Legislative Update: Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing March 15 to Focus on STEM Education

Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing March 15 to Focus on STEM Education

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education will hold a hearing next Wednesday, March 15th, on federal STEM education programs. NSTA member (and NSELA Board member) Larry Plank, STEM Director for the Hillsborough School District in Florida, will be testifying before the committee. Other panelists include Caroline King of Washington STEM. The hearing presents a unique opportunity to highlight STEM education programs and funding before key lawmakers. Read more about the hearing (and watch it live) here.

Senate Scraps ESSA Accountability Regulations and Teacher Prep Rules

On Thursday, March 9 the Senate voted 50-49 to scrap the Obama Administration’s regulations for holding schools accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The House earlier passed a measure to scrap the rule; the measure now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

This measure will not repeal or replace ESSA, instead it will only undo accountability regulations finalized last fall governing how school performance is judged under the new law. The accountability regulations were intended to direct the work of state stakeholders creating new plans required under ESSA to track low income students, and intervene in high risk schools.

For weeks Democrats and many business, labor, and civil rights groups opposed overturning this accountability rule, citing it would eliminate the federal oversight to ensure that state and local districts were held accountable for closing the student achievement gap. The Dems also argued that overturning the rule would severely disrupt the plans that states are now in the process of creating around ESSA.

Republicans saw the accountability rule as an overreach from the Obama Administration that would have restricted local decision makers as they implement the new law.

The accountability rule was repealed under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to review and overrule some federal regulations that were issued by the Obama Administration. Once a rule is repealed, the CRA also prohibits the agency from reissuing the rule in the same form or issuing  a new rule that is substantially the same. Secretary DeVos is expected to release something later this week that will tell states what’s “absolutely necessary” for them to consider in developing their plans.

Goodbye to Teacher Prep Regs

On Wednesday, March 8, the Senate voted 59 to 40 to get rid of the Obama Administration’s regulation on teacher preparation programs. This regulation would have linked students’ test scores to the teacher prep programs from which their teachers graduated. Low-performing teacher preparation programs would see access to federal Teach Grants eliminated.

Seven Democrats and one Independent joined Republicans to kill the teacher prep rule. This regulation was widely disliked by the education community, who believed it was an overreach by the federal government and much too costly. The issue of teacher prep will come up again when Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act, which is expected to come up in the next year or so.

The House also passed their version to nullify this reg, so it goes to President Trump who is expected to sign this rule as well.  

Read more here.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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