Senior Legislative Analyst
Higher Education Act Reauthorization and the Growing Teacher Shortage
As advocates for K-12 system administrators, the Higher Education Act is not a natural fit. However, like with healthcare and tax policy fights we have engaged in previously, we learn that to advocate for superintendents means to work on anything that could impact schools. Through this, we are paying close attention to the Higher Education Act reauthorization conversations in both the House and Senate. We are keeping a particularly close eye on the elements that would impact teacher preparation and anything that could exacerbate teacher shortages in the future.
Last month, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act through their committee. This bill is premised on simplifying and streamlining the student aid system. The bill promotes a “one grant, one loan, one work-study, two repayment plans” structure, giving every student access to the same funding supports, no matter their study and career path. This means it eliminates TEACH Grants, Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This means a graduate working on Wall Street and one teaching in a rural school would have the same grants, loans and repayment options. This is very concerning, given the high expense of higher education and the financial sacrifice many teachers make by entering and staying in the public education system.
The PROPSER Act has passed through the House committee on a fully partisan vote (all Republicans voted yes, all Democrats voted no). Chairwoman Foxx has reiterated her desire to have a full vote on the House floor, but no such vote has been scheduled. Rumors are that there may be enough dissenters to keep it from passing. Also, this bill is not a priority for Speaker Ryan, in a time of higher profile issues.
The good news is that the PROSPER Act would never pass the Senate. Senators Alexander and Murray are committed to working together in a bipartisan way to reauthorize this bill. Both the Republicans and Democrats have released their priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which show very different commitments. The Republicans are focused on simplifying and streamlining the system. The Democrats are focused on increasing affordability and accessibility.
As these bills move forward, we will be asking for your support in protecting and improving programs vital to your workforce.