Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: July 15

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (July 8-12) in Washington.

Majority Leader Cantor announced on the House floor on Thursday afternoon that the House may consider H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, on Thursday or Friday of this week (July 15). The bill, which was passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in June, reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The House Committee on Rules has posted the bill text and announced an amendment deadline of Monday, July 15 at 4:00 p.m.

Early last week, the Senate failed to reach cloture on a bill that would have extended the 3.4% interest rate of federally-subsidized student loans for one year.  Press reports indicated that a bipartisan group of Senators, including Senators Harkin and Alexander, reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday that would have adopted a long term interest rate structure for nearly all student loans.  This deal would have annually set the interest rate on undergraduate, graduate and PLUS loans at the 10 year Treasury note plus additional percentage points depending on the type of loan.  In addition, interest rates would have been capped at 8.25% for undergraduate loans and 9.25% for graduate loans.  However, as reported by The New York Times, the Congressional Budget Office scored this agreement as increasing government costs by $22 billion over 10 years, necessitating additional discussions by Senators.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the FY14 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill on Thursday by a party line vote of 16-14 (summary from the committee, and Committee report). Most of the debate during the markup focused on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the effects of sequestration. The bill was approved by the subcommittee on Tuesday by a voice vote, with no amendments.

Significant education amendments that were debated in the full committee markup included:

  • the transfer of $150 million from the Race to the Top College Completion program to the Low Income Heating Assistance program (Reed-D – Approved),
  • the transfer of $43 million from the Promise Neighborhood Program to IDEA state grants (Kirk- R – Approved), and
  • the transfer of $35 million from the School Improvement Grant program to the charter school program (Landrieu – D – Failed).

Significant education related funding levels in the bill (compared to pre-sequester FY13 appropriations numbers):

  • $125 million more for Title I
  • $250 million for Race to the Top focused on college completion (after the adoption of the Reed amendment)
  • $750 million for preschool development grants to states
  • $168 million more for IDEA (after the adoption of the Kirk amendment)

The White House announced their intent to nominate Michael Yudin for the position of Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the Department of Education. Yudin is currently the Acting Assistant Secretary for this office.

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