Washington Update, October 27, 2023

Dear Colleagues:

On Wednesday, after three weeks of chaotic limbo in the House chamber, the House of Representatives elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as the next Speaker. Speaker Johnson was first elected in 2016 after practicing Constitutional law for two decades. Before his election as Speaker, Johnson service as vice chair of the GOP conference. Speaker Johnson was one of eight House members who served on former President Trump’s defense team during the first impeachment trial in the Senate. He also played a key role in assembling the House Republican case for objecting to the certification of former President Trump’s 2020 loss on January 6, 2021 — recruiting colleagues to support that effort and helming a legal brief seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Speaker Johnson has laid out what many consider an aggressive schedule for addressing appropriations and has suggested canceling next year’s August recess if all 12 spending bills are not advanced through the House by that time. His current schedule has the Labor HHS-Education spending bill on the House floor the week of November 13th.

The Speaker noted that Congress will likely need to pass another continuing resolution (CR) extending government funding, either to January 15 or April 15. Either date would trigger sequestration that lowers the defense and non-defense discretionary caps for FY 2024 to 1% less than the FY 2023 levels.

Stay tuned as Congress must act before November 17th to avoid the possibility of a government shutdown.

1. US Department of Education Awards $14 Million through first-ever Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Grant

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced $14 million in awards to help support local- and state-driven voluntary efforts to foster more diverse school communities through its first-ever Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Program. As outlined in a press release shared by the Department, these grants, in alignment with the Department’s Raise the Bar: Lead the World call to action, support districts as they work to enrich educational experiences by providing every student with a well-rounded education and improved school conditions for student learning, inclusive of a broader perspective on the world.

Earlier this year, the Department released a report on State of School Diversity in the United States, showing that schools that are isolated along racial or socioeconomic lines often have less access to critical resources and funding. These conditions can perpetuate gaps in opportunity that can limit the chance for underserved students to grow and excel academically. The Department received applications from eligible entities in over 20 states and made 14 new awards for this inaugural cohort of Fostering Diverse Schools grantees. Recipients have committed to working closely with families, students, communities, and school diversity plans through a variety of activities. For example, grantees will engage with students, families, community leaders and staff to better understand the needs of their school communities and how to best address them. Other grantees will provide professional development to support educators who work in under resourced schools and communities. Across the board, grantees will implement well-rounded learning opportunities to expand access to high-quality instruction and enrichment.

You can view the full list of grantees here.


2. In the States: Texas Increasingly Relies on Uncertified Teachers to Fill Vacancies

This week, an analysis on statewide hiring data from the Dallas Morning News  reveals the extent to which the state of Texas has needed to rely on uncertified teachers to fill vacant positions throughout the 2022-2023 school year. As reported in The Dallas Morning News, in two dozen school systems — mostly small charters and rural districts — two-thirds or more of new teacher hires were uncertified. Across the state, roughly 15,300 new teachers were hired last year without a Texas certification. In 2010, fewer than 2,300 teachers came into the classroom through this pathway. Rural school districts across Texas are struggling the most- in 2010 the rural districts hired roughly 140 uncertified teachers, last year that number rose to over 900. And the problem is not limited to rural districts, last school year, Dallas Independent School District hired roughly 600 new uncertified educators — in a teaching workforce of roughly 10,000. In the previous decade, the district didn’t hire more than 60 uncertified educators each year.

The state is certainly feeling the impact of hiring individuals who are un or underqualified for their jobs. Only 37% of uncertified teachers across Texas were still in the public education workforce after five years. By comparison, 67% of those who took a more traditional route via quality preparation programs at an institution of higher education— were still working after five years. The research tells us that impact of this type of turnover disproportionately effects students with disabilities, students of color, and students living in areas of high concentrations of poverty.

3. New Resources for Educators

  • CASEL  is out with a new policy brief: “Supporting Parent and Family Engagement to Enhance Students’ Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.” The brief highlights the critical role parents and caregivers play in supporting students’ academic, social and emotional development. Additionally, the brief explores opportunities for how states and districts can leverage the family engagement provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act to strengthen school-family partnerships in support of students’ academic success and social and emotional well-being.
  • Learning Policy Institute (LPI) recently published a new report – Safe Schools, Thriving Students: What We Know About Creating Safe and Supportive Schools –  that summarizes what is known about which school safety measures improve student safety in schools and which ones do not.


Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

If you will be at the TED Conference, please be sure to come say hello!

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