At Halfway Mark, Congress Faces Pile of Education Issues

"The 115th Congress is about halfway over, and when it comes to education, GOP leaders in Congress accomplished one top priority thus far: ditching accountability rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act from the Obama administration. But what else have lawmakers gotten done? Education Week has broken down the issues and the bills into two categories: those for which lawmakers have made discernible progress in the form of votes and those that are stuck in the mud," Education Week reports

"Omitted are appropriations for fiscal 2018 that will have a big impact on K-12 but weren't yet decided as of the print deadline late last week, and the tax overhaul that President Donald Trump signed into law in December.

'It's early still. There's still a lot of time for things to be happening,' said Michele McLaughlin, a former Democratic Senate staffer who now leads the Knowledge Alliance, an education policy and research group. 'I think the tax debate took a toll on bipartisan relationships across the Senate. I don't think this is exclusive to education. I just think it's been very hard.'

...Last month, the House education committee passed the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform, or PROSPER, Act, which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Among other changes, the bill would ultimately eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (which is available to teachers), raise certain federal loan limits, put a new "dashboard" in place to give prospective students more information about debt, and reauthorize the Pell Grant program for low-income students, though the maximum Pell award would remain the same. The main higher education law was last updated in 2008.

Getting a new HEA over the finish line is a top priority for Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, who has continued working with his counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the committee's top Democrat. But a new higher education law crafted by Republicans might be an especially tough sell to fellow committee Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

...This is perhaps the issue on this list with the highest profile. Trump announced his plans in September to end DACA, which provides protections to people brought illegally to the United States as children, but said he'd give Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution. About 250,000 school-age children have become eligible for DACA since former President Barack Obama instituted it via executive order in 2012. Some kind of legal protections might be included in a fiscal 2018 appropriations deal later this month—or they might not."

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Publication Date: 1/18/2018

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