Washington Update, July 21, 2023

Dear Colleagues:

There is a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill as Members race towards the August recess. This week, Democrats in the House pushed back on the House Labor-HHS- Education Appropriations Subcommittee’s proposed draconian cuts to education funding. Your voices and advocacy efforts are needed more now perhaps than ever before.

1. Democrats Hold a Virtual Press Conference Opposing the FY2024 Labor HHS- Education Bill

On Friday, Democrats issued a press release and held a virtual press conference opposing the FY2024 Labor HHS- Education Bill. As you will recall, bill puts forth an overall cut to the Department of Education of  $22.1 billion or a 28% decrease compared to the current FY2023 enacted levels. The bill also seeks to use policy riders as a means to block a number of Biden Administration proposals surrounding education and student debt relief.

In the press release, Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) said in part:

“When 161 House Republicans voted earlier this year to eliminate all K-12 funding at the Department of Education, I was horrified, but that was just the beginning. Now, in the midst of a teacher shortage, they have introduced a bill that would kick 224,000 teachers from classrooms. We are witnessing a widespread attack on education at all levels that should horrify all of us…From preschool to Federal Work Study to financial aid to job training programs, regardless of age or stage in life, this bill means you cannot count on the government for any help. These awful cuts will make it very hard for people and should not even be considered by the full Appropriations Committee.”

As outlined by the Committee, the bill’s proposed cuts would have a profound impact on children, teachers, and families across America, including but not limited to:

  • Reducing services for young children. The bill will eliminate access to early childhood education for 51,000 children through cuts to Head Start.
  • Kicking teachers out of classrooms. Under this bill, during a severe nationwide teacher shortage, 224,000 teachers could be removed from classrooms serving low-income students due to House Republican cuts to Title I.
  • Eliminating services for English learners. The House Republican bill eliminates federal support for vital academic services for 5,131,000 English learners through the elimination of English Language Acquisition (Title III).
  • Eliminating Federal Work Study. The bill eliminates Federal Work Study for the 659,000 students who need it to help finance a postsecondary education, limiting their potential earnings and future success in the job market.
  • Eliminating need-based financial aid. The House Republican bill takes away need-based financial aid for 1,666,000 students through the elimination of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG).
  • Eliminating youth employment opportunities. The bill eliminates WIOA Youth Job Training, which would deny job training and employment services for 126,000 youth who face barriers to finding a good paying job.
  • Eliminating adult employment opportunities. The bill eliminates WIOA Adult Job Training, which would deny job training and employment services for 294,000 adults who face barriers to finding a good paying job.

The press release includes a breakdown of what these cuts would mean state by state.

You can read the full press release here.
You can watch the virtual press conference here.

2. The Council for Exceptional Children Issues Action Alert in Response to the House Labor HHS-Education Appropriations bill

On Friday, the Council for Exceptional Children issued an action alert in response to the House Labor HHS-Education Appropriations bill. Please join CEC in making some loud noise in opposition to cuts to education. You can send a message to your Member of Congress here.

3. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), reintroduce the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act

Earlier this week,  Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), reintroduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act: bipartisan legislation to address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and increase teacher diversity.

In a press release Senators Kaine and Collins highlighted the importance of this bill saying in part:
“Our nation’s educators are critical to ensuring students’ success, which is why I’m committed to finding solutions to address teacher and principal shortages in Virginia and across the country…I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill to expand teacher training programs and help boost diversity among the teacher workforce,” said Senator Kaine.

“Teacher and principal shortages at schools across the country, particularly in rural areas in the State of Maine, impede our students’ ability to reach their full potential…This bipartisan bill would increase access to high-quality teacher and leader training programs and extend federal support for recruiting well-prepared educators for areas affected by teacher shortages,” said Senator Collins.

As outlined by the co-sponsors , the PREP Act would:

  • Expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act to include schools experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities as well as in areas like special education; English language; science, technology, engineering, math; and career and technical education (CTE) in order to give schools access to additional support. Having the “high need” label can provide additional federal resources.
  • Encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators.
  • Set aside a separate fund of existing federal dollars for states to address state teacher and school leader shortagesimprove educator preparation programs, and increase teacher and school leader diversity.
  • Require states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts.
  • Increase support for educator preparation programs at minority-serving institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities to support a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce. The majority of students in our nation’s public schools are students of color, and the teaching workforce is only comprised of 20 percent teachers of color. Recruiting and retaining a racially diverse mix of teachers and school leaders have a strong positive effect on closing the achievement gap for students of color.

4. In the States: Office for Civil Rights Announces Agreement with Rhinelander School District in Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Earlier this month, The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)  announced that the Rhinelander School District in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, entered into an agreement to ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 when responding to harassment based on gender identity.

The investigation by OCR found that during the 2021-2022 school year, a nonbinary student and their parent reported to the district that students repeatedly mocked and targeted the student during multiple classes, while multiple teachers repeatedly used incorrect pronouns for the student and one teacher removed the student from class on the ground that the teacher could not protect the student from harassment by the other students.

In response to the allegations of harassment, the district by changing the student’s schedule to attend school in-person for only three classes and to take additional classes through self-directed study. OCR’s investigation determined that not only did the district unnecessarily limit the student’s participation in school activities but also disclosed that district records miscoded sex-based harassment, including the use of a slur for LGBTQI+ people, as “peer mistreatment”; did not document the multiple complaints of sex-based harassment brought by the student and their parent; and did not adequately document the district’s responses.

In a press release, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine Lhamon said in part:
“Congress promises every student a right to fully participate in educational programs without harassment based on sex. Rhinelander School District has now committed to take steps to ensure that promise of equal access to education for all its students.”

The district’s commitments in the voluntary resolution agreement include:

  • Evaluating whether compensatory services or other services are necessary for the harassed student due to the instructional time the student missed when attending in-person classes on an only part-time basis.
  • Providing training to all district administrators and staff regarding the district’s obligation, in compliance with Title IX, to respond to complaints of sex-based harassment.
  • Providing age-appropriate information programs for students to address sex-based harassment, including what students should do if they believe they or other students have experienced such harassment. And,
  • Conducting a climate survey to assess the prevalence of sex-based harassment and obtain suggestions for effective ways to address harassment.

The letter to Rhinelander School District is available here, and the resolution agreement is available here.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Until next time, see you on Twitter!