Legislative News

Wednesday, 23 April, 2014

Triangle Coalition Supports Perkins Reauthorization

This week, Triangle Coalition for STEM Education joined more than 60 other organizations in supporting the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, or Perkins Act.  The $1.1 billion dollar  program is the primary federal funding source for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) in the United States. A letter to Congress urges policymakers to update and improve the Perkins law, last reauthorized in 2006, by building upon its past successes.

Supporters advocate that a reauthorized version of Perkins should:

  • Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
  • Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
  • Increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and promote the use of industry-recognized credentials.

Such reforms would ensure that federal dollars can be invested even more effectively in CTE programs which prepare students for both college and careers. To learn more or sign on in support of the letter (available here), contact Geoff Lane (glane@itic.org) at the Information Technology Industry Council by May 5.

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Friday, 18 April, 2014

New Changes in the House Education and Workforce Committee

Last week, Democratic Members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee held an organization meeting to elect new ranking members.  Representative John Tierney (D-MA) was elected as the Ranking Member of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee and Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA) was elected as the new Ranking Member on the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee.  Representative George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the full Committee said of the appointments, “Their work on behalf of America’s students and working families is exceptional, and I am confident that their valued leadership will continue to help our committee advance our shared goals.” Across the aisle, Republicans appointed Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL) to the Education and the Workforce Committee—to fill a vacant seat—and Representative Thomas Petri (R-WI)—the longest serving Republican Member on the Committee—announced that he will not seek re-election. For more information on the new senior committee positions, go to: http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/press-release/miller-announces-new-subcommittee-ranking-democrats-welcomes-new-democratic-member/.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Friday, 4 April, 2014

Rep. Takano to Sit on House Education and Workforce Committee

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tapped Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) to serve on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  Takano has more than 20 years of teaching experience and has worked with many of his fellow colleagues on Capitol Hill with education related legislation.  Takano supports pre-kindergarten expansion, reduced testing in K-12 schools and making college more affordable.  Takano mentioned that he plans to bring “practical knowledge to Congress about which educational reforms will actually impact classroom performance positively.”  For more on Takano’s education policy, go to: http://takano.house.gov/issues/education.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Tuesday, 1 April, 2014

Senate HELP Committee Discusses Teacher Preparation

On March 25, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) held a hearing, “Teacher Preparation: Ensuring a Quality Teacher in Every Classroom,” to discuss the impact of funding that schools of education receive to improve the quality of teacher preparation.  In particular, the Committee was interested in the value of the reporting requirements imposed on Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA) grant recipients to promote change where necessary.

The driving force behind the HELP Committee concerns about teacher preparation programs included:

  1. data that indicates students of color and other minorities have limited access to the most effective teachers;
  2. data that suggests the shortages of teachers in rural areas and fields such as special education, STEM subjects and English language learners (ELLs) are the result of poor communication between institutions of higher education (IHEs) and K-12 schools; and
  3. the fact that in spite of requirements that states identify their lowest performing schools of education, over half have failed to do so.

Dr. Edward Crowe, Senior Advisor of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, focused on the reporting and accountability requirements under Title II, which he considered burdensome and irrelevant.  He noted that the vast majority of teachers pass all exams related to their preparation and certification, and states report few if any low-performing schools of education.

Dr. Mary Brabeck, Dean and Professor at New York University, described, in some detail, the new Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) standards, saying they are “more rigorous and more relevant to teacher performance in the classroom and have real consequences for schools of education that fail to meet the standards.”  She noted that under the standards, accreditors require schools to provide evidence that students have clinical experiences linked with K-12 schools; programs will have high entrance standards to assure better teacher quality; requirements for all types of preparation programs (alternative, for-profit, online, etc.) to go through accreditation; and the use of “multiple measures” that look at outcomes and impact to determine eligibility for accreditation.

Timothy Daly, President of the New Teacher Project (NTP), urged the Committee to “start with a blank slate” on the Title II reporting provisions and remove barriers that impede programs like the NTP from getting to scale.  In particular, students in alternative certification programs should be eligible for federal aid, he said.  Additional information including opening statements, witness testimony and a full webcast of the hearing is available here.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Friday, 14 March, 2014

House Subcommittee Approves Science and Technology Bill

The House Research and Technology Subcommittee made strides this week to reauthorize the STEM education and R&D programs included in the America COMPETES Act. The subcommittee held a markup on Thursday where it approved the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186). The bill seeks to reauthorize and prioritize federal research and education programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Introduced Monday by the House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), FIRST calls for greater accountability and transparency in federal grant programs, especially those at NSF. The legislation seeks a two-year rather than a three-year authorization as in 2007 and 2010. It would hold NSF spending at current its current level of $7.17 billion in 2014 and $24 million above the administration’s request in 2015. In addition, the bill seeks to reduce NSF’s social, behavioral, and economic sciences directorate by 40 percent. During opening statements at the markup, Smith emphasized the importance of accountability in tax-funded programs at NSF.

“Taxpayers should be able to rely on Congress and federal agencies to use their hard-earned tax dollars in the most effective way — such as to strengthen our economy, bolster the national defense, and further the national interest. Federal research agencies have an obligation to assure American taxpayers that their money is being spent well.

The FIRST Act does not change NSF’s peer review process. But it does expand accountability and requires transparency so that only high quality research receives taxpayer funds.”

Ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) called FIRST a “missed opportunity” in this press release and introduced her own version of the legislation, the America COMPETES Act of 2014.

“The [FIRST] bill stops much too short of renewing our commitment to maintaining our scientific and technological leadership now and into the future. Last week I and the other Democratic Members introduced the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2014, a comprehensive reauthorization of the 2007 and 2010 Competes Acts. Our bill reflects input from across the research, innovation, and STEM education stakeholder communities. I look forward to full committee consideration of the FIRST Act, where we can have a good debate about the merits of the bill and hopefully have the opportunity to strengthen the message it sends.”

The full committee plans to act on the bill in April. Read more on the main points of contention in FIRST in this ScienceInsider article. Read more about the Markup and the amendments offered to the bill here.

 

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Friday, 7 March, 2014

President’s FY15 Budget Calls for Increased STEM Education Funding

On Tuesday, President Obama sent Congress his budget proposal for the 2015 fiscal year. The plan proposes an investment of $135.4 billion for Federal scientific research and development, an increase of $1.7 billion from 2014 enacted levels. This includes $2.9 billion for STEM education programs across the federal agencies, a 3.7 percent increase over 2014 enacted levels. While last year’s 2014 budget request proposed a drastic reorganization of federal STEM education programs, the 2015 budget plan is quite different in that it does not transfer funding between the agencies. As a result, STEM education funding for agencies including NASA, NIH, and NOAA has been partially restored compared to the 2014 proposal. The administration calls upon the agencies to make internal consolidations, while continuing to invest the programs that are the most effective.

Agencies will work together to implement and build upon the goals of the Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan, developed by the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM). The administration’s priorities, as outlined in the budget request, align with the five priority areas identified in the strategic plan: K-12 instruction; undergraduate education; graduate education; broadening participation in STEM education and careers; and informal education and out-of-school time. Included in the $2.9 billion request for STEM education programs are the following key initiatives:

  • $320 million for the Department of Education’s (ED) STEM Innovation Initiative, including:
    • $110 million for STEM Innovation Networks to provide districts competitive access to STEM teaching and learning resources
    • $20 million to kick off the STEM Master Teacher Corps
    • $40 million for STEM teacher pathways that complement the 100Kin10 movement’s goal to prepare 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next decade
    • $150 million for Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM (formerly the Mathematics and Science Partnerships program)
  • Other K-12 STEM education investments, including:
    • $150 million for a new STEM research and field experience program for high schools
    • $100 million to support the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Discovery Research K-12 program
    • $15 million for the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program
  • Higher education investments supporting the goal to prepare an 1 million more STEM graduates over the next decade, including:
    • $118 million for NSF efforts in undergraduate STEM education
    • $75 million for NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
    • Over $60 million for NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program
  • Investments in STEM graduate education and scientific research, including:
    • $340 million for NSF to support and train graduate-student researchers
    • Over $80 million to the Department of Defense (DOD) for graduate training programs focused on the national security workforce
    • $50 million for Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) at ED to support cutting-edge research for teaching and learning
  • Support for Informal STEM Education, including:
    • $55 million for NSF’s Advancing Informal Science Learning
    • $10 million for the Smithsonian Institution
    • Over $100 million to support NASA’s STEM programs under the Office of Education and the Science Directorate
  • Investments in education technologies and teacher professional development, such as:
    • $200 million for ED’s ConnectEDucators program
    • $300 million through the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative to help support economic growth and national security

Though the President’s budget request is still only a proposal which must be addressed by Congress, it lays out the Administration’s priorities for the coming fiscal year which begins October 1, 2014.

Resources for additional information:

 

Triangle Coalition for STEM Education Members:

Join us for a webinar on STEM Education in the 2015 Budget Request

  • When: Friday, March 14, 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Presenter: Della Cronin, Washington Partners, LLC
  • Members, please RSVP to receive details: Email guelzowa@trianglecoalition.org
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Monday, 3 March, 2014

House Education and Workforce Committee Discusses Teacher Preparation

On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a joint hearing titled, “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession.”  Subcommittee Chairman of Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Todd Rokita (R-IN) chaired the hearing, which focused on the importance of the teaching profession and how to better prepare teachers to influence the nation’s youth, both, before they step in a classroom and while they are licensed teachers.

Rokita convened the hearing by acknowledging research that shows “teachers have an enormous influence on student learning and performance.” However, teacher preparation programs are underperforming and failing to ensure that educators are ready for success in the classroom, said Rokita.

Marcy Singer-Gabella, Professor at Vanderbilt University, began by noting three challenges that the teaching profession faces:

1) a growing gap in student outcomes based on the deepening divide of wealth and opportunity;
2) a shift in years of experienced teachers from a norm of fifteen years to one year; and
3) an increasing reliance on temporary teachers over career teachers.

Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, noted that Rhode Island’s Department of Education adopted new standards and qualifications for teachers through a review and approval process of all educator-preparation programs in the state.  She noted that the new standards were modeled after the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) to include five key elements: classroom practice; diversity in teacher recruitment; certifications based on criteria and assessment; collecting data on the teachers that graduated through their first year of teaching; and analyze, share and report collected data to the public.

Christina Hall, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Urban Teacher Center, remarked on the success of the Urban Teacher Center (UTC) that has received high success ratings of program satisfaction, teacher retention rates and equitable learning results in the career field.  Hall noted that the UTC program is unique to teacher preparation programs across the nation in which aspiring teachers commit to four years of in-classroom training along with graduate-level course work and the schools that agree to pay sizable fees for UTC training students are guaranteed results, “much like a customer would.”

The committees’ questions were based on the difference in compensation for teachers compared to other career fields and the extensive amount of data that schools have to collect for the U.S. Department of Education due to Title II mandates that result in no feedback or outcome analysis for teachers.  For more information on the hearing and an archived webcast, go to: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=371021.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Friday, 28 February, 2014

ED Budget Request Briefing March 4

On March 4, at 1:30 p.m. ET, the U.S. Department of Education will brief stakeholders on the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request.  Stakeholders may join in person at the Department, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC, or watch the briefing streamed live.  Budget materials will be posted that day here.  (Note: Congressional Justifications and some of the detailed documents from the Office of Management and Budget [OMB] will not be available until the following week.) After the President’s budget request is released, Triangle Coalition will hold a webinar discussing the implications for STEM education.

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Thursday, 6 February, 2014

HELP Committee Confirms ED and NSF Nominees

Last Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held an executive session to confirm multiple nominees for the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.  The committee voted on several of the nominees in 2013, but the nominations had to be resubmitted by the White House for consideration in 2014. The HELP Committee confirmed the following nominees:

  • Michael Yudin to serve as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education (ED);
  • James Cole, Jr. to serve as  General Counsel at ED;
  • James Shelton III to serve as  Deputy Secretary of Education at ED;
  • Theodore Reed Mitchell to serve as Under Secretary of Education at ED;
  • Ericka Miller to serve as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, ED; and
  • France Cordova to serve as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

After the executive session, Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee Tom Harkin (D-IA) asserted that the five confirmed appointees at ED “will be a great asset to the Department and help further its work to expand and improve our country’s education opportunities, and help ensure that every student has access to a quality education.” He furthered his remarks by stating that France Cordova is a well-qualified candidate to serve as Director of the NSF and would do a great job promoting the progress and prosperity of science.” All the confirmed nominees will have to wait for full confirmation until the full Senate votes on their nomination. For more information, go to: http://www.help.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=2ca136ee-441f-4ee1-a186-2652253535fa&groups=Chair.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Thursday, 30 January, 2014

Event Brief: State of the Union Address

On Tuesday, January 28, 2014, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union (SOTU) address, and the second of his second term.  In the days before the address, the White House let it be known that the remarks and proposals would outline policies to address income disparity in the United States.  These remarks would undoubtedly touch on education policy issues—the Administration’s early childhood education initiative, the need to make college more accessible and affordable and support for more and better workforce and job training programs to put more Americans to work in better jobs.  STEM (science, technology engineering and mathematics) education seemed likely to make a repeat appearance in the remarks, as did an appeal for action on immigration reform.  The President and his staff also signaled intentions to discuss ideas and changes he could implement without help from Congress.  In fact, earlier in the day it was announced that President Obama would sign an Executive Order raising the minimum wage for new federal contractors from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.  That announcement drew the ire of Hill Republicans who argued the White House was again working around the legislative branch inappropriately.

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

 

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