Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: November 19

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (November 12 -16) in Washington.

The U.S. Department of Education announced that it has received 371 applications, representing more than 1,100 school districts, for the Race to the Top-District competition. There is $400 million available for this competition, and awards will be announced by December 31, 2012.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined the second-term education agenda in his remarks to the Council of Chief State School Officers on Friday. He said the Department will continue focusing on work started during the first term at the state and local level, as well as focusing on principal preparation and evaluation. On ESEA reauthorization, Duncan said the Department will help and push for it, but only if Congress “wants it”, and added that he does not want to reauthorize a “bad” ESEA bill. During his speech, Duncan said that district-level ESEA waivers don’t make sense and are “off the table,” but he later recanted his remarks in an interview with Education Week, saying that district waivers are “very much still on the table.”

A number of House leadership decisions for the 113th Congress were announced this week:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was re-nominated as Speaker, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) will remain as House Majority Leader. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will serve as the conference chair; she previously served on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will run for House Minority Leader again. House Democratic leadership elections are expected to take place on November 29.

Some Senate leadership decisions were made last week:
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will remain Senate Minority Leader. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was elected the new Senate Minority Whip.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will remain as Senate Majority Leader. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that she will succeed Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) as chair of the Senate Budget Committee; she is currently a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

During a news conference on Wednesday, President Obama spoke about the fiscal cliff saying that he is “willing to look at additional work we can do on the discretionary spending side.” He spoke specifically about education, saying that there should be a way to resolve the issue that doesn’t hurt “basic research and education, helping young people afford going to college.”