- The approved House of Representatives’ FY2020 appropriations bills included $260 million in dedicated funding for social emotional learning. Of this package, $170 million would go to grants for research into evidence-based interventions, $25 million to the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program, $40 million to the Full-Service Community Schools Program, and $25 million to bolster school safety.
- U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos repealed the “gainful employment” rule, an Obama administration directive that required career and certificate programs to prove that graduates were securing remunerative (or gainful) employment in order to qualify for federal financial aid. U.S. Department of Education officials said that repealing the rule would allow them to focus on transparency instead of regulation and hold all postsecondary programs accountable for their results.
- Reps. Cedric Richmond and Anthony Gonzalez introduced the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. The bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to cover short-term workforce training programs. Senators Tim Kaine and Rob Portman introduced a similar bill in the Senate in March.
- The Senate confirmed (56-37) Robert L. King to serve as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education. He has been working at the Department of Education as a Senior Advisor since last year.
Texas Education Policy Update
The 86th Texas Legislative Session came to a close on Memorial Day. Over 7,300 bills were filed at the beginning of session, with over 1,250 ultimately becoming law. The 140-day session focused on major policy issues versus the partisan issues of previous legislative years. The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker followed through on their promises made at the beginning of session to pass historic legislation relating to property tax and education finance reform. The legislature passed a $250.7 billion budget, which is a 16 percent spending increase from last session. $94.5 billion of the total is earmarked for public schools and universities.
$84 billion is dedicated to health and human services programs. The legislature authorized a $6.1 billion withdrawal for the Economic Stabilization Fund in the supplemental budget to cover unexpected costs from the last biennium.
House Bill 3, the School Finance and Property Tax Rate Compression bill was transformational in terms of school finance reform. The $11.6 billion school finance and property tax reform bill, passed out of the House 139-0 and out of the Senate 30-0. The state share of education funding will increase from 38 percent to 45 percent, with school districts unable to increase property taxes by more than 2.5 percent in 2021. HB 3 includes funding for full-day pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds and incentives to school districts to offer dual language programs and improve dyslexia programs, and provides money for districts to develop their own merit pay programs for teachers. The bill allows administrators to have flexibility for how to structure salary increases for teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors. HB 3 also includes provisions to help lower school district tax rates, although there are concerns the plan to lower tax rates in future years is unsustainable. Highlights in House Bill 3 include:
- $4.5 billion for education reforms
- $2 billion for teacher pay raises
- Reduces recapture by $3.6 billion
- Missouri and Florida recently passed legislation revising or modifying various provisions related to workforce development, secondary and postsecondary workforce education, and apprenticeship programs. Missouri S B68 creates the “Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant” to provide grants for Missouri citizens to attend an approved Missouri postsecondary institution of their choice, based on eligibility requirements. Florida HB 7071 creates the “SAIL to 60” Initiative, which sets an ambitious goal for the state to increase the percentage of Florida adults holding high-value postsecondary degrees, certificates, or training experiences to 60% by 2030.
- In Rhode Island, the legislature passed HB 5008 to require the Commissioner to institute a process to review, develop, and revise statewide academic standards for the core subjects of mathematics, science and technology, history and social science, English, foreign languages and the arts. In addition, Rhode Island enacted a similar bill to require The commissioner of education to develop statewide academic standards and curriculum frameworks for the core subjects of mathematics, English language arts, science and technology, history and social studies, world languages, and the arts (SB 863).
- The Georgia state legislature passed SB 108 relating to competencies and core curriculum, so as to require courses in computer science in middle and high school. The bill also provides for courses through the Georgia Virtual School, as well as grants for professional development programs for teachers providing instruction in computer science courses and content. Maine legislature established a resolve (LD 1382) which directs the Department of Education to study and develop a state plan for computer science instruction and professional development.
- In Nevada, several changes were made to the Read by Grade Three program during the legislative session with the passage of AB 289. The bill removes the third grade retention policy and appropriates funds that may be used for extra resources to improve current literacy programs.
- Massachusetts is considering a measure that would repeal the Common Core standard and instead require the state to use its own curriculum framework as the standard for scholastic achievement in English language arts and mathematics.
- North Carolina and Connecticut recently enacted legislation related to teacher licensure requirements. North Carolina SB 219 modifies teacher licensure requirements and addresses the statewide teacher shortage by making it easier for school districts to recruit and retain more of the licensed teachers they now are trying to place in classrooms for next school year. Connecticut passed SB 932, which makes revisions to and extends the dates of the staff qualifications requirement for early childhood educators, giving them more time to comply with those requirements.