Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: October 3

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (September 26-30) in Washington.

There continues to be a great deal of discussion regarding the Administration’s waiver proposals, and we expect further clarification through a FAQ document in the next few weeks.

On September 23, the Education Department extended the deadline for collecting and reporting data on the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Within the next few days it appears likely that the Department will announce their intention to hold a negotiated rulemaking session on Title II of the Higher Education Act, as well as the TEACH Grant provisions of Title IV as part of an overall push on accountability for teacher preparation.  In addition, this morning the Department released a plan that outlines their overall goals for accountability and improved teacher preparation.

The Department issued final regulations for the Part C program (Infants and Toddlers) of IDEA and also announced proposed rules on Part B of IDEA regarding obtaining parental consent for the use of public benefits or insurance.  These Part B regulations are largely designed to harmonize Part B regulations pertaining to parental consent for the use of public benefits and insurance with related provisions in the new regulations for Part C.

The House Education Committee announced a hearing to be held on October 4 titled: “Modernizing the Workforce Investment Act: Developing an Effective Job Training System for Workers and Employers.”

Rep. George Millerthe senior Democrat of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, launched an online forum on portions of President Obama’s American Jobs Act.  The “eForum” invites the American people to submit their stories about how the economic downturn has affected their lives in several areas and is likely to include a significant focus on many of the education provisions of the President’s proposal.

The House Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee has still not announced a date its markup which was originally scheduled for the end of July, but it has released the text of a bill that it intends to mark-up, as well as funding tables.  Here is a brief summary of their bill:

Department of Education – The Department of Education is funded at $69 billion in the legislation, which is $2.4 billion (-3%) below last year’s level and $11.5 billion (-14%) below the budget request. The bill eliminates more than 30 programs including the Administration’s “Race to the Top” program.  It also defunds the Department’s “gainful employment” regulation.

Title I Program – These basic grants to local school districts are funded at $15.5 billion, which is $1 billion above last year’s level.

Pell Grants – The maximum Pell Grant award is continued at $5,550. In addition, the bill includes reforms to the program to reduce costs by $3.6 billion in the next year alone. These reforms include: limiting the lifetime eligibility for Pell Grants to 6 years (down from 9 years); rolling back recent changes to the qualification formula; eliminating eligibility for students who attend school less than half time or students who do not have a high school diploma or GED; and targeting the funding to the neediest students.

Special Education – Special Education grants to states are funded at $12.7 billion in the legislation – an increase of $1.2 billion above last year’s level. This will raise the federal percentage of special education funding from 16.1% to 17.3%.

The Senate HELP Committee has announced that on October 18 it will markup a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill last week.  Programs were largely level funded.  It is expected that this bill, along with others, will be rolled into a larger Omnibus measure that will be considered by Congress in the coming months.