In the past week, Congress managed to pass a federal spending bill to avert a government shutdown, provide a $1.3 billion in education spending for 2020, and pass legislation mandating $255 million in funding for historically black colleges and universities next year.
But legislation directly affecting K-12 is much more slow-moving and often gets bogged down by politics. Still, a few bills impacting K-12 might finally see the spotlight in the coming year. Whether they will be passed and signed into law is a tossup, but some are more likely than others to be voted on.
Here are those bills, and more, that bring educators' concerns — on everything from trauma-informed care to STEM funding and teacher pay — to Washington.
The RISE from Trauma Act would expand and support trauma-informed care in schools and increase resources for communities to address the impact of trauma on children. Specifically, it would support trauma-informed early childhood care and provide more resources for public school teachers and leaders through grants and partnerships. It supports the growing trend of community schools offering wraparound services and suggests trauma-informed care is receiving national bipartisan attention.
The RISE act was introduced by Reps. Danny Davis (D-Illinois) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) in the House, with a sister bill also introduced by lawmakers in the Senate. The bipartisan nature of the legislation suggests it could pass.
The SRO Assessment Act would require the U.S. Secretary of Education to conduct a survey of the assignment of school resource officers at all public schools. This is a very straightforward bill and won't require public schools to do anything as it is written now; it just requires the Department of Education to survey schools.
The original version of this bill was introduced in 2018 by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-Louisiana) and passed the House, which at the time had a Republican majority. Its 2019 version was introduced in January to a Democratic majority House, but its history suggests it could make headway. If this iteration passes the House (it would need Democratic lawmaker support), it could head to the Senate, where it would likely pass.
While the federal government has no law on SROs, at least 36 state bills related to school resource officers and their evolving roles in school safety have been enacted in 2019. Most states have some kind of required training and defined roles for these officers, but a handful of states, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota and others, do not.
With SROs under increased scrutiny as a result of responses to school shootings or highly-publicized negative interactions with students and more states regulating the role than not, a survey of SROs by the Department of Education suggests greater national attention on the subject.
This legislation aims to make STEM education and career paths more accessible to female students. It would provide PD for pre-K and elementary school teachers on computer science, as well as develop female-inclusive computer science enrichment programs, including after-school and summer programs.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) in March and has since passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support. The legislation could be signed into law by the president.
This legislation, with sister bills introduced in both chambers, would work to reduce racial and socioeconomic segregation between districts and the schools within them by authorizing one-year grants subject to reauthorization. It would also provide funding for the research and data collection needed to diversify schools.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) only has overwhelmingly democratic support, with cosponsors in the House including Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott and supporters in the Senate including Democratic Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders.
While this legislation is not likely to pass on a federal level, similar efforts are being made in state legislatures to even the playing field for students from different backgrounds. Recently, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza scrapped the use of a single admissions test at the city's specialized high schools he claimed would diversify eight schools, serving a disproportionate number of Asian and white students, "overnight."
Introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), this legislation addresses a concern long plaguing districts: teacher pay. The bill would provide a refundable tax credit for elementary, secondary or early childhood educators in schools with a certain poverty rate, increase the tax deduction for the expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers, and provide funding for local educational agencies that maintain or increase teacher salaries. Public school teachers would be eligible for a tax credit up to $10,000 to offset the cost of school supplies.
However, with the bill, introduced in September, has zero cosponsors.
Meanwhile, teacher pay is being taken up by individual states as an increasing number of school districts face teacher strikes and shortages. This year, Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois and Idaho were among states to increase teachers’ salaries.
Florida is considering Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' proposed budget that would allocate an additional $1 billion for teacher pay raises and would raise the minimum salary for all classroom teachers to $47,500. Other states are offering incentives like student loan forgiveness and lowered housing and health insurance costs to make the teaching profession more affordable.