Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: September 16

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (September 9 – 13) in Washington.   

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rodgers filed a version of a continuing resolution (CR) that would extend funding for FY14 through December 15, 2013 at essentially the final 2013 levels, which is approximately $986 billion for the entire federal government – a few billion less than actual FY13 discretionary spending. The House was expected to vote on the CR last week, but Republicans delayed the vote, and media reports are saying that there is currently no resolution on how to proceed forward on the CR.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on Thursday that the House may cancel its September recess (scheduled for the week of September 23), in order to work on a solution to avoid a government shutdown.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold two subcommittee hearings this week.

  • The Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee will hold a hearing on September 18 titled, “Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Access and Affordability through Innovative Partnerships.”
  • The Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education subcommittee will hold a hearing on September 20 titled, “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs.”

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will markup a bill (S. 1086) to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act on September 18.

The Senate HELP Committee will hold the first of a series of hearings on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The hearing, titled “The Triad: Promoting a System of Shared Responsibility. Issues for Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act,” is on September 19.

Negotiations began last week on the new proposed gainful employment regulations (new proposed regulations, and background information from the Education Department). The new proposal responds to aspects of the prior version thrown out in court by dropping the use of loan repayment rates as one of the metrics in determining if vocational programs lead to “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”  However, the new proposal maintains the use of debt to income ratios to make these determinations.  During this week’s meetings, the Department walked through the details of the language. They also provided the opportunity for negotiators to raise issues and identify additional criteria and alternatives to the Department’s proposal. The negotiators plan to continue conversations between now and the next (and final) meeting in October, including through working groups and a follow up conference call this week.

The U.S. Department of Education issued a statement in response to recently passed California legislation that would limit testing in the state to just pilot testing for one year. California does not intend to use these pilot test results for accountability purposes. The Administration’s statement says that the Department will be forced to take action, including withholding funds, if California moves forward with this plan.

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