DC Shuttle: National Reports Call for Student Aid Reform, More Autonomy for Schools, Upgrading Data Systems

Higher education reauthorization. On Tuesday, Jan. 29, as lawmakers began to form proposals for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the New America Foundation released a  report with 30 recommendations for policy changes. The report “calls for specific changes to grants, loans, tax benefits, college outreach programs and federal regulations to provide more direct aid to the lowest-income students while strengthening accountability for institutions of higher education.” Democratic and Republican staffers from the House Education and the Workforce Committee, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Budget Committee met with authors of the report for suggestions on how to move forward with reauthorization. The report advises lawmakers to stabilize the Pell Grant program and increase its awards. It also calls for the simplification of federal loans, replacing tax credits with direct student aid, and extending standard accountability requirements to more schools. The Pell Grant recommendations are very similar to those made by the Institute for Higher Education Policy in its Jan. 7 report.

Federal role in education. On Tuesday, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) announced its intent to push for legislation that would require the federal government to give local school districts greater autonomy. The press release calls for federal laws that limit Department of Education actions, claiming the department, under Secretary Arne Duncan, has pushed “unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion.” As part of the organizations annual meeting, the NSBA is also lobbying members of Congress to stop the education-related cuts scheduled under sequestration.     

Race to the Top reports. On Friday, the Department of Education released performance reports for states that won Race to the Top grants and an annual report for the Race to the Top program. The Race to the Top program is now halfway through its four years. In remarks accompanying the reports, DOE says that states are seeing improvements in just the second year of the program. The report goes on to identify the implementation of teacher- and principal-evaluation systems, and the formation and upgrading of sophisticated data systems as the areas where states are struggling.

As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, of Feb. 4, 2013.

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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