Legislative Activity

House’s Legislative Agenda

Today, the House will consider and likely pass the following pieces of legislation:

  • The STEM Education Act (H.R. 5031). The bill would include “computer science” in the definition of “STEM education,” require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to offer competitive grants to support research and development of informal STEM learning, and authorize funding for NSF Master Teacher Fellows to receive one year of fellowship support.
  • The Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 5056). The bill expresses the Sense of the Congress that the Office of Science and Technology Policy create a working group to review federal regulations affecting research and research universities. The working group also should make recommendations to streamline regulations and reporting requirements, as well as minimize regulatory burdens on research universities.

Higher Education Act Reauthorization

Prior to the July 4th recess, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released its comprehensive draft bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The discussion draft includes provisions focused on increasing college affordability, assisting student borrowers who have difficulty with repayments, strengthening accountability, and improving transparency. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has also said that he would like to include additional provisions in the bill to develop a student unit record system, reform accreditation, and include additional simplification measures. Stakeholders may comment on the discussion draft by submitting feedback to the Senate HELP Committee on or before August 29.

Additionally, last week the House Education and the Workforce Committee passed three pieces of legislation that would reauthorize select sections of HEA. The bills included the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project (H.R. 3136), the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4893), and the Empower Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984). The bills would create a competency-based learning pilot program, create a new College Navigator website, and improve the current law related to student loan counseling. The House plans to continue to address HEA reauthorization in a piecemeal fashion so it is likely that the House Education and the Workforce Committee will advance additional legislation to update certain parts of HEA.

Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization

Last Wednesday, the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act  (WIOA/H.R. 803) to reauthorize the workforce development programs that are part of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). This is the first time that these programs have been reauthorized since 1998. The House passed the bill by a widely bipartisan vote of 415-6 with only Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI), Paul Broun (R-GA), Jimmy Duncan (R-TN), Walter Jones (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Steve Stockman (R-TX) voting against the measure. The bill will now move to the President’s desk where it will likely be signed into law in the coming weeks, as the Senate previously passed the bill in June.

To continue workforce development efforts, the New Democrat Coalition has formed a working group focused on workforce innovation. The 18 House Democrats plan to meet with stakeholders in education, industry, and labor to develop policy recommendations for workforce development initiatives. The group will strongly focus on better aligning local needs with workforce training and creating comprehensive career services programs.

Sexual Assault Legislation

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has released the results of her campus sexual violence survey based on the 440 four-year public and private institutions of higher education that responded. The Senator initially sent the survey out in May. According to Sen. McCaskill, the survey results indicate that many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices when handling sexual violence among students. After the August recess, Sen. McCaskill plans to introduce legislation to address areas of concern highlighted in the survey and implement best practices.

Career and Technical Education

This week, Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), co-chairs of the Senate Career and technical Education Caucus, will be seeking co-sponsors for the Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act.  Last week, the Senators introduced the bill, which seeks to define what constitutes a rigorous CTE curriculum, allows states and localities to use Perkins grant funding to establish CTE-focused academies, improves links between high school and postsecondary education, and promotes partnerships between local businesses, regional industries and other community stakeholders. The Senators are also working with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to build momentum behind the bill and to ensure it is on a path forward to be included as part of the reauthorization efforts for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act.

Upcoming Hearings

  • Wednesday, June 15: The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education will hold a hearing titled “Protecting America’s Youth: An Update from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

Regulatory Activity

The Department of Education is scheduled to publish its proposed rule on teacher preparation programs this month. The proposed rule would look to reform the reporting system based on State report cards on teacher preparation programs. The goal of the changes is to provide more “meaningful” data on the performance of each teacher preparation program in the State.  Additionally, the proposed rule would look to amend regulations governing the TEACH Grant program by conditioning funding on teacher preparation program quality and to update, clarify, and improve the current regulations and align them with Title II reporting system data. In April, the White House directed the Department to improve teacher preparation programs by this summer as part of President Obama’s “Year of Action.”

The Department is still expected to issue proposed rules for all of the topics considered under the Program Integrity and Improvement Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, which adjourned in May. It appears that the proposed rule on the definition of adverse credit for Direct PLUS Loan eligibility may be issued separately from the other package of issues – cash management of funds, state authorization for programs offered through distance education or correspondence, state authorization for foreign locations, and clock-to-credit hour conversion.