Legislative Activity

Senate HELP Committee Will Mark Up ESEA Legislation on Tuesday

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released a bipartisan compromise ESEA reauthorization bill last Wednesday. The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 is scheduled for markup on Tuesday. The Committee leaders have touted the smaller federal role and increased flexibility for states and districts provided in the bill. For example, the bill maintains the current annual testing requirement – a necessary provision for most Democrats – but would allow states to determine the weight of such tests in accountability systems, while also providing flexibility for states to pilot innovative assessment systems. Additionally, the legislation would allow states to design their accountability systems but requires them to meet certain federal parameters such as test scores, graduation rates, measures of postsecondary education or workforce readiness, and English proficiency for English learners. Such systems also must include all students and subgroups of students, disaggregate student achievement data, and establish challenging academic standards for all students. The federal government, however, is prohibited from developing or approving such standards.

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 does not include many controversial issues that have played out in the ESEA debate, such as portability of Title I funds and the lack of a dedicated high-quality early learning program. However, debate on those issues and a healthy amendments process are expected during both committee and floor consideration of the bill.

Thus far, much of the stakeholder feedback has been positive about the bipartisan deal. Teachers’ unions, for example, are happy to see the elimination of high-stakes testing, and disabilities groups have praised the one-percent rule to help ensure more students with learning disabilities are participating in the general state assessments. The Obama Administration has even applauded the bipartisan nature of the bill, though Secretary of Education Arne Duncan continues to express doubts about whether the compromise measure will survive the reauthorization process, particularly in the House where efforts have stalled and key components are far apart from the Senate version. To date, the House has not announced if or when it will continue consideration of the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Additionally, the bill was not included in House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) memo last week to House members concerning legislation to be considered on the floor in the coming month.

House Committee Circulates Draft FERPA Legislation

Last week, House Education and the Workforce Committee staff began circulating a draft bill that would update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974. This bill would be a complement to the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, which Reps. Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) plan to introduce in the coming weeks despite receiving heavy criticism from parent groups and privacy advocates prior to the Congressional recess. The Committee does not have a defined timeline for introduction of the FERPA legislation but plans to move it separately from the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA).

The House continues to wait for the leadership to give additional floor time to continue the consideration of the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which is currently on hold. Meanwhile, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and his staff continue to re-educate members about the bill’s provisions. They are optimistic that, once scheduled for the floor, H.R. 5 will move forward.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, April 14: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education will host a hearing to discuss early childhood education programs in the FY 2016 Budget.
  • Tuesday, April 14: The Senate HELP Committee will hold a mark-up to consider the following legislation/nominations: S. ____   Every Child Achieves Act of 2015; S. ____ WIOA Technical Amendments Act; Ericka Miller to be Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Department of Education; and Michael Yudin to be Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Department of Education.
  • Thursday, April 16: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education will hold a hearing on the FY 2016 Department of Education budget. The hearing will feature Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Executive Branch Activity

WIOA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to be Released on Thursday

On Thursday, April 16, the Departments of Labor and Education will release a joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) related to implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The proposed rule will introduce new regulatory proposals and key questions for stakeholders to consider. Additionally, separate rulemakings will be published to implement specific requirements of the Act that fall under each Department’s purview. Individuals or organizations that wish to comment on the proposed rules will have until June 15, 2015 (60 days) to do so. The pre-released NPRMs relevant to institutions of higher education include the following:

  • The Unified and combined state plans, performance accountability, and the one-stop system is the joint NPRM between the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Education (ED). This NPRM seeks to propose regulations to lay the foundation, coordination, and collaboration processes for implementing the vision and goals of WIOA. More specifically, the proposed regulations (1) focus on procedural requirements on how to submit a State Plan to the DOL; (2) offers guidance for the interpretative rules; and (3) outlines the information to be collected and the process by which the Departments intend to collect the data.
  • The Title II Adult Education and Family Literacy Activities (AEFLA) NPRM from the Department of Education proposes updates to regulations that establish procedures for determining the suitability of tests used for measuring State performance on accountability measures under AEFLA as well as removes specific provisions in the Vocational and Adult Education code of federal regulations that are no longer applicable to the Federal adult education programs. Furthermore, the proposed rule offers an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the newly proposed processes and requirements for States to award grants or contracts to local providers as well as the suggested definitions of what constitutes an adult education and literacy activity or program.
  • The Miscellaneous program changes NPRM from the Department of Education proposes to amend several regulations governing a number of programs administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to implement changes to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which governs services provided to individuals with disabilities. Additionally, the NPRM proposes to implement changes to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 previously proposed by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) that had not been implemented to otherwise update, clarify and improve the RSA’s current regulations.
  • The State Vocation Rehabilitation Services program, state-supported Employment Service programs, and limitations on the use of subminimum wage NPRM from the Department of Education proposes to amend the regulations governing the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program and the State Supported Employment Services program. In addition, the NPRM proposes to issue new regulations regarding limitations on the use of subminimum wages that were added by WIOA.

Over the past week, both departments have announced several workforce-related grant opportunities, including YouthBuild, Health Profession Opportunity Grants, and round five of the Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants, which reflect changes required by WIOA. We expect additional opportunities to roll out this spring as part of the Administration’s implementation process.