Education Policy Update

June 17, 2019

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Federal Updates

  • The House brought its first FY20 appropriations bills to the floor in a “minibus” that included the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Defense, State-Foreign Operations, Energy-Water, and Legislative Branch bills last week and is expected to vote on the package early this week.
  • The Department of Education published a notice in the Federal Register proposing regulations regarding “Student Assistance General Provisions, the Secretary’s Recognition of Accrediting Agencies, the Secretary’s Recognition Procedures for State Agencies”. The deadline for public comments is July 12, 2019.
  • The Treasury Department recently released rules that shield private school vouchers and other school choice programs from the new cap on state and local tax deductions. The Secretary of Education announced support for the new rules.

illinois flagIllinois Education Policy Update

In his first legislative session, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker ushered in a sharp reversal from the previous four years of austerity under Republican Governor Bruce Rauner with a bipartisan budget that included over $1 billion in new appropriations. In this budget, the Governor followed through on a signature campaign promise to increase education funding by appropriating $8.8 billion in funding for elementary and high schools. This was an increase in $379 million over last year’s budget and exceeded the $29 million increase required in the state’s recently revamped education funding formula.

In addition, the legislature passed several bills that made changes to Illinois’ public education system with a particular focus on the state’s teacher shortage problem. In 2018, the legislature passed a bill to allow for reciprocity so that teachers who move to Illinois from other states automatically qualify for their teaching credentials in Illinois. This change led to an increase in applicants and legislators sought to build on that success this year by passing other measures related to the teacher shortage issue. One piece of legislation seeks to ease the shortage by increasing the minimum salary for teachers to $40,000 by 2023. Lawmakers also passed legislation to eliminate the basic skills test required for teacher licensing. The basic skills test has become increasingly difficult over time and is one of three tests that applicants for teaching licenses must take. Currently the test has a 25% pass rate and is widely considered to be a deterrence for those hoping to enter the profession.

Another education bill advanced this session aims to encourage college attendance by requiring students to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to receive a high school diploma. Legislators also passed the first capital bill in 10 years which will lead to much needed construction and repair projects for school districts throughout Illinois.

State Updates

Fifteen states are currently in session with six adjourning at the end of June.

  • In the final days of  its session, New York is considering several bills to further regulate for-profit institutions of higher education (S 5598/A 7965; S 5581/A 8170).
  • In New Hampshire, the legislature passed a commission to study teacher preparation and education programs (HB 258). The California State Assembly passed a bill to require the State Department of Education to develop and implement the Literacy Academy for California Educators as a statewide professional learning infrastructure to provide evidence-based support to educators in teaching, reading and literacy across grades and across the content areas (A 1684). The measure is now being considered by the Senate.
  • The Louisiana legislature passed SR 182 which establishes the Louisiana Early Literacy Commission. The purpose of the commission is to study and make recommendations to develop and implement an aligned system to provide effective evidence-based reading instruction for children from birth through third grade.
  • Recent legislation in Nevada and Texas regulates the autonomy of charter schools. Nevada AB 462 prohibits state education authorities to open a charter school until January 1, 2021. Texas SB 372 gives authority to open-enrollment charter schools to expand school safety personnel.