DC Shuttle: Secy Duncan Urges Deal Before Sequestration Cuts; Former Secy Alexander Calls for Shifting K-12 Funds to Students

At a hearing of the House Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the administration’s budget proposal for FY2013. Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) repeated the charges from a March 20 House Appropriations hearing: that the administration’s decision to pour billions in new spending into competitive grant programs while maintaining current funding for traditional formula grants disadvantages those students served by the formula grants, particularly special education and low-income students. The administration received criticism for this move from both parties. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) said that the sizeable grant awarded to her state through the Race to the Top program might have done more good distributed among almost all the districts to help defray budget shortages from impending state education cutbacks. Secretary Duncan also warned lawmakers to make a deal as soon as possible to avoid significant budget sequestration cuts scheduled for January, as states are already trying to set their education budgets for the fall.

On Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) suggested that federal funding for elementary and secondary education be changed to more closely resemble federal higher education funding, where students receive a federal aid package that they can apply at their choice of institution. “If you took the amount of money the federal government spends today on education and thought of it as a Pell grant for kids, that would be $1,700 per student and $3,400 for lower-income kids,” he said at a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers. He argued that federal spending on K-12 education should be directed to the individual students rather than to the institutions. Sen. Alexander sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and served as secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush.

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 April 2, 2012.

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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