Dear Colleagues,
As we head into Congressional recess next week, behind the scenes things are heating up surrounding the passage of an FY22 appropriations bill which includes historic increases for education funding. The Senate passed a stop-gap funding measure on Thursday that, once signed by the President will give Members and their staff another three weeks to cement a deal on FY22. The proposed increases to education funding are critical in supporting rebuilding and diversifying the educator pipeline-now is the time to make sure your voices are heard.

1. Senate Passes Stop Gap Funding Measure Keeping the Government Funded Through March 11th

With just under 48 hours before government funding was set to lapse and with lawmakers rushing to leave DC for a weeklong recess, the Senate on Thursday passed another short-term measure to keep the government funded and avert a shutdown. The stop-gap funding measure will keep the government funded through March 11th and gives  Members of Congress another three weeks to cement a deal on FY22 appropriations.

Behind the scenes, Members and their staff are optimistic that the three-week extension will provide enough time to finalize a deal on the 12 bills needed to keep federal government agencies and departments funded for the rest of the fiscal year.  Reports from the Hill suggest that the chairs of the 12 House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees have been given the allocation total for their bills—but nobody is saying what they are.  As it stands today, it sounds like total defense funding is set to increase by more than the 5% increase set by the National Defense Authorization Act–this is also the number the Senate worked from when preparing their draft bills last fall.

The House for their part worked from a 2% increase to defense which matched the President’s request. If the defense increase is larger than 5% as many are suggesting we can assume that non-defense funding will be cut by a comparable amount in order to keep the total funding amount the same. Cutting the size of the increase for non-defense would likely lead to a smaller increase for education programs in the House-passed and Senate-proposed bills. Nevertheless, we still anticipate a historic increase for education funding-your voices are being heard.

2. Biden- Harris Administration Forgives $415 Million in Federal Student Loans

This week the Biden-Harris Administration announced that nearly 16,000 borrowers will receive $415 million in student loan forgiveness after the Department of Education determined students were defrauded by the following institutions: attended DeVry, ITT Technical Institute, Westwood College, the Minnesota School of Business and Globe University.

“The Department remains committed to giving borrowers discharges when the evidence shows their college violated the law and standards,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Students count on their colleges to be truthful. Unfortunately, today’s findings show too many instances in which students were misled into loans at institutions or programs that could not deliver what they’d promised.”

Approximately 1,800 former students of DeVry University will receive forgiveness. The Department said DeVry made “widespread substantial misrepresentations about its job placement rates. Between 2008 and 2015 the Department noted that DeVry “repeatedly misled” prospective students by claiming 90 percent of its graduates obtained jobs within six months when the actual job placement rate was about 58 percent. This round of forgiveness brings the total amount of approved relief under borrower defense to repayment to approximately $2 billion for more than 107,000 borrowers.

3. The US Department of Education Releases Notice for Applications for the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program

This week The US Department of Education released a notice for applications for the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, which will award up to $6.6 million in grants for five-year projects that that support evidence-based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities that enhance elementary and secondary schools’ capacity to identify gifted and talented students and meet their unique educational needs. This year the program focuses on students who are underserved and underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. Eligible applicants include state educational agencies; local educational agencies, the Bureau of Indian Education; institutions of higher education; other public agencies; or other private agencies or organizations.  Applications are due on April 4, and awards will be made by August. Information about the pre application meeting will be posted here.

4. The American Legislative Exchange Council Identifies Alternative Credentialing as an Essential Policy Priority for 2022.

This week the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released a brief identifying both alternative credentialing and “expanding educational freedom” as their top education policy initiatives for 2022. The ALEC notes regulatory burdens as a limiting factor in securing a qualified pool of professionals in the field. The group goes on to state that alternative credentialing can make it easier to hire and retain more teachers. However, research notes that those prepared through alternate pathways that require less coursework and student teaching experiences are 25% more likely to leave their teaching positions and the profession than those who are well prepared. Advocacy surrounding full preparation and maintaining high standards for educator preparation will be critical in the coming months.

5. New Resources for Educators

  • The US Department of Education issued a fact sheet on providing students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education during the Covid-19 pandemic and addressing the need for compensatory services under section 504.
  • The Education Trust developed a new tool that identifies states’ strengths as well as areas for improvement in creating safe, supportive, and inclusive environments that foster positive social, emotional, and academic development for all students. The tool also identifies which states have implemented promising policies or practices in each of their focal policy areas.
  • The Hopeful Futures Campaign released results from a recent survey on public perceptions of mental health since the onset of the pandemic. Results from the survey indicate that a majority of all Americans have concerns about youth mental health.
  • The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment issued a report on the economic well-being of early educators during the pandemic. The report found that approximately one third of family care providers and center based teachers require at least one form of public assistance.

Congress and Washington Update will be on recess next week. We will return on Friday March 4th with an undoubtedly chock-full update.

See you on Twitter!

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