Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: April 22

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (April 15 – 19) in Washington.

Acting Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris testified at a House Labor, Health and Human Service, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the budget for the Department of Labor on Tuesday, April 16. Acting Secretary Harris was asked several questions about job training and the Job Crops program, among other things.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies held a hearing on Wednesday, April 17 on the FY 2014 Budget Request for the Department of Education, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan testifying. Many of the Senators were concerned with the emphasis on competitive funding in the President’s budget request.

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hold subcommittee hearings on the FY2014 President’s budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services, with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying. The Senate Appropriations hearing is scheduled for April 24 at 10:00 a.m., and the House Appropriations hearing is scheduled for April 25 at 10:00 a.m.

The Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, a bill that expands mental health services in school, including expanding the use of positive behavior support services, and increasing early-intervention services, was to be offered as an amendment to gun control legislation that was debated by the Senate this week, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pulled the gun control measure after a failed vote on increasing background checks for gun buyers. There is discussion among some Senators about trying to move the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act as a separate bill in the coming weeks.

A bipartisan group of senators (the Gang of 8) unveiled a comprehensive immigration bill that include several education-related provisions such as the DREAM Act, STEM education funding, and education visa requirements.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a full committee hearing on Tuesday, April 16 titled “The Challenge of College Affordability: The Student Lens.” Witnesses include two college students, a representative of the US Public Interest Research Group, and a professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a confirmation hearing for Secretary of Labor-Designate Thomas E. Perez on Thursday, April 18. Secretary of Labor-Designate Perez received questions about Job Crops and job training programs as well as questions regarding his actions on civil rights matters at the Department of Justice.

The House Education and Workforce Committee held a Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, April 16 titled “Keeping College Within Reach: The Role of Federal Student Aid Programs.”

The U.S. Department of Education announced a second round of the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge competition, as well as a Race to the Top competition for districts. There is $120 million available for the district competition, and $370 million for early-learning initiatives. The Department is currently accepting comments on their proposed priorities for the district competition, and more details will be announced at a later point.

On Friday April 19, the Departments of Labor and Education announced that $474.5 million will be available for a new round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. The program strengthens training partnerships between community colleges and employers.

Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with business leaders on Tuesday, April 16 and asked them to continue their support of the Common Core State Standards.

The Department of Education announced an agenda for a new round of negotiated rule-making on postsecondary education. The Department will revisit state authorization and gainful employment, as well as address other HEA Title IV integrity issues including Pell Grant issues.   The Department also indicated future negotiated rule-making would take place on college affordability and quality of higher education issues.

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