Legislative Priorities in the 115th Congress
Over the past several years, NAESP has worked aggressively on Capitol Hill and with the Obama Administration to help lawmakers understand a very important facet of the educational ecosystem: the importance of school leadership. Without recognition and support for principals as the catalysts for continuous school improvement, it is virtually impossible to improve school conditions that lead to better instruction in the classroom and student learning outcomes. In addition, our efforts focused on showing the detrimental impact of a shortsighted, stick-driven approach to accountability on schools, which did nothing to uphold schools that were showing student progress, but not meeting arbitrary bars. As we sort through the provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we are pleased to say that our persistence paid off. Now that the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177) has been signed into law, the NAESP advocacy team has shifted to other priorities outside the flagship education bill. Below you will find our priorities for 2017.
Our 2017 Bill Watch List
Higher Education Act Reauthorization
Now that the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177) has been signed into law, NAESP will focus on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which should have been reauthorized in 2013. Just before the New Year, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Educator Preparation Reform Act (S. 2419) aimed at better preparing teachers, principals and other educators to be effective and profession-ready on day one by making changes to the Teacher Quality Preparation Program and the TEACH grants both found in HEA. NAESP will also be pushing for the Recruiting and Retaining Effective School Leaders Act (H.R. 3925), which was introduced in November by Representative Susan Davis (D-CA). This bill would provide loan forgiveness over a seven-year period to elementary, middle, and high school principals and assistant principals who work in schools where at least 30 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Student Data Privacy Bills
Members of Congress introduced a number of competing privacy bills in 2014 that will continue to be the subject of debate in 2015, including measures designed to update the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and expand the Federal Trade Commission’s jurisdiction to cover for profit and non-profit entities handling student data. These federal bills follow in the wake of over 180 measures introduced and debated by state legislators last year and aim to better reflect the data and privacy concerns increasingly raised by parents, students, and schools.
Last year, NAESP endorsed the SAFE KIDS Act (S. 1788) introduced by Senator Daines (R-MT) and Senator Blumenthal (D-CT), which would place greater controls over third party entities that work with schools and consequently have access to personally identifiable and other student data. Other pending federal student privacy bills include the: Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157) introduced by Representative Rokita (R-IN) and Representative Fudge (D-OH); the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act (H.R. 2092) introduced by Representative Messer (R-IN) and Representative Polis (D-CO); and the Protecting Student Privacy Act of 2015 (S. 1322) introduced by Senator Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Markey (D-MA), and the Student Privacy Protection Act (S.1341) introduced by Senator Vitter (R-LA).
Among these measures, NAESP expects S.1788 and H.R. 3157 to be the subject of further committee level work in 2016. S.1788 may be considered by the Senate Commerce Committee this winter and House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Kline has expressed interest in moving H.R. 3157 through the process prior to his retirement at the end of 2016. NAESP does not expect the full congress to approve privacy legislation this year, but the advocacy team is carefully following the process to ensure principals’ perspectives are heard on both sides of the Capitol.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization
On the agenda for the Senate Agricultural Committee this month is Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has been due for reauthorization since September 2015. Chairman Roberts has indicated he intends to markup a draft bill as soon as schedules allow. Committee staff have been working on a bipartisan compromise bill with the goal of moving the bill quickly through Committee and the Senate. Reauthorization will update the verification process for students qualifying for free and reduced lunch as well as making changes to nutrition standards. NAESP is following this issue and will bring updates when the text of the draft bill is released to stakeholders.
Middle School Career Exploration and Technical Education
Education advocates also anticipate Congress will move on reauthorization Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act last reauthorized in 2006. The majority of Perkins concerns career and technical education programs at the high school level but there is some new focus on providing opportunities for younger students, particularly middle school students, to explore career paths and benefit from CTE programming. In particular we are following Senator Kaine of Virginia’s Middle School STEP Act (S. 2788) which would create a pilot program for providing career exploration opportunities to middle school students using Perkins funding.
Read more about NAESP’s federal policy recommendations here.
This research update provides further evidence for these recommendations.