Recap: Education's Busy Week on the Hill

We close a very busy week for education policy and Acting Secretary of Education, Dr. John King. Below is a recap and highlights of the four committee hearings that were held by the two education committees in Congress.

In the House of Representatives

The House Education and the Workforce Committee held two hearings where Dr. King served as the only witness for both.  The first served as a broad examination of the Department of Education’s policies and priorities moving into 2016.  The second hearing’s topic geared towards the next steps forward for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Dr. King received a bouquet of tough questions in his second hearing, including a question from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) regarding missteps during the implementation of Common Core in New York.  Rep. Suzanne Bonamici raised a question concerning Title IV, Part A funding. Title IV, Part A, also known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, is a new program created by ESSA; the program itself highly benefits Well-Rounded Education subjects, such as music, as it provides funds that may be used to improve access to music education in order to support student success and promotion of constructive student engagement.  Rep. Bonamici’s asked about the Department’s $500 million request for the program, which is less than a third of the authorized level of $1.65 billion. She explained that this program was designed to protect the many programs that were folded into the block grant and wanted to know what the potential harms will be if the formula grant program as authorized is made competitive through appropriations language.

In the Senate

The Senate HELP Committee’s first hearing featured a panel of education stakeholders, including the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers, and The Education Trust.  The Committee also held a hearing on Dr. King’s confirmation as Secretary of Education. At the hearing, Dr. King noted previous education debates have been too often “characterized by more heat than light,” and that ESSA is a “much-needed reset in the national dialogue.”

According to Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the HELP Committee plans to vote King’s nomination on Wednesday, March 9.  After the Committee votes and approves the nomination, King will need to be confirmed by the Senate to fully assume the title of Secretary of Education.

Ronny Lau, Legislative Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, February 26, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (