Capitol Report

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    Midterm elections are over, and although the final results of some races are still being determined, the overall impact is that the U.S. House of Representatives will be run by Democrats for the 116th Congress and Republicans will remain in charge of the Senate. 
    Midterm elections are over, and although the final results of some races are still being determined, the overall impact is that the U.S. House of Representatives will be run by Democrats for the 116th Congress and Republicans will remain in charge of the Senate. 
    In December, the White House is expected to unveil its 5-year strategic plan for STEM education programs. 
    At the end of September, President Trump signed an $854 billion spending bill that will fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Defense for FY 2019, which starts October 1. 
    Each year, NCTM and the education community watch Congress debate federal spending for programs at the Department of Education.

    This time of year is usually quiet in Washington as members of the House and Senate leave Capitol Hill to return to their home states and districts. August is a month for light Congressional schedules for members of the House and a monthlong recess that will involve district work, traveling for their jobs, and campaigning.

    As the summer heats up, the House and Senate are in the midst of the annual exercise to decide future spending levels for agencies and programs important to education and research communities.
    Capitol Hill is frenetic these days. As the mid-term elections near, Congressional leadership is strategizing on which bills to vote on, which to avoid, and how to best position their party for Election Day. As a result, the advocacy community is busy reacting. For example, there have been persistent rumors that the House will be debating the PROSPER Act soon. The proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which was passed by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in December, has zero support from Democrats.

    Washington, DC, hosted NCTM’s Annual Meeting & Exposition in April.  Thousands of math educators, researchers and faculty descended on the nation’s capital to hear from colleagues, experts and researchers on the state of the teaching and learning of mathematics.  Given the location of this year’s meeting, there was a new emphasis on advocacy throughout the event.

    Just before leaving Washington, DC for a two-week recess, Congress passed a 2,232-page spending bill that covers every federal agency and program for FY 2018. That $1.3 trillion bill, which has been the subject of intense negotiations, and a last-minute veto threat, will finally resolve federal spending—almost six months into the fiscal year that began October 1, 2017.  While the process has been full of ups and downs and two government shutdowns, the final result is a good one for NCTM, mathematics teachers and educators and the STEM education community.
    In Washington, D.C., the spring brings thousands of advocates to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the issues and federal programs that affect them. This year, the DC location for the 2018 NCTM Annual Meeting & Exposition gives interested attendees the opportunity to Sign up for Hill Visits to receive training and then visit with their congressional representatives on Wednesday April 25.
    The New Year has not brought bipartisanship or harmony to Capitol Hill. To kick off 2018, Members of Congress and the White House engaged in battles over federal funding, immigration, the infamous wall, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and a healthcare market stabilization deal. The results so far? A short government shutdown in January that ultimately resulted in another temporary spending deal and a pledge from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that he and his colleagues would work toward a vote on an immigration bill.
    Before leaving Washington, DC, for the holidays last month, Members of Congress gave President Donald Trump the Christmas gift he wanted—the passage of a tax reform bill. The bill, its development, debate and content received lots of coverage in the media, but educators were particularly concerned about several provisions.  
    Last month, NCTM and many others in the education community spent time reading and reacting to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s proposed priorities for competitive grant programs at the Department of Education. Not surprisingly, school choice headlines the priorities as its first, but the Secretary proposes 11 total priorities.

    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.
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