Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: April 30

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (April 23 – 27) in Washington.

President Obama called on Congress in his weekly address, and during an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show, to prevent the student loan interest rate from doubling in July. He has threatened to veto the legislation proposed by House Republicans that passed earlier today.

The U.S. Department of Education held a Stakeholders Forum on Thursday to discuss progress of School Improvement Grantees. Several school superintendents and principals were on hand to discuss their school’s/district’s implementation practices and progress, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and School Turnaround Jason Snyder gave an overview of the progress on a nationwide level. Snyder said there are approximately 1,300 school in the SIG program, with 74% using the transformation model, and 20% using the turnaround model. Snyder said the Department is beginning to receive some early achievement data from the schools that show that 20% of SIG schools have had double digit gains in reading, and 25% of schools had double digit gains in math.

The Department announced  they will publish a notice in the Federal Register to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to develop proposed regulations designed to prevent fraud and otherwise ensure proper use of Title IV, HEA program funds, and to improve and streamline the campus-based Federal Student Aid programs. The notice will announce two public hearings, one on May 23, 2012 in Phoenix, and one on May 31, 2012 in DC.

President Obama will sign an executive order today, dealing with institutions of higher education and military benefits. It will require colleges to disclose information about financial aid and graduation rates, and require the Department of Defense to restrict recruiting at military installations. It will also trademark the term “GI Bill.”

The House voted today on the “Interest Rate Reduction Act” (H.R.  4628), introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) earlier this week, that would provide a one-year extension of the 3.4 percent subsidized Stafford Loan interest rate, and offset its $6 billion cost by eliminating the “Prevention and Public Health Fund” created under the health care law last Congress.
The legislation passed the House by a vote of 215-195.

George Miller and other Democratic Members introduced their own legislation to delay the rise in subsidized Stafford Loan interest rates, paying for this delay through increased taxes on larger oil and gas companies.

The House Committee on Education & the Workforce appears likely to markup H.R. 4297 (the Workforce Investment Improvement Act) at some point after the April 30-May 4 recess.

The Committee held a hearing on April 26 to discuss the President’s FY2013 request for the Department of Health and Human Services, with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying. The hearing focused primarily on health care issues.

Senator Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on his bill (S.2343, Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012) to extend the 3.4 percent student loan interest rate, which will 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. A vote is expected May 7.

Senator Alexander (R-TN) has also proposed legislation (the Student Loan Interest Rate Reduction Act) to keep the low rate.  His proposal would pay for the low rate by modifiying a provision in the Affordable Care Act.

The House Appropriations Committee released their proposed 302(b) allocations on Tuesday. The allocation for Labor/HHS/Education is approximately $150 billion, which is $7.7 billion less than the Senate allocation of $157.722 billion. The Senate allocations are available here.

The Senate Appropriations Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on Tuesday with Education Secretary Duncan to review the President’s FY2013 budget request for the Department of Education, but the hearing was postponed and a date has not yet been announced.

The House Appropriations Committee passed their FY13 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill yesterday. The bill includes funding for NSF ($7.3 billion) and Education and Human Resources ($845 million).