Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: March 25

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (March 18 –  22) in Washington.

The Senate approved a $984 billion appropriations measure on Wednesday, by a vote of 73-26, which would fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The House followed suit, passing the measure with a 318-109 vote on Thursday, and the bill now heads to the President. Department of Education and Labor programs were almost entirely funded at 2012 levels, minus a 5% cut due to sequestration.  An additional $30 million was made available for Job Corps from unobligated DOL funding.

The House passed the FY14 budget resolution offered by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan by a 221-207 vote on Thursday. The budget resolution includes reconciliation instructions for eight House Committees, including the Education and the Workforce Committee, to produce legislation generating savings of $1 billion each over the next 10 years.

Votes on the Senate FY14 budget resolution, which was passed by the Senate Budget Committee, began on Friday afternoon. The Senate budget resolution calls for $975 billion in increased tax revenues and for replacing the sequester with a mix of tax revenues, and cuts to defense and non-defense spending at about half the amount that would be necessary under the sequester.

Both the House and the Senate will be in recess March 25 through April 5.

The U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to institutions of higher education regarding the use of competency based approaches in awarding federal student aid.

The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will allow the 12 Race to the Top winning states an extra year to finish their work. The Department will consider requests from states on a project-by-project basis. The original deadline to spend Race to the Top funds was July, 2014. This would potentially extend the deadline to July, 2015.

During an event with Council of Chief State School Officers last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan confirmed that he is open to granting district-level ESEA waivers and specifically stated that the Department is in discussion with a group of California school districts.

A federal judge ruled against the U.S. Department of Education last week, on a motion to reinstate the Department’s “gainful employment” provisions that were invalidated last year.