Legislative News

Friday, 19 September, 2014

ESRA Moves One Step Closer to Reauthorization

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a markup of the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366) , which would reauthorize federal education research through the Institutes of Education Sciences.  H.R 4366 was unanimously passed in May by the House and was stalled in the Senate until the House agreed to move the Senate-passed Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (S. 1086), which the House passed on the suspension calendar on Monday.  No amendments were offered after Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) withdrew her amendment—which would have required the Department of Education to make student financial aid data available for research purposes—with the agreement to work with Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to include her withdrawn amendment in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  The bill was unanimously passed in the HELP Committee in the form of a substitute by voice vote—due to the bipartisan, bicameral negotiations that were agreed upon prior to the markup.  The Senate’s substitute amendment only consisted of minor changes to the original House bill that accounted for larger increases in funding leading up to 2020, explicit language to reduce overlap and duplication in research, and limits the circumstances when the National Center for Education Statistics can deny data access to researchers.  The bill is expected to move to the Senate floor for a full vote soon followed by a final vote by the House before it heads the President’s desk.  Learn more about H.R. 4366 and watch the archived webcast of the markup here.

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Tuesday, 16 September, 2014

House Education Subcommittees hold joint hearing on ED Oversight

On Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training and the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a joint hearing, “Improving Department of Education Policies and Programs Through Independent Oversight.” The hearing focused on the importance of independent oversight through the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) along with the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) record of implementing the GAO and OIG’s recommendations.

Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, and Todd Rokita (R-IN), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, recited similar opening remarks on the importance of independent oversight in the federal government as an effective and efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars.  Foxx and Rokita each cited four different GAO reports with recommendations that ED has not implemented as a way of showing ED’s inadequacies and lack of concern for recommendations by federal oversight agencies.

Conversely, Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, refuted the claims and noted that ED has implemented 218 of the 268 recommendations that GAO has issued since 2004, which amounts to an average GAO implementation rate of 93 percent in comparison to the federal average of 80 percent.  The three witnesses—the Honorable Kathleen Tighe, Inspector General at ED; Ms. Jacqueline Nowicki, Acting Director of Education Workforce and Income Security Issues at the GAO; and Ms. Melissa Emrey-Arras, Director of Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues at the GAO—agreed that ED has made great strides since 2012 to resolve both agencies’ recommendations, but suggested that ED could be more efficient in implementing the recommendations on time.

The Republican Members continuously questioned the witnesses on ED’s inefficiencies and growing bureaucracy while the Democratic Members asked the witnesses to repeat published report findings—on campus debit cards, restraint and seclusion in schools, and special education in charter schools—for the record.  For more information about the hearing with written testimony and an archived webcast, go to: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=392260.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

 

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Monday, 18 August, 2014

Support Grows for the Educating Tomorrow’s Engineers Act

The Educating Tomorrow’s Engineers Act (ETEA), introduced as H.R. 2426, S. 1178 in June 2013, recently gained five new congressional cosponsors as well as additional organizational supporters. Thirty-five organizations, including Triangle Coalition and many of its members, have signed on in support of the bill. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), who originally introduced ETEA with Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter at the end of July inviting fellow members of Congress to cosponsor. “This legislation is an important step in ensuring that STEM skills allow our workforce to continue to lead the global economy, and that they become accessible to children in every school in every zip code across our country,” writes Tonko. In the House, ETEA now has 19 co-sponsors, four of whom are republicans.

ETEA would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to encourage states to integrate engineering skills and practices into existing K-12 science standards – without needing to establish a separate set of standards or duplicate existing STEM programs. Its goals include enhancing student achievement in STEM subjects; building knowledge and competency in engineering skills; increasing the number of teachers prepared to teach engineering design, and the number and diversity of students planning to pursue a career in engineering.

This legislation would potentially impact K-12 classroom instruction by: exposing more students to engineering; ensuring teachers have the tools and support they need to teach these skills; providing states and schools more flexibility to direct current federal funding toward engineering education; and promoting federal research in engineering education. To learn more, read the summary and full text of the Educating Tomorrow’s Engineers Act.

If your organization would like to support this bill, please contact Amanda Guelzow at Triangle Coalition at guelzowa@trianglecoalition.org for further details.

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Monday, 14 July, 2014

House Moves First Three HEA Reauthorization Bills

On Thursday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved three bills that would revise parts of the Higher Education Act.  The bills passed with bipartisan support after an apparently collegial process took place in writing them.  The three bills were not really controversial, with the thornier issues involved in the effort to revise the larger Act, such as the Title IV student aid programs, left for later.  Staff reports that they will delay any proposals related to the Act’s teacher preparation programs until after the August recess, at the earliest.  Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has undertaken a piecemeal strategy for reauthorization, following a script used in other areas by House Republicans.  The easier portions of the policy are developed first, to build relationships and foster cooperation, in the hope that the goodwill might spill into the more difficult issues.  The bills that passed, all by voice vote, are:  Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983), that will help students gain access to the facts they need to make an informed decision about their education; Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984), that will promote financial literacy through enhanced counseling for all recipients of federal financial aid; and Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136), that would experiment with allowing federal student aid to go to education programs that include direct assessment of higher educational progress instead of purely time-based measurements.  For a recording of the hearing, along with the text of the bills as approved by the Committee, go to:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/list.aspx?EventTypeID=190.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Monday, 14 July, 2014

Bipartisan Workforce Legislation Moves to President’s Desk

On Wednesday, the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) by a bipartisan vote of 415 to 6.  The measures reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act—one of many pieces of education legislation long overdue for revising. The Senate approved the same legislation in June by a vote of 95-3.

WIOA is split into five titles that focus on four main topics: workforce development, adult education and literacy, national programs and employment for individuals with disabilities.  It supports the so-called “Pay for Success” funding model for social impact, which represents a new approach to scaling effective innovations, catalyzing public-private partnerships, and directing resources to programs with proven results.  It supports career pathways strategies that build stronger connections between job training programs and local employer needs; it also supports the development of alternative, evidence-based programs that encourage so-called “disconnected youth” to return to schooling and either complete high school, enroll in postsecondary study or a training program to transition to a career pathway.

WIOA includes a priority for the provision of work-based learning experiences, such as internships, for youth.  The new measure also ensures individuals with disabilities are eligible for training and support and continues support for the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program.  The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Obama and is likely to be the subject of a high-profile signing event, given the widespread, bipartisan support for the bill and the fact that the measure could very well be the only education-related legislation to make it to his desk this year.  View the full bill.

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Wednesday, 2 July, 2014

Senator Shaheen Introduces Afterschool STEM Bill

Last week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a bill that would support high quality afterschool and out-of-school-time STEM programming. The Supporting STEM Afterschool Act (S. 2543) would create a competitive grant program allowing the National Science Foundation to award grants to afterschool and STEM networks, which also include those focused on computer science and robotics. These grants would enable more students, especially populations including girls, African-Americans, and Latinos, to experience hands-on learning and research, including exposure to STEM industry, in out-of-school settings.

Awarded grants would support activities such as the development of quality standards and outcome measures for afterschool STEM programming; professional development for program educators; and support the formation of collaborative partnerships and professional mentorship or research experience programs. This would enable afterschool networks to leverage the STEM resources at external entities, such as schools, institutions of higher education, laboratories, research facilities and others, to advance STEM learning for K-12 students. Twenty percent of the grant’s total funding would also support the development of new afterschool or STEM networks in areas where such networks do not yet exist.

Triangle Coalition for STEM Education commends Senator Shaheen for her leadership in advancing STEM education and for recognizing the importance of supporting out-of-school STEM programming. Learn more about the Supporting STEM Afterschool Act here.

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Wednesday, 14 May, 2014

Senate Budget Committee Holds Hearing on FY2015 Budget for ED

Last Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared before the Senate Budget Committee to defend President Obama’s FY 2015 spending plan for the Department of Education (ED).  This was Secretary Duncan’s fourth visit to Capitol Hill to defend ED’s FY 15 budget.  Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) praised both the Secretary and the budget plan in her opening statement, noting that at a time when college is becoming unaffordable, K-12 schools are struggling, adults are in need of far better job training assistance and our allies around the world are increasing their investment in education, the United States is falling behind.  The achievement gap that exists for low-income and minority students creates an education deficit that they can never fill, according to Murray.

Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was highly critical of the President for proposing increased funding for ED—in particular the $50 billion special fund—and he said, the best way to find more funding for education would be to pay off the federal debt or cut discretionary spending from other agencies.

Secretary Duncan repeated his previous testimony, saying, in summary, that the education budget is aimed at closing achievement gaps, from birth through career.  While U.S. student performance has been at a standstill, our competitors have been increasing their education spending and surpassing us at all levels.

Chairwoman Murray asked Duncan to end the Department’s lucrative contract with Sallie Mae—regarding charging active military servicemen and women higher interest rates—and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) focused his questions on teachers being overburdened with regulatory pressures from the federal government, which Duncan mostly agreed with.  Both Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) criticized the Administration on the gainful employment regulations, the Common Core and additional requests for preschool programs.  More information about the hearing, including written testimony and an archived webcast can be accessed here.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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Friday, 25 April, 2014

National Science Board Criticizes FIRST Act

In a statement issued Thursday by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) oversight body, National Science Board (NSB) members criticize elements of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186) that drastically impact NSF. Approved by the House Research and Technology Subcommittee in March, the FIRST Act would reauthorize the federal research and education programs at NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that are included in the America COMPETES Act.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has been especially vocal about his intentions to increase accountability and transparency in federal grant programs, particularly those at NSF. In a statement on March 10, Smith said, “Unfortunately, NSF has misused taxpayer dollars and funded too many questionable research grants – money that could have gone to higher priorities.”

The FIRST act includes budget specifications that would reduce NSF’s social, behavioral, and economic sciences directorate by 40 percent.  In terms of overall funding, the FY 2014 budget would remain at its current level of $7.17 billion. The FY 2015 budget would include $24 million more than administration’s request.

NSB members are concerned that constraints of the FIRST Act would compromise NSF’s ability to meet its goals and impose significant burdens on scientists. “Our greatest concern,” the Board writes, “is that the bill’s specification of budget allocations to each NSF Directorate would significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas in fulfillment of its mission…”

The Board goes on to acknowledge the importance of accountability and transparency and mentions implementing stricter internal processes, which it believes deem additional legislated requirements unnecessary and burdensome. “We are concerned that the proposed new legislative requirements might discourage visionary proposals or transformative science at a time when advancing the decades-long U.S. leadership in science and technology is a top priority.”

Read the full NSB statement here. For additional insight on the National Science Board’s statement, read this AAAS ScienceInsider article by Jeffrey Mervis.

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Wednesday, 23 April, 2014

Triangle Coalition Supports Perkins Reauthorization

This week, Triangle Coalition for STEM Education joined more than 60 other organizations in supporting the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, or Perkins Act.  The $1.1 billion dollar  program is the primary federal funding source for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) in the United States. A letter to Congress urges policymakers to update and improve the Perkins law, last reauthorized in 2006, by building upon its past successes.

Supporters advocate that a reauthorized version of Perkins should:

  • Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
  • Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
  • Increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and promote the use of industry-recognized credentials.

Such reforms would ensure that federal dollars can be invested even more effectively in CTE programs which prepare students for both college and careers. To learn more or sign on in support of the letter (available here), contact Geoff Lane (glane@itic.org) at the Information Technology Industry Council by May 5.

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Friday, 18 April, 2014

New Changes in the House Education and Workforce Committee

Last week, Democratic Members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee held an organization meeting to elect new ranking members.  Representative John Tierney (D-MA) was elected as the Ranking Member of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee and Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA) was elected as the new Ranking Member on the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee.  Representative George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the full Committee said of the appointments, “Their work on behalf of America’s students and working families is exceptional, and I am confident that their valued leadership will continue to help our committee advance our shared goals.” Across the aisle, Republicans appointed Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL) to the Education and the Workforce Committee—to fill a vacant seat—and Representative Thomas Petri (R-WI)—the longest serving Republican Member on the Committee—announced that he will not seek re-election. For more information on the new senior committee positions, go to: http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/press-release/miller-announces-new-subcommittee-ranking-democrats-welcomes-new-democratic-member/.

 

Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC

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