Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up — January 12, 2015

A quick look at the news from last week, compiled by Penn Hill Group:


Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was elected to a third term as Speaker of the House, by a vote of 216-192.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced recommendations for committee assignments – Democrats will vote on the nominations this week. New members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee include Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Katherine Clark (D-NY), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA).

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 30, the Save American Workers Act, by a vote of 252-172. The bill repeals the 30-hour definition of full-time employment under the Affordable Care Act, and replaces it with a 40-hour definition. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, and while the bill passed, the vote was short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a Presidential veto.


Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was elected by Republicans to serve as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Sen. Alexander served as Ranking Member in the previous Congress.

Education Week reported that the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) testing issues on January 20.

HELP Committee Chairman Alexander, along with HELP Committee members Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), introduced the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act. The bill seeks to simplify the federal student aid process by eliminating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and replacing it with two questions to determine eligibility. The bill also allows for year-round Pell Grants, increases communications to borrowers on what to expect during repayment of their loans, and simplifies repayment options.

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced Ranking Members for the subcommittees. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the Ranking Member on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

The Senate selected Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to serve as Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Chairman Thune also announced the subcommittee chairs for the committee and Sen. Ted Cruz will chair the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness.


President Obama announced a proposal to offer students tuition-free community college. The America’s College Promise proposal would offer eligible students (those attending at least half time and maintaining a 2.5 GPA) two free years of tuition. Federal funds would cover three quarters of the cost, and states would need to cover the rest of the cost of tuition. He stated that his announcement is a preview of his State of the Union address. The President also announced a proposal to fund 100 technical training centers through partnerships between employers and community colleges or other training organizations.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice released joint guidance for states and school districts on ensuring that English learners have equal access to high-quality education.

The Government Accountability Office released a report in late December that looked at states that are receiving federal funds to develop Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, and the challenges states are facing in reliably matching data between education sectors and workforce sectors.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a notice that outlines its plan to regulate around implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that was enacted last summer. The notice states that DOL and ED will publish five notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) in Spring 2015 (despite WIOA requiring DOL and ED to publish these rules later this month), with the intention of publishing final regulations in early 2016. The five NPRMs will address: jointly administered activities including state plans, performance, and the one-stop system; Title I and Title III issues; Title II Adult Education and Literacy; and two on Title IV amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 made by WIOA. The Employment and Training Administration will also publish operating guidance in Spring 2015 to support implementation for certain provisions that go into effect July 1, 2015.

President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20 at 9:00 p.m. Follow Penn Hill Group on Twitter for live updates from the address.

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Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – December 22, 2014

A quick look at the news from last week:


Congress approved and the President signed into law an FY2015 “cromnibus” appropriations bill – the House passed the bill by a vote of 219—206, and the Senate passed it by a vote of 56—40. The appropriations bill largely flat funds most education and workforce programs compared to FY2014, with a few notable exceptions: the Administration’s Race to the Top program was not funded, and funding for the Investing in Innovation and Teacher Incentive Fund programs was reduced. Under the U.S. Department of Labor, major job training programs funded under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) received a slight increase. [Click here to see Penn Hill Group’s analysis of education and workforce funding in the appropriations bill.]


Senate leadership announced Republican committee assignments for the 114th Congress. The Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions maintained its current Republican roster and picked up two new members as well: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

The Senate voted 76-16 to approve legislation to retroactively renew a number of tax breaks for individuals, businesses, and nonprofits through the end of 2014 – the House approved the bill several weeks ago. The legislation includes three education-related provisions: it extends qualified zone academy bonds that allow K-12 schools to borrow at lower interest rates for projects in partnership with private companies; it extends the allowable deduction for educators’ expenses such as classroom supplies; and it extends a deduction for qualified tuition for individuals with certain income levels. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

The Senate confirmed the nomination of James Cole Jr. to the position of general counsel at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Cole was one of several ED nominees whose nomination process had been delayed in the Senate, and three of the nominees still await confirmation: Ericka M. Miller as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Robert Gordon for Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, and Michael Yudin as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

The House and Senate are now in recess, and the 114th Congress will begin its first session on Tuesday, January 6, 2015.


The U.S. Department of Education released a draft framework for a college ratings system that would rate colleges as high, middle or low-performing. The framework proposes 11 different metrics that the Department is considering using related to low-income enrollment, graduation and earnings outcomes of graduates. The system will group two-year schools with other two-year schools, and four-year schools with other four-year schools. Graduate-degree-only and non-degree granting institutions are not included in the initial version of the ratings. The Department is seeking public comment on the system – comments are due by February 17, 2015.

ED sent new guidance to chief state school officers on Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) state waiver renewals. The letter states that if state educational authorities are “looking ahead” to new college- and career-ready assessments, they can request to put a pause on their accountability system as they implement new assessments. The guidance also says that states can receive up to $1 million for four years for the purposes of evaluating aspects of their ESEA waiver proposals.

Federal agencies, including the Department of Education, published joint interim final regulations on “Federal Awarding Agency Regulatory Implementation of Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.” The notice incorporates into regulation the provisions of guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on December 26,2013 — the OMB guidance has been known as the “OMB Supercircular” –  and deals with such issues as allowable costs under federal grants, grantee time-and-effort certifications, grantee monitoring of funds that flow through to subgrantees and audits of federal grants. The regulations also include agency-specific provisions; for ED they would make technical and conforming amendments to the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) and other, program-specific regulations and delete obsolete ED regulations. As “interim final” regulations, these new rules will go into effect immediately (December 26); however, the Administration is requesting comments through February 17

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Penn Hill Group’s Summary of Education- and Workforce-Related Funding in the FY2015 Omnibus Bill

Congressional leaders released the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY2015) omnibus appropriations bill on December 9 — it was subsequently passed by the House and Senate, and signed into law by President Obama. The bill largely flat funds most education- and workforce-related programs compared to FY2014, with a few notable exceptions.

Click here: 12-10-14 Memo – Overview of the FY2015 Omnibus to see Penn Hill Group’s summary of the major education- and workforce-related provisions of the bill and report, as well as a chart that compares funding of major programs to the FY2014 totals.

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Meet Penn Hill Group’s Intern: Claire Arnaiz

Meet Claire Arnaiz, a senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has joined Penn Hill Group as an intern through the UC Washington Center’s research and internship program. With an interest in social issues, Claire is a Legal Studies major who will graduate in December of this year.

See our interview with Claire below to learn more about her and what she brings to our office. Welcome, Claire!

Claire pic

Claire Arnaiz

What brought you to DC?

I am in DC to participate in the UCDC research and internship program, a University of California program that allows UC students to intern in Washington DC while earning college credit.

What do you hope to do or learn during this internship?

During this internship, I hope to further my understanding and knowledge of current education legislation. Likewise, I am excited to learn about the process of lobbying the federal government and all of the intricacies associated with it.

What is your major? What are some of your hobbies?

I am a Legal Studies major, although I have also taken a number of politics and feminist studies courses. In my spare time I enjoy reading, exercising, practicing Spanish, baking cookies, and spending time with family and friends.

How will this internship fit in with your future goals?

As a Legal Studies major with an interest in politics, I plan on pursuing a career in the law or the legislative branch of the federal government, although I am not exactly certain which of those I would like to pursue at the moment. My time with Penn Hill Group allows me to explore the fields of law and politics and my experiences in those fields will help me determine which arena I would ultimately like to pursue.

What interests you most about education?

I am passionate about early childhood and higher education, specifically President Obama’s Preschool for All initiative and legislation to make college more accessible and affordable.

What did you do this summer?

I spent this summer studying Spanish language and culture in Madrid, Spain. During my free time I practiced my Spanish, ate tapas, and traveled around Spain, Portugal, Morocco, France, the Netherlands, and Italy.

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Penn Hill Group’s Midterm Election Analysis

The midterm elections were on Tuesday, November 4 with all 435 House seats and 36 Senate seats in play. Penn Hill Group’s midterm election analysis (PHG – Memo on Midterm Elections (November 7 2014)) includes a broad look at the election results, an analysis of how the results will affect politics and policy in the lame-duck session and the 114th Congress, a summary of changes in Administration leadership, House and Senate Leadership, and committee rosters and leadership, and an overview of the FY 2015 appropriations process and the current status of major education and job training pending reauthorizations.


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Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up — October 7, 2014

A quick look at the news from last week:


The House and Senate are in recess and are scheduled to return for legislative business on November 11.


The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter focused on requirements related to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act for comparable resources, facilities and course offerings for minority students.

The U.S. Department of Education announced awards for its Turnaround School Leaders Program, which is funded under the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Twelve awards totaling $20 million were awarded.

Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton announced that he will leave his position at the U.S. Department of Education at the end of this year. He did not announce where he is going. Robert Gordon, who has been nominated as assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, has begun service as a special advisor to the secretary.

Vice President Biden announced recipients of the latest round of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants- $450 million in job-training grants were awarded to nearly 270 community colleges in partnership with employers.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $75 million to 24 colleges and universities under the first round of the new First in the World grant competition. The grants are intended to support innovations toward college affordability and completion. There were over 500 applications submitted for the first competition.

The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education released a number of audit reports last week: the first one cited a lack of oversight by the Department of Education of loan guaranty agencies, another found that the Department is offering duplicative services under discretionary grant programs for low-income students and a third faulted the Department for not assessing and addressing the risks in approving direct assessment programs (a type of competency-based education program) to participate in Title IV federal student aid programs.

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Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – September 29, 2014

A quick look at the news from last week:


The House and Senate are in recess and are scheduled to return for legislative business on November 11.


The U.S. Department of Education released information on the latest cohort default rate (CDR) calculations for institutions of higher education. As in past years, the Department released national data, and data by sector and institution. Overall, the Department is reporting that CDRs are down nationally compared to last year’s data (14.7 percent to 13.7 percent). The Department also announced that it modified individual institution CDRs when borrower loans were split amongst different servicers.

Eric Holder announced that he will step down as Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice; he will stay on until a successor is approved.


Penn Hill Group provides a list of grant opportunities and summaries for select grants. Please visit our website for more information.​​

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Penn Hill Group’s Vic Klatt Quoted in Education Week Article on Education Policy Implications of Senate Control Post-Election

Penn Hill Group Principal Vic Klatt was quoted in an August 27 Education Week article, “Policy Stakes High as Parties Vie for Senate Control,” specifically on the likelihood of passage of a charter school bill in the new Congress:

“The charter bills’ fortunes could improve no matter what the political landscape looks like, because the issue has bipartisan support, said Vic Klatt, a former aide to Republicans on the House education committee.

‘The issue there is more a process one of whether the Senate will ever want to pass a targeted bill like that,’ separating charter legislation from the rest of the ESEA, said Mr. Klatt, who is now a principal at Penn Hill Group, a government-relations firm in Washington.”

Klatt was also asked about the future for education policy in the Senate with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) as the likely leaders of the Senate education committee:

“’Between the two of them, for the first time in a long time, I think there’s some reason for optimism,’ Mr. Klatt said.”

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Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: September 8

A quick look at the news from last week:


The House and Senate were in recess until September 8.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a joint subcommittee hearing titled, “Improving Department of Education Policies and Programs through Independent Oversight,” on Wednesday, September 10.


The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will establish a negotiated rulemaking committee for proposed regulations governing the federal Direct Loan program, in order to allow more student borrowers to use the “Pay as You Earn” repayment plan. The committee is expected to convene in February, 2015. The Department is currently accepting written comments with suggestions on additional issues that should be considered by the committee. Comments are due on November 4, 2014. It will also host two public hearings to discuss the rulemaking agenda, on October 23, 2014 at the Department of Education office in Washington, DC, and on November 4, 2014 in Anaheim, CA.

The U.S. Department of Education granted approval for students participating in two competency-based education programs in the University of Wisconsin system to be eligible to receive Title IV student aid.

The U.S. Department of Education issued a pre-publication preview of changes it is making to the regulations governing the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The proposed regulation makes a number of changes, including two new “models” that were permitted under the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill related to use of evidence-based practices and state-approved approaches, and an extension of the SIG grant period from three to five years.


Penn Hill Group provides a list of grant opportunities and summaries for select grants. Please visit our website for more information.

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Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: August 18

A quick look at the news from last week:


The House and Senate are in recess until September 8.

House education committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate education committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) look into the Department of Education’s waiver policies for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, specifically what information the Department based state wavier decisions on, how states have been impacted by the waivers and how timelines and policies in the waivers are being implemented or adjusted.

Senate education committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and the other Republican members of the committee wrote Education Secretary Duncan requesting information on the authority Duncan is utilizing to adopt the new Results Driven Accountability system for states under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Specifically the letter questioned the Department’s use of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests as an element of the accountability matrix on which states are being measured.


The U.S. Department of Education announced the opening of the Preschool Development Grant competition — $250 million is available for states through Development or Expansion Grants for preschool programs for low- and moderate-income families. The program is jointly administered by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. Grant applications are due October 14, 2014.

The U.S. Department of Education granted extensions of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) state waivers for five states: Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Wisconsin. They join 13 other states that thus far have been granted extensions on their waivers through the 2014-15 school year.

The U.S. Department of Education has asked for public comments on implementing certain portions of the recently-passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Specifically, they’ve asked for comments on issues relating to the WIOA sections on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Title IV in WIOA) and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (Title II in WIOA). Comments are due August 29, 2014. 

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