DC Shuttle …
ESEA Passes House, Continues to be Considered in Senate. The House passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), the rewrite of No Child Left Behind, by a vote of 218 to 213. The bill would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and make changes to many of its programs. It was the second time this year that the House considered the bill, and it barely passed as 27 Republicans joined all Democrats in opposition to nearly defeat it on the floor. The legislation is supported by moderate Republicans but was also crafted in a way that could pass the Senate. Leadership lost some support when making changes and had to convince their caucus that it was worth supporting. Conservative lawmakers had pushed for the adoption of several amendments allowing schools to opt out of No Child Left Behind requirements. The House ultimately voted down an amendment that would have allowed states to opt out of the law while still receiving federal money. That amendment, known as A-PLUS, was important to many conservatives. Another amendment that would allow schools to avoid counting students who opt out of standardized tests in their participation rates passed. For most of the roll call, the bill had more votes against it than in favor. Many Republicans either held out their votes until the last minute or changed their votes under pressure from GOP leaders. … The Senate now continues debate on its bill to update the law, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), sponsored by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). Unlike the House version, the bill has been supported by members of both parties and Alexander praised the bipartisan effort. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he’s anticipating a vote on final passage early next week. The chamber debated a number of amendments before adjourning for the week. The Senate adopted several modest changes such new data collection on girls’ sports. The Senate also voted down conservative priorities, including Alexander’s Title I portability proposal that would allow money to follow students to public or private schools.
Education Appropriations Bills—Including Cuts—Advance in Committees. Appropriations committees in both the House and Senate approved spending bills that call for cuts in funding for the U.S. Department of Education. The House committee voted 30 to 21, along party lines, to cut $2.8 billion from FY 2015 (H.R.3020). The Senate committee also voted along party lines 16 to 14 to cut $1.7 billion from FY 2015 (S.1695). Both bills prescribe funding that is significantly below President Barack Obama’s budget, which would increase Department of Education funding. Both House and Senate bills would eliminate several programs including Preschool Development Grants, which is an Obama administration initiative. The Obama administration has expressed disapproval of the spending cuts stating, “As the administration has repeatedly made clear, the president’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto any legislation that implements the current Republican budget framework, which blocks the investments we need for our economy to compete in the future.” Both bills have been added to their respective calendars. For more details, see this Education Week article.
Supporters Introduce Bill on Free College Proposal. Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the America’s College Promise Act of 2015 (H.R.2962). The bill would make community college free for two years and provide a path for low-income students to obtain a four-year degree by ensuring that program credits will fully transfer. The bill is sponsored by 60 representatives and 10 senators, all Democrats. At a news conference, Scott stated, “We know that education is extremely important. We know that it’s important to our ability to compete on an international basis and as a global economy.” The bill comes in response to President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal announced in January. After the introduction of the bill, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “Community colleges are not just a uniquely American institution, but as the largest most affordable segment of America’s higher education system, they are critical to reaching the president’s goal to have the highest share of college graduates in the world and to ensuring America’s economic prosperity in the future.” For more information about the bill, see the press release or an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
FAST Act Continues to Gain Momentum. Simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA) got another boost as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced support for streamlining and simplifying the form. In a paper posted on its website, the Gates Foundation stated, “The current FAFSA is complex, redundant, and poorly timed. The good news is there are pragmatic steps we can take to fix the FAFSA and help many more students make it to and through college. By removing unnecessary questions and tailoring the application to the complexity of the student’s financial situation, using already submitted tax data, and having students submit tax information from a full year earlier, more students will be able to apply to get the aid they need.” Other recent support for streamlining the form has come from President Obama, who announced in January that he would like to eliminate 27 questions from the current 108-question form. Additionally, HELP Chair Alexander introduced the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act (S.108) in January and is likely to be included as an amendment in the Higher Education Act.
Ed Dept Posts Proposed Rules. The U.S. Department of Education published proposed regulations expanding President Obama’s Pay As You Earn income-based repayment program to older borrowers. Revised Pay As You Earn, or REPAYE, will reach another 6 million borrowers and 2 million will enroll, according to the department’s estimate. REPAYE is an entirely new initiative, and would be the fourth income-based repayment program at the department. The program would cost $15.3 billion over loan cohorts from 1994-2025. Public comments are due within 30 days. The rules also expand the circumstances under which colleges can challenge or appeal cohort default rate sanctions, make it easier for active-duty servicemembers to get reduced interest rates under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and increase assistance and communication to borrowers who rehabilitate a defaulted loan and transition to repayment.
Opposition to the Common Core in Mass. Opponents of the Common Core announced the “End Common Core” Massachusetts ballot question effort. The activists announced they’re starting an initiative ballot question campaign to throw out the standards that were adopted in the commonwealth five years ago, the Worcester Telegram reports.
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 July 13, 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.