CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS
Education Committee Considers Teacher Prep and Apprenticeships
The House Education and Labor Committee held hearings in July on teachers and apprenticeships. The July 17 hearing “Educating our Educators: How Federal Policy Can Better Support Teachers and School Leaders" focused on teacher and school leader preparation. Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment Chairwoman Susan Davis (D-CA) remarked, "Despite the clear benefits of strong school leadership for both teachers and students, school leader preparation receives little attention compared to teacher preparation." Several other committee members and witnesses addressed the issue of expanding support for teacher preparation programs in the Higher Education Act to include school leaders. Increasing support for teacher residency programs, particularly through the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant program, was also echoed by members and witnesses.
On July 16, the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee held a hearing "Scaling Up Apprenticeships: Building on the Success of International Apprenticeship Models." Witnesses from Australia, Germany, and Switzerland discussed how apprenticeships are utilized in their respective countries. Committee members noted the higher utilization of apprenticeships in other countries and the importance of government investment in the apprenticeship system. Witnesses also noted the importance of the connection between industry and higher education in supporting apprenticeships.
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House Judiciary Holds Hearing on Policy Changes and Processing Delays at USCIS
On July 16, the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee reviewed the impact of policy changes on the backlog of visa and citizenship applications at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Witnesses from USCIS were asked multiple times to explain the causes of delays. USCIS officials pointed to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy as a cause of the backlog. Additionally, recent policies requiring more stringent vetting through in-person interviews and multiple security checks were cited as contributing factors. The officials noted that the vetting policies have increased the number of fraud investigations, requiring review of previously completed filings. Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) asked about H-1B Visas and Optional Practical Training (OPT) under F1 Visas. OPT applications are at times not approved until the internship has already ended.
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Legislative Bills of Note
H.R. 3827 (Rep. Castro, D-TX)- HERE Act. This bill would create a grant program to encourage collaboration between school districts with a majority of Hispanic students and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), providing academic support for the preparation of students for college and beyond.
S. 2024 (Sen. Cornyn, R-TX)- USA Civics Act of 2019. The bill will authorize federal grants for universities and colleges to improve and develop programs involving history, democracy, and civic life.
H.R. 3418 (Rep. Chu, D-CA)- Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt (POST GRAD) Act. The bill would reinstate access to federal subsidized student loans for graduate students. Access to these loans was previously ended in 2012 by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
S. 2124 (Sen. Hawley, R-MO)- Skin in the Game Act. This bill would require institutions of higher education to pay off 50 percent of the balance of student loans for students who default. The bill would also prevent institutions from increasing the cost of attendance.