Legislative Activity

Education Priorities for the 114th Congress

After the Republicans took the Senate in last week’s mid-term elections, former Education Secretary Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will now be leading the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and we expect his education policies to align closely with House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). Additionally, with the retirement of House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) and current Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), there will be two new Democratic leaders of these committees – Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), respectively.

While we do not expect any major action on education-related legislation in the lame duck session, both chambers will soon begin looking at their priorities for the 114th Congress. It is likely that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be a top priority for both chambers early next year and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is rumored to follow shortly after. We also expect that Congress will continue to look at possible legislative solutions for campus sexual assault, student data privacy, reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act, and issues related to student athletes.

Regulatory Activity

Department Announces i3 Finalists

Last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the Department of Education has chosen 26 finalists for the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition. This program is aimed at developing innovative approaches to improve student achievement and then finding ways to replicate these effective strategies across the nation.  The i3 competition requires all grantees to secure private-sector matching funds and potential grantees must identify matching funds by December 10 in order to be awarded funding. Awards will officially be made in December 2014.

Teacher Preparation Programs

We expect the Department of Education to release its proposed rule on teacher preparation programs this week or next. The release of the rule has been delayed as the Department was scheduled to release the rule this summer. Earlier this year, President Obama directed the Department to issue draft regulations to improve teacher preparation programs and reconsider existing regulations following an unsuccessful attempt by the Department to reach consensus on a 2012 proposed rule.

The Department has not publicly shared specific details on the rule, it but has been meeting with a few stakeholders to review the rule and to garner their support for it.  Most likely, the Department will focus on: (1) states developing their own systems to identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs; (2) states streamlining current data requirements, incorporating additional data outcomes that provide more meaningful information, and improving availability of data; and (3) making TEACH grants eligibility on state-developed program ratings of preparation programs.