Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: January 28

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (January 21 –  January 25) in Washington.


The National Center for Education Statistics released a new report on high school graduation rates, which shows that high school graduation rates are at their highest level since 1974. During the 2009-2010 school year, 78.2% of students nationwide graduated on time.

The U.S. Department of Education released a set of fact sheets on the ESEA state waivers, highlighting various aspects of the waivers and how states’ applications addressed those areas: the five fact sheets address achievement gaps, graduation rates, turning around the lowest-performing schools, school and student accountability, and supporting teachers and leaders.

The House Committee on Education & the Workforce held an organizational meeting on Tuesday. They officially announced Ranking Members and subcommittee membership. Chairman Kline said that reauthorizing No Child Left Behind “remains a top priority” and also said the committee will address school safety issues in the near future.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was elected to serve as the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

A deal on filibuster reform was reached this week between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as Politico reported that the changes will ease some of the gridlock in the Senate but will still allow the minority party to offer amendments on the floor.

The House voted last week to suspend the debt ceiling until at least mid-May (and possibly into June or July once the Federal government uses additional measures), and the Senate is expected to pass the bill as well. The next immediate fiscal deadline is budget sequestration which is scheduled to go into effect on March 1, 2013. Politico reported  that they expect sequestration cuts to go down from the original projected 8.2% level, to approximately 5.1% for FY13 funding. The level of reduction is lower than previously projected due to the two month delay in sequestration under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the addition of funding to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy increasing the overall amount of discretionary spending, and the share of mandatory spending reductions in non-defense discretionary funding for 2013 remaining the same. However, there is no official determination yet from OMB as to the specific level of cuts.