Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – February 16, 2016


The House is in recess and will return next week.

Over 70 House Democrats, including Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Committee Members Reps. Reuben Hinojosa (D-TX), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Mark Takano (D-CA), sent a letter to President Obama and U.S. Department of Education (ED) Acting Secretary John King urging them to convene a White House summit on teacher diversity.

The House passed H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, by a vote of 236 to 178. The bill would require each National Science Foundation grant award to be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of how the project serves the national interest. The Senate has not taken action on this bill.

The House passed H.R. 2360, the Career-Ready Student Veterans Act, by a voice vote. The bill would require non-accredited programs to meet certain standards, such as state certification or board requirements, in order to qualify for GI Bill funds. This bill has been introduced in the Senate and was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.


The Senate is in recess and will return next week.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said the HELP Committee will hold six oversight hearings throughout the year on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).


The Obama Administration submitted its Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request to Congress, totaling $4.1 trillion. The budget request proposes $69.4 billion in discretionary spending for ED, which is an increase of $1.3 billion, or 2 percent, over the FY2016 level. The request maintains proposals from past budgets to provide, through mandatory funding, tuition-free community college and state Pre-K programs. The budget request also largely follows the structure of the newly reauthorized ESEA. In addition, the request includes a focus on reducing socioeconomic segregation through a new initiative and portions of funding from existing programs. Additionally $4 billion in mandatory funding is proposed for a Computer Science for All State Grants program, as well as $100 million in discretionary spending for a Computer Science for All Development Grants program. In higher education, the budget seeks to expand the Pell Grant program through the reinstatement of Summer Pell and the establishment of a Pell “bonus” for taking 15 credit hours a semester. Lastly, the budget seeks to revert the 90/10 rule to 85/15 with the U.S. Department of Defense and veterans benefits counting as federal funds for the purposes of this rule.


President Obama announced his intent to nominate John King as Secretary of Education. His nomination must be approved by the Senate; HELP Committee Chairman Alexander has previously stated his commitment to a speedy consideration of King’s nomination.

ED announced the formation of a Student Aid Enforcement Unit to respond to allegations of illegal actions by higher education institutions. The unit will have four divisions focused on various issues related to federal funding of institutions of higher education, borrower defense and compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act).

The Federal Trade Commission filed charges against Stepping Stonez Development, LLC and Capitol Network Distance Learning Programs, LLC, two online high school operators charged with being diploma mills and misleading consumers about their legitimacy, including their association with recognized high school equivalency programs.