Capital Sorts Through Obama Proposals

DC Shuttle …

White House Drops Plan to Tax 529 College Savings Accounts. White House officials announced that President Obama would drop his proposal to tax 529 college savings accounts, just a week after the proposal was first made in the president’s State of the Union. Revenues from the 529 taxes would have been used to offset the cost of the president’s American Opportunity Tax Credit. The announcement to withdraw the proposal was made after some opposition among Democrats and Republicans, as reported in Inside Higher Ed. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) expressed his support of the White House’s decision to withdraw the plan, saying it “would have hurt middle-class families already struggling to get ahead.” For more information on the users of 529 plans, please see The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Strengthening Education Through Research Act Passes Senate Committee. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA). The bill, which is a reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act, passed the House last Congress but didn’t get a full vote in the Senate. Politico reported that Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, expects SETRA will be passed this Congress. Said Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray, “[SETRA] will make it easier for states and schools to get access to useful data and make research more relevant, actually, to our state and local needs.” For more information on SETRA, please read the Senate HELP Committee’s press release.

Updating No Child Left Behind. Lawmakers continued to work on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing which focused on teacher evaluations. Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in his opening statement, “Washington will get the best long-term result by creating an environment in which states and communities are encouraged, not ordered to evaluate teachers,” while Ranking Member Murray expressed some reservations about eliminating evaluations. Lawmakers from both sides seemed unwilling to continue Obama’s push to link teacher evaluations and pay to student test scores. The debate over testing continued in this hearing, with senators asking the panel some questions about the controversial issue. The Senate HELP Committee will hold a roundtable discussion with educators and experts entitled “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Innovation to Better Meet the Needs of Students” on Tuesday. To learn more about Alexander’s views on NCLB, please see his interview in TIME. The House Education and Workforce Committee will hold its first hearing of the 114th Congress on Wednesday and is expected to discuss the state of America’s schools.

Dual Language Learners (DLLs) in No Child Left Behind. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) released a report entitled, “Enhancing Young Hispanic Dual Language Learner’s Achievement: Exploring Strategies and Addressing Challenges.” Michael Nettles, senior vice president of ETS’s Policy Evaluation and Research Center said of the report, “Since the federal government increasingly focused on ensuring that all students enter school ready to learn, it is important to make sure that early education stakeholders understand the unique learning needs of young Hispanic DLLs.” New America Foundation EdCentral author Conor Williams wrote a series of articles about the report and actions Congress can take to support Hispanic DLLs.

Obama’s Early Education Agenda. Obama’s State of the Union Address and the budget proposal he will make both put emphasis on his early education plan. The plan includes: universal preschool, the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, Early Head Start and Child Care Partnerships, expanded Head Start and an ambitious child care plan. Obama’s plan for making child care more affordable was a major point in his State of the Union address last week. Ed Central writes more about it here. Head Start is also getting attention from lawmakers and educators after Obama announced that his 2016 budget would include a commitment to strengthening early education programs. Under his budget, Head Start would receive funding to expand to a full school day and year. Head Start has also received increased attention in the debate surrounding No Child Left Behind, as Ed Central reports.

Student Data Privacy Act Raises Questions. Obama’s recently proposed student data privacy bill is receiving scrutiny, even before its release. Education Week analyzed the bill based on a draft circulated privately by Obama administration officials.

IDEA Full Funding Act. A bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Full Funding Act, which would require the federal government to pay for 40% of the “excess costs” of students with disabilities. It is sponsored by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chris Gibson (R-NY), David McKinley (D-WV), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Tim Walz (D-MN).

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Feb. 2, 2015. Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.  

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