin. Prior to joining Senate staff, Michael was the professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies for 17 years, dean of the College of Education and Public Policy, and Director of the Center for Disabilities Studies, Delaware's UCEDD, all at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Jane E. West is a federal education policy expert who provides consulting services to a range of national teacher education and special education organizations.  She specializes in assisting professionals in informing and participating in the policy making process in Washington DC.  She served as a Senior Vice President at the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) for eight years where she led AACTE’s advocacy and policy efforts. Prior to her AACTE appointment, she was a founder of Washington Partners LLC, a government relations firm.  Jane began her policy career on Capitol Hill as senior education advisor on the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

This is free webinar sponsored by the Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Counseling and Special Education, and is supported by U.S. Department of Education grant #H325D150077-15 as part of VCU's Research to Policy Advocacy (RTPA) doctoral leadership training project.

Tue, Nov 22, 2016 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM Eastern Standard Time

Please join Adobe Connect from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
10-15 minutes prior to the start of the session follow this link:  https://aucd.adobeconnect.com/r5c692o7nku/

  • Select “Enter as a Guest” and type your name
  • Click “Enter room”

You can also dial in using your phone.
If you need to dial in, you can call 866-317-5076; no access code or ID is necessary

Washington Update will be on pause next week for Thanksgiving.  Expect your next edition on Friday December 2.  Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with great friends, family, food and blessings!


September 23, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Tomorrow I am off to Melbourne Australia to speak at the annual conference of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.  My topic won’t surprise you:  Teaching Equity in the US: Recruitment, Retention and Distribution.   A special thanks to our colleague Chriss Walther-Thomas at VCU who opened this door for me!  I’ll be back at this blog intermittently and definitely when Congress reconvenes in November.  In the meantime, I’ll see you on twitter: @janewestdc.

1. After Promising Start, Congress Slips Back into Gridlock over Funding Bills

One week from today, September 30, 2016, the federal fiscal year ends.  Unless Congress acts the government will shut down – and we have seen that before.   Virtually no one in either the House or the Senate, Republican or Democrat, wants to see that happen, yet Congress does not seem to be able to cross the finish line.  Senate Republicans released a proposal (taking funding through December 9) which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described as “not even worthy of a counter.” While a compromise over funding to combat the zika virus was reached, the main sticking point appears to be a lack of funding to address the water crisis in Flint while $500 million was included for states like Louisiana facing flooding and other natural disasters.

I am betting on resolution of a final bill next Friday, just in the nick of time.  What do you think?

For Republican Continuing Resolution Proposal see: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Continuing%20Resolution%20Legislation.PDF

For  summary of proposal see: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/092216-CR-FY17-Section-By-Section.pdf

2. Career and Technical Education (CTE) Reauthorization Stalled in the Senate

After a promising boost last week in the House, the CTE reauthorization process came to a screeching halt in the Senate.  HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had announced a markup for Wednesday, however it was suddenly postponed indefinitely.  Apparently the draft Senate bill had added language that was not part of the House bill – language limiting the Department of Education’s oversight and authority related to state plan approval.  Senate Democrats on the committee, led by ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA), opposed the draft Senate bill.

Chairman Alexander has been a vocal critic of the Department of Education during the ESSA regulatory process where he has repeatedly noted his opposition to draft regulations holding that they go beyond the law and congressional intent.  Undoubtedly this concern spilled over into the CTE reauthorization bill also, resulting in the contested language that would limit the authority of the Secretary of Education.

3. ESSA: Congressional Republicans Continue Sparring with Obama Administration over Regulatory Proposals

On Wednesday I attended a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, Supplanting the Law and Local Education Authority through Regulatory Fiat. You might guess from the title that Republicans, who hold the majority in the House, have a particular perspective they want to share!

The topic of the hearing, which was chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), was the proposed ESSA regulation related to supplement not supplant, or “SNS” at it is fondly known inside the beltway.  Three of the four witnesses opposed the regulatory proposal while one witness supported it.   The give and take was both lively and substantive.

In summary, the regulatory proposal requires school districts to show that federal funds are supplementing their budgets through:

  • A weighted student formula for disadvantages or special education students
  • A formula based on district-wide average of personnel and non-personnel spending
  • A state developed but federally peer reviewed methodology
  • A district option to create greater equity, but not necessarily equality, in per pupil spending between rich and poor schools

Republicans argued vigorously that the proposed regulation oversteps the bounds of the law and that the Department is way out of bounds dictating policy that the bipartisan legislation rejected. They said it could undermine local decision making and possibly hurt poor students. Chairman of the full committee, John Kline (R-MN) said it could “wreak havoc in communities across the country.”  Rep. Rokita called the proposal “unlawful.” Witnesses from the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and the Chief State School Officers also spoke against the proposal.

Democrats on the Subcommittee, led by ranking member Marcia Fudge (OH), argued that the regulation provided a much needed remedy for addressing inequitable spending between low income and well-to-do districts. “I thought the intent of the law was equity,” she said.  Speaking on behalf of the Center for American Progress in support of the regulatory proposal, Scott Sargrad noted that currently 5700 schools get an average of $440,000 less annually than wealthier schools in the same district. Sen. Susan Bonamici (D-OR) noted that students of color receive on average $700 less than other students. A number of civil rights organizations are supporting the regulatory proposal, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The public comment period is open until November 7.  My take away from the hearing?  The Department probably has overstepped its authority but for such a good reason.  Take a listen and see what you think.

For a video of the hearing and written copies of testimony: https://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=401015

Department of Education fact sheet on the SNS proposal: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-supplement-not-supplant-under-title-i-every-student-succeeds-act

4. ESSA Guidance on English-Language Learners Issued

The Department of Education issued guidance on Title III of ESSA with recommendations about how school districts can better serve English learners.

See: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/essatitleiiiguidenglishlearners92016.pdf

5. Members of Congress Weigh in on Addressing Teacher Shortages

Two leading congressional Democrats on education, Sen. Patty Murray (WA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (VA) issued a letter Friday to Secretary of Education John King urging him to issue guidance on how Title II of ESSA can be used to address teacher shortages.  Noting the significant shortages in their  home states, particularly for high-need students, the authors wrote that “a key purpose of Title II of ESSA is to increase the number of effective teachers serving our nation’s most vulnerable students.”  They recommend three key strategies for this:

  • multiple and innovative pathways to teaching
  • meaningful induction programs and
  • effective professional development activities

Teacher residency preparation programs and “grow your own” programs, such as those that support para educators in becoming certified teachers, are called out as effective approaches.  The letter also notes the particular shortage of special education teachers with many leaving the profession after only a year.

For the Murray/Scott letter see: https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/9.22.16%20-%20Murray-Scott%20%20Teacher%20Shortage%20Letter.pdf

6. New Commission on Social and Emotional Learning

The Aspen Institute has announced the creation of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. Social and emotional learning is a topic that has gained salience recently as states ponder how to construct new accountability systems under ESSA. Three heavy hitters will chair the Commission:

  • Learning Policy Institute’s Linda Darling-Hammond
  • Business Round Table President John Engler
  • Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver

Other members include Jim Shelton, president of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Nancy Zimpher, outgoing chancellor of SUNY and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.  Funded with $4.5 million from a range of sources, including the Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, the commission will produce a report in late 2018 with recommendations about validly measuring student social and emotional learning.  The commission’s first meeting is in November.

See: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/national-commission-on-social-emotional-and-academic-development/

7. Trump Names Education Advisors on Transition Team

Presidential candidate Donald Trump has named two education advisors to his transition team that will likely please Republicans.   Williamson M. Evers is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  Gerard Robinson is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Evers is a former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Education during the presidency of George W. Bush and adviser to former Secretary Margaret Spellings. Evers has been a vocal critic of common core. Evers has served on a county board of education in California and been on the board of a charter school.

Robinson is the former school chief in Florida who resigned after controversies over a large drop in scores on the state writing exam and the A-F school rating system.   Robinson’s current portfolio at AEI includes school choice and the role of for profit institutions in education.

Last month Trump hired Rob Goad as his education advisor.  Goad formerly worked for Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), a school choice champion.

See a recent oped in US News and World Report by Robinson: https://www.aei.org/publication/preserve-our-liberty-to-learn/

8. An Amazing Teacher Deals with the Tragedy in Tulsa

This is a must read.   Warning: it will make you cry. There is much work to be done and our classrooms are key.


Wishing you all well and hoping to meet a kangaroo and a koala bear in addition to some wonderful Aussies!



Week Ending September 16, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

It’s been a busy week in Washington as legislators scramble to wrap up and get back on the campaign trail.

1.  Action on Education Funding for FY 2017

Despite a push by Senate leadership to jam through a short term spending bill and get out of town this week, the work has spilled over into next week.  Eager to avoid a government shutdown just before the election and to hit the campaign trail, Senators are stalled in negotiations with House leaders about spending for the Zika virus and whether those funds will be allowed to go to Planned Parenthood organizations.  The first vote to move the bill is set for Monday afternoon, and there is a strong push to wrap things up by the end of next week.

The funding bill is expected to run through either December 9 or 15 at which time the 114th Congress will reconvene for the final time and determine next steps.   Depending on the outcomes of the election, the next funding bill may carry the country through September 30, 2017 or provide another short-term fix until March or so 2017.

The short term funding bill we will likely see next week is not expected to have any significant policy riders related to education or to alter funding in any significant way.  However, there is some talk of slight across the board cuts (perhaps 1%) which would mean that every education program would take a hit.  The reason for this is that because some spending has increased (e.g programs with triggers related to the number of people who use the programs such as health care or Pell grants) and in order to stay under the sequester imposed spending cap, the money must come from other programs.

See: https://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/296132-senate-funding-bill-slips-into-next-week

2. House Passes Bill to Reauthorize Career and Technical Education Programs

On Tuesday the House passes HR 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.   With a vote of 405-5 (all “no’s” were from Republicans), the bill supports funding for programs to prepare students for high skilled industry jobs in areas where employers have shortages.  Specifically it:

  • Adds a definition for students who can be “concentrators” in career and technical ed
  • Allows states to withhold larger portion of funds for their own competitive grant or formula programs
  • Creates a new grant program which would award funds to programs that align CTE with state workforce needs
  • Reduces paperwork for schools

This legislation (generally called the Perkins Act) has not been reauthorized since 2006. The Senate HELP Committee has scheduled a markup for its version of the reauthorization bill for Wednesday, September 21.  The bill will is expected to be similar to the House bill.

See: https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=401021

3. Likely New Chair of House Education and Workforce Committee: Virginia Foxx (R-NC)

As current chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce John Kline prepares to retire at the end of the 114th Congress, Rep. Virginia Foxx is actively campaigning to be the new chair for the 115th Congress.  First elected in 2004, Rep. Foxx currently chairs the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training and is third in seniority for Republicans among 22 on the Committee.  A frequent, feisty tough-talking conservative, she is also a lifelong educator with an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Teaching from UNC-Greensboro.   She served as president of Mayland Community College and in the NC State Senate for a decade. Foxx represents the 5th district in NC (Boone area).

Foxx’s bio indicates that she “regularly takes a stand for the principles of individual freedom and limited government.” She has been a vocal critic of regulatory proposals put forward by the Obama Administration intended to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act and is a long standing critic of the Administration’s efforts to clamp down on for-profit colleges, recently  noting that their work to close ITT Tech was done without “one iota of proof the school did anything wrong.”  She has indicated that her top legislative priority for the Committee for the next Congress would be revisiting the Higher Education Act and, in particular, seeking greater transparency from colleges on the graduation rate of Pell grant recipients.

See https://foxx.house.gov/biography/ and https://foxx.house.gov/issues/issue/?IssueID=60408

4. House Democrat Coalition Releases Priorities for the Higher Education Act

A group of 52 members of the House of Representatives, the New Democrat Coalition, released a document this week outlining priorities for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Jared Polis (D-CO), vice-chair of the Coalition, noted that the Coalition is focused on the innovation aspects of the Higher Education Act. Among those priorities listed in the document is teacher preparation.  The following is excerpted from the Coalition’s document:

Reforming Teacher Preparation

  • Increase mentorship for teachers and principals by creating new opportunities for residencies with experienced educators and administrators while fostering better ongoing support mechanisms for the first two years on the job.
  • Robustly support the funding, implementation, and dissemination of teacher advancement tracks that have demonstrated effectiveness in their ability to increase teacher retention and improve teacher professional development.
  • Develop and deploy teacher performance assessments that prioritize knowledge of culturally relevant teaching methods, racial and socioeconomic privilege and bias, and English language learner support.
  • Incentivize more people to pursue careers in the teaching profession and increase the number of teachers in areas where there are shortages by improving the mobility of teacher licenses between states.
  • Increase teacher diversity through recruiting, supporting, and retaining educators from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Reform student loan repayment models to provide clear and tangible incentives for teachers to stay in the classroom.

See: https://newdemocratcoalition-kind.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/new-democrat-coalition-releases-higher-education-priorities

5. GAO Issues Report on Vouchers

At the request of Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), the GAO examined whether voucher programs are allowing participating schools to discriminate against students with disabilities in their admission policies.  After reviewing the report, Rep. Pocan noted, “We already know voucher and many charter school programs lack the same levels of accountability and transparency as our public schools, but what this study proves is that many of these schools are also failing to meet the needs of special needs students and in many cases discriminating against them.”  The  GAO study found that participation in taxpayer-funded voucher programs and education savings accounts has more than doubled in the last five years with taxpayers increasing spending on them from $400 million to $859 million.

See: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-712


6. The Teacher Shortage Crisis in the Spotlight: In Search of Solutions 

This week the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), led by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, hosted an all day event in Washington to release their new analysis: A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand and Shortages in the US.  The conference featured an all star line up of educators, analysts, researchers, policy makers, philanthropists and civil rights leaders considering and reflecting on the comprehensive set of briefs and reports issued on topics ranging from teacher turnover, attracting and retaining minority teachers, shortages in special education, STEM and English Learners, strategies for addressing shortages, implications of the new ESSA, equitable distribution of inexperienced teachers, building career ladders for teachers and teacher leadership roles, residency programs and lessons from high performing countries.

Among the findings in the reports:

  • There was a 35% decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs from 2009 to 2014
  • There was a nationwide teacher shortage of 60,000 last year
  • Teacher shortages could increase to 100,000 by 2018
  • High minority and high poverty schools are hit hardest with uncertified teachers
  • Teacher attrition is the biggest contributor to the shortage with job dissatisfaction cited as the biggest reason for leaving
  • Teachers make 20% less than other college graduates; in 30 states a mid-career teacher heading a family of 4 is eligible for government assistance
  • To increase the diversity in the teacher workforce minority recruitment and retention initiatives are required

Policy solutions recommended include:

  • Use weighted student funding formulas to direct resources to districts with the neediest students
  • Offer financial incentives to teachers such as mortgage guarantees, down payment assistance, child care support etc.
  • Create “grow your own” and residency programs to prepare new teachers
  • Develop strong universally available induction and mentoring for new teachers
  • Strengthen principal preparation
  • Develop a national teacher supply market and support teacher and pension mobility

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who spoke at the conference, noted that “This research underscores the importance of offering effective incentives to keep our best teachers in the profession, contributing their expertise to help others.”

The report also rates each state using a variety of indicators (including average starting salary, attrition and working conditions) on “Teaching Attractiveness.”  The most attractive state for teachers, according to this system, is Oregon, with the least attractive being Arizona.  A second rating system looks at the disproportionate distribution of uncertified and inexperienced teachers to students of color, a “Teacher Equity Rating” -- rating Colorado the worst and Vermont the best.

The Center for American Progress also released a report this week examining the sharp decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs.

Join the conversation on twitter using #solvingteachershortages

For LPI reports on teacher shortages: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/event/solving-countrys-shortage?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Solving%20Teacher%20Shortages%20Forum&utm_campaign=UA-67199435-1

For LPI interactive state rating system: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/understanding-teacher-shortages-interactive

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/america-has-a-teacher-shortage-and-a-new-study-says-its-getting-worse/2016/09/14/d5de1cee-79e8-11e6-beac-57a4a412e93a_story.html

See: https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-09-14/the-teacher-shortage-crisis-is-here

CAP report: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2016/09/14/144215/educator-pipeline-at-risk/

7. Chiefs for Change Recommendations for ESSA Title II Priorities

Chiefs for Change, a group of reform oriented state chiefs, issued a document with recommendations about how states might use Title II ESSA funds.  Among the recommendations offered is utilization of Title II funds for the controversial teacher preparation academies.  Modeled after charter schools, these academies would function outside of the parameters of requirements for other teacher preparation programs in the state.  The Chiefs cite the Relay GSE as a model for such academies.

Relay, along with some other independent teacher preparation programs, was recently scrutinized by researcher Ken Zeichner who concluded that:

“State policymakers should be very cautious in authorizing “teacher preparation academies” under a provision in the new federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA). Such authorization would exempt those programs from the higher standards for teacher preparation that states typically seek to enforce for other teacher education programs. Policies should hold all programs to clear, consistent, and high standards.”

See:  https://chiefsforchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CFC-Title-II-Policy-Brief.pdf

For Zeichner’s critique of Relay and other independent teacher prep programs see https://nepc.colorado.edu/files/publications/PB-Zeichner%20Teacher%20Education.pdf

8. Damning Expose on Special Education in Texas

A recent remarkable expose from the Houston Chronicle, “Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education,”  found that school officials in Texas set an arbitrary cap of 8.5% as the percentage of students who could receive special education services. School districts have been audited by the state to ensure their compliance. While the cap has saved the state billions of dollars, it has also denied services to thousands of students with disabilities.

See: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/?t=9c54f4ac20

Have a great weekend.  Don’t watch too many political shows (wish I could follow my own advice)! See you on twitter @janewestdc

Best, Jane


Week of September 6, 2016

It’s good to be back with you as Congress has reconvened for the final push before the election and students all over the country are sporting new backpacks headed back to school.  Today’s blog is chocked full as we catch up after a long summer pause.

1. The Education Policy Agenda for September

Appropriations: Congress is scheduled to be in session until the end of September with September 30 looming as the close of the fiscal year and the deadline for new funding bills to be passed.  While Republicans in the House weave and bob looking for leverage to prevent a short term funding bill from passing (they prefer one that takes us all the way through to March 2017), Republican leaders in the Senate confirm that they are looking to pass a short term “continuing resolution” (this keeps funding the same as this year) that will take us through December 9.  This would ensure the return of the 114th Congress for a final “lame duck” session after the election where a longer term funding bill would be considered and no doubt lots of “last licks” mischief.  Goals for Republican leadership in the Senate are avoiding a government shutdown right before the election and leaving town to campaign.  They are hoping to hold on to their majority in the Senate and many races are tight.

An interesting question with all of the various funding vehicles is whether or not there will be any policy riders or “anomalies” attached to the bills.  While at the end of the day there always are, there is much Democratic posturing over “refusing to accept them on a funding bill.”  Despite the Democratic position of a “clean” funding bill with no policy provisions, the White House has submitted a request for multiple “anomalies” that they would like to see included in the stop gap funding bill.  So, as usual, these will be part of the negotiations.   While a number of education “anomalies” are on the list, there is nothing of great concern for educators, unlike in past years when the definition of “highly qualified” was changed as part of a funding bill at the Administration’s request.  However, there will likely be another bite at the apple when Congress reconvenes during the lame duck.

Career and Technical Education: The reauthorization of the Perkins Act remains on the agenda and could possibly emerge.  Republican chairs of House and Senate education committees want to move it along, but there is a way to go.  The House committee endorsed a bipartisan reauthorization bill earlier in the year but it would have to be considered on the floor and time is short.

Teacher Preparation Regulations:  The OMB website indicates that the final teacher preparation regulations will be issued this month!  (Has it been five years….who’s counting?!)  I am told they will be issued “before the election” so I wouldn’t be surprised if they slip to October.  But the big surprise will be what is in those regulations.  Given that the NCLB waivers are now defunct --courtesy of ESSA -- and the proposed regulations were built on those waiver requirements (such as assessing all students in “non-tested grades and subjects” and teacher evaluations using value-added), how they might be reconfigured is hard to imagine.   A policy rider is still pending in Congress that would block the teacher prep regs from moving forward, but whether or not that will be activated is an open question.

2. ESSA Developments

Last week the Department of Education issued new proposed regulations to implement the “supplement not supplant” provision of ESSA.  Drawing the immediate ire of Congressional Republicans who believe the Department has undermined the law with the proposal, fireworks are likely to continue during the 60 day comment period.  With his usual colorful language, Chair of the Senate HELP Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noted that the “Education Secretary must think he is the US Congress as well as chairman of a national school board.”   He continued “If anything resembling it becomes final, I will do everything within my power to overturn it.”  The Obama Administration believes that this proposal is critical to upholding the civil rights foundation of the law as it is intended to ensure that low income schools and students receive adequate funding and that federal funds do not take the place of state and local funds.

For proposed “supplement not supplant” regulations see: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/snsnprm83016.pdf and  https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-supplement-not-supplant-under-title-i-every-student-succeeds-act

For Sen. Alexander’s statement see: https://www.help.senate.gov/chair/newsroom/press/alexander-education-secretary-must-think-he-is-the-us-congress-as-well-as-chairman-of-a-national-school-board

3. National Labor Relations Board Determines Charter Schools are Private Corporations, not Public Schools

In notable rulings last week, the NLRB determined that charter schools are private corporations, not public schools, when it comes to labor laws.  While the rulings only apply to the NY and PA charter schools in the case, this is a remarkable finding as charter schools supporters have long contended that they are public choice options, clearly distinct from private options.  Ironically, the determinations also support the efforts of charter school teacher to unionize since federal law, not state law applies to unionization.  It is possible that if teachers in the charter schools under consideration decide to unionize they would also have the right to strike.  Federal law offers more bargaining power to unions than state laws.

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/08/30/national-labor-relations-board-decides-charter-schools-are-private-corporations-not-public-schools/

4. What Does the Public Think of Education:  PDK Annual Poll

The 48th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools reveals the following:

  • What is the main goal of public school education?
    • 45% think it is to prepare students academically
    • 25% think it is to prepare students for work
    • 26% think it is to prepare students to b good citizens
  • What grade does the public give public schools?
    • 25% give schools in the country an A or B
    • 48% give their local schools an A or B
  • What do Americans think of standards for learning?
    • 46% say the standards in their community are about right
    • 43% say they are too low
    • 7% think they are too high
  • Should students opt out of standardized state tests?
    • 59% say no
    • 37% say yes
  • What are the preferred school improvement strategies?
    • 68% support more career and technical education
    • 21% prefer more honors/advanced academic classes
  • Should failing schools be closed?
    • 84% say leave them open and improve them
    • 14% say close them

For more See: https://pdkintl.org/

5. Secretary John King Hitting the Road Back to School

On September 12, Secretary of Education King will launch the 7th and final Obama Administration back to school bus tour. The tour will include stops in Washington, D.C.; Charlottesville, Virginia; Bristol, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee; Harvest, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; Indianola, Mississippi; and Monroe, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana.  It will end September 16.

See:  https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-announces-seventh-annual-back-school-bus-tour-%E2%80%9Copportunity-across-america%E2%80%9D  and https://www.facebook.com/ED.gov/videos/10154510274454320/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

6. What Will the Next President Bring for Education?

The party platforms are worth reviewing in thinking about this question.  While no President ever follows the platform like a script, she/he may use them as a guideposts.  Of course more is on the candidate’s websites.  A few highlights:

Republican Party:

  1. “We likewise repeat our long-standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it.” (p.33)
  2. “[The Republican Party] rejects excessive testing and ‘teaching to the test’  and supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs.” (p. 33)

Read more here: https://www.gop.com/the-2016-republican-party-platform/

In addition candidate Trump outlined a school choice plan yesterday that would    create a $20 billion block grant for charter and private school options for low income students.  Ironically, the backdrop for the announcement of his plan was at a failing charter school in Ohio.

See: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/new-school-choice-policies-to-be-unveiled-by-donald-j.-trump-today

Democratic Party

1. "Democrats believe all students should be taught to high academic standards. Schools should have adequate resources to provide programs and support to help and meet the needs of every child." (p. 32)

2. "We are also deeply committed to ensuring that we strike a better balance on testing so that it informs, but does not drive, instruction." (p. 33)

3. "We oppose high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners as failing; the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools; and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a practice which has been repeatedly rejected by researchers." (p. 33)

Read more here: https://www.demconvention.com/platform/

Some New Ideas:

Finally, the organization Bellwether Education Partners has offered up “16 Education  Policy Ideas for the Next President. Sixteen articles by different authors offer intriguing titles such as “Build Charter Schools Like Affordable  Housing” and “Get Schools in the Fight Against Sex Trafficking.”

See: https://bellwethereducation.org/publication/16-2016-16-education-policy-ideas-next-president

7. Judge Issues Groundbreaking Ruling in Connecticut School Funding Case

After years of working its way through the judicial system in Connecticut, a school funding case which challenged the state’s financing system as unconstitutional was settled this week with Judge Thomas Moukawsher issuing scathing findings and a broad mandate for the state to revise its public education enterprise.  He called for a basic reimagining of schooling beginning with consideration of the goals for elementary and high school graduates and how funding will lead to meeting those goals. He called the state’s teacher evaluation system useless and “little more than cotton candy in a rain storm.”  He called the state’s efforts to define high school proficiency as “like a sugar cube boat….(that) dissolved before it’s half-launched.”

See: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/09/nyregion/crux-of-connecticut-judges-grim-ruling-schools-are-broken.html?_r=0

8. The National Education Policy Center Releases Report on Independent Teacher Prep Programs

Ken Zeichner of the University of Washington authors the brief arguing that research and evaluation do not support independent teacher prep programs. From the executive summary:

“…policymakers should consider carefully the extant evidence about the nature and impact of different pathways into teaching, including the entrepreneurial, stand-alone programs that advocates proclaim to be the future of teacher preparation. This consideration is particularly critical because, to date, these new alternatives focus almost exclusively on preparing teachers to teach “other people’s children” in schools within high-poverty communities—not on public school teachers in advantaged communities. Therefore, their entry into the field raises important questions not only about effectiveness, but also about equity.”

See:     https://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/teacher-education

9. Absenteeism Study Released

This week the Attendance Works and Everyone Graduates Center released a report documenting widespread chronic absenteeism in our nation’s schools.  Half of chronically absent students are in 4% of school districts and 12% of schools.  Data from the Civil Rights Data Collection is analyzed in the report.

See: https://www.attendanceworks.org/research/preventing-missed-opportunity/

At this time of year, I always remember the excitement of my first day of school as a kid.  My mother was a teacher and so I was thrilled to be able to “go to work” with her! What are your memories?  See you on twitter @janewestdc




Week of August 30, 2016

The Fifth Indicator

One requirement of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that is getting a lot of buzz in Washington is the requirement that states include a non-academic indicator as part of their accountability plans. This fifth indicator is to be weighted less than the four academic indicators of school success.

Each state will determine its fifth indicator, however the law identifies some possibilities, including school climate, advanced coursework, student engagement, educator engagement, and readiness for college.

Read up on how states and organizations are thinking about the topic in articles published by the American Youth Policy Forum, Teach PlusHuffington Post and EdWeek.


Washington Update  July 8, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Well, despite my intermittent summer Washington Update promise, here we are already with lots to report!  The Congress is sprinting to the finish line and ESSA regulatory action from the Department of Education continues apace.

1. House Committee Moves Education Spending Bill;  Continuing Resolution Likely in September

The long awaited mark up of the House education spending bill took place this week in the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Voted out 8-4 along party lines (all Democrats opposed), the bill represents a $1.3 billion cut for education below last year.  It eliminates several education programs, as it did last year, and makes cuts in others.  While the details of the bill are not yet available and I cannot yet report on many specific programs of concern to educators, some broad numbers are available below.

  • Title I ESSA: 15.9B, a cut of $57 million
  • Special Education Part B:  $12.4 billion, an increase of $500 million
  • Title IV of ESSA (the new block grant): $1 billion ($700 million higher than the Senate number

Like the Senate appropriations bill, funds were taken from the surplus in the Pell grant account and used for increases in other programs.  Also like the Senate bill, the National Institutes of Health was a big winner with the House allocating an additional $1.25 billion.

Unlike the Senate bill, which was bipartisan, the House bill includes multiple policy riders, many of which are controversial and partisan, for example repealing portions of Obamacare.  One such policy rider would block the Department of Education from promulgating the teacher preparation proposed regulations, which have been under development for five years.

The Democrats offered 6 amendments at the markup. All were voted down along party lines.  The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the bill next Wednesday and multiple amendments are expected.

Despite the progress on education spending bills in both the House and the Senate, it is virtually assured that there will be a continuing resolution passed in September that will punt the final decision making forward.  The question is how far forward.  Will it be until December, after the elections, or will it be into next year left for the new Congress and the new President to figure out?  My money is on December!

House Approps Bill https://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-114hr-sc-ap-fy2017-laborhhs-subcommitteedraft.pdf

House press release on bill: https://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394633

2. House Education Committee Endorses Career and Technical Education Reauthorization Bill

In a remarkable bi-partisan love fest, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce voted out a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.  HR 5887, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century, was adopted 37-0.  The bill was also received overwhelming support from virtually every education association in town.  The key theme of the bill is alignment between career and technical education courses and the demands of jobs in today’s economy.  The Senate has been working on a companion bill for some time and this may inspire movement in the other body.

See: https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=400923

3. New Draft Regulations Proposed for ESSA by Department of Education on Assessment and Innovative State Pilots

This week the Department issued yet another set of proposed regulations for ESSA (an NPRM – Notice of Proposed Rulemaking).  These are the result of the negotiated rulemaking session earlier in the year and they address student assessments and the new state pilot option for developing assessments.   ESSA authorizes up to 7 states to apply for a pilot assessment to be developed by several districts in the state. Some key features of the pilot assessment regulatory proposal include:

  • States would have up to 5 years to pilot the assessment with an optional 2 year extension
  • The innovative assessments must produce results comparable to traditional state standardized tests
  • Four options are outlined:
    • Administer the innovative assessment at least once during elementary, middle and high school while waiving students from standardized tests;
    • Allow students to take both the innovative assessment and the standardized assessment in the same year;
    • Have a number of common assessment items across both assessments;
    • Demonstrate that assessments are as rigorous as standardized tests and produce valid results.

While these proposals have been distributed by the Department of Education, they have not yet appeared in the Federal Register.  Thus, we do not yet know what the deadline will be for submitting comments.  So start reading and stay tuned!

Proposed assessment regulations: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/nprmassessementfedreg1a.pdf

Proposed innovative assessment regulations: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/nprmassessementfedreg1b.pdf

Summary of regulatory proposals from Department of Education: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/nprmsassessmentfactsheet762016.pdf

4. More on ESSA Accountability Regulatory Proposal

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has scheduled another hearing on ESSA implementation for next Thursday, July 14.   This will be the 5th oversight hearing and will likely, like the last hearing, focus on the Department’s proposed accountability regulations.  This hearing will feature a number of stakeholders.

Don’t forget that the proposed accountability regulations are still out for public comment, closing on August 1.  I have just finished reading them and there is a lot to digest!  So start now and dig in!

To view the hearing at 10 AM EST on July 14:  https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/essa-implementation-perspectives-from-stakeholders-on-proposed-regulations

Accountability regs proposal: comments due August 1: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/31/2016-12451/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-of-1965-as-amended-by-the-every-student-succeeds

5. Draft DNC Platform on Education

The Democratic National Committee has released its draft platform on education.   Features include:

  • Free community college
  • Expanding federal income based student financial aid repayment programs
  • Cutting interest rates on student financial aid for future undergraduates
  • Increased funding for HBCUs, HSIs and MSIs
  • "going after for-profit colleges that engage in deceptive marketing, fraud, and other illegal practices
  • Ensuring great schools in all zip codes and closing the achievement gap for low income students, minority students, English learners and students with disabilities
  • Supporting high quality charter schools
  • On testing, the draft notes: "We are also deeply committed to ensuring that we strike a better balance on testing so that it informs, but does not drive, instruction."

Read the draft proposal: https://demconvention.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2016-DEMOCRATIC-PARTY-PLATFORM-DRAFT-7.1.16.pdf

Have a great weekend!  See you on twitter @janewestdc




Washington Update July 1, 2016


Dear Colleagues:

The pace in the nation’s capital is slowing down as tourists pour in for the awesome fireworks on the Mall for the 4th.  If you’ve never been, put it on your bucket list.

1. Senate HELP Committee Holds 4th Oversight Hearing on ESSA

Always colorful in his comments, HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) opened his 4th ESSA oversight hearing on Thursday by invoking Humpty Dumpty!  He said:

Humpty Dumpty said ‘When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ Like Humpty Dumpty, we chose our words carefully,” Alexander said. “We did when we wrote the law fixing No Child Left Behind. The words we used were debated and carefully and deliberately chosen. We meant for the words to mean what they say – nothing more, nothing less.”

Alexander proceeded to challenge Sec. of Education John King on the recently proposed accountability regulations noting possible overstepping of the law in provisions related to academic standards, the school rating system and its privileging of math and reading test score results and the requirement for a summative rating system for each school.  He noted that the new law eliminated the following--which had been a part of NCLB and/or subsequent waivers -- returning decision making authority to states and locals in these areas:

  • The Common Core mandate
  • The Adequate Yearly Progress mandate
  • Test-Based Accountability
  • The School Turnaround models
  • Highly Qualified Teacher requirements
  • Teacher Evaluation mandates

One area where there was bi-partisan concern was in relation to the implementation timeline.  Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking Democrat on the Committee,  joined others from both sides of the aisle urging a slower transition timeline.  In particular, they noted that requiring full implementation in the 2017-18 school year was problematic as 2016-17 would be the first year for new data collection under the law and utilizing that data for decision making (for example intervening in underperforming schools) the following year would be challenging.  Sec. King seemed sympathetic to the concerns and noted that the comment period on the proposed regulations was open until August 1, urging all to send in comments.

Other Senators at the hearing raised the following points:

  • Chris Murphy (D-CT) noted his concern that the n size was too liberal (the proposed regulation does not set a floor or a ceiling but notes that if the n size is over 30, the state must submit a rationale.  The n size refers to the number of students in a subgroup who must be in a school/district in order for that subgroup to be a part of the accountability system.)
  • Richard Burr (R-NC) pushed Sec. King hard asking him why his Department didn’t trust schools to make their own decisions.  Sec. King noted that while he did trust them, there was a history of lax civil rights protections for disadvantaged students.
  • Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked about improving access to advanced courses and other resources for poor and minority students – describing these as “opportunity gaps.”  Sec. King noted that states could address these gaps in the context of the law.

Chair Alexander has promised two more ESSA oversight hearings before the end of the year.

See the hearing here: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/essa-implementation-update-from-the-us-secretary-of-education-on-proposed-regulations


2. Bipartisan Bill Introduced in House to Reauthorize Career and Technical Education

Last reauthorized almost a decade ago, the process finally got underway again this week with the introduction of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.   Introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), the bill reforms the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

The key component of the legislation is $1.2 billion state grant program which has been updated to target high-skilled in-demand jobs, including those in technical fields.  The Senate has been working for months on a companion bill; perhaps this will spur movement in the upper chamber.

See:  https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=400894


3. New Regulations from the Departments of Education and Labor on Workforce Law

The Obama Administration has issued new regulations for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  Released 22 months after the law was enacted and well beyond the statutory deadline for issuance, the release was blasted by House Republicans John Kline (R-MN) and Virginia Foxx (D-NC) as they noted that workers:

"will finally have the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of a modern workforce development system ... it's a shame that it has taken this long for the administration to do its job and implement these critical reforms."

See:  https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obama-administration-announces-new-regulations-strengthen-employment-and-training-opportunities-millions-americans?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

For the House Republican statement see: https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=400897

For an overview of the law see: https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/Overview.cfm


4. Department of Education Updates FAQ on ESSA Including Changes for Special Education Teachers

The Department of Education has posted an updated version of its ESSA FAQ document.  Intended to support states and districts in understanding the new law, and particularly how to transition from NCLB to ESSA, the document will be continually updated.   Two interesting items in the publication address the eliminated term “highly qualified” and what that means for special education teachers.  It is worth noting that the requirements for special education teachers are not the same in law as those for general education teachers, though what that means in practical terms is yet to be determined.

The FAQ says:

Must a State ensure that special education teachers are  “highly qualified,” as defined in section 9101 of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB, in the 2016-2017 school year?  

No. The ESSA amended the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by removing the definition of “highly qualified” in section 602(10) and the requirement in section 612(a)(14)(C) that special education teachers be “highly qualified” by the deadline established in section 1119(a)(2) of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB.  Accordingly, a State is not required to ensure that special education teachers are “highly qualified” as defined in the ESEA beginning with the 2016-2017 school year but must ensure that they meet the requirements described in D-1b.

If the definition of “highly qualified” is no longer applicable to special education teachers, what are the federal requirements related to the professional qualifications of those teachers?

Section 9214(d)(2) of the ESSA amended section 612(a)(14)(C) of the IDEA by incorporating the requirement previously in section 602(10)(B) that a person employed as a special education teacher in elementary school, middle school, or secondary school must: 1) have obtained full certification as a special education teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification), or passed the State special education teacher licensing examination and hold a license to teach in the State as a special education teacher, except that a special education teacher teaching in a public charter school must meet the requirements set forth in the State’s public charter school law; 2) not have had special education certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis; and 3) hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Each State must continue to comply with these certification requirements during the 2016-2017 school year. (Updated May 4, 2016)

See:  https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/essafaqstransition62916.pdf


5. ASCD Releases Policy Brief on IDEA and Special Education

My smart colleague Myrna Mandlawitz had written a policy brief for ASCD titled Special Education After 40 Years:  What Lies Ahead?  Myrna offers reflections on the history of IDEA, current trends, current policy issues and recommendations for the future.  If you read carefully, you will find a quote from yours truly!

See: https://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/policy-priorities/vol22/num01/Special-Education-After-40-Years@-What-Lies-Ahead%C2%A2.aspx


6. Eighth Grader Comedic Star Does “the Donald” on Jimmie Fallon

In case you need a laugh, I highly recommend the astounding 8th grader who offered his impression of the Donald at his graduation ceremony.  Subsequently appearing on Jimmy Fallon, he generated even more laughs.  It’s a MUST!

Take a look: https://bit.ly/296TKTz

Along with you, I will be celebrating on the 4th.  How lucky we all are to live in this amazing country!

See you on twitter @janewestdc

Best, Jane



Washington Update  June 24, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

What a week!  House Democrats took the unprecedented move of a sit-in over stymied gun control legislation and Britain voted to leave the EU.  What will happen next week?!

1. Appropriations

There is no real news to report on this front.  The rumor of a House Committee markup on the education spending bill did not pan out.  But the new rumor is that it will take place the week of July 5 when the Congress returns from recess.   Just to recap – we have a Senate education funding bill out of Committee but no legislative movement on a House companion.   The fiscal year ends September 30 (e.g. the government runs out of money) and there are about five legislative weeks left before the ball drops.  (Congress will be out beginning mid-July for the Presidential party conventions returning after Labor Day).   So there is likely to be some fancy footwork in September to temporarily extend government spending until after the election when the Members get back to business.   Stay tuned!

2. ESSA Implementation Oversight Hearings: House and Senate

Despite the House take over by a Democratic sit-in and an early adjournment for recess, the Committee on Education and the Workforce moved ahead with its oversight hearing on ESSA implementation.   Chairman John Kline (R-MN) noted his concern that the Department’s proposed regulations were overly prescriptive. “The law represents the best opportunity we’ve had in decades to provide every child in every school an excellent education. We will not allow the administration to destroy that opportunity by substituting its will for the will of Congress and for the will of our state and local education leaders,” he said.  One witness at the hearing, Superintendent David Schuler from Illinois reflected that  “State and local education agencies are emerging from 15 years of compliance-based mentality as it related to education policy. ESSA represents the first time these education agencies have the opportunity to innovate and demonstrate what we are capable of.”

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. did not flinch as he was questioned about proposed “supplement not supplant” and accountability regulations.  He said the Department’s proposed language seeks to enforce the law as written.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) warned Sec. King: “I think you’re setting yourself up for a lawsuit that you will lose,” in reference to the draft accountability rules.   He was concerned that states were being restricted in terms of identifying schools that are “consistently underperforming.”

Earlier in the week two dozen civil right groups issued a statement urging the Department of Education to strengthen their proposed accountability regulations.  One issue raised was the question of “n” sizes, or the number a state may choose for the minimum number of students who must be present to constitute a subgroup which will be analyzed for accountability purposes.  The proposed regulation says that states that choose 30 or higher would have to justify the choice.  The civil rights groups believe 30 is too high, as too many students would be left out of the accountability system.

Next Wednesday at 10 AM, congressional oversight will continue when Sec. King will testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN),  said he will be looking for the Department’s legal justification for its proposed regulations.

For House ESSA oversight hearing: https://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=400831

Letter from civil rights organizations about accountability regs: https://www.civilrights.org/press/2016/essa-accountability-regs.html

The Senate hearing will be live cast here June 29 at 10 AM: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/essa-implementation-update-from-the-us-secretary-of-education-on-proposed-regulations

3. New Department of Education  ESSA Guidance on Stakeholder Engagement and Foster Children

The Department of Education issued guidance this week on stakeholder engagement, which is required by law and is frequently underscored by Congress during their oversight hearings.  A foundational shift of the new law was to move decision making authority away from the federal government and to states and communities.  This represents a significant culture shift that is just beginning in most places.  The Department’s guidance is intended to facilitate the participation of stakeholders in ESSA decision making.

The Department’s guidance offers a number of resources and makes the following specific recommendations:

  • Holding meetings or hearings at varying times during the day, including after the work or school day or on the weekends and, if possible, offering child care, so that working parents, teachers, school leaders, and other professionals are best able to participate;
  • Holding multiple meetings or hearings across the State or district, rather than only in the State capital or district headquarters, which can limit the ability of stakeholder groups from across the State to participate;
  • Ensuring meetings or committees include a broad range of stakeholder voices, including those who have been traditionally left out of such conversations;
  • Facilitating broad participation beyond the representatives that will be attending the meetings or hearings in person (for example, by working with trusted stakeholders to gather input from other stakeholders who may not be able or inclined to attend a hearing);
  • Making publicly available the name and contact information of officials and stakeholders who will be working on State implementation;
  • Allowing all stakeholders who are participating in meetings or hearings to provide substantive input;
  • Providing accommodations and supports to ensure meetings or hearings are accessible (e.g., translators, interpreters, materials in alternative formats for use by persons with disabilities); and
  • Ensuring transparency on the process, timeline, and opportunities to engage at different levels of policy development by providing advance notice and clear descriptions of the opportunities for feedback on implementation of the new law, including by sharing information on the State's website.

The stakeholder guidance also reinforces the importance of having stakeholder participation during implementation as well as development.  Continuous feedback mechanisms are critical for effective implementation.

ESSA has a number of provisions related to foster children and the Department of Education along with the Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance on the topic.  The guidance addresses the following topics:

  • The importance of the new educational stability requirements;
  • The statutory requirement that a child in foster care remains in his or her original school, if it’s in his or her best interest;
  • Procedures for jointly determining with the child welfare agency which school is in a child’s best interest to attend;
  • Procedures for resolving disputes that may arise over the best interest determination and school placement;
  • Transportation procedures developed jointly to maintain children in foster care in their original schools;
  • The transfer of relevant records;
  • Foster care points of contact for states, districts and child welfare agencies
  • Protecting student data and privacy; and
  • Best practices and suggestions for interagency collaboration on these issues

For stakeholder engagement guidance:    https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/160622.html

For foster care guidance: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/edhhsfostercarenonregulatorguide.pdf

4. 100-Member Coalition for Teaching Quality Holds Congressional Briefing and Issues New Reports to Strengthen the Teaching Profession

On June 23, the 100 member Coalition for Teaching Quality held a briefing on Capitol Hill.  “Strengthening Educator Recruitment, Development, and Support through ESSA Implementation” featuring  9 educators addressing best practices across the continuum of educator development from a high school student preparing to enter a teacher preparation program, to a residency preparation program, to a recent residency program graduate,  to a teacher mentor, to teacher leaders and a principal.   The theme of the briefing was how to use ESSA as a tool to ensure high teaching quality and a diverse workforce – particularly for high need schools and students --  in the face of ongoing shortages and declining enrollment in preparation programs.  Three new reports were issued intended to bring best practice to inform policy development and implementation, particularly in relation to decisions states and districts will be making about ESSA.  They are:

  • Building a Strong and Diverse Teacher and Principal Recruitment Pipeline
  • Strengthening Pathways of Professional Learning and Growth for Teachers and Principals
  • Developing and Supporting Opportunities for Teacher Leadership

The reports and the list of speakers in the briefing can be found here: https://coalitionforteachingquality.org/main/

5. National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) Finds Little State Engagement with Teachers in  ESSA Decision Making

In a flash poll of its members conducted early this month, the National Network of State   Teachers of the Year found that only 32% of their members were aware of/engaged in ESSA decision making in the states.  Only 3% were aware of/participating in their districts.  Given that State Teachers of the Year are highly accomplished high profile exemplar teachers, it is likely that the vast majority of teachers are not participating in the important decisions being made by states and districts as of yet.   There is certainly room for improvement and time to make that happen.

In addition, NNSTOY found that only about half of its members are aware that ESSA requires the input of educators for the creation of ESSA implementation plans.   Calling all educators:  check out what is happening in your state and your district and make your voice heard.  It’s the law!!


Until next week, find me on twitter: @janewestdc




Washington Update   June 17, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Like the rest of the nation, Washington was overwhelmed by the tragedy in Orlando this week.   I know you join me in prayers for the victims, the families and for our nation.

Highlights of education developments are below.

1. House Expected to Move on Education Funding Next Week

Rumor has it that the House Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education appropriations will mark up its spending bill next week.  While no date has been set and no official announcement has been made, anticipation is high.  Unlike the Senate education spending bill, which was endorsed by the Appropriations Committee last week with bipartisan support, the House companion bill is expected to include multiple policy riders as it did last year which will generate partisan rancor and complicate the prospects of negotiating a final bill.   Among the policy riders is likely to be a prohibition against the Department of Education moving forward on the long-awaited teacher prep regs.  In addition, the funding levels for education in the House bill are typically lower than those in the Senate bill.  Stay tuned for developments.

2. ESSA Implementation – House Committee to Hold Hearing

The rhetoric continued this week between Secretary of Education John King and Republicans on the Hill regarding concern about the Department of Education’s regulatory proposals on ESSA, in particular the  “supplement not supplant” provision.   House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has announced a hearing on June 23 at 9 am where Sec. King will appear to defend his proposals.  Kline noted that it is “deeply concerning” how the Education Department has proposed regulations that would “undermine this bipartisan law. We are determined to hold the administration accountable and make certain the law is implemented in a manner that adheres to the letter and intent of the law ,” he said. Earlier in the week Sec. King saidWe won't heed the calls from some to ignore the supplement, not supplant, provisions of the law.”

Another point of contention between the Department of Education and Congressional Republicans has been the proposed regulations for state accountability systems.   Those regulations are in the public comment period now with comments due August 1.  See link below to weigh in with your comments.  The Department reads all comments and responds to them as they consider changes to their proposal.  This is an important way to have your voice heard in policy making!

See: https://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=400829

For Regulatory proposal on accountability: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/nprmaccountabilitystateplans52016.pdf

3. ESSA and Early Childhood

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) – the lead Democrats in the reauthorization of ESSA, have written to the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services promoting the implementation of new ESSA provisions related to early learning.  Preschool Development Grants are authorized by ESSA to be jointly administered by the two agencies.  The letter notes that "fulfilling the promise of the ESSA PDG program will take ambitious actions and comprehensive coordination between the two agencies. We intend for the agencies to work  together, and jointly with us, in order to faithfully implement the law. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the PDG programs are effective and create real, positive change for children and families across the country.”

In a related development, the Obama Administration issued a new report documenting the tremendous pay gap between preschool teachers and  K-12 teachers.  The median salary for preschool teachers is $28,570, about half of what elementary school teachers earn annually.  While training requirements for preschool teachers are increasing, pay is remaining stagnant,  the report finds.  "Wage parity across settings is critical to attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce, essential for a high-quality program," said Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development at the Administration for Children and Families.

See: https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/PDG%20letter_6.1333333.pdf

For new study: https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/index.html?src=rn

4. New Teacher Prep Coalition Calls for Federal Policy on Accountability

A group of 9 teacher related organizations has created a coalition which will provide “a series of letters to federal officials that will guide efforts to strengthen teacher preparation programs across the country.”  The new coalition is made up of: Urban Teachers, Aspire Public Schools, Blue Engine, Boston Teacher Residency, Match Teacher Residency, National Center for Teacher Residencies, Relay Graduate School of Education, Teach for America and TNTP.

While the coalition does not specifically call on the Department to issue the teacher prep regulations which have been under development for 4 years, it does call on the Department of Education and Congress to “provide states with specific guidance around developing systems where all teacher preparation programs are accountable for collecting and publicly sharing outcomes data on the success of their programs, participants and graduates.”

See:  https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54dc2642e4b0469314195dca/t/5761ee149f7456a0f0a4e03f/1466036228280/CoalitionLetter.pdf

5. An Educator Speaks Out on the Tragedy in Orlando

Dr. Brad Hull, the Deputy Executive Director of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and a friend and colleague, has written powerfully about lessons for educators from the Orlando tragedy.  Join me in sharing this blog and in thinking about how, as educators, we can recommit to our students and invest in them for a better future.

See: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/youve-got-carefully-taught-bradley-j-hull?trk=prof-post

Wishing you a joyous Father’s day as we all remember how lucky we are to have friends and family and be part of the profession that makes all others possible:  education!




Washington Update  June 10, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

It’s been a busy week with the Congress back in action, sprinting to the Presidential conventions in July.   In the good news column, there was finally action on a FY 2017 spending bill for education.

1. Senate Education Funding Bill Clears Committee in Bipartisan Fest

This week the Senate cleared its FY 2017 Labor/HHS/Education funding bill out of committee with a bipartisan vote of 29-1.  (Only Sen. Lankford {R-OK} opposed noting his displeasure with the increase in funding for civil rights complaints to be processed at the Department of Education.)  Noting that this is the first bi-partisan Labor/HHS/Education spending bill in 7 years, Committee members from both sides of the aisle lauded praise on the bill.  Of course there are reservations about the bill and no one gets everything they want in a compromise.

The bill features a number of slight-of-hand moves appearing to find funds where none exist!  While the bill includes a $270 million cut from last year’s spending level, it also includes some remarkable increases – for example a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health.  Much of the “new” funding came from a $1.2 billion draw down on the surplus for Pell grants, a move which has some education advocates concerned.  Since the amount needed for Pell varies by year based on the number of students who apply and are eligible, some years there are surpluses and other year’s there are deficits.  It is sometimes hard to predict which scenario will unfold year by year.

For the Department of Education, $67.8 billion was provided, a $220 million decrease below FY 2016.  Below are the numbers for some education programs of interest:

  • Title I state grants:  $15.4B, a $500 million increase
  • Title IV (new ESSA “well rounded education” grant):  $300 million
  • IDEA Part B:  $11.95 Billion, a $40 million increase
  • Charter schools: $343 million, a $10 million increase
  • IDEA Personnel Preparation Part D:  $83.7 million, flat funded
  • Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, Higher Education: $43 million, flat funded
  • National Center for Special Education Research:  $54 million, flat funded

Another feature of the bill is that it extends Pell grants so that they can be utilized year round, not just during the fall and spring semesters.  It also increases the maximum Pell from $5815 per year to $5935 per year.  This appears to be a trade off for utilizing funds in the surplus for other programs.

Some education advocates are deeply disappointed in the funding level for Title IV of ESSA ($300 million).  This new state grant program was a consolidation of multiple smaller programs, including arts education, school counseling, computer science and others.  ESSA authorized the program at $1.65 billion.  The International Society for Technology in Education called this low level of funding “stunningly shortsighted.”

The next step in the process would be for the House Appropriations subcommittee and committee to mark up their companion bill.  Rumor is that this will occur before the July 4 recess.  No one expects the process to continue much beyond that House committee action.  The next step will most likely be a continuing resolution (which would keep funding at current levels) to take the government beyond the November  election.   After the dust settles from the election, all bets are off!!

For a copy of the bill see: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CRPT-114srpt274/pdf/CRPT-114srpt274.pdf

2. Department of Education Issues New Civil Rights Data Revealing Ongoing Disparities for Students of Color and Students with Disabilities

This week the Department of Education issued its first look at the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).   The data is comprehensive, including 99% of all school districts (16,758); 99% of all schools (95,507) and over 50 million students.  It also includes a number of new data sets, such as student absenteeism and educational access in correctional facilities.  This release is one of several that the Department will issue over the course of the summer and fall as it continues to analyze the rich 2013-14 CRDC.  One such release will address teacher churn/turnover.

The demographic makeup of our students in school is as follows:

  • 3% white
  • 7% Hispanic or Latino
  • 5% Black or African American
  • 8% Asian
  • 1% two or more races
  • 1% American Indian or Alaska Native
  • .4% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander

Our nation’s school students include 9.9% English learners and 14% students with disabilities (including those served by IDEA and Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act).

A few key highlights from the release include:

  • Students with disabilities in K-12 are disproportionately suspended from school; students served by IDEA are more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as students without disabilities;
  • Black students are expelled from school at disproportionately high rates; they are 1.9 times more likely to be expelled from school without educational services as white students;
  • Over 100,000 students were placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement or were physically restrained at school, including over 67,000 students served by IDEA; while students with disabilities served by IDEA represent 12% of all students, 67% are subject to restraint or seclusion;
  • Black and Latino students have less access to high level math and science courses; 33% of high schools with high black and Latino populations offer calculus, compared to 56% of high schools with low black and Latino enrollment;
  • More than 6.5 million students (13% of all students) are chronically absent during a school year (15 or more school days);
  • More than 3 million high school students (18% of all high school students) are chronically absent; 20% of all English learner high school students are chronically absent;
  • Black, Latino and American Indian or Alaska Native students are more likely to attend schools with higher concentrations of inexperienced teachers;  for example 11% of black students attend schools where more than 20% of teachers are in their first year of teaching compared to 5% of white students;
  • Nearly 800,000 students are enrolled in schools where more than 20% of teachers have not met all state certification requirements.

See: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/2013-14-first-look.pdf?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

See: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/06/07/disparities-continue-to-plague-us-schools-federal.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news1-RM

For the entire data file see: CRDC.ed.gov.

3. New Stakeholder Engagement Guide for States on ESSA

On June 9, the Council of Chief State School Officers issued a new guide for its members and stakeholders titled  “Let’s Get This Conversation Started:  Strategies, Tools, Examples and Resources to Help States Engage with Stakeholders to Develop and Implement their ESSA Plans.”  Developed in conjunction with multiple national stakeholder organizations (NEA, AFT, AASA, National PTA, NSBA, NASSP, NAESP, NASBE and more),  the guide offers strategies, checklists and multiple examples from states as to how to engage stakeholders during ESSA decision making.    A few examples included in the publication:

  • Kentucky held 11 town hall meetings across the state to consider how to define school success.
  • North Carolina released a detailed timeline of ESSA outreach, events, presentations, convenings and the development of the ESSA plan itself.
  • Oregon hosted 12 community forums to help build the state’s ESSA plan.  They were held in community centers, an early learning center, a cultural center, community colleges, a maritime museum and a few school districts.
  • Illinois held an 8 stop listening tour during the spring of 2016 and worked with regional offices to set up local meetings to secure feedback on ESSA implementation.
  • Massachusetts has launched an online feedback form to get feedback on accountability.  Stakeholders can sign up online for ESSA updates and other opportunities to provide feedback.
  • Washington State created a series of workgroups for the major policy areas of ESSA comprised of stakeholders and experts,  The groups meet monthly to prepare parts of the state’s ESSA plan.
  • New Hampshire created six content-specific stakeholder advisory teams to formulate the state’s ESSA plan.

Now is the time for educators and other stakeholder to be at the table.  Check out what is happening in your state and be sure your voice is heard!  The law requires it.


4. Does Experience Make you a Better Teacher?  What the Research Says

The Learning Policy Institute reviewed 30 research studies published in the last 15 years to consider the impact of teaching experience on teaching effectiveness.   They found that the most notable gains appear in the early years,  however teachers can continue to increase their effectiveness into the second and third decades of their careers.

Other findings include:
• Experienced teachers have a positive impact on the performance of their peers.
• As teachers gain experience, their students are more likely to do better on other measures of success beyond test scores, such as school attendance.
• Teachers make greater gains in their effectiveness when they accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.
• More experienced teachers confer benefits to their colleagues, their students, and to the school as a whole.

This report is particularly timely given the critical teacher shortages in fields such as special education, the inequity of the distribution of experienced teachers and the decisions states will be making under ESSA to address teacher quality.


5. Oklahoma Tackles Teacher Shortages

Facing an unprecedented teacher shortage, Oklahoma created a Teacher Shortage Task Force comprised of 91 members including educators, parents, legislators, colleges of education, school districts, communities and businesses.    The Task Force presented 29 recommendations to the Board of Education in December, several of which required legislation.   As a result, 7 new bills were signed into law.  The bills include the following:

  • Allowance of retired teachers to volunteer or serve part time as mentor teachers;
  • Eases the State Board’s ability to issue teaching certificate to those with out-of- state certification;
  • Provides new authority for the Board to issue certificates to those with out-of-country certificates;
  • Gives districts the authority to enter into contracts with student teachers provided they will not teach the following year until completing all certification requirements;
  • Increases the maximum number of clock hours an adjunct teacher may teach;
  • The “Empowering Teachers to Lead Act” enables districts to pursue a framework of teacher career paths, leadership roles and compensation structure, defining the responsibilities of model teachers, mentor teachers and lead teachers;
  • Creates a teacher certification scholarship program for one teacher candidate.

The task force will continue to meet and issue a final report in the fall.   The state has yet to tackle the sticky issue of teacher salaries.  With starting salaries around $31,600, Oklahoma is one of the lowest paying states in the country.  

See:  https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/OKSDE/bulletins/14bf56f

Wishing you a great summer weekend filled with fun and sun!

See you on twitter @janewestdc.




Washington Update  May 27, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Congress left town yesterday for Memorial Day recess, slated to return on Monday June 6.  Then comes the mad dash of the summer toward a July 14 recess for the Presidential Party conventions.  Congress will return for a couple of weeks in September and that’s it until the November election.   Meanwhile the policy agenda grows larger and the polarization grows deeper.

1. Appropriations Hits a New Low

With a commitment to “regular order” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) took another hit this week, watching what appeared to be a non-controversial spending bill (energy and water) go down in flames over an LGBT amendment.   The vote was 112-305.  The amendment was proposed by Democrats and would have barred federal contractors from discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.   Some Democrats opposed the spending bill anyway because of several Republican amendments, including one related to immigration.  If this is an indicator of how the remaining spending bills will fare, it will be a frustrating summer with little to show for weeks of work.

Meanwhile the House and Senate appear to be moving toward conference on at least one spending measure: the Zika virus.  This is an emergency appropriations measure (not one of the 12 required bills), but it will be a trial run to see if the House and Senate can come to agreement during this polarized political season.  While the President requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to respond to the virus, the House bill has approved $622 million which the White House said it would veto.  The Senate passed a $1.1 billion bill.   Meanwhile the virus continues to spread and the CDC is increasingly concerned.

To date the House has passed only 1 of the 12 required spending bills and the Senate has passed three.  The bill that funds education (Labor/HHS/Education) is expected to move in the Senate first and be marked up in the Subcommittee the week of June 6, when Congress returns.  This is the time to contact your Members of Congress regarding your education funding priorities!

For a great overview of the appropriations process: https://crfb.org/document/updated-appropriations-101

2. Department of Education  Pours Gasoline on the Fire:  Proposed ESSA Accountability Regulations Released

On May 26, the Department of Education released draft accountability regulations for ESSA, engendering a quick outpouring of response from multiple quarters.   Predictably, Congressional Republicans are skeptical, with HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noting that he is “disappointed that the draft regulation seems to include provisions that the Congress considered—and expressly rejected.  If the final regulation does not implement the law the way the Congress wrote it, I will introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to overturn it.”

Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement:  “I am deeply concerned that the department is trying to take us back to the days when Washington dictated national education policy.  I will fully review this proposed rule and intend to hold a hearing on it in the coming weeks.”

The proposed regulations will appear in the Federal Register on Tuesday May 31; however, they are available for review now (see links below).  The public is invited to comment on the proposal for 60 days – through August 1.  The proposed regulations address accountability, data reporting and state plan provisions.  A few highlights include:

  • States must develop a “summative” rating for schools, or a concrete  score or evaluation rather than a dashboard of data, as some had recommended;
  • While no weighting of accountability indicators is prescribed (in fact, this is prohibited by the statute) and no definition of “substantial” weight is offered, any school achieving the lowest level of performance on any academic indicator must receive a different summative rating than a school performing at the highest level on all of the indicators;
  • States must factor into their accountability system whether schools are meeting a 95% assessment participation rate for each subgroup of students and take robust action for schools not meeting the requirement;
  • While no specific n-size is required, any state with an n-size larger than 30 must submit a justification for that size in its state plan;
  • All public charter schools must be part of the rating system;
  • States may define “consistently underperforming” in relation to subgroups which have underperformed two or more years;
  • States must identify schools which require additional targeted support for the 2017-18 school year with annual identification of schools with consistently underperforming subgroups in the 2018-19 school year.

Additional responses to the regulatory proposal to date include the following:

  • Ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee Patty Murray (D-WA) is reviewing the proposal looking closely at parameters for accountability to ensure a focus on preparing all students for success in college and career.  She plans to provide feedback to the Department.
  • NEA noted they will “be carefully looking at this regulation to ensure that it fosters state and local innovation and collaboration.”
  • AFT said the regulations succeed in some places, but fail in others. “Rather than listen to the outcry by parents and educators over hypertesting, the department offers specific punitive consequences for when fewer than 95% of students participate in tests.  This doesn’t solve the issue of the misuse of testing.  It simply inflames the problem by suggesting punitive consequences for those who are so frustrated by the misuse and high-stakes nature of standardized testing that they want to opt their kids out.”
  • Education Trust praised many components of the proposal but noted: “There is at least one place where…the proposed regulations fall short:  assured action when any group of students in any school is not making progress. For example, by allowing states to define consistent underperformance of any student group relative to statewide averages, the draft regulations undermine the idea that what matters most is whether a group is making progress over time.”

As stakeholders study the complex proposed set of regulations, additional questions will arise. Surely this proposal offers the perfect beach reading for the long three day holiday ahead!

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Accountability, State Plans, and Data Reporting

Fact Sheet for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Accountability, State Plans, and Data Reporting

Chart Comparing Proposed Regulations to NCLB

Press Release for Proposed Regulations on Accountability, State Plans, and Data Reporting




3. Presidential Candidate Forum on Education:  Donald Trump a No Show

On May 26, the Committee for Education Funding, with the sponsorship of 12 national education-related organizations, sponsored a Presidential Forum.  Representatives of all three Presidential contenders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, were invited to participate.  Despite extensive outreach and dialogue with Trump representatives, no one was present at the forum to represent the Republican presidential nominee’s views on education.

Moderated by award winning former CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley at the Washington DC Newseum, the forum featured Ann O’Leary for the Clinton campaign and Donni Turner for the Sanders campaign.  O’Leary is a long time advisor to Clinton having served as her legislative director when she was Senator. Turner  held multiple congressional staff positions and serves as policy advisor to the Sanders campaign as well as head of African American outreach.

On most points the two candidates seemed to agree and the differences appear to be more a matter of priority and nuance.  Both want more federal funding for education and  prioritize closing achievement gaps for students.  Expanding pre-K and ensuring internet access for all families were discussed.

A second panel was comprised of representatives of the conservative think tanks, The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise and the left leaning Center for American Progress.

See: https://cef.org/cef-presidential-forum/


4. TeachStrong Coalition Issues Paper on Teacher Recruitment

Organized by the Center for American Progress, the TeachStrong campaign was launched in the fall of 2015 with over 40 education policy organizations.   The mission of the campaign is to modernize and elevate the teaching profession as a national priority.

The campaign has agreed on nine principles and plans to release policy papers on each. The first one, on teacher recruitment, was released this week.  The first principle is to “identify and recruit more teacher candidates with great potential to succeed, with a deliberate emphasis on diversifying the teacher workforce.”

By way of background, the report notes:

“Millennials are shying away from teaching careers: Teacher preparation program enrollment has declined 30% since 2008, and many school districts across the nation are experiencing critical shortages.  Many young prospective teachers find teaching less attractive than other professions, especially given low salaries, challenging working conditions, and a media culture that can be unsupportive of teachers.”

Recommendations include the following:

  • Teacher prep programs should partner with school districts to recruit diverse high achieving candidates;
  • Teacher prep programs and IHES should dedicate more resources to recruitment of high achieving individuals with great potential to succeed as teachers;
  • States should incentivize recruitment in programs such as “grow your own;”
  • States and districts should partner with HBCU’s and HIS’s to ensure diversity of candidates.

For a copy of the paper: https://teachstrong.org/principle-1-2/

For more about TeachStrong: https://www.americanprogress.org/press/release/2015/11/10/125052/release-40-education-organizations-unite-to-launch-teachstrong-a-campaign-to-modernize-and-elevate-the-teaching-profession/


Washington Update May 20, 2016 

Dear Colleagues:

There was a flurry of activity in Washington this week as Congress slowly lurches forward amidst increasing pre-election polarization.

1. Appropriations Bills Moving Ahead

The House and the Senate moved on many of the 12 required appropriations bills this week, though the end game is still likely to be continuing resolution (continued funding at current levels) for many of the bills, at least through the election.  The House passed a Zika funding bill which immediately drew a veto threat from the White House. The Senate passed both the Military Construction and Transportation/HUD appropriations bills including a more generous Zika funding package than the one passed by the House, which is supported by the White House.

The Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill is expected to be marked up in Senate subcommittee and committee the week of June 6.   This will be the first indication of Congress’s intentions for funding the newly authorized Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as all other education programs.  Since the Congress is still functioning under the sequester, funds are limited.  This is the time to advocate for funding for your priority programs!

Many education organizations are rallying around a desire to secure an adequate level of funding for the newly authorized Title IV under ESSA.  This title consolidates multiple smaller programs (including after school, dropout prevention, technology) into a block grant to states with most of the money passed on to districts.  While the Obama Administration proposed $500 million for the program, education advocates are seeking $1.65 billion to fully fund all of the consolidated programs.

2. ESSA Implementation Standoff: Congressional Republicans vs. Obama Administration

Political polarization over the development of regulations to implement ESSA was in high profile in Washington this week.  In the third of three oversight hearings on ESSA implementation, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) blasted the Department of Education for “a brazen effort to deliberately ignore” congressional intent.

At issue is the draft “supplement not supplant” regulation which was proposed by the Department but rejected by the negotiated rulemaking team.  The provision is intended to ensure that Title I schools are not being shortchanged in state and local funding.  While ESSA bars the Department from proscribing a specific method  of how to do this, the Department argues that their proposal is in line with the civil rights framework of ESSA and is intended to ensure that districts will not be penalized if they use a weighted student funding formula or a formula that allocates resource, including staff positions.

At the hearing, AFT President Randi  Weingarten noted concern that the Department would take the level of prescription in the proposed supplement not supplant provision and apply it to upcoming rules on accountability.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)  noted that while there are “legitimate disagreements” about the draft rule, the department has the responsibility and the authority to ensure that poor students are getting their fair share of resources.

Led by House Committee Education and the Workforce Chairman, John Kline (R-MN) and joined by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Chairman Alexander, Congressional Republican education leaders submitted a letter to Secretary of Education King listing an array of concerns about the integrity of the negotiated rulemaking process.  Among the questions asked:

  • How did the Department meet the requirement in the law that individuals on the negotiating panel included “representation from all geographic regions of the US in such numbers as will provide equitable balance between representatives of parents and students and representative of educators and education officials?”
  • Did the Department’s actions in naming panel members bias the panel’s deliberations?
  • What were the protocols/criteria used to determine when the Secretary or other high ranking Department officials would speak to or participate in the panel’s work?
  • What steps were taken to ensure that statements made by the Department’s negotiators accurately reflected the statute?
  • How were the three outside experts chosen to participate?
  • How did the Department determine which provisions related to assessments would be considered during negotiated rulemaking?

Meanwhile, the Department is moving ahead with their regulatory proposals.  Three sets of regulations are under consideration:  assessment, supplement not supplant and accountability.  All of these proposals will be issued as “Notices of Proposed Rulemaking” (NPRM) which will include public comment periods.  These comment periods should take place over the summer.

The tug of war between Congressional Republicans and the Obama Administration is likely to continue for the foreseeable future with Congressional Democrats, civil rights groups and education officials continuing to weigh in.

For Senate HELP Committee hearing on ESSA implementation: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/essa-implementation-perspectives-from-education-stakeholders

For letter from Republican Congressional leaders: https://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/5-17-2016-secretary_king-negotiated_rulemaking.pdf

On NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/05/18/478358412/the-intolerable-fight-over-school-money

3. ESSA around the States


The Hawaii State Board of Education voted to remove student test scores as a required component of teacher evaluation.

See: https://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/ConnectWithUs/MediaRoom/PressReleases/Pages/BOE-approves-policy-changes.aspx

State Accountability Systems:

Under ESSA states will be revisiting their accountability systems to include new metrics for school success.  A report issued by the Center for American Progress provides a 50 state analysis of state accountability systems.  Nearly every state will need to revisit their current system to comply with the new law.  For example measuring English language proficiency is a new metric required for accountability systems.

See: https://www.americanprogress.org/press/release/2016/05/19/137543/release-as-states-navigate-increased-flexibility-under-essa-new-cap-report-offers-a-50-state-analysis-of-school-accountability-systems/

 4. New GAO Report Issued on Racial Disparities in Schools.

The Government Accounting Office issued a report this week intended to examine three issues:

  • how the percentage of schools with high percentages of poor Black or Hispanic students has changed over time and the characteristics of these schools;
  • why and how selected school districts have implemented actions to increase student diversity; and
  • the extent to which the Departments of Education and Justice have addressed issues related to racial discrimination in schools.

The report determined that the percentage of K-12 schools with high percentages of   poor and Black or Hispanic students grew from 9 to 16% from 2000-01 to 2013-14.  These schools offered   disproportionately fewer math, science and college prep courses and had higher rates of students who were held back in 9th grade, suspended or expelled.

See: https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676745.pdf

See:  https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/05/high_poverty_racially_isolated_schools_GAO.html?cmp=soceml-twfdbltz-ewnow

Enjoy the great springtime weather.  Let me know if you have questions.  See you on twitter @janewestdc.




Washington Update  -- May 13, 2016

By Jane West

Dear Colleagues:

With about 10 legislative weeks left before the election for the Congress, pressure builds for action on FY 2017 funding.  With seven months left for the Obama Administration, the education activity level is frenzied and the list of “must dos” seems to keep growing.   What the outcomes will be remains to be seen.

1. Budget Effort Still Alive in House; Appropriations Bills Stumbling Forward

In the House, the effort to craft and pass a revised budget plan limps along with a new proposal to cut $160 billion over 10 years.  Many of those cuts would come from mandatory education spending in areas such as Pell Grants and student loans.  While the House may pass the bill, it will not move forward in the Senate and there is no way the White House would support it.  This fruitless effort will likely fade away and be overtaken by the movement of appropriations bills which can begin in the House on May 15.  (The House has a rule that no appropriations bills may move before May 15 in the absence of a Budget Resolution.)

Meanwhile, the Senate has broken the logjam over their effort to pass the first of 12 appropriations bills – the Energy/Water bill.  The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 90-10.  Senate, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee that drafted the bill, has again demonstrated his bipartisan prowess that was essential to enacting ESSA.

The Senate will continue marking up appropriations bills in Subcommittee and Committee, while they package a few bills together to take to the floor – now referred to as a “minibus.” The bill that funds education – Labor/HHS/Education – is likely to see the light of day in both Senate and House Committees in June.  Where it might go after that is a real question.  In all likelihood the attention will turn to a Continuing Resolution at that point in order to keep the government going through September.  Final decisions about FY 2017 spending are not likely to be made until after the election in November.

2. ESSA:  Prolific Department of Education;  Battle Brewing with Capitol Hill

The Department of Education certainly wins the energizer bunny prize for generating events, activities and documents focused on the early implementation of ESSA and related matters.   Last week – teacher appreciation week – featured numerous events and new reports.   There was a national convening focusing on teacher preparation and one focusing on expanding teacher diversity.   President Obama honored the new Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, and all of the State Teachers of the Year at the White House.  As a part of the teacher diversity summit, the Department issued  REPORT: The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce.

Hoping to write history on its legacy in education, the Obama Administration issued a report titled  GIVING EVERY CHILD A FAIR SHOT: PROGRESS UNDER THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S EDUCATION AGENDA.  The report covers the Administration’s early childhood through higher education accomplishments as well as plans for the future.

The big controversy this week erupted between Republicans in Congress and the Obama Administration when the bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report on the “Supplement not Supplant” proposal from the Department of Education. This proposal was a topic during the negotiated rulemaking but negotiators failed to reach consensus. In a follow up hearing on Capitol Hill, Sen. Alexander (R-TN), HELP Committee chair, blasted Secretary King for going beyond the law in the proposal.   Considered a bipartisan and fair minded entity, CRS concluded that “ED’s interpretation appears to go beyond what would be required under a plain-language reading of the statute.”  Sen. Alexander responded by vowing to use “every power of Congress to see that this law is implemented the way Congress wrote it.”  He proceeded to schedule another hearing in the Committee for May 18, ESSA Implementation:  Perspectives from Education Stakeholders,  where this will undoubtedly be a hot topic.  Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that “This regulation would violate both the letter and intent of the law, and it must be abandoned.”

Nine Senate Democrats weighed in urging Sec. King to hang tough and continue to pursue the proposal. The Department of Education defended its proposal with the following statement: "The law is clear - Title I funds must be used to supplement state and local funds, and the Department is working to help states and districts meet this requirement. As the Department has been reminded by over 30 civil rights groups, 600 teachers, and 9 U.S. Senators, the entire purpose of Title I funds is to truly provide the additional resources necessary to ensure that students in high poverty schools have access to equitable educational opportunity. If schools are being shortchanged before the federal dollars arrive, then those dollars are not supplemental."

Another letter going to the Department from Congressional Democrats urged the Secretary to provide guidance and technical assistance to ensure broad stakeholder involvement in ESSA decision making, including providing release time for school employees and offering non-traditional times for stakeholder sessions for working parents.

For regular updates on ESSA (including a new FAQ) check the Department of Education’s website:  https://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/index.html?src=essa-page

To see the agenda from The National Summit on Teacher Diversity: https://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/05052016-teacher-diversity-summit-agenda.doc.

CRS Report on “Supplement not Supplant: https://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/sns_and_negotiated_rulemaking_5-5-16.pdf

Senate Democrats letter on Supplement not Supplant: https://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/2016-05-02%20Letter%20to%20ED%20re%20ESSA%20Fiscal%20Accountability%20in%20SnS_OCR.pdf

Sen. Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Scott (D-VA) urging Department of Education to provide guidance on broad stakeholder engagement: https://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?cid=25920011&item=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.edweek.org%2Fv1%2Fblog%2F49%2F%3Fuuid%3D58251&cmp=soc-edit-tw

3. State Decision Making under ESSA

As states begin to think about ESSA, legislatures, state boards and state departments of Education are revisiting previous decisions about K-12 education.  Below are a few highlights:

4. New Grants Available for Teacher-Led Transformation

In collaboration with the US Department of Education, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and other national organizations, ASCD has announced a new competition for teachers – Teacher Impact Grants (TIGs).  These grants will go directly to teachers for promising teacher-led, administrator-supported ideas, programs or initiatives to improve education.   Teachers can develop projects that can serve as models to be replicated.  The goal is to support teachers as leaders in driving transformation in education.   Funds are provided through the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Foundation Charitable Trust and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The grants are available for the 2016-17 school year.  The average grant is expected to be $10,000.  The application period is from May 16 to June 16.

See:  https://www.ascd.org/programs/teacher-impact-grants.aspx

See:     https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-collaborates-ascd-and-national-board-professional-teaching-standards-provide-grants-support-teacher-leadership-projects?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

5. Obama Administration Issues Guidance on Civil Rights of Transgender Students in Schools

In response to the controversy generated in North Carolina related to the use of bathrooms by transgender students, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice released joint guidance to assist schools in protecting the civil rights of transgender students.

See: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-departments-education-and-justice-release-joint-guidance-help-schools-ensure-civil-rights-transgender-students?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

6. Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Dyslexia

On May 10, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing “Understanding Dyslexia: The Intersection of Scientific Research and Education.”  Chaired by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and retiring Committee Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the hearing was intended to raise awareness about dyslexia. According to Sen. Cassidy, nearly 20% of the US population has dyslexia.  He noted that good schools for students with dyslexia are almost all private costing $10,000-$50,000 per year.  He cited three public charter schools for students with dyslexia, two of which are in Louisiana. Sen. Cassidy, a physician, has a daughter with dyslexia and his wife assisted in creating one of the charter schools in Louisiana for students with dyslexia.

Speakers at the hearing included Dr. Sally Shaywitz from the Yale University School of Medicine and Attorney David Boies who is best known for representing former Vice President Al Gore in the contested 2000 Presidential election.

For a witness list and testimony see: https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/understanding-dyslexia-the-intersection-of-scientific-research-and-education

For Sen. Cassidy’s statement: https://www.cassidy.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cassidys-opening-statement-for-senate-education-hearing-on-dyslexia

More on Sen. Cassidy: https://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/09/bill_cassidy_gets_emotional_as.html

Let me know what is happening in your state with ESSA implementation. I am particularly interested in how states might be changing their teacher certification policies in relation to the elimination of the federal “highly qualified” mandate.  Please forward articles!  See you on twitter @janewestdc.




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