DC Shuttle: Aiming to Medal in College Ratings, E-Rate, Early Ed

Symposium on college ratings program reveals partially developed structure. The Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics held a symposium of technical experts in the groups they’re consulting as they build the administration’s proposed college rating system. While the structure of the rating system is not fully developed, the advisors made clear that the administration was moving forward with its plan to implement new standards. The American Enterprise Institute released a report on the rating system the same day which says that appraising colleges on measures of access, affordability, and student success should not determine federal funding.

E-Rate program funded and endorsed. The Department of Education wrote a Dear Colleague letter encouraging states to use funding to support technology use. The administration plans to connect almost all students to high-speed Internet through the E-Rate program. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Tom Wheeler reported he would be freeing up $2 billion for the program intended to connect students to high-speed Internet. Speaking in detail at the National Digital Learning Day at the Library of Congress, Wheeler said he plans to fund all services through 2014, with broadband being priority. With half of the $2 billion essentially paid for, the agency will repurpose and reprioritize existing and unspent funds to find the rest. Other funds will come from streamlining the program and making it easier for groups to apply together. Wheeler also said he will issue an order later this spring outlining some restructuring and administrative changes that will take effect in 2015, and he’ll be soliciting public comment on how to phase out other services that don’t contribute to digital learning. President Obama, meanwhile, announced more than $750 million in charitable commitments from technology and telecom companies for the effort.

House extends in-state tuition for veterans bill. The House passed a bill (H.R. 357) on a 390 to 0 vote under suspension of the rules, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), that would require that public universities participating in Veterans’ Affairs (VA) educational assistance programs charge veterans, at the most, in-state tuition regardless of their state of residence.

Senate and House hearings differ on early education. A House Education and Workforce hearing centered on duplicative federal early education programs. Republicans questioned whether early childhood education is a good investment. Witness Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, said that early ed needs to be of high quality before making an extensive federal investment. Chair John Kline (R-MN) said Congress needs to overhaul existing and overlapping federal early education programs before creating any new programs. At a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) hearing on early education, Democrats said new investment in early education is necessary, but that they weren’t sure new federal programs are needed. HELP Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) is co-sponsoring legislation (S. 1697) with Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) that would create a new federal grant for states to create and expand preschool.

Report calls for more biz donations to K-12. Harvard Business School, the Boston Consulting Group and the Gates Foundation published a report calling for businesses to donate more funding to K-12 education. They also released the results of a survey of superintendents which showed that superintendents felt that businesses were not involved in or informed about education issues.

Story on Common Core in Massachusetts. A story in the Hechinger Report says that “In Massachusetts, top-performing schools phase in Common Core with reservations.” The report, with WGBH, is on a charter school limited by the new standards, and a teacher in Concord who likes the new curriculum. “Right now, as many as 65% of students at Massachusetts community colleges have to take remedial classes—even after meeting high school standards,” says part 2 of the report, about Dorchester’s Jeremiah Burke High School. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) introduced legislation that would restrict the U.S. secretary of education from withholding grant money to pressure a state to adopt a particular set of standards, such as the Common Core State Standards.

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. 10, 2014.

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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