Draft Spending Bills Would Prohibit Proposed Teacher-Prep Regulations

By Stephen Sawchuk — June 23, 2015 2 min read
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Both the House and the Senate appropriation subcommittees have approved draft spending bills that would prevent the U.S. Department of Education from issuing final rules on teacher-preparation accountability.

A refresher here: The proposed rules, due out this fall, would require states to rate their preparation programs based on measures such as teacher and employer surveys, student outcomes, and retention rates. The lowest scoring would be prohibited from offering federal TEACH grants to subsidize teacher preparation.

In its bill, the House appropriations subcommittee inserted a provision to prevent the agency from using any of its funds to promulgate or enforce its proposed rules. Today, the Senate appropriations subcommittee followed suit. (The full appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate will take a look at their respective subcommittee’s bills later this week.)

The measures also would prevent the Obama administration from moving ahead with its gainful-employment regulations (aimed at for-profit training colleges) and a college-rating system. All of the higher education proposals have been vigorously opposed by the higher education lobby.

On the teacher-prep side, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is dead-set against the Education Department’s bid to tie financial aid to the proposed regulations, and supports scrapping them.

Elsewhere, Republican lawmakers have introduced stand-alone bills that would delay the rules, though not eliminate them outright.

Policy “riders” like these are fairly common in appropriations bills. And to be clear, the federal appropriations process has grown so messy and contested that neither of these bills is likely to pass as-is. (In recent years, appropriators have had to pass a bunch of continuing resolutions to keep the government funded, followed by a late omnibus spending bill.) This year’s process is going to be especially difficult because lawmakers are squabbling over how the spending bills will dovetail with planned across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration. Make sure to read my colleague Lauren Camera’s summary for more on how that works.

So there’s time for these provisions to be eliminated or tweaked. But their inclusion in the spending bills is a sign that, on the Republican side at least, lawmakers are not on board with this Obama administration priority.

Why is that, you ask? Even though Republicans are no big fans of teacher-preparation programs, most are even less happy with the Education Department attempting to initiate big policy shifts through regulation, rather than legislation.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.