Washington Update, March 17, 2023 

Dear Colleagues:

It was a busy week in Washington and we are slated for another one ahead. This coming week House Republicans are expected to begin consideration on the Parent Bill of Rights Legislation, H.R. 5. It is anticipated that discussions will begin on Thursday with the final vote slated for Friday. Members introduced several amendments to the bill last week-it remains to be seen if House Rules Committee will now allow floor votes on those amendments.

1. Senator Sanders Introduces the Pay Teachers Act  

Earlier this month, Senator Sanders, Chairman of the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced legislation aimed at addressing teacher pay and the critical shortage of educators facing the nation. The Pay Teachers Act not only would increase the minimum teacher salary to $60,000 per year, but also significantly increases federal investments in public schools and in personnel development.

The bill makes the following mandatory investments beginning in fiscal year 2024 and permanently indexes funding to inflation in succeeding fiscal years:

  • Triples Title I-A funding ($36.77 billion).
  • Triples funding for Rural Education programs ($430 million), doubles Impact Aid Basic Support Payments ($1.46 billion), and provides an additional $1 billion for the Bureau of Indian Education.
  • Diversifies and expands the teacher pipeline by: (1) authorizing a new Grow Your Own program within the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant program and providing $550 million for TQP grants; (2) investing $150 million in the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program to support teacher preparation at HBCUs, TCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs); and (3) investing $300 million in IDEA, Part D to support the special education personnel pipeline.
  • Supports the teaching profession by expanding leadership and advancement opportunities by investing in and strengthening the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program ($100 million) and the Teacher and School Leader Incentive program ($200 million).

In a statement, Senator Sanders said:

“It is simply unacceptable that, in the richest country in the history of the world, many teachers are having to work two or three extra jobs just to make ends meet,” said Sanders. “The situation has become so absurd that the top 15 hedge fund managers on Wall Street make more money in a single year than every kindergarten teacher in America combined – over 120,000 teachers. Wages for public school teachers are so low that in 36 states, the average public school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing and other government assistance programs. We have got to do better than that. It is time to end the international embarrassment of America ranking 29th out of 30 countries in pay for middle school teachers. If we are going to have the best public school system in the world, we have got to radically change our attitude toward education and make sure that every teacher in America receives the compensation that they deserve for the enormously important and difficult work that they do. No public school teacher in America should make less than $60,000 a year.” 

You can read the complete bill text, here, section-by-section, here, and the bill fact sheet, here.

2. Action Alert for Personnel Investments in the Biden-Harris FY24 Budget Proposal 

Last week we provided a breakdown of the Biden- Harris Administration’s FY2024 budget proposal- which includes substantial increases in investments that address the critical shortage of educators facing the nation. These investments include, but are not limited to:

  • $132 million for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP), which funds comprehensive educator preparation programs such as residencies.
  • $30 million for the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program, which funds educator preparation programs at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs.
  • $250 million for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part D – Personnel Preparation program (IDEA-D-PP). 

Our colleagues at the Council for Exceptional Children have created a legislative action alert, offering a quick and easy way to ensure your voice is heard. Simply enter your name and address via this link and you can send a message to your Members of Congress in both the House and Senate urging them to offer their support for these critical investments that can support rebuilding and diversifying the special educator and specialized instructional support personnel pipeline.

3. In the States: Florida Lawmakers move HB999 Forward 

Last week, lawmakers on the Florida state House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee passed FL HB999 (23R) – a wide ranging legislation that would introduce a number of new policies for the state university system across Florida. These policies include but are not limited to eliminating majors or minors that touch on subjects such as critical race theory and “radical” feminist or gender theories. The proposal would also prohibit universities and colleges from spending or accepting funds — from the state, feds, or elsewhere — on programs linked to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.

In a statement, Irene Mulvey, President of the American Association of University Professors said:

“It is state-mandated censorship…Under HB 999, the state is dictating what can be taught and what can be learned and what must not be taught. This is positively incompatible with democracy. It’s a complete violation of academic freedom. People should recognize how dangerous this is.” 

Republicans in several state legislatures have targeted academic programs for purportedly pushing a “woke, left-wing” agenda onto students. However, David Canton, director of the African American studies program at the University of Florida challenged  this notion, saying: “The misperception is that in these majors, students are being told what to think and what to do, rather than being introduced to different perspectives…If you go to any African American-studies class, they’re not indoctrinating students with this ‘woke’ ideology.”

College students across the state of Florida have organized walkouts and protested their opposition to the proposed legislation. he University of Florida College Democrats sent out a statement that includes information about House Bill 999 and how it affects students across Florida universities. In a statement, University of Florida College Democrats said:

“These measures, along with the efforts to defund diversity, equity, inclusion and the audit of gender-affirming care on university campuses, are blatantly attacking our student communities as well as our academic freedom…join us, along with universities across the state to stand up against Ron DeSantis’ reign of terror by taking action.” 

HB 999 is slated for two additional committee hearings in the Florida state House. A companion bill in the Senate, FL SB266 (23R), has also been introduced.

4. New Resources for Educators 

  • National Center for Teacher Residencies released a new report which draws upon a subset of residency programs from NCTR’s network that demonstrate positive outcomes in recruiting teachers of color. The programs were examined to identify the most effective recruiting strategies with key themes emerging.


Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

Until next time, see you on Twitter!