March 7, 2017
This newsletter is published quarterly and updates members of NCSL’s Education Standing Committee on federal developments that may affect the states.
The Senate voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education on Feb. 7. It marked the first time in history that the vice president was needed to cast the tie-breaking vote on a U.S. Cabinet nominee as Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) withheld their support. As one of her first acts as secretary of Education, DeVos clarified on Feb. 10 in a letter to chief state school officers her intention to implement and enforce the statutory requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
According to the letter, the department is reviewing the regulatory requirements of consolidated state plans as reflected in the current template and will develop a revised template detailing only what is "absolutely necessary," as outlined in ESSA statute, by March 13. The department will still accept state plans on April 3 or Sept. 18 of this year, as communicated to State Education Agencies in November 2016. On Feb. 22, DeVos also issued new Title IX guidelines withdrawing guidelines released by the Obama administration last year that required school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. DeVos' announcement says the old guidelines had given rise to legal questions and the issue was best resolved at the state level. NCSL's blog on the Supreme Court case on transgender bathroom rights can be found here, and NCSL's legislative tracking on the issue is available here.
H.J. Res. 58, sponsored by Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), passed the House on Feb. 7 and will next be considered by the Senate. The measure, which is a resolution of disapproval, would block U.S. Department of Education regulations regarding institutions of teacher preparation that were finalized in October 2016. NCSL recently sent a letter in support of the resolution to the subcommittee and had previously called on the department to withdraw both the proposed rule and a subsequent reopening of the proposed rule. H. J. Res. 57, introduced by Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), also passed the House on the same day and will next be considered by the Senate. The resolution blocks a regulation implementing accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In keeping with a common practice of new presidents, the new administration is late providing its budget to Congress. A presidential budget proposal is technically due the first Monday in February, but it is common for new presidents to miss the deadline by two or three months after providing initial details in late February. President Donald Trump indicated in a budget meeting at the White House Feb. 22 that he plans to release a rough budget blueprint by mid-March. Though the Senate confirmed Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) as director of the Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 16, the Trump administration has yet to establish the policy team central to crafting the proposal. A relatively timely budget will remain a priority given a series of spending deadlines expected this spring.
Contact Michelle Exstrom or Lucia Bragg for more information on federal education news.
Digital literacy refers to fluency in the use and security of interactive digital tools and searchable networks. This includes the ability to use digital tools safely and effectively for learning, collaborating and producing. Digital citizenship is a broader term that often incorporates the concept of digital literacy. Digital citizenship is defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior when using technology. States including Arizona, California, Connecticut, New Mexico and West Virginia have introduced digital literacy / digital citizenship legislation in 2017. For more info, see NCSL's LegisBrief, Promoting Digital Literacy and Citizenship in School, and these NCSL online resources.
At least 29 states have introduced private school choice legislation so far in 2017. A number of states are considering voucher-type programs with near universal eligibility. Check out NCSL's school choice resources here.
Fourteen states have introduced legislation in the 2017 session that would restrict access to multiuser restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of a definition of sex or gender consistent with sex assigned at birth or "biological sex." Of the 12 states with legislation still pending, eight states are considering policy options specific to public schools. Learn more here .
NCSL's 2017 P-3 Tracking page covers preschool through third grade issues including, but not limited to: preschool finance and access, school readiness, dual language learners, early STEM education, literacy and numeracy, family engagement and more. So far in 2017, NCSL is watching trends in legislation on:
Representative Robert Behning, Co-Chair
Representative Behning has served in the Indiana State Legislature since 1992, representing House District 91. He was born and raised in Indianapolis and has been a proud Hoosier his entire life. He was a small business owner for 34 years. In 1976, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University. He currently serves as the chair of the Indiana House Education Committee and is an NCSL Early Learning Fellow and a member of NCSL's International Education Study Group.
Representative Alice Peisch, Co-Chair
Representative Peisch has served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 2003, representing the 14th Norfolk District and Precinct 4. Prior to her service in the legislature, Representative Peisch was active in Wellesley's municipal government. Representative Peisch received an A.B. from Smith College in 1976, a J.D. from Suffolk University in 1979, and a MPA from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 2009. She currently serves as the House Chair of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education and is an NCSL Early Learning Fellow and a member of NCSL's International Education Study Group.