Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: September 23

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (September 16 – 20) in Washington.  

On Friday, the House passed a short-term Continuing Resolution that would keep the government funded at current levels through December 15, 2013, and would prohibit funding to be used for ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act) and allow the Treasury Secretary to continue to make payments on public debt and for Social Security payments. The legislation passed by a mostly party-line vote of 230-189, with one Republican voting no, and two Democrats voting yes. President Obama has threatened to veto any bill that would defund the healthcare law. An agreement must be reached by September 30 to avoid an October 1 government shutdown.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on Wednesday that the House will cancel its September recess (scheduled for this week), in order to work on a solution to avoid a government shutdown. The House will return to session on Wednesday, September 25.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions marked up a bill (S. 1086) to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. There were no amendments filed, and the bill passed the committee by a voice vote.

The Senate HELP Committee held the first of a series of hearings on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act last week. The committee also released a letter outlining the hearing process and their request for input from stakeholders on reauthorization. The letter states that hearings will cover topics such as the roles of the state, the federal government, and accreditors in higher education; keeping college affordable; examining ways to increase quality in higher education; student access; innovative approaches to improving student success; student financial aid; and teacher preparation programs. Each hearing will be announced one week in advance, and organizations should submit recommendations related to the hearing topic only at that time. During the first hearing on Thursday, Chairman Harkin (D-IA) said there will be twelve hearings, and he hopes to have a bipartisan HEA reauthorization bill in early 2014.

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Chief State School Officers giving additional guidance on the testing flexibility that was offered to states in June of this year through the ESEA flexibility amendment process. The new guidance will allow states to request flexibility in testing this spring as they begin using field testing assessments for the new Common Core State Standards — as long as every student in the state takes a complete test in both math and English/Language Arts, the state can request to suspend their own state tests, and thus avoid “double testing.”

Yesterday, the Administration began their process for receiving input on the structure of the college ratings system President Obama proposed several weeks ago by announcing that they will conduct a series of public forums starting with soliciting student input. They also announced that comments and input on the proposal can be sent to

The Government Accountability Office released a report on Race to the Top states, and their various levels of success in implementing teacher and principal evaluation systems.

The Department of Education is seeking public comment on its strategic plan for the Department for FY2014-18. The plan addresses goals and objectives in six areas: early learning; elementary and secondary education; postsecondary education, career and technical education, and adult education; equity; continuous improvement of the U.S. Education System; and U.S. Department of Education capacity. Comments are due by Friday, October 4.

Penn Hill Group provides a weekly list of grant opportunities, and summaries for select grants. Please visit our website for more information.