DC Shuttle: Boston Schools Finalists for Innovation Grants; US Ed Secy Supports In-State Tuition for Kids of Undocumented

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing Tuesday to discuss legislation to reauthorize the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law, which has approved by the committee on Oct. 20. Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) acknowledged that “everyone has something they would like to change” about the draft, but encouraged his fellow lawmakers to support the bill as an improvement over the current, widely panned system. Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY) and former Education Secretary Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said they would require significant changes to the bill before they could fully support it. Much of the discussion and witness testimony at the hearing revolved around accountability measures and teacher evaluations–two of the most divisive issues addressed in the NCLB rewrite. Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, submitted a letter from a coalition of civil rights groups, business groups and education officials which criticized the bill for not requiring states to establish measurable student achievement and graduation rate benchmarks. On the other side, Republican members maintain their concerns that the bill in fact gives the federal government too much control over education. The legislation would provide incentives–though not requirements–for states to establish evaluation systems for teachers and principals, and several Republicans including Sen. Alexander argued that it should be up to states and school districts to determine when and how to develop evaluation systems. A final HELP Committee report on the bill will likely take at least a couple of weeks; with FY 2012 budget proposals, the deficit committee’s recommendations, and other measures to deal with, the Senate may not have time for the NCLB reauthorization before the end of the year.

Boston Public Schools were among the 23 finalists in the second round of the Investing in Innovation grants announced Thursday. This round of the competitive grant program will distribute almost $150 million between grantees, with about one-third targeted at proposals to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The Investing in Innovation grant program was established by the 2009 economic stimulus law and extended by the FY 2011 federal budget. Under the terms of its grant application, Boston Public Schools will partner with the National Center on Time and Learning to “replicate and codify” a strategy for turning around underperforming schools which includes restructuring the school day to increase the school year by 300 hours for every student.

On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that he supported states granting in-state tuition at public colleges to non-citizen children of undocumented immigrants. Secretary Duncan noted that the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education approved in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants beginning in fall 2012. Student will be eligible for the in-state tuition if they have attended a Rhode Island high school for at least three years and graduated or received a GED. They must also agree to seek legal status as soon as they are eligible. Secretary Duncan’s statement coincided with an announcement from the Lumina Foundation that it will provide $7.2 million over four years to business and nonprofit partnerships in 10 states with growing Latino populations to expand post-high school educational opportunities.


From the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, Nov. 14, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and publishes this column each week.

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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