I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend and were able to spend time with family and friends to unofficially kick off the summer and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden spent part of their holiday weekend in Uvalde, Texas to grieve with the community following the horrific act of gun violence that left 19 children and two teachers dead, and several others injured. The massacre in Texas comes just days after an 18 year old man shot 13 people, killing 10 at a supermarket in the heart of a predominately Black community in Buffalo. Since the start of 2022 there have been 27 school shootings with injuries or deaths. Since the tragedy in Uvalde, less than one week ago, there have been 14 mass shootings across the US. Memorial day weekend alone – spanning Saturday, Sunday, and the federal holiday on Monday- there have been at least 11 mass shootings.
Following the news of the senseless act of violence in Uvalde, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spent the week begging his GOP colleagues to consider a bill that would strengthen background check son those seeking to buy guns. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) did the same. Senator Murphy was in office in 2012 when a gunman killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He took to the Senate floor on Tuesday evening , pleading with Members of Congress to act now on gun reform.
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) deputized Senator John Coryn (R-TX) to negotiate with Democrats on gun legislation. The conversations have reportedly continued throughout the holiday weekend and will continue this week while Congress is in recess. According to Senator Murphy the conversations have been encouraging.
1. Secretary Cardona Testifies Before the House Education and Labor Committee
On Thursday, Secretary Cardona testified before the House Education and Labor Committee to both lay out and defend the policies and priorities of the US Department of Education; specifically how the FY 2023 budget can and should support these priorities. Chairman of the Committee Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) opened the hearing recognizing the tragedy in Uvalde and asking Members to take a moment of silence to honor the students and teachers who died, their loved ones, and the entire school community in Texas. “Today, I call on each of us, as members of the Committee on Education and Labor, to do everything we can to protect schools and communities from gun violence, and to ensure that this most recent tragedy will be the last.” Said Chairman Scott.
Secretary Cardona echoed the Chairman’s statement urging the Committee to support strong school-based mental health supports and the expansion of community schools. Another significant request to address the mental health needs of students across the nation included $1 billion in FY2023 for a new school-based health professionals program to add counselors, nurses, school psychologists, social workers and other health professionals in schools. The plan includes building a pipeline for professionals in these fields, with a focus on schools supporting underserved students.
The Secretary made specific asks surrounding addressing the achievement gap, making higher education inclusive and affordable, building pathways through post-secondary education that lead to successful careers, enforcement of civil rights laws, and rebuilding and diversifying and strong pool of educators and specialized instructional personnel. Secretary Cardona made specific note of the federal levers available to address the critical shortage of educators and lack of diversity across the field asking for $132 million for Teacher Quality Partnership grants to effectively prepare aspiring teachers by supporting pathways into the profession such as high- quality teacher residencies and Grow Your Own programs, that improve educator diversity, effectiveness, and retention; $250 million for IDEA, Part D, to support the pipeline of special education teachers and personnel; and $20 million for Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence to support teacher preparation programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally-Controlled College and Universities (TCCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
You can read Secretary Cardona’s full testimony and watch a recording of the hearing here.
2. House Labor-H Subcommittee on Appropriations Holds Hearing on “Tackling the Teacher Shortage”
On Wednesday, the House Labor-H Subcommittee on Appropriations held a hearing on “Tackling the Teacher Shortage”. Witnesses included Dr. Lindsey Burke, Director of the Center for Education Policy, Heritage Foundation; Desiree Carver-Thomas, Researcher and Policy Analyst, Learning Policy Institute; Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers; and former TED Policy Advisor, Dr. Jane West. Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro recognized the tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas saying:
“We are gathered today for this hearing to find ways to support our educators. But how can we begin to speak of support for our teachers if they are not physically safe at school? It is alarming and it’s outrageous that so many children in America’s schools and their parents and teachers worry that a senseless act of gun violence could take their lives. The American people and our nation’s children are waiting on us to take immediate action to save innocent kids and to save their teachers.”
The Chairwoman went on to then recognize the inflection point we are at in terms of the critical shortage of educators across the nation. Noting declines in enrollment in educator prep programs, the disproportionate impact that having an unqualified teacher has on students of color and students with disabilities, and the critical importance of rebuilding and diversifying the educator pipeline.
Dr. Jane West and Ms. Desiree Carver- Thomas echoed the Chairwoman’s message in their testimonies with both making specific mention of the critical shortage of educators and lack of diversity across the field. Both witnesses encouraged the committee to make meaningful investments in the federal levers we have available to address such a crisis, including programs such as IDEA-D and the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers for Excellence Program.
Dr. West specifically spoke to the critical shortage of special educators and specialized instructional support personnel who support students with disabilities. Dr. West noted that While IDEA requires that services are delivered by qualified personnel, that is increasingly not happening. The critical obstacle in fulfilling the promise of IDEA is the crisis of a special educator shortage and the shrinking capacity in higher education to prepare future special education teachers. Dr. West urged the committee to make robust investments in three federal programs to address the crisis we are facing: Increase Funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act Part D Personnel Preparation, Increase Funding for the Teacher Quality Partnership Program, and Increase Funding for the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers for Excellence Program. In closing Dr. West recognized that federal policy can and must help support and stabilize the workforce, but the level of investment needed is far greater than the current federal support.
You can read each witness’ full testimony and watch a recording of the hearing here.
3. New Resources for Educators
- The Learning Policy Institute released a new report entitled “ Developing Effective Principals: What Kind of Learning Matters? Researchers synthesized peer-reviewed scholarship from 2000 to 2021 that addresses principal preparation and development programs and examined survey results and statewide policies. Through this review, key findings, research implications, and policy implications related to principal preparation and training emerge.
- National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a new report on undergraduate enrollment across Institutions of Higher Education. The report found that there were nearly 662,000 fewer students enrolled in college this spring compared to just one year ago. The losses represent at 4.7% decline in undergraduate enrollment and is a steeper downturn that what was seen in the fall.
Congress and Washington Update are on recess this week- returning June 10th.
Until then, see you on Twitter!