Washington Update, June 23, 2023 

Dear Colleagues: 

It was another busy week in Washington as Members of Congress and their staff hustled to move some items across their respective finish lines before the two week 4th of July recess. House Republicans failed to overturn President Biden’s veto of a bill repealing his proposal of $20,000 in student debt relief. Senate appropriators for their part approved funding totals for a dozen fiscal 2024 spending bills along party lines on Thursday, while acknowledging the need for reaching an agreement on more money in the coming months. While the allocations in the Senate are higher than those in the House for all non-defense bills, both the House and Senate committees cut the total for the Labor-HHS-Education bill; the House by $60.3 billion (29%) and the Senate by $12.2 billion (6%). When Congress last imposed spending caps from FY 2013 through FY 2021, education funding was cut and held below its starting point for years in a row- in fact when accounting for inflation, funding levels are still below the starting point.

1. NAEP Data Shows Largest Drop Since Assessments Began in 1973 

Last week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released data from its long term trend test for 13 year-olds across the nation. Math scores among 13- year-olds had the largest drop since the federal government began assessments in 1973- a 9 point decline from 280-271- the highest score possible is 500. The data also reflected a 4-point decline in reading scores going from 260 in 2020 to 256 in 2023. While many have attributed pandemic learning loss as a primary factor in the declining test scores for both math and reading-overall scores have been on the decline since 2012- nearly a decade before the pandemic started. students who scored in the 10th and 25th percentile had steeper declines. In math, scores in the 10th percentile declined by 14 points and those in the 25th percentile declined by 12 points. For reading, scores in the 10th percentile declined by 7 points and by 6 points in the 25th percentile.

In a statement, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona said in part:

“The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress is further evidence of what the Biden-Harris administration recognized from Day One: that the pandemic would have a devastating impact on students’ learning across the country and that it would take years of effort and investment to reverse the damage as well as address the 11-year decline that preceded it. Today’s results underscore why the Biden-Harris administration remains laser-focused on our plan to Raise the Bar for the academic achievement of all students and maximize the American Rescue Plan’s historic investments in recovery. Schools have committed nearly 60 percent of their American Rescue Plan funds to address lost learning time and accelerate academic recovery by hiring more teachers, counselors, and support staff, providing more tutoring and one-on-one support to students, and extending learning time through high quality afterschool and summer learning programs.”

NCES and the National Assessment Governing Board will host an event Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET to review the test results.

2. Senators Kaine and Reed Introduce Supporting Teaching and Learning through Better Data Act 

Last week, Senator Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Supporting Teaching and Learning through Better Data Act, legislation to help address teacher workforce shortages by strengthening data collection on the teacher workforce.

Specifically, the Supporting Teaching and Learning through Better Data Act  would:

  • Require the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to conduct a study on current data collections related to the educator workforce.
  • Provide recommendations on strengthening educator workforce data collection, analysis, timeliness, and dissemination, that can help stakeholders and policymakers understand and address educator supply, demand, and shortages.
  • Identify gaps in existing federal data sources, such as the qualifications and credentials of the teacher workforce, compensation information, and number of teachers that have received federal grants, and make recommendations for closing such gaps.
  • Create a program to provide grants to state education agencies to improve educator workforce data collection and better identify inequities. Understanding these gaps will be critical to inform strategies to recruit qualified teachers to underserved communities.

In a statement , Senator Kaine said:

“It’s critical that policymakers and school districts have up-to-date information to better understand what’s contributing to our nation’s teacher shortages and how we can tackle this problem…I’m proud to introduce this bill to strengthen existing data collection efforts on our teacher workforce and help address teacher shortages.”

The bill’s co-sponsor, Senator Reed (D-RI) who is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service, and Education, and a longtime champion for educator preparation applauded the bill’s potential saying in part:

“If we want to grow the economy and the middle class, we need an educated workforce. This bill would help confront teacher shortages and find innovative ways of building resilient pipelines of teachers across the country.”

Senator Kaine and Senator Reed have both introduced separate bills focusing on the critical shortage of educators facing the nation.

You can read more about Senator Kaine’s PREP Act focused on addressing educator and school leader shortages here.

You can read more about Senator Reed’s EDUCATORS for America Act which also addresses the critical shortage of educators, specialized instructional support personnel, and school leaders here.

Full text of the Supporting Teaching and Learning through Better Data Act is available here. A summary of the bill is available here.

Wishing you all a happy and safe 4th of July.

Congress and Washington Update will break for recess for the next two weeks, returning July 14th.

Until next time, see you on Twitter!