Legislative News

Wednesday, 21 January, 2015

2015 State of the Union Address

On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union (SOTU) address (his 2009 speech for Congress wasn’t technically a SOTU address). The address was largely an assertion that the improved economy and other improvements in the state of the Union vindicate his Administration’s policies. The address came in shorter in length than others, and it was much lighter on education policy than past years. There was no mention of hallmark initiatives such as Race to the Top or any expression of urgency around revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; the term “STEM education” was not mentioned once. While the President noted gains in achievement in math and science scores, his only new big education proposal was the community college initiative unveiled more than a week before his speech. Read the full summary.

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


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Friday, 16 January, 2015

Murray, Alexander and Duncan Outline Respective ESEA Priorities


Duncan Stands Firm on ESEA Priorities

On Monday, January 12 U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a speech at Seaton Elementary School, in Washington, DC, to lay out the Administration’s priorities for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  During his remarks, Duncan expanded on the history of ESEA, noting Lyndon B. Johnson’s original intent when signing the law in 1965 as well as the significance of this year (2015) being the statute’s 50th anniversary.  Throughout the speech, Duncan reiterated the Administration’s support for high-quality preschool education, annual testing and teacher evaluations based on student outcomes.  He also cited some areas for potential bipartisan compromises, suggesting that annual testing requirements persist, but that the amount of time that states and school districts spend on testing and test preparation be reduced.

Additionally, Duncan said teachers need more support and resources for teaching and that teacher evaluations should consist of multiple components, including student growth data, parent and student feedback, and classroom observations by peers, among others.  Duncan recognizes the many ideological differences that a Republican Congress and a Democratic Administration will have to work through in rewriting the law, but said he believes that compromises can be struck with a result that recognizes that schools need more support than they receive today and “for a law that says that educational opportunity isn’t an option, it’s a civil right.”  Duncan announced that President Obama will include an additional $2.7 billion for K-12 education in his fiscal year 2016 budget request, which includes $1 billion in increased funding for Title I programs.  For more information on Duncan’s speech, go to: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-education-secretary-arne-duncan-calls-strong-education-law-protects-all-stude.


Senator Alexander Outlines Priorities for ESEA Reauthorization

On Tuesday, January 13, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), gave a speech on the Senate floor that set his agenda for the HELP Committee and mentioned that reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—also known as No Child Left Behind—will be his first priority.  He said, “No Child Left Behind has become unworkable—and fixing this law, which expired over seven years ago, will be the first item on the agenda for the Senate education committee.”  One day prior to his floor speech, Alexander had released his draft for reauthorizing ESEA to all HELP Committee members; during his speech he announced plans to release the draft to the public and to host a week-long schedule of meetings with HELP Committee members and their staff to go through his draft.  Alexander reiterated his belief in the democratic system of governing—as well as his responsibilities as chairman to set the agenda for the committee—and wants changes and discussions of his bill to occur through an open amendment process, both in committee and on the Senate floor.  He mentioned his nine priority areas that arose after six years and dozens of hearings on NCLB.  The nine priority areas are:

1) setting new goals to replace the unrealistic goals that were set in 2001—such as 100 percent proficiency by 2014;
2) requiring states to set high and challenging standards to promote college and career readiness for students without oversight or mandates by the federal government;
3) continue disaggregated school-by-school reporting in order to view school progress;
4) free all schools from federal requirements for adequate yearly progress (AYP) and have states establish their own accountability systems;
5) continue federal support for the lowest-performing schools, determined by states;
6) encourage teacher and principal evaluations but at the local and state levels;
7) allow school districts to transfer funds more efficiently among large federal education programs;
8) consolidate and streamline more than 60 programs in NCLB, and eliminate duplicate programs; and
9) empower parents with more school choice options.

Alexander is asking for public input on his draft by February 2, and comments can be sent to: fixingNCLB@help.senate.gov.  For more information on Alexander’s floor statements and for an electronic copy of his draft bill, go to: http://www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=3bc4d353-d71d-4823-8e92-1655ff4fac9a.


Ranking Member Murray Lays Out Ideas for NCLB Reauthorization

On Tuesday, January 13, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) addressed the Senate and shared her ideas “to fix the broken No Child Left Behind law.”  Her first priority is to reduce unnecessary testing by weeding out redundant and low-quality tests.  She insisted that this can—and must—me done without lowering standards or watering down accountability for schools.  Murray asserted that federal funding needs to increase for schools with a large number of low-income students in order to provide equal opportunity for all children.  Additionally, she said that teachers and principals must have ample resources to be constantly improving their skills in order to offer their students the best education possible.  Murray expressed her support for strengthening the law’s early childhood education provisions, saying, “Congress should only pass an education bill that expands access to preschool programs.”  Drawing on her experiences as both a mother and preschool teacher, Murray spoke candidly about the extreme value of high quality education at an early age, as it lays the foundation for further schooling and instills an interest in learning for young children.  She argued that this should come from the federal government, saying, “Congress needs to catch up with the Democratic and Republican governors and legislators around the country.” Broadening the scope of her remarks, Murray addressed economic concerns, arguing that education spending is an investment in economic growth and global competiveness in the 21st Century.  Murray concluded that both parties must work together to allow our children to succeed. For Murray’s full remarks, go to: http://www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/newsreleases?ContentRecord_id=ea7a626b-1934-45e6-9a6f-b1de720d800b.

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

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Friday, 19 December, 2014

Senate HELP Committee Members Announced

Last week, Senate Democratic leaders announced their committee assignments for the 114th Congress; this week Senate Republican leaders announced their committee assignments.  Not much changed on the Democratic side of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), except that Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will become the new Ranking Member—due to Democrats becoming the new minority in the Senate and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) retiring—and the loss of an additional committee seat with Democrats transitioning to the Senate minority—a seat previously held by Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), who did not win re-election.  On the Republican side of the Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is expected to Chair the committee with the addition of two committee seats that Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) will fill.  See the full list of Republican committee assignments here; and Senate Democrat committee assignments here.

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Wednesday, 17 December, 2014

House Education Committee Announces 114th Republicans

Last Wednesday, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) of the House Education and the Workforce Committee released the list of Republican Members who will serve on the committee in the 114th Congress.  Of the 22 Republican Members who served in the 113th Congress, 14 are returning to the committee, meaning eight new Republicans are joining the committee.  Seven of the new committee Members are incoming freshmen.  The Democrats have not released their committee assignments yet.

Republican Members serving on the House Education and the Workforce Committee in the 114th Congress are Chairman John Kline (MN-2); Representatives Joe Wilson (SC-2); Virginia Foxx (NC-5); Duncan Hunter (CA-50); Phil Roe (TN-1); Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-5); Tim Walberg (MI-7); Matt Salmon (AZ-5); Brett Guthrie (KY-2); Todd Rokita (IN-4); Lou Barletta (PA-11); Joe Heck (NV-3) and Luke Messer (IN-6); and new Members Bradley Byrne (AL-1); Dave Brat (VA-7); Buddy Carter (GA-1); Mike Bishop (MI-8); Glenn Grothman (WI-6); Steve Russell (OK-5); Carlos Curbelo (FL-26); Elise Stefanik (NY-21); and Rick Allen (GA-12).

See the announcement by the House Education and the Workforce Committee here.

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Wednesday, 10 December, 2014

STEM Education Programs in the Proposed FY 2015 “Cromnibus”

Prepared for Triangle Coalition by: Della Cronin, Washington Partners, LLC


On December 9, House leadership and appropriators released their proposal to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2015, which began on October 1, 2014.  (Federal agencies and programs have been supported by a temporary spending measure that expires on December 11, 2014.)

The $1.1 trillion bill has advocates going through over 1,000 pages of language and charts.  The bill is a mixed bag for education and research advocates and has been cast as a last marker for this Congress and a first step toward GOP control in the next.  It also has a number of policy riders of varying controversy—selling marijuana in the District of Columbia, school lunch nutritional requirements and presidential conventions are among topics addressed by various riders.

House leadership hopes to get the bill done by the weekend.  Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has a daughter getting married Saturday, and he would prefer to be done for the year by then.  Of course, he needs some Democratic support for the bill, since it’s clear not all Republicans will support it.  He also needs to get his House colleagues to approve a bill that the Senate won’t change at all.  So, he may have to come back to the District after the festivities despite his best efforts.

Proposed STEM Education Spending

Federal investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education can be found at almost every federal agency.  The proposal has both good and bad news for federal STEM education programs.  Some initial highlights are noted here.

At the Department of Education (ED), overall spending is increased by $137 million.  The proposal ignores the President’s attempt to establish an “Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM” program once again, and the Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) program, which supports professional development for math and science teachers, receives an increase of $3 million, bringing funding for the program to $152.7 million.  MSP is the only STEM-specific program at ED, but other programs  have supported STEM education or had a priority for STEM education efforts.  The 21st Century Community Learning Center program—which supports informal science activities across the country—is the largest investment in afterschool programs and will see a slight increase in FY 2015.  The program would get $1.15 billion—up $2.3 million from last year.  The high school redesign initiative receives no funds in the bill.  Perkins (or career and technical education) programs receive what they did last year–$1.1 billion The School Improvement Grant (SIG) program will once again receive a total of $505 million.  There is no new money for Race to the Top grants—a blow to the Administration’s education priorities, and the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, which has focused on STEM education in some award cycles, would only get $120 million for FY 2015, a decrease of $21.6 million.

As for other agencies supporting STEM education, the National Science Foundation (NSF) sees an increase of just over $172 million, getting $7.3 billion in the proposal. The Education and Human Resources directorate at the agency would get $866 million—almost $20 million more than last year. While NSF has some discretion in how it spends its allotted funds, the proposal does state that $66 million should be invested in the Advanced Technological Education program; $32 million should support the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program; the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation programs should get $46 million and  $13.5 million should be allocated to Tribal Colleges and Universities Program.  The bill further states that of the funds allocated across these programs, $3 million should be support the Foundation’s “broadening participation” efforts by creating “effective models of intervention to nurture students in STEM subjects from K -12 through undergraduate studies.”  This provision was included at the insistence of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who leads the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee.  Other programs of interest to the STEM education community—like Advancing Informal STEM Learning, will have their funding levels determined by NSF leadership.  Usually, the community gets a sense of their plans from the annual budget request.  The bill language also says, “NSF’s EHR termination and reduction proposals are incorporated unless specifically noted otherwise in this statement or in language in either the House or Senate report that is not modified or superseded by this statement.”  This is guidance to the agency related to efforts to reorganize STEM education investments agency-wide.

It is worth noting that the bill does not mention NSF investments in the social sciences, which had been attacked by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and conservative Republicans throughout the 113th Congress.  While there is no language explicitly supporting such programs, as there was in the House and Senate spending bills proposed earlier this year, the absence of guidance suggests that current funding of such endeavors will continue.  That means NSF is free to invest the $272 million it has requested for its social, behavioral, and economic sciences directorate, which is a $15 million boost over FY 2014 levels.

NASA and NASA education programs also see increases in the bill at $18 billion and $119 million, respectively. Research budgets at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy are essentially unchanged in the proposal. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is funded at $864 million, which is $14 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would get $5.4 billion–$126 million above FY 2014.


ED, NASA and NSF are among the winners in the $1.013 trillion package.  NIH and the Department of Energy did not fare as well with their flat funding.  Advocates will continue to ferret out details of the bill as House and Senate leadership negotiate passage of the FY 2015 spending bill in coming days.  While the goal of passage by the end of the weekend is ambitious, it’s clear that there won’t be a government shutdown just before the holidays, and that the holiday parties at the end of the next week won’t have many Members of Congress in attendance.  They should be out of town by then.  For more details on the agreement, see resources prepared by the appropriations committees at: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=393925 and http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/chairwoman-mikulski-statement-fy15-omnibus.

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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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