Tag Archives: U.S. Congress

Federal Update: Obama education regulations likely to be repealed

medwt16002Two Obama administration rules involving teacher preparation and accountability are in the process of being scrapped. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block recently finalized regulations involving teacher preparation and accountability, and the U.S. Senate did the same this week. The resolution to repeal the rules is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for final approval.

The teacher preparation rules were released in October after years of delay due to significant opposition from some stakeholders. The final version did include revisions to temper concerns, but the original proposal remained largely intact. The accountability rules were a piece of the much bigger set of regulations implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and involved a much more contentious debate on the Senate floor. The Senate narrowly passed the repeal measure. (Eight Democrats joined Republicans in voting the repeal the teacher preparation rules, but no Democrats voted to dismantle the accountability rules and one Republican joined them in opposition.)

Proponents of scrapping the regulations say the rules represent federal overreach and fail to convey the intent of Congress. Critics of the repeal believe strong standards are needed in order to hold teacher preparation programs and schools accountable. President Trump is widely expected to sign the rule repeals.

Interestingly, the Congressional Review Act prohibits agencies from issuing new rules in “substantially the same form” without Congress passing a new law that explicitly allows them to do so. While the teacher preparation rules could be readdressed in a more timely manner, since Congress is due to rewrite the Higher Education Act, a new law pertaining to accountability is likely years out.

In the meantime, states will have to rely on statutory language of ESSA to remain compliant under the law. The timing of the effort to do away with these administrative rules interpreting ESSA has created some ambiguity for states that are currently in the process of developing their required state plans for implementing the federal law. Some states have already announced that they will proceed with ESSA state plans that were being developed in alignment with the regulations previously put out by the Obama administration, even though those regulations may no longer be in effect going forward.

Texans in Congress support federal voucher bills as Trump continues privatization push

United States Capitol BuildingIt probably comes as no surprise to Texans that federal voucher bills are being filed in the U.S. Congress after President Donald Trump campaigned on a $20 billion voucher plan promise. He continued to promote such a plan last night during his first speech to Congress. However, Texans might be surprised to learn that some of their elected representatives are jumping on board as supporters of these pieces of legislation.

Texan serves as original co-sponsor on House voucher bill

A bill termed the “Choices in Education Act of 2017” was filed in the U.S. House recently with Texas Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) as an original co-sponsor of the legislation. H.R. 610 would create a federal voucher program and repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was most recently amended by and is commonly referred to as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Instead, the Department of Education’s (ED) authority would be limited to awarding block grants to states that legalize vouchers and follow the federal voucher program requirements.

The “Choices in Education Act” voucher would work like this:

  • ED would distribute block grants to qualified states.
  • States would distribute that money to districts based on the number of eligible school children within each district.
  • Districts would be responsible for distributing a portion of their funds to parents who choose to enroll their child in a private school or home-school their child. The amount distributed would be equal to the per-student federal funding in each state. Districts would be responsible for distributing funding in a way that ensures money is spent on “appropriate educational expenses.”

Both Texas senators co-sponsor Senate voucher bill

In the U.S. Senate, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has a voucher bill (S. 235) called the “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education Act” or the CHOICE Act. Both Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have signed on as cosponsors.

The “Choice Act” has three parts:

  1. The bill would expand eligibility for the “D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program,” the federally funded voucher program that distributes funding to students in the District of Columbia only.
  2. The bill would make funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) portable, meaning qualified students could take their portion to the private or public school of their choice. It would also provide states seed money for establishing a special education voucher program.
  3. The bill would create the Military Scholarship Program, allowing students living on military bases to use a voucher at the private or public school of their choice. Students would be eligible for the combined cost of tuition, fees, and transportation, with an $8,000 cap for elementary students and $12,000 for secondary students.

White House continues push but offers no details

The White HouseLast night during his prime time speech to a joint session of Congress, his first time to address the body, President Donald Trump reiterated his support for vouchers and called on Congress to pass a bill that funds “school choice for disadvantaged youth.” He didn’t offer additional details on such a plan, adding that ”families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.”

It has been reported that the White House is considering a tax credit scholarship approach, something neither of the above bills would offer. Again, details on the type of federal tax credit scholarship President Trump might be considering have not been released. (Check out an example of a tax credit scholarship in our post on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s voucher bill being considered here in Texas.) In short, tax credit scholarships give taxpaying entities or individuals a break on their taxes in exchange for donations to a voucher fund. The fund is then used to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools or to fund a home-school education. During his campaign, President Trump campaigned on a promise to redirect $20 billion dollars in federal spending to a voucher program.

 

17_web_Spotlight_AdvocacyCentral_1ATPE members can alert their federal representatives of their opinions on these and other federal voucher bills by logging on to Advocacy Central.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 2, 2016

Here are some stories that made education news this week as you started your new school year:

 


committee-sealThe U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees Social Security legislation at the federal level, has shared new blog information on the unfairness of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and why it needs to be overhauled by Congress. Committee chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) are now inviting educators, firefighters, and other public employees affected by the WEP to share stories about how they’ve been affected by this unfair provision in law. We at ATPE encourage Texas educators to share their stories with congressional leaders by emailing them to WEP.feedback@mail.house.gov and also check out the committee’s useful new infographics and WEP data here.

 


The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability (TCONGAA) has finalized its recommendations and considerations for further study to the governor and state legislature. The commission’s final recommendations include the following:

  1. Implement an Individualized, Integrated System of Multiple Assessments Using Computerized-Adaptive Testing and Instruction.
  2. Allow the Commissioner of Education to Approve Locally Developed Writing Assessments.
  3. Support the Continued Streamlining of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
  4. Limit State Testing to the Readiness Standards.
  5. Add College-Readiness Assessments to the Domain IV (Postsecondary Readiness) Indicators and Fund, with State Resources, a Broader Administration of College-Readiness Assessments.
  6. Align the State Accountability System with ESSA Requirements.
  7. Eliminate Domain IV (Postsecondary Readiness) from State Accountability Calculations for Elementary Schools.
  8. Place Greater Emphasis on Growth in Domains I–III in the State Accountability System.
  9. Retain the Individual Graduation Committee (IGC) Option for Graduation as Allowed by TEC, §28.0258.

View the commission’s full report here. Stay tuned next week on our Teach the Vote blog as ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter will provide complete analysis and our association’s reaction to each of these nine recommendations.

 


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Josh Sanderson

It’s a bittersweet day for ATPE as we bid farewell to one of our veteran team members. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is leaving his post in our Governmental Relations department today to become Associate Deputy Executive Director for the Equity Center, a Texas non-profit organization that advocates for school finance equity and adequate public education funding. We at ATPE are grateful to Josh for his decade of outstanding service to our organization, and we wish him all the best in his new endeavors with one of our most respected education allies.

 


Have a safe and relaxing Labor Day Weekend!

Federal Update: ESSA hearing tomorrow in D.C.

The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hear from U.S. Secretary of Education John King and others in a Capitol Hill hearing this week on federal education policy. The committee meets at 9 a.m. Eastern (8 a.m. Central) on Thursday, June 23, and the hearing is entitled “Next Steps in K-12 Education: Examining Recent Efforts to Implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

As the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has undertaken the rulemaking process to implement various aspects of ESSA in recent months, some lawmakers have criticized the department’s actions. The composition of the negotiated rulemaking panels, the use of outside experts, and ED’s interaction with the participants have been sources of conflict for some in Congress. Rep. John Kline (R–MN), who chairs the House committee conducting tomorrow’s hearing, has called the department’s actions during the implementation of ESSA “deeply concerning” and said that his committee is “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.”

image1A delegation of ATPE state officers and staff are in Washington, D.C. this week and will be attending the hearing tomorrow. ATPE State President Cory Colby, Vice President Julleen Bottoms, Executive Director Gary Godsey, and Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann have joined ATPE’s Washington-based lobbyists for private meetings this week with congressional members and staff, along with ED officials. Kate Kuhlmann will provide a complete report on the visits upon their conclusion this week.

Watch the ESSA congressional hearing live Thursday morning or read more about the committee’s concerns about the implementation process for ESSA here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates following tomorrow’s hearing.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 17, 2016

These are stories making news this week in the Texas education world:


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board is meeting this week and tackling some difficult decisions about funding active and retired educators’ healthcare needs. Inadequate funding from the legislature over a period of many years has created a looming problem that must be solved. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is attending the meetings this week and has provided a summary of the changes that are in store for TRS members. Click here to check out Josh’s latest blog post on TRS developments.


ThinkstockPhotos-481431733As we have been reporting on Teach the Vote recently, there were some very close races in the May 24 primary election runoffs that resulted in recounts. In House District 54, a recount was sought in the race to succeed Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), the popular chairman of the House Public Education Committee who did not seek re-election. Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) on runoff election night by 43 votes. Yesterday, we learned that the recount request by Ruiz has confirmed Mayor Cosper to be the winner of the Republican nomination. Cosper, who was endorsed by the outgoing Aycock and by Texas Parent PAC in the primary, will next face Democrat Sandra Blankenship in the general election in November.

We reported earlier this month on another recount in which Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) in House District 128. With recounts completed, attention turns now to the general election. Keep up with Teach the Vote in the coming months for information about contested races for the Legislature and State Board of Education in November.

 


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

Earlier this week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability held yet another work session to try to reach consensus on recommendations for the 85th Legislature. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided an update on this week’s meeting and has been reporting on some of the issues that commission members are grappling to address. Testing concerns have been of particular interest to many commission members, education stakeholders, and the media, especially in light of several glitches that plagued this year’s administration of the STAAR tests to students. Meanwhile, State Board of Education (SBOE) members are also encouraging the public to share their feedback on testing and accountability. Click here to read more about the SBOE public survey that is open through June 30.

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann contributed a blog update this week on the meetings held by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) last week. The board held both a work session to explore the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs) and trends in educator certification, along with its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. Read Kate’s latest blog post to learn more about the actions taken by the board and some significant agenda items that were postponed.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-100251374Next week, ATPE staff and state officers will be in the nation’s capital advocating for federal education priorities. They will be meeting with members of Texas’s congressional delegation to urge action on Social Security legislation, discussing policy issues with U.S. Department of Education officials, and attending a hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for updates from our team in Washington, DC.

Recap of Tuesday’s Social Security hearing in Washington, D.C.

This week I had an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for congressional meetings accompanied by ATPE’s Washington-based lobby team. Along with visiting several members of our delegation and their staffs, we attended the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on Tuesday, March 22, to hear discussion on H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA).

Filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R–TX), the ETPSA proposes to eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a federal law that reduces the Social Security benefits of anyone who is also eligible for a government pension, such as through the Teacher Retirement System. In place of the WEP, the ETPSA would substitute a new formula to calculate benefits that actually reflects the amount of a person’s career that was spent working in position covered by Social Security. We believe that the ETPSA formula would be considerably better than the arbitrary, punitive WEP formula that currently applies the same maximum reduction to every employee who has between 0 and 20 years of substantial earnings and contributions.

Congressman Brady gave an opening statement at Tuesday’s hearing noting that he has been working since 2004 to replace the WEP with a more equitable formula. He recognized the many organizations that have contributed to this effort, specifically thanking ATPE during the hearing. Click here to watch video of Brady’s opening statement.

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ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson with U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) following Tuesday’s hearing

Brady’s ETPSA legislation is bipartisan, with more than 64 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle including 24 members of the Texas congressional delegation. ATPE has been joined by the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), AARP, and numerous education, law enforcement, and public service associations across the country in supporting this legislation. As was noted during the hearing by Congressman Sam Johnson (R–TX), who chairs the Subcommittee on Social Security, it is past time that these millions of employees received fair treatment in the calculation of the benefits they paid for during their careers. Congressman John Larson (D–CT), a former public education teacher whose daughter is also an educator who will be affected by the WEP , chimed in by stating, “I have long been a proponent of eliminating the WEP… and this bill works toward that goal.”

Brady with Wiggins and Colby

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) pictured last year with ATPE State Past-President Richard Wiggins and ATPE State President Cory Colby

ATPE has long called for fully repealing both the WEP and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), and we have supported federal legislation in the past to accomplish this goal. However, the massive costs to the Social Security Trust Fund have prevented any full repeal legislation from ever having a chance to be enacted into law. Pretending that these long-shot goals are reality and refusing incremental progress in place of a complete repeal are doing a disservice to the thousands of education and public safety employees affected by these laws. If Brady’s ETPSA passes, we will be one giant step closer to a system that is fair and actually allows employees to receive the benefits they paid for and deserve.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this legislation as they occur.

Reminder: Watch today’s Social Security hearing starting at 9 a.m. CDT

Today, March 22, the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security is meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss Social Security and how it affects educators and other public employees. The discussion will include consideration H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX). ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is in Washington to attend today’s hearing and will provide a summary after the meeting.committee-seal

To watch the hearing live, tune in here starting at 9 a.m. Central (10 a.m. Eastern). We’ll have a full wrap-up later this week on our Teach the Vote blog. Check out last week’s blog post for additional information about the hearing and H.R. 711, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for the very latest developments.

Major development announced in the fight to protect educators’ Social Security benefits

Social Security is something that will one day affect us all. Millions of Americans depend on it to ensure a basic standard of living in old age, and many more of us count on it being around for years to come. In order to sustain this benefit, and in order for the benefit to be substantial enough to achieve its purpose, Social Security must be properly managed and fair to those who have paid into the program. A provision of Social Security that many public school employees know all too well to be unfair is the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). In short, the WEP affects employees who are eligible for a government pension (such as through the Teacher Retirement System), who qualify for Social Security based on their own contributions, and who have less than thirty years of substantial earnings during which time contributions to Social Security were made. That’s why ATPE has been working hard with members of the Texas congressional delegation and our Washington, D.C.-based lobby team to address the WEP, and now we’re seeing real progress.

ThinkstockPhotos-487217874_breakingHR 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, introduced by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) makes great strides in improving the arbitrary and punitive method of calculating Social Security benefits for hundreds of thousands of Texas public school employees subject to the WEP. If passed, this legislation would eliminate the WEP and replace it with a formula that factors in a person’s actual earnings and contributions to Social Security. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on Tuesday, March 22 to discuss Social Security and public servants, at which time HR 711 will be discussed. ATPE will be attending the hearing to provide information to committee members.

Because the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act proposes eliminating the WEP and instituting a formula that calculates a person’s actual contributions, benefits will increase for numerous educators. For currently retired public servants subject to the WEP who turn age 62 before December 31, 2016, HR 711 is projected to increase their benefits by 32% ($1,034 per year) according to the Social Security Actuary’s Office. For public servants who turn age 62 on or after January 1, 2017, they will experience an average estimated benefit increase of over $1,620 per year — $32,400 over the average lifetime of a retiree.

ATPE is working alongside a coalition of organizations in support of HR 711, including the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), AARP, and a variety of educator associations from different states who are affected by the WEP. We thank Congressman Brady for his work on making improving educator benefits a priority.

You can watch Tuesday’s hearing live beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time here: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/live/. Stay tuned to updates from ATPE and Teach the Vote on this major development, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for even more information.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Feb. 26, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_VoteToday is the last day to vote early in the critical 2016 primary election. Election day is Tuesday, March 1. Many races will be completely decided as of Tuesday night, and those outcomes, especially in several legislative primary races, will impact educators significantly in 2017. ATPE urges all educators to get out and vote for pro-public education candidates today or Tuesday.

Read more of this week’s headlines:



Early voting ends tonight. Election day is Tuesday.

There’s still time for the education community to make the difference in this important election. Take advantage of the many resources available to voters from ATPE and Teach the Vote:

  • Know where your candidates stand on public education and vote for candidates who will support your profession and your students! Click on the 2016 Races button now to view candidates’ voting records, their responses to the ATPE candidate survey, lists of their major endorsements, and more.
  • Do you know where to go vote on Tuesday? Get answers to frequently asked questions about primary voting here in our “Things You Should Know…” post.
  • Learn about ballot propositions on the primary ballots that will help shape each party’s platform. Proposition #3 on the Republican ballot is aimed at taking away educators’ right to use payroll deduction for their voluntary professional membership dues. Be an informed voter by reading our recent blog post about the ballot propositions.
  • Visit TexasEducatorsVote.com for additional election resources from our coalition partners. Remind your colleagues of the importance of voting in this primary election, and see if they need help getting to the polls.

 


Congress held several meetings this week related to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed federal education budget, and the new head of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann and our Washington, D.C. lobby team followed all the action and provided a full report. Read Kate’s latest blog post on the federal developments here.


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended and testified at the second meeting of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The commission members heard from elected and appointed officials, invited witnesses, and members of the public about concerns with state standardized tests and curriculum standards.

Read Monty’s full report on the commission meeting here. Check out additional coverage from the Austin American-Statesman here.


Kate Kuhlmann displaying her "I Voted" sticker

Kate Kuhlmann, wearing her “I Voted” sticker

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported earlier this week on the status of teacher evaluation systems. Many states are considering revisions to their evaluation plans now that Congress has reduced the federal government’s role in state education policies. Under ESSA, the federal government can no longer dictate to states what criteria they must include in their teacher evaluation systems.

Texas is still in the process of piloting and rolling out a new evaluation framework that was developed to meet conditions imposed by the federal government before the law was changed. Will Texas follow the lead of other states and reconsider tying teacher evaluations to student growth measures, including standardized test score data? Much may depend on the outcome of Tuesday’s primary election.

Read Kate’s blog post on the state of evaluations to learn more.


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson reports here on the Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees, which held meetings this week in Richardson, Texas.

Much of the Feb. 24-26 meeting dealt with a review of the pension trust fund and investment performance, as well as board policies and procedures. However, there was also a discussion and action taken on the retiree health care program, TRS-Care.

The most pressing portion of the meeting dealt with the financial realities facing TRS-Care. Going into the 2017 legislative session Care is projected to be facing a deficit of nearly $1.5 billion. The TRS board and staff have done a commendable job managing Care given the funding restraints placed on the program by the legislature. In 2011, state funding was reduced by half for one year, and in 2015, the state had to add $768 million to the program simply to sustain it for two more years while a study could be conducted on sustainability of the health insurance program. Legislative hearings will begin on this interim charge and study in late March. ATPE will be participating and will provide updates as they occur.

As we reported earlier, two important assumptions that affect the actuarial calculations of the TRS pension fund have recently been changed. The mortality rate has been adjusted to reflect current life expectancy, and payroll growth assumptions were decreased from 3.5% to 2.5% as a result of trends in the slowing of public education employee compensation increases. Both of these changes have small, negative implications for the fund. Overall, the pension trust fund is valued at $124 billion and is considered healthy.

To maintain the retirement benefits our public education  community earns and relies on, it is crucial that we continue to elect candidates who will preserve the pension system provided by TRS for all current and future public education employees.


As a reminder, there are more opportunities coming up for you to join with members of your community to talk about public education and the challenges and opportunities it faces. The State Board of Education’s community conversation series on student testing and school accountability continues in March with events in Kilgore and Amarillo. The meetings are designed to elicit local community feedback for SBOE members to share with the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability.

The next event will be in Kilgore on Tuesday, March 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Education Service Center for Region 7. Register for the Kilgore event here.

Find additional information about the community conversations here.

 


VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh Background

A week of education-related hearings in Washington, D.C.

ThinkstockPhotos-492905119-USCapIt was a busy week for education in Washington, D.C., as Congress held four hearings on a variety of topics. Two of those hearings were dedicated to oversight as the Department of Education (ED) implements the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), another was focused on President Obama’s education budget proposal, and a final hearing concentrated on the confirmation of current acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King as Secretary of Education.

ESSA Implementation

The Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) kicked the week off on Tuesday with a hearing entitled, “ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from Education Leaders.” Seven invited witnesses delivered testimony on the topic. The witness list included a governor, two superintendents, two think tank representatives, and two teacher union representatives. All panelists welcomed the new law, specifically with regard to more state-controlled decision making, and expressed the importance of quality regulations delivered under an appropriate timeline.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated that the Committee wants states to have plans ready by July 1, 2017, and one panelist hoped that initial regulations would be finalized by this coming fall. While most panelists agreed with the need for rapid response to the law, there was some concern that moving too quickly could mean states will merely tinker with current systems as opposed to taking the time to really rethink the systems in place. The importance of teacher involvement in the implementation process was also discussed. Watch the full Senate committee hearing here.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce also held a hearing dedicated to ESSA implementation. The hearing took place Thursday morning and was entitled “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Upholding the Letter and Intent of the Every Student Succeeds Act.” This is the second ESSA oversight hearing held by the House (read more about the first hearing here). Acting Secretary King was the only witness at the hearing yesterday morning.

While members did ask King about specific issues pertaining to the new law, Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) kicked off the meeting with comments and questioning on the federal government’s role under ESSA. He specifically pointed to comments made by former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan late last year that seemed to imply ED was already looking for ways around some of the new law’s restrictions that limit the department from intervening in states’ policies. King understood the limitations but also assured members that ED would adequately enforce the civil rights aspects of the law. Watch the full House committee hearing here.

Related content: ED released a fairly extensive document today that addresses frequently asked questions pertaining to ESSA. The FAQ document can be viewed here.

Dr. John King’s Confirmation as Secretary of Education

Since Arne Duncan stepped down from his post as the nation’s top education official, one of his previous top advisers, Dr. John King, has served as acting U.S. Secretary of Education. Following a few months on the job, President Obama decided to put forth the acting secretary as his nominee to officially replace Duncan. Such a nomination requires the approval of the U.S. Senate. The process of confirming acting Secretary King began Thursday with a Senate confirmation hearing in the Senate Committee on HELP.

King was asked to weigh in on some issues of major importance to the education community.

  • On ESSA, King said they have begun the negotiated rulemaking process on several pieces of the law and are listening to stakeholders. On the importance of maintaining the civil rights legacy of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), he said that with the added flexibility under ESSA at the state level, states would have the opportunity to focus on increasing equity.
  • On teacher shortages, King said there is an opportunity to reset our conversations around the teaching profession. He recognized that states have their own specific issues with regard to teacher shortages. He acknowledged that compensation is often low and student growth is quickly rising in many areas.
  • On teacher evaluation, King agreed with Chairman Alexander that evaluation systems are to be designed and implemented at the state level, but he pointed to equity plans and federal Title II dollars that can help states build effective evaluation systems and provide equitable access to teachers.
  • On testing, King said that while test participation is important, it is also important to ensure all tests are necessary and beneficial. He believes thoughtfulness on the part of state leaders and flexibility under the new law will give states the opportunity to address the overemphasis on testing. He pointed to new guidance ED has already released on using state and federal funds to review state’s testing regimes and better understand what is appropriate.
  • On vouchers, King stated that he does not personally believe that programs like the DC voucher program cannot be scaled to a larger level as a solution for creating greater and more equitable access to education. Chairman Alexander acknowledged that Congress was unable to pass voucher and school choice amendments, and he asked that King respect that the body failed to come to a consensus.
  • On charters, King said the key is highlighting innovative practices and scaling up strong charter-management organizations.
  • On Common Core, which he oversaw the implementation of in New York state, King promised to adhere to the spirit of the ESSA law and not intervene with state’s standards adoption.

Dr. King formerly served at ED as the Deputy Education Secretary under Duncan. Prior to joining ED, he was the commissioner of New York state public schools, founded a Boston charter school called Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, and worked as managing director for a charter management organization. He began his education career as a high school social studies teacher.

The HELP committee will meet to vote on his confirmation on March 9.

 

President Obama’s Budget

Acting Secretary King was also on the Hill Wednesday, this time to defend the president’s budget request for ED. The request is a 1.9 percent increase over the 2016 appropriation, requesting $69.4 billion dollars. King told lawmakers on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that the K-12 portion of the proposal prioritizes equity and the teaching profession. Chairman John Kline (R-MN), however, was concerned that the proposal flatlines programs like the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

Other Republicans expressed concern that the proposal would cause budget deficits to rise over the long term. The proposal seeks to considerably expand preschool education; Republican members pointed to the hefty price tag associated, while Democrats defended the expanded programs. King also pointed to high graduation rates and waning drop-out rates across the country saying that the budget seeks to build on progress.

Policies centered on the teaching profession were a hot topic of discussion. Acting Secretary King pointed to a billion dollar proposal called “RESPECT: Best Job in the World.” According to ED, the competitive grant program funds could be used to create advancement opportunities for teachers, provide teachers with flexibility to focus on professional development, or improve working conditions. The program would be focused on supporting “comprehensive, locally-developed, teacher-led efforts in our highest-needs schools.”

The president’s budget proposal faces a long and unlikely road to passage.