Legislative Updates: House Committee Passes HEA Reauthorization Bill

As Congress wraps up its final weeks in session before the winter recess, there has been a flurry of activity. Read below to find out more about the postsecondary education legislation that advanced out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the next step in the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) and an update on the tax reform legislation moving through Congress.

Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization Proposal Passes House Committee on Education and the Workforce 

As we shared in our Legislative Update, on December 1, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced H.R. 4508, the “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform” (PROSPER) Act. This bill would reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), which was last reauthorized in 2008, and would make significant changes to a number of provisions within the current law. The bill and related materials from the Committee can be found online here. Advance CTE analyzed the bill based on our board-approved HEA Reauthorization Recommendations and submitted a letter expressing our views to the Committee in advance of the Committee’s markup on December 12. During the markup, Committee members offered 63 amendments on a wide range of topics. Eighteen of these amendments were adopted, but the proposal’s architecture was largely maintained. The PROSPER Act passed out of Committee on a party line vote (23-17) and the bill is expected to go before the full U.S. House of Representatives for a vote in early 2018. It is likely that the U.S. Senate will unveil its own proposal in early 2018.

Congress Passes Short-Term Funding Measure

On December 7, Congress passed a short-term funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to keep the government open at the current funding levels, beyond December 8, when the previous CR was set to expire. The current CR expires on December 22, meaning Congress will likely need to pass another CR by this date to allow time for Congress to come to an agreement on budget caps for defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending (which will provide appropriators with the top-line numbers they need to advance Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bills).

House and Senate Tax Reform Bills Go to Conference Committee

In November, both the House and Senate passed tax reform bills. House and Senate leadership have named 29 Members of Congress to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between these bills. The conference committee is expected to come to an agreement on the legislation soon and it is likely that both chambers of Congress will vote on the legislation next week. Advance CTE had concerns about a number of provisions in each bill, including the elimination of: the deductions for state and local taxes (SALT), the educator expense deduction, student loan interest tax deductions, the lifetime learning credit and tax benefits for employer tuition reimbursement programs. In addition, the overall cost of tax reform is likely to put pressure on appropriators to cut spending in other areas going forward. This means there could be an adverse impact on education spending, including for Perkins Basic State Grants, which have remained relatively flat funded since 1991. To learn more about each of these concerns, check out this blog post from our partners at the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Advance CTE partnered with ACTE to send a letter  to the conference committee expressing these concerns.

Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate for Federal Policy 


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