Federal

House OKs Higher Ed. Act Reauthorization

By Alyson Klein — April 04, 2006 6 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The House of Representatives approved a measure to reauthorize the Higher Education Act last week that would establish or bolster several programs aimed at improving K-12 education, including the creation of a corps of “adjunct teachers” to lead classes in math, science, and critical foreign languages.

It also would authorize more money for Pell Grants and require colleges to provide more information on tuition increases.

The measure, which passed 221-199 in the Republican-controlled House on March 30, largely along party lines, would renew the law for six years. It would authorize about $4.78 billion for fiscal year 2007 for programs that train teachers, prepare K-12 students for higher education, and help financially needy students afford college.

The bill aims to strengthen mathematics and science education in secondary schools, partly by creating a program allowing professionals in those fields to serve as adjunct teachers. It would also allow federal teacher education money to go toward training more teachers to lead Advanced Placement classes in subjects such as chemistry and calculus.

The Senate is expected to take up its version of the HEA legislation later this year.

Some Issues Settled

The bill to rewrite the HEA, which was last reauthorized in 1998, would also raise the maximum Pell Grant amount and instruct the Department of Education to provide more user-friendly information about colleges to the public.

Under the measure, colleges that increased tuition at more than twice the rate of inflation over a three-year period would have to justify their prices.

HEA Renewal Advances

The House last week approved a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that would:

• Authorize an Adjunct Teacher Corps, which would allow professionals from outside education to lead classes in math, science, and critical foreign languages, similar to a program proposed by President Bush.
• Establish a Teacher Incentive Fund program, which would give grants to states interested in offering “performance-based pay” for teachers.
• Authorize extra Pell Grant money to students in the State Scholars program, offered in 14 states.
• Bolster foreign-language study by fostering partnerships between schools and colleges.
• Allow money for teacher training to be used to prepare educators to teach Advanced Placement classes.

SOURCE: Education Week

But House Democrats lambasted the overall reauthorization bill as not doing enough to further the original mission of the Higher Education Act, which was first adopted in 1965 to increase access to college.

Most financial-aid programs were renewed separately under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, signed by President Bush earlier this year. That legislation cut about $12 billion in mandatory spending on student loans over five years, in part by trimming subsidies to lenders.

The deficit-reduction law also established Academic Competitiveness Grants, which will give larger Pell Grants to college freshmen and sophomores who took a rigorous high school curriculum, as well as to juniors and seniors who major in math or science, or in foreign languages that are deemed critical to national security and economic competitiveness. It also increased loan-forgiveness limits for math, science, and special education teachers who work in needy schools for at least five years. (“Congress OKs Aid Based on ‘Rigorous’ H.S. Curricula,” Feb. 8, 2006.)

Although that measure had already passed, its anticipated effect on student borrowers continued to inflame the debate over the Higher Education Act reauthorization.

College is “an opportunity that should never, ever be foreclosed just because someone cannot afford to take advantage of it,” Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said on the House floor.

But the education panel’s chairman, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said the Democrats were focusing too narrowly on changes to the federal student-aid program that had already passed, while ignoring the higher education bill’s efforts to “advance American competitiveness.”

“If you’ve listened to most of what the other side is talking about, they’re complaining about what we did a couple months ago in the Deficit Reduction Act to bring some controls to the budget,” Rep. McKeon said during the floor debate.

Adjunct Teacher Corps

The Adjunct Teacher Corps proved to be another sticking point among lawmakers. The program, which is similar to a proposal advanced by President Bush in his State of the Union Address, was part of an amendment that passed 293-134. It would authorize grants to recruit and place math, science, and other professionals in secondary school classes. Poor and underperforming schools would be given priority for the assistance.

The amendment drew criticism from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J., a former teacher, said that it “undercuts the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act of having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom,” since adjuncts would not have to meet that standard. (“‘Adjunct Teachers’ Could Do End Run Around NCLB Act,” March 1, 2006.)

But Rep. Holt argued that the program “recognizes that these are not fully fledged teachers,” since grantees would have to demonstrate how they planned to prepare adjunct teachers, including providing preservice training and assigning teachers with the “highly qualified” label under the NCLB law to be on-site mentors.

Under the amendment, money could also be used to pay for partnership programs between colleges and school districts to encourage students to study the same language from kindergarten through college, such as immersion environments.

The amendment would also allow teacher-training funds to be used to prepare educators to lead AP classes and preparatory classes in math, science, and critical foreign languages.

The legislation would also permit graduate students interested in careers training math, science, and special education teachers to receive federally funded scholarships under the existing Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need Program, which is designed to help high-achieving low-income students pursue advanced degrees in key professions.

Jane E. West, the vice president of government relations for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, in Washington, praised the provision. She said it would be a good step in addressing a shortage of educators qualified to train teachers for those subjects.

Teacher Incentive Funds

The bill would also authorize about $100 million in grants to states interested in developing Teacher Incentive Funds to reward educators who raise student achievement, particularly those who teach in high-need schools or subjects.

Kim Anderson, a lobbyist for the 2.8 million-member National Education Association, said the teachers’ union is wary of the provision. The NEA does not want to see federally mandated pay for performance, she said.

“We do support paying bonuses to teachers who agree to go and teach in schools that are in need of improvement, … but starting going down this road—that makes us uneasy,” she said.

Meanwhile, the HEA reauthorization passed by the House calls for raising spending on Pell Grants to $6,000, although Rep. Miller and other Democrats said there is no way to ensure that the increase would be appropriated. The bill would also permit students in the State Scholars program to receive up to $1,000 a year in additional Pell Grant money during their first two years of college. Pell Grants, which are given based on need, currently range from $400 to $4,050.

Districts in 14 states offer the State Scholars program, which fosters partnerships between businesses and schools to encourage students to take challenging high school courses, such as advanced math and foreign languages.

Ross Wiener, the policy director of the Education Trust, a Washington-based group that seeks to improve education for needy students, praised the program’s goals, but he questioned whether the State Scholars program was the best vehicle for offering enhanced Pell Grants, since it does not exist in many states.

“It would be a big problem to focus financial incentives only on students who are in a few states,” Mr. Wiener said.

A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 2006 edition of Education Week as House OKs Higher Ed. Act Reauthorization

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal The Senate Gun Bill: What It Would Mean for School Safety, Mental Health Efforts
Details of a bipartisan Senate agreement on guns outline additional funding to support student mental health programs.
6 min read
Protesters take to the streets of downtown Detroit June 11 to call for new gun laws. One holds up a sign that says "policy and change."
Protesters call for new gun laws in Detroit's March for Our Lives event earlier this month.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal What Educators Need to Know About Senators' Bipartisan Deal on Guns, School Safety
In addition to gun restrictions, a tentative compromise would also fund mental health and school safety programs—but it faces hurdles.
4 min read
Protesters hold up a sign that shows the outline of a rifle struck through with a yellow line at a demonstration in support of stronger gun laws.
Protesters gather for the March For Our Lives rally in Detroit, among the demonstrations against gun violence held on the heels of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal Senate Negotiators Announce a Deal on Guns, Breaking Logjam
The agreement offers modest gun curbs and bolstered efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.
5 min read
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2022, urging Congress to pass gun legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Federal Education Secretary: 'Let's Transform Our Appreciation of Teachers to Action'
Miguel Cardona shared strategies to help recruit, develop, and retain effective teachers.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the White House on April 27.
Susan Walsh/AP