Trends in Education

Trends in Education 2015

The 2014 mid-term elections resulted in a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, and control of a majority of governor’s mansions and state legislative chambers. This will cause shifts in educational priorities, policies and programs at both the national and state levels.

Republicans flexed their muscle in cutting deals to finalize the Continuing Resolution (CR) legislation that funds the federal government through the end of FY 2015. The bill has been nicknamed — CRominbus — for the CR Omnibus Appropriations bill.

As Congress returned from its Thanksgiving recess, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the incoming chair of the Senate committee overseeing education in the 114th Congress, announced that his top priority is fixing No Child Left Behind. His goal is to have a bill signed by President Obama in 2015. This will require bipartisanship that’s been elusive since the law first came up for renewal in 2007.

Some trends you can expect and questions that need to be answered during 2015 are:

NATIONAL TRENDS AND ACTIONS

  • Effort to reauthorize both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) and the Higher Education Act, especially federal student aid
  • Increased support for early learning by Congress and the President
  • Expanded efforts in STEM
  • Streamline the FASFA form to qualify students for postsecondary financial aid
  • Expand charter school funding, vouchers and other choice options
  • Move towards more block grants with federal education dollars
  • Consolidate federal student loan programs to make them more efficient, and sensitive to the growing student debt and expand who is eligible for Pell grants
  • Continue the battle over appropriations including education
  • Change and improve teacher preparation and induction including alternative means to certification
  • Increase funding for the E-rate and change how the funds can be used
  • Continued issuance of state flexibility waivers by U.S. Department of Education
  • Work on sequestration to forgo drastic funding cuts
  • See the demise of funding for the Race to the Top initiative

QUESTIONS

  • What will Sen. Alexander have to do to get ESEA out of the HELP Committee?
  • What tradeoffs will be made between House and Senate versions of ESEA so it goes to the President to be signed into law?
  • Will the Senate HELP Committee focus on student aid issues only to reauthorize a portion or the whole Higher Education Act?
  • Can Congress address appropriations in a timely fashion and solve sequestration?
  • Will there be any bi-partisan legislation in the 114th Congress?
  • How will Republicans in districts and states that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 act and vote given they are up for election in 2016?

STATE TRENDS AND ACTIONS

  • Expand funding for early learning
  • Continue concern over the Common Core and assessments with movement by several states towards their own high standards
  • Limit increases in investments for elementary and secondary and postsecondary education by state legislatures
  • Increased effort to create career skills courses and certification programs in community colleges, especially STEM careers
  • Expanded efforts in selected states to increase the number of charter schools and choice options
  • Move by several states away from assessment consortia to having their own assessments developed
  • Increased involvement by governors in education policy and issues
  • Efforts to alter and improve teacher preparation and induction, and examine teacher tenure rules
  • Continued requests by states for flexibility waivers from the U.S. Department of Education
  • Changing individual state policies to reduce the number of required assessments
  • Increased scrutiny and action at colleges and universities over alcohol, campus crimes and student behavior

QUESTIONS

  • How many states will create their own high standards and develop their own state assessments?
  • Will states increase funding for education?
  • Will Governors continue to be education change advocates?
  • How will state legislatures act on education change, funding and related issues?

As one peers into a crystal ball for 2015 trends, be cognizant of several impending fiscal speed bumps that will occur and affect public policy and programs including:

  • Jan. 1, 2015 — Retroactive Tax Extenders and enhanced Medicaid provider payments expire (Congress working on a deal)
  • March 16, 2015 — Debt ceiling reinstated
  • May 31, 2015 — Highway bill expires; Highway Trust Fund runs out
  • Sept. 30, 2015 — Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expires
  • Oct. 1, 2015 — Spending Caps in Bipartisan Budget Act end and sequestration reappears in FY 2016.
  • 2016 — Social Security’s Disability Trust Fund exhausted

To get a sense of where things stand state by state with standards including the Common Core, read the following piece that includes a state interactive map: Common Core Politics and Elections: Will the Standards Survive Through 2016? (HEAT MAP) by Emmeline Zhao

Remember that Republicans control both houses of Congress, and hold two-thirds of the state legislative bodies, after winning control of 11 more chambers. They completely control the legislature in more than half the states, adding Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia.... And they gained two more governor’s seats, so they will hold 31 in 2015.

This is just a glimpse at some education trends for 2015.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Fritz Edelstein is a principal in Public Private Action. His work focuses on strategic government and constituent relations, business development strategy, advocacy research and policy analysis, strategic planning and resource development, and advocacy, outreach and public engagement. This work includes producing Fritzwire, the education Internet newsletter providing timely information on education and related issues. To subscribe, write fritz@publicprivateaction.com.

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