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

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

The U.S. Department of Education announced 16 winners for the $400 million Race to the Top-District competition. The 16 winners represent 55 school districts across 11 states and D.C. and include three charter school organizations.

The results of the 2011 TIMSS and PIRLS international assessments were released last week, showing that fourth and eighth grade students in the United States continue to lag behind other countries in math and science, although they are closer to the top for reading scores.

The U.S. Department of Education published in a Federal Register notice proposed priorities, requirements, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria for the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund. The deadline for public comment is January 14, 2013.

Democratic leadership announced the Democratic Senate HELP Committee members for the 113th Congress including returning Members: Chairman Harkin, Mikulski, Murray, Sanders, Casey, Hagan, Franken, Bennet, and Whitehouse, and three new Members: Sen. Baldwin (WI), Sen. Murphy (CT), and Sen. Warren (MA).  Leaving the committee are Sen. Merkley, Sen. Blumenthal, and Sen. Bingaman (retiring).

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. Witnesses included Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle, and Melodee Hanes, the Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice are working collaboratively on a set of guidelines for schools and districts for designing school discipline policies. The guidelines will also include policy recommendations. They expect to release the guidelines in the next few months.

Eight Democratic U.S. Senators, led by HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, and NJ Senator Frank Lautenburg, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking the Department of Education to investigate and take action against schools that they claim “manipulate their default rates” to prevent Departmental sanctions.