Washington Watch: A good time to head to the Hill

From reauthorizing the Higher Education Act to expanding apprenticeships, lawmakers in Congress have a full plate when it comes to tackling issues that affect community colleges.

All these issues will be discussed at this week’s anticipated Advocates in Action, a three-day American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) event in the nation’s capital that brings together community college leaders from across the country with officials from Congress, the U.S. Education Department and more.

For those unable to make the meeting, below is an outline of what’s before Congress to help you prepare for your own advocacy efforts with congressional leaders.

First up: funding

In the appropriations arena, the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education is scheduled to write its fiscal year (FY) 2019 bill within the next week. The cognate Senate subcommittee will likely mark up its bill soon after.

The House’s allocation is flat from last year, while the Senate panel can spend some $2 billion above the FY 2018 level, a less-than-2-percent increase. This means funding increases will be hard to come by, following a banner cycle last year in which virtually every program of interest to community colleges received substantial increases.

AACC continues to emphasize boosting the Pell Grant maximum and funding other critical programs, such as the Carl Perkins Act, Child Care Access Means Parents in School, Strengthening Institutions and the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program.

Read more: AACC’s top legislative priorities

It’s likely that the House will vote on the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508), a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), in early July. The House Education and Workforce Committee approved the bill in December. No Democrats are expected to vote for the bill, and Committee Chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) must line up enough of her colleagues to vote for a bill that has garnered reservations in many corners over a variety of its provisions.

AACC does not support the PROSPER Act in its current form, particularly the financial impact that the legislation’s “risk-sharing” provisions would have on community colleges’ ability to promote student success. But AACC does support certain parts of the bill, such as new authority for short-term workforce development programs.

Finally, the DACA/DREAMers issue may come to a head in the House, where a so-called “discharge” petition lacks just three signatories to attain the necessary 218 to trigger votes on four immigration-related proposals, with the one garnering the most votes winning. If the House passes legislation, the Senate would face significant pressure to act.

Please stay active with your federal legislators and be in touch with AACC staff if you have any questions about these or related issues.

Deeper dive: Legislative background information

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.