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The Mid-Terms Are Over: Now What Happens?

November 8, 2018

Now that the Democrats have captured control of the House, the question is “what can they do to change the course of public education?” The practical answer is “not very much” in the way of legislation unless they can get the GOP controlled Senate to go along. The political answer, though, may be different since the House can exercise oversight on the Department of Education and can introduce legislation that would signal what MIGHT occur in the future should the Democrats gain control of the Senate and the White House. Here’s the take from yesterday’s Politico: 

The stage is set for at least two showdowns in the coming months — the Trump administration will soon propose a new regulation on the handling of campus sexual assault cases under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs. And a White House school safety commission led by DeVos is set to release a report on its findings since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. The Trump administration’s push to unravel Obama-era regulations aimed at the for-profit college industry and its handling of state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act are also areas that Democrats will likely target for oversight.

Scott (D-Va.) is expected to lead the way. A veteran lawmaker and stalwart on civil rights who was the first African-American elected to Congress from Virginia since Reconstruction, he has been ranking member since 2015. During that time, he helped negotiate the bipartisan ESSA, the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind. Two of Scott’s staffers — Jacque Mosely and Véronique Pluviose — will likely play a more prominent role now that Democrats hold the majority. Read up on Scott here.

Look to Scott to push a legislative agenda focused on passage of his Rebuild America’s Schools Act, H.R. 2475 (115) , which would invest billions of dollars in new funding into improving school infrastructure.Another big priority is an update to the Higher Education Act — a heavy lift under any political environment, but an item high on the wish list for many in higher education circles. Some education wonks are hopeful about a split Congress making progress on legislation, particularly when it comes to HEA and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the federal law governing the privacy of student education records.

I highlighted the Rebuild America’s Schools Act because I see this kind of legislative proposal as a clear winner for Democrats. The condition of schools in property poor communities is deplorable and there was a time when federal funds underwrote the construction of thousands of schools across the country— the very schools that are now outdated and/o dilapidated. This kind of infrastructure project would be hard for the GOP to oppose— except they will be likely to point to the deficit as a problem. If the Democrats are smart they will preemptively note that the deficit is the result of the generous giveaway to the .01%, a “stimulus” that was supposedly going to result in an increase in jobs and wages. The sooner voters in the heartland realize that the “tax cut” they received is minuscule in comparison to the tax cuts corporations and billionaires received the sooner tax dollars will be retrieved from those who can afford to pay more to help the government rebuild our infrastructure.

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