Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: May 14

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (May 7 – 11) in Washington.

ADMINISTRATION
2011 NAEP scores for 8th grade science were released Thursday. Less than one third of 8th graders were deemed proficient in science, but scores were up from the last NAEP test, and achievement gaps are narrowing, according to the Department of Education.

It is likely that the district-level Race to the Top outline will be made available for public comment in the next few weeks.

HOUSE
The House Committee on Education & the Workforce may markup H.R. 4297 (the Workforce Investment Improvement Act) as soon as the first week in June.

The House Committee will hold a hearing next week on “Exploring State Success in Expanding Parent and Student Options” which will cover state efforts to increase scholarship programs, expansion of charter school laws, and implementing a parent trigger.

SENATE
The Senate failed to invoke cloture on Senator Reid’s bill (S.2343: Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012) to extend the 3.4 percent student loan interest rate, which would be paid for by increasing taxes on S corps with less than 3 shareholders where any of the shareholders have modified AGI of more than $250,000 joint and $200,000 individual. Negotiations to move legislation to address the interest rate issue are continuing.

APPROPRIATIONS/BUDGET
The House passed the 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill on Thursday. The bill has $51.1 billion in funding, which is $1.6 billion below last year’s levels and $731 million below the President’s request. The White House has released a Statement of Administration Policy on the bill, which is highly critical of many aspects of the bill.

The House passed H.R. 5652, The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, on Thursday, after the bill was marked up by the House Budget Committee on Monday. The bill and a related bill (The Sequester Replacement Act) deal with the initial sequestration cuts that will take place in 2013.  These two bills would change how the sequestration cuts would impact education programs, eliminating discretionary education spending cuts under sequestration and replacing them with cuts in mandatory programs outside of education.  The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, would enact over $380 billion in cuts (over 10 years) from legislation put forward by 6 House committees (Agriculture, Ways and Means, Financial Services, Energy and Commerce, Government Reform, and Judiciary).  Education and the Workforce is not one of these committees, so there are no cuts to specific Department of Education programs in this bill.  Even though this is described as a “reconciliation bill,” it would not carry any reconciliation protections in the Senate as no budget resolution calling for reconciliation instructions has been passed by the House and Senate for FY 2013.

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