Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: September 17

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (September 10-14) in Washington.


The Administration released the report required by the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 that provides further information on the impact of budget sequestration. The report states that there will be an 8.2% cut to non-defense discretionary programs, and a 7.6% cut to non-defense mandatory programs. For the most part, these cuts would be made across the board to education programs, with the exception of Pell which is exempt from sequestration cuts in FY 2013. Origination fees on student loans would be raised in proportion to the cut to non-defense mandatory programs.

The Department of Education announced that seven more states have applied for NCLB flexibility through the Department’s waiver process. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education. According to the Department, the 11 states (plus the Bureau of Indian Education and Puerto Rico) with outstanding requests for waivers include Alabama, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia. The 6 states that have not yet requested a waiver include Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont (request withdrawn), and Wyoming. Texas announced last week that the state will apply for an NCLB waiver, but it’s not presently likely to meet the requirements of the Department’s waiver process.

The Department will be releasing the most recent cohort default rates – the 2 year rates on Monday the 17th and the newly effective 3 year rates on Monday the 24th to individual institutions of higher education. A few days after the 3 year rate release, the Department is expected to publicly release both the 2 year and 3 year data on its website. The 3 year cohort default rate, while official with this release, does not carry sanctions with it until there are three sets of such default rates issues.


The House Committee on Education & the Workforce held a subcommittee hearing this week on Expanding the Power of Big Labor: The NLRB’s Growing Intrusion into Higher Education, which focused on the National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to expand jurisdiction to religious institutions, university faculty, and graduate student assistants. (summary from the Committee)

The House Committee on Education & the Workforce marked up H.J.Res. 118 on Thursday, providing for congressional disapproval of the Administration’s July 12, 2012 waiver of welfare work requirements. The resolution passed 22-16.

The House passed the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the military regarding institutions of higher learning.


The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a full committee hearing yesterday on “Improving College Affordability — A View from the States.”
Senator Carper (D-DE) filed an amendment to S. 3457, the Veterans Job Corps Act, that would include veterans’ educational benefits in the 90%  portion of the 90/10 calculation, and bars institutions of higher education from receiving veterans educational benefits if they violate the 90/10 rule. While the Senate voted for cloture on the bill, it is not expected that the bill will advance to the House before Congress adjourns for the elections.


Appropriators released the text of the six month Continuing Resolution this week, that will keep the federal government operating through the end of March 2013. The House is expected to vote on the measure today, and the Senate is expected to vote on it next week. Among the provisions of this CR that would impact education are:

  • A  .6 (6/10ths) of a percent increase in the 2012 levels of funding for nearly every discretionary program – including Department of Education programs.
  • An extension of the provision included in a CR at the end of 2010 that permitted teachers who were participating in alternative certification programs to be considered highly qualified teachers under ESEA.  This provision would be extended through the end of the 2013-2014 school year.  In addition, new reporting requirements are added that require the Department of Education to submit a report on the extent to which students with disabilities, English Language learners, and students in rural areas and from low income families in each state and local educational agency are being taught by such teachers. This report is due by December 31, 2013.