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

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

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up a WIA reauthorization bill last week. The bill, H.R. 803, the SKILLS Act, passed the committee on a vote of 23 -0 after Democratic Members walked out of the hearing, protesting what they consider to be a partisan process and bill.  The bill is expected to be considered this Thursday on the House floor. One en bloc amendment was adopted during the markup:

  1. Walberg en bloc amendment that encompassed amendments from Representatives Walberg, Roby and Brooks:
  2. Walberg portion streamlines the application process for states to submit unified WIA plans that encompass multiple programs across agencies, restores funding from H1B visa programs, and eliminates certain issues with job corps programs.
  3. Roby portion restricts lobbying with WIA funds.
  4. Brooks portion includes pay for performance and identifying high performing training providers as high priority providers and allowing for the strengthening of the capacity of these providers.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a full committee hearing on Wednesday, March 13, on “Keeping College Within Reach: Examining Opportunities to Strengthen Federal Student Loan Programs.”   Among other issues, the hearing is likely to focus on student loan interest rates.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a research subcommittee hearing on STEM education: Industry and Philanthropic Initiatives, on March 13. Witnesses include representatives from the Intel Foundation, Honeywell Aerospace, Project Lead the Way, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The House Appropriations subcommittee will hold a public and outside witness hearing on Labor/HHS/Education appropriations on March 13.

Carmel Martin, the Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education, announced that she will leave the Department in April and take a position with the Center for American Progress. Denise Forte, currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary, will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary.

The U.S. Department of Education released school-level graduation rate data for 2010-11.

North Dakota has withdrawn its application to the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements. The state said it cannot come to an agreement with the Department on the issue of reducing the number of students who are deemed “non-proficient.” North Dakota’s application had a goal of a 25 percent reduction over six years, but the Department asked for a 50 percent reduction.

The House passed a Continuing Resolution on Wednesday that would fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year.  The House bill generally would fund programs at the 2012 level, minus the 5% sequestration cut and an additional .098% reduction.  The CR would give the Department of Defense some flexibility in implementing the sequestration cuts, but there is no similar flexibility for non-defense programs.

The Senate is expected to take up the House CR next week. The Senate is expected to make changes to the House-passed CR, including some that seek to secure Administration priorities.  However, funding levels of Labor/HHS/Education programs are largely expected to remain the same as in the House bill.

The FY14 House and Senate budget resolution process is about to begin with the Budget Committee in both Chambers holding hearings next week.  These hearings are expected to be followed by quick action by both Committees on a budget resolution.