Overview of Issues
The new Congress has convened and is completing its organizational phase, for example not all of the subcommittees related to education have been finalized. The 113th Congress has nine major education measures to rewrite. One of them, the Workforce Investment Act, which includes adult basic education, has been pending since 2004. The other bills include the Higher Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA has been due to be rewritten since 2007 and was the subject of House and Senate action in the last Congress.
Most observers are expecting that the Higher Education Act will be first to be considered for rewriting as the Pell Grant and Stafford Loan programs both have significant problems. The Pell Grant is a program that will have more people using it than there is money, and the Stafford student loan program’s interest rate is once again scheduled to go to 9%.
The Elementary and Secondary Act, which was last changed in 2001 and became No Child Left Behind, has been the subject of several attempts at being rewritten. Now the Senate, with a hearing on February 7, is looking at how the US Department of Education’s waiver program is going to be impacting any reauthorization attempt. Meanwhile the House is saying that they like what they produced during the last Congress (five bills to replace NCLB).
IRA is working to have literacy professional development included in several of these initiatives (using LEARN Act ideas) and to maintain funding for the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program.
As mentioned, there are other measures that are scheduled to be rewritten. The Workforce Investment Act, which includes Adult Basic Ed, has been awaiting action for years. It is said to be coming up soon. It would create a change in that states would have more flexibility in how to use the funds. Head Start is also up for being rewritten and as this is happening about 10% of their grantees are re-compete for their funds (this is the second wave of changes). In addition, the National Governors Association (NGA) has created an initiative to support six states to change to have early childhood programs with literacy components. IRA participated in these planning meetings with the NGA.
Gates Interviewed on Education Policy Changes – Measuring Teachers
Funding – Sequestration & Continuing Resolution
The current buzz in DC is that the sequester scheduled to take effect on March 1st will not be stopped. There is little political will to stop it. The assumed Republican drive to forestall the sequestration because it includes a cut to military spending is being watered down by the tea party members who only want to see spending cuts. The other part of the sequester is that there is another spending measure, the continuing resolution, which is scheduled to expire on March 27. Thus, in reality these two issues are being merged into one. It is possible that the sequestration cuts could be partially replaced by adding money into specific programs, by cutting other programs. Or impacting the overall spending levels – the allocations, could change it.
The continuing resolution and the sequester could impact each other if the overall spending levels for areas like education, health, transportation, defense are changed. If the overall spending levels are reduced, then the sequester will be eliminated because the money would have all ready been cut. If this happens then appropriators and/or executive branch managers would then allocate the funds they do have to specific programs. The difference is the sequester hits all programs, a change in the allocation would mean that programs will be impacted differently.
As of right now, the sequester is expected cut to FY 13 funds to education by about 5.1%; but remember this will be from the funds that will be sent to schools beginning on July 1st for the upcoming school year (we are forward funded).
It is also possible that some of the sequesters impact/reduction via lowering allocations could be mitigated by increased revenues. This is part of the agenda of Senator Murray (D-WA) who is chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
One of the things that has been noticed is that the Common Core State Standards are new to someone each day; and if you have been working on them each day for years you are discovering something new each day. The IRA Common Core State Standards Committee has set up a Q & A on the IRA website to help.
To see what others are asking, post a question, or just gather information:
IRA Common Core State Standards Page
Also, watch for a session for state councils at the upcoming IRA Annual Convention in San Antonio, April 19–22, 2013.
Looking for More Training on Advocacy?
The second IRA University of Advocacy course will begin on Tuesday night, February 5, at 8 PM EST, and run for six weeks (five sessions, skipping Tuesday, February 12, as it is the night of the State-of-the-Union address by the President to the Congress). This course will be on the Art of Advocacy. The previous course Pol Sci 101: How it works can be found in the Advocacy section of the IRA website. It is not required that you sit in on all five of the sessions-feel free to “drop-in.”
Also, the summer leadership academy is going to include a significant advocacy element… you will learn so much about making deals you will be smoking cigars in backrooms with the best of ‘em. Look for more information coming out shortly on this IRA event in Minneapolis June 27–29.
January 29, 2013
Rich Long, IRA Government Relations
To follow legislative information on Twitter go to: @rlongliteracy