Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: February 11

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week ( February 4 – 8) in Washington.


Comments are due by Tuesday, February 12 on the Department of Education’s December Federal Register notice on “Direct Grant Programs and Definitions that Apply to Department Regulations” which would amend the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR).

The House Committee on Education & the Workforce held a full committee hearing on Tuesday, February 5 titled “Challenges and Opportunities Facing America’s Schools and Workplaces.” Witnesses included Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Laura Fornash, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The hearing covered a wide range of issues from WIA to waivers, to higher education.

The House Education Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on Thursday, February 14 titled “Raising the Bar: How Education Innovation Can Improve Student Achievement.”

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced a bill to speed the adoption of digital tools in the classroom. The Transforming Education through Technology Act gives formula based funding to states, and then school districts for a variety of uses around digital learning tools. It also creates a competitive grant program to state/LEA or other partnerships focused on innovation in the digital space.

The Senate HELP Committee held a full committee hearing on Thursday, February 7 titled “No Child Left Behind: Early Lessons from State Flexibility Waivers.” Witnesses were Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, New York Commissioner of Education John King, Andrew Smarick of Bellwether Education, and Kati Haycock of The Education Trust. Of note, both Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Alexander strongly supported moving forward on a reauthorization of ESEA.

The U.S. Department of Education released state progress reports for the 12 Race to the Top grantees, giving details on their second-year activity.

Education Secretary Duncan  released internal guidance outlining some of the actions the Department of Education may take if sequestration goes into effect. The guidance discusses possible options that include cutting administrative costs and employee furloughs.

The Congressional Budget Office released their delayed January baseline projections this week, and the report estimates that there will be no Pell Grant shortfall this year. Previous estimates indicated a $5.7 billion shortfall in 2014, but CBO has estimated that the program is on sound financial footing. They do expect a shortfall in 2015 of approximately $2 billion, but this is significantly smaller than expected.

President Obama called on Congress to delay the automatic cuts due to sequestration, scheduled to go into effect on March 1, by adopting a package of tax changes and spending cuts. He has not released details. The White House released a report outlining how the sequester would impact education, jobs, small businesses, and other areas.