Obama Calls for Free Community College

DC Shuttle …

President proposes free community college. President Obama announced a plan to make two years of community college free, called America’s College Promise. The first question asked by proponents and opponents alike was how funding for the proposal would be found. The administration has not said how much the program will cost or where it will find the money. The president intends to hold details until the State of the Union address on Jan. 20 and his introduction of the FY 2016 budget, which is expected by Feb. 2. The proposal would increase federal funding to cover three-quarters of community college tuition, and require states to cover the rest. Students would have to make steady progress toward a degree and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. The proposal would require legislation before it could be implemented. The Washington Post reported on the details while the National Journal reported on the political difficulties.

No Child Left Behind updates to see early action. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), now chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said that he hopes to have a bill ready to go to the floor “by late February” to update legislation on K-12 education.  The last reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called No Child Left Behind (NCLB), expired in 2007. The administration has worked to shape education policy by granting states waivers from the provisions of NCLB, if the states submit applications with alternate approaches. Meanwhile, Congress has not been able to pass a reauthorization bill. Now, Republican Committee leadership in the Senate and House has said the legislation will be a priority this Congress and that they will work to act on a bill quickly. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) said he will work with Sen. Alexander on that timeframe. They said that they were working with their Democratic counterparts on the process. The Senate HELP Committee membership is similar to last Congress’s, when the committee approved a bill by then-Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) which did not pass the full Senate. Politico reported on details of the plan.

Federal guidance on English language learning students. The Education and Justice departments issued guidance and fact sheets reminding states and schools of their obligations to provide appropriate educations for English language learners. Schools must, among other obligations, identify and assess English language learners and offer those students access to all curricular and extracurricular activities, including both special education and gifted and talented programs. Schools are also directed to avoid unnecessary segregation of English language learners, remove students from programs once they are proficient in English and provide those students’ parents with translated documents like report cards and discipline procedures, according to a report in the Washington Post.

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 Jan. 12, 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.  


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