Capitol Report

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    A few weeks ago, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team released a list of priorities that will govern the agency’s competitive grant programs. The notice published in the Federal Register outlines 11 priorities. Once the Department of Education (ED) receives comments from the community (which can be submitted up until November 13), the agency will issue final priorities.  Then, according to the agency, the Secretary “may choose to use one or more” of the priorities in new competitive grant award cycles. ED says, “These priorities align with the vision set forth by the Secretary in support of high-quality educational opportunities for students of all ages.”

    Since the beginning of the year, STEM education advocates have been hopeful that the Trump Administration might take up their cause. It seems as though the Administration has identified an education issue it cares about and has created some policy to support it.
    August was a slow month in Washington, DC. As usual.  Even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R KY) tried to keep the Senate in town a bit longer than originally planned to address health care reform, the Senate was
    Before the House and Senate left Washington, DC, for the August recess, the House took action on the FY 2018 spending bills that will govern spending at several federal research agencies and the Department of Education, keeping the education and STEM education advocacy communities busy in July.
    With Washington hitting some of its warmest days of the year this month, Congress and the White House are well aware that the month-long August recess is not very far away—leaving little time for many of the big items that were on their wish list for this year.
    The Trump Administration has released its first full fledged budget proposal, and—as expected—its plans for K 12 education and STEM education programs aren’t great.
    It looks as though April showers brought May budget deals in Washington. On May Day, Congressional leaders unveiled a budget deal on fiscal year 2017 to avoid a federal shutdown. The plan finally answered many questions for the STEM and education advocacy communities.
    The Senate has been working to confirm his proposed cabinet members, and the fight to get Betsy DeVos to her post at the Department of Education (ED) was particularly contentious. Ultimately, her nomination was confirmed by a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence—the first time a cabinet nomination needed the Vice President’s vote. And the exercise left the normally unified education community a bit battered and bruised.
    New Year. New President. New Congress. These have been keeping NCTM and the Washington education and STEM education communities busy. A change in Administration always brings change to the city—personnel leaving jobs and getting new ones, office changes on Capitol Hill, and new priorities and directions for federal agencies. This time is no different, and so far the education community is finding the changes to be jarring.
    The biggest developments in STEM education policy in December took place on Capitol Hill. Between the funding fight to avoid a federal shutdown and the 11th-hour surprise approval of legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, advocates were busy chasing rumors and watching C-SPAN. Ultimately, Congress chose to approve a continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2017 spending that will level-fund federal programs through April 28, 2017.
    November has been full of surprises. The biggest was that Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th President of the United States. That development has had the STEM education community scrambling to discover what he or his cabinet members might do in the realm of education next year.
    By Della B. Cronin At last, what has arguably been the most acrimonious general election cycle in recent memory has ended, and American voters have elected Donald Trump as President. The divisive election season energized a voting demographic united
    By Della B. Cronin Congress returned to Washington on September 6 after one of their longest breaks in the past 50 years.  They face what is expected to be a busy September, and then will hit
    Before Congress left town for its August recess, there was a flurry of activity. The House Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending bill. Overall, the news for education wasn’t good.

    Congress will return from its Memorial Day recess the week of June 6, leaving five weeks until they leave for their respective conventions and the August recess. As the Congressional calendar shrinks, members of Congress are trying to see what can get done. The fights around annual spending are in full swing, and two bills important to the STEM education community—the Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill and the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill—aren’t likely to make it very far before members of the House and Senate leave town.

    The education community in Washington, DC, is a bit uneasy these days. And really busy. The enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has left many stakeholders wondering how the new law will be implemented. Earlier this year, the Department of Education (ED) convened a “negotiated rulemaking” committee to debate and negotiate guidance around two issues in Title I of the new law—assessments and the “supplement, not supplant” (or, SNS) provisions that forbid states from replacing state investments in education with federal dollars. 
    Capitol Hill is busy these days. While the presidential election continues to dominate national headlines, Congressional offices are busy with meetings as various constituents come into town to visit with them and their bosses on countless topics. Health care, child nutrition, transportation, education, research, investments in policing, support for Pell Grants, and many other programs and issues are being discussed all day in offices.

    One month into the New Year and the headline-grabbing action in Washington, DC has been snow.  A storm that dumped more than two feet of the white stuff onto a town not known for its ability to deal with it left federal offices closed and Members of Congress unable to return to the city. As a result, the biggest news from the Hill to date remains the President’s State of the Union address. In early February, NCTM will be eagerly awaiting the FY 2017 budget request that will follow.

    NCTM and education advocates are chasing rumors on action on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act all over Washington—and have been for weeks. Both the House and Senate passed their proposals to reauthorize ESEA earlier this year. The next step in the legislative process is a House-Senate conference negotiation to develop a single proposal from the two disparate ones.
    There was a bright spot of news in STEM education recently. The STEM Education Act of 2015 (HR 1020) passed the Senate. The bill passed the House earlier this year with overwhelming bipartisan support and is expected to make it to the White House after some technical changes are approved by the House.
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