CAN Update December 2017

December 20, 2017
CEC’s Policy Insider is a weekly digest keeping you connected to the latest special and gifted education policy news.

On December 12 the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act was approved by the Committee on Education and the Workforce. As previously reported in the Policy Insider, the PROSPER Act, H.R. 4508, was introduced on December 1 as a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. A total of 63 amendments and motions were offered during the markup, although only a handful of mostly minor amendments were adopted. Some amendments that were adopted include: provisions aimed at shrinking the U.S. Department of Education, speeding up processing applications for debt forgiveness, and combating opioid use on college campuses. Amendments to save grant programs were introduced by Democrats and failed. The bill was approved primarily on partisan party lines with a 23 yeas to 17 nays vote. According to Congress.gov, the purpose of this bill is “to support students in completing an affordable postsecondary education that will prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills they need for lifelong success.” To view the archived webcast of the H.R. 4508 markup, click here.
H.R. 4508 is expected to be voted on by the full U.S. House of Representatives next year. The U.S. Senate is also expected to reveal their proposed version of the law next year.
Last week CEC sent a letter to Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) voicing concern that the PROSPER Act will undermine the preparation of highly effective special educators and access to higher education opportunities for youth with disabilities. In the letter CEC summarizes the successful provisions of the current HEA that are changed or repealed in the PROSPER Act, including the elimination of: Title II, the TEACH Grant Program, three teacher loan forgiveness programs and grants that increase accessibility for students with disabilities on college campuses. The letter also addresses how the PROSPER Act fails to include an essential component of the RISE Act that requires colleges or universities to accept a student’s IEP or 504 plan as evidence of their disability.
CEC at this time, is not supporting H.R. 4508. The final reauthorization bill must address the serious and persistent issues in higher education associated with access, affordability, accountability and quality in postsecondary education. CEC looks forward to working with Congress to ensure the provision of the identification, cultivation and continued support of highly effective workforce.
Two weeks ago Congress passed an extension of government funding at the fiscal year (FY) 2017 level that will expire this Friday, December 22. Federal government funding, under the terms of this continuing resolution (CR) will now run out on Friday unless a budget deal is reached. It is unlikely Congress will reach a budget deal by this looming deadline, and therefore may pass a third CR, which would fund the government going into January 2018. Timely funding issues that were originally thought should be included in this overall budget negotiation (DACA and reauthorization of CHIP), are now unlikely to be included and may be considered in a 2018 bill. A third CR, likely to be passed by this Friday, which may include emergency funding for disaster relief, would give appropriators time to negotiate a funding bill for FY 2018.
All advocates need to take action NOW! CEC urges Congress to permanently eliminate the sequester-level discretionary caps and maintain parity by matching any increases in the defense caps with equal increases in the NDD caps. Congress must eliminate the sequestration caps to make investments in both defense and NDD programs, including education, which are essential to our nation’s security and prosperity.
Tell Congress to:
  1. Repeal the Budget Control Act sequester-level caps and
  2. Significantly increase the federal education investment to maximize opportunities for children and youth and their families, schools and programs, and our nation.
Ensure investments are made for education programs, especially special and gifted education and early intervention, and visit CEC’s Legislative Action Center to send a letter today!

Recently the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities updated its report on state and local education funding, A Punishing Decade for School Funding. The report showed that per pupil education funding in more than half of all states is below the 2008 level. These dismal facts make it clear why federal education funding is so vital and why advocating for these education programs is essential! The report states, “Increasing financial support can help K-12 schools implement proven reforms such as gaining and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, and expanding the availability of high-quality education.” You can take action now by using CEC’s Legislative Action Center to write your members of Congress, asking them to make critical investments in education programs for children and youth with exceptionalities!