Monthly Archives: July 2009

Weekly Legislative Update – July 17, 2009


The House also approved, 432-0, an amendment from Congressman Hastings (R-WA) that would make $5 million from the Bureau of Reclamation Water and Related Resources account available to begin implementation of hydroelectric facility upgrades at Bureau of Reclamation dams.

Representatives Dan Boren (D-OK) and Candice Miller (R-MI) also had amendments approved, including a proposal from Boren, passed 429-4, to increase funding by $5 million for natural gas vehicle research and development and demonstration.  Miller’s proposal would increase funding for the Water Power Program by $10 million, which passed 431-1.

There were 13 remaining amendments up for vote, such as a modification offered by Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that would make a 5 percent cut to all funding accounts in the bill, and a proposal to strike funding for earmarks.


The Senate agreed late Thursday to cut off debate on an amendment to expand the federal definition of hate crimes, as part of the FY10 defense policy bill.  The 63-28 vote cleared the way for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) to add the defense measure (S 1390) and resume debate on an attempt to terminate the F-22 fighter jet program.

The amendment aims to expand the definition of hate crimes to include offenses based on gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, and to allow federal courts to prosecute such crimes when state and local governments cannot.

The Senate will resume debate on the defense bill Monday, starting with votes on provisions that are related to the hate crimes amendment.  The next amendment up for consideration is a proposal by John Thune (R-SD) on firearms.  Debate will continue on the F-22 amendment from Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ).  President Obama has threatened to veto the bill over the $1.75 billion for additional F-22 fighter jets, which the amendment would eliminate from the bill.


The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies passed its annual funding legislation for FY10 today. The bill contains a total of $123.1 billion, including $68.8 billion in discretionary spending which is $13.8 billion or 25 percent over last year’s level.

The Transportation Departments’ FY10 budget of $75.8 billion includes spending for modernizing infrastructure, including a new air traffic control system and more high-speed rail lines.

Of the nearly $16 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), $865 million is set aside for the NextGen air traffic control system that relies on satellites instead of ground-based radar.  The budget also includes $180 million, a $9 million increase, for research and development to improve safety and expand capacity, which NextGen is intended to accomplish.

The budget proposes a $5 billion, five-year high speed rail grant program for states, and includes $1 billion for FY10.  It requests an increase of nearly $1 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, boosting the agency’s budget from $1.8 billion to $2.7 billion.

The Federal Highway Administration would receive $41.8 billion for operations.  The budget predicts that by limiting spending on highway construction the Highway Trust Fund will end up with a balance of $1.1 at the end of FY10.  It also proposes eliminating $161 million from a surface transportation priorities appropriations account that is composed entirely of earmarks, cutting $25 million in rail relocation grants and $6 million in earmarked funding for the Denali Access System in Alaska.

Washington Outlook

The House will continue to work through FY10 appropriations bills next week, planning to press forward on two of the three outstanding bills; the Labor-HHS-Education measure and the Transportation HUD bill.

 The Labor-HHS-Education bill would allocate $13.3 billion for the Labor Department, $73.7 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services and $64.7 billion for the Education Department.  Overall it would provide $730.5 billion, including $160.7 billion in discretionary spending.

The Transportation-HUD bill would appropriate $123.1 billion, including $75.8 billion for the Transportation Department and $47 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  In response to this summer’s fatal crash on Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail, the bill also includes $150 million for maintenance improvements on the District’s commuter rail system.

Also next week, the House is expected to consider a statutory pay-as-you-go budget measure.  The House and Senate already have pay-as-you go rules that require tax cuts and new mandatory spending to be offset, but the measure (HR 2920) would make that rule law.

Emergency measures would be exempt, as would certain policies related to middle-class tax cuts, the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax “patch” and prevention of a cut in Medicare payments to doctors.  The legislation is expected to come to the floor without a committee markup.

The House could also take up a bill to overhaul food safety laws (HR 2749), which would allow the Food and Drug Administration to impose civil penalties and strengthen requirements for tracing food-borne illnesses.

The Senate will resume work on the FY10 defense authorization bill, which could again consume the entire week.  The $680 billion measure (S 1390) would call for a 3.4 percent pay raise for the military and also includes a provision to alter the rules of evidence for the approaching trials of detainees held at the U.S. facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has offered an amendment that would bar any prisoners at the Guantánamo detention facility from being transferred to the United States for any reason, including standing trial.

The Senate could also vote on confirming Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, although it is unlikely the nomination to make it to the floor that early.

Fed Ed News and Event – July 17, 2009


Education news headlines: [please see the end of this email for the full text of all articles]

Charter Schools Gain in Stimulus Scramble [Article 1]

Op-Ed: No Size Fits All (President Obama’s plan for producing more community college grads doesn’t throw money at the problem. It ties money to reform and has the potential to spur innovation) [Article 2]

Education and Labor Officials Pledge Closer Cooperation on Job Training [Article 3]

New Study Takes a Crack at Measuring Higher Education’s Productivity [Article 4]

Video: President Obama Gives “No Excuses” Speech to NAACP (includes full text of the speech)

Congressional Committee hearings: 

House Committee on Appropriations:

today:  full committee mark up of draft fiscal 2010 appropriations for programs under its jurisdiction

9:00 a.m., 2359 Rayburn House Building, Capitol Hill


Materials from last week’s subcommittee markup:

Summary table:

Earmark list:

House Committee on Education and Labor:

July 21: Full Committee Markup of The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009

11:00 a.m., 2175 Rayburn House Building, Capitol Hill

Text of the bill:

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions:

July 22: Subcommittee Assignments and any Nominations cleared for action:

Nomination of Anthony Miller, of California, to be Deputy Secretary of Education

Nomination of Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, of California, to be Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

Time TBA, Room TBA

Other Events:

today: Education Secretary Duncan will deliver remarks at the National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of Secondary School Principals National Leaders Conference, followed by Q&A

10:20 a.m., Renaissance Hotel, 999 Ninth St NW, Washington, DC

today: Secretary Arne Duncan with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, holds a news conference to announce support of investment in early childhood learning.

11:20 a.m., HHS Education Day Care Center, 330 C St., SW, Washington, D.C.

There will be a listen-only conference call available. Call-in, 800-857-9734; passcode, HHS

July 23: Release of the ETS Report: National Education Standards: Getting Beneath the Surface

2:00 – 3:30 p.m., National Press Club, First Amendment Lounge, 529 14th St NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC

ETS Policy Information Center Senior Associate Paul Barton, CCSSO Executive Director Gene Wilhoit, Bethany Little, Chief Education Counsel to U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and ETS Policy Evaluation & Research Center Senior Vice President Michael Nettles, discuss the report

U.S. Department of Education:

FY10 Education Budget:

The Education Department has posted FY2010 Budget Justifications (May 13):

List of political appointees at the Department:

Federal Education Training and Grant Opportunities, Notices:
Link to today’s Federal Register:

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; Overview Information; Technical Assistance and Dissemination To Improve Services and Results for Children With Disabilities–National Center on Postsecondary Outcomes for Students With Disabilities; Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.

Upcoming Research Funding Webinars

The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) and the National Center for Education Research (NCER) within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will host a series of webinars related to research funding opportunities in July, August, and September. Ten types of webinars are planned.

Yesterday in Congress:

H.R.3238 : To increase access to adult education to provide for economic growth.
Sponsor: Rep Kennedy, Patrick J. [RI-1] (introduced 7/16/2009)
Latest Major Action: 7/16/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Education and Labor, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

S.1460 : A bill to amend title VII of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for college retention challenge grants.
Sponsor: Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] (introduced 7/16/2009)   

Latest Major Action: 7/16/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.1468 : A bill to increase access to adult education to provide for economic growth.
Sponsor: Sen Webb, Jim [VA] (introduced 7/16/2009)  
Latest Major Action: 7/16/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus):

As of July 2, all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have submitted applications for Phase I of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

UPDATE July 16: Louisiana, Oklahoma and Montana’s applications have been approved.

Initial and Approved Applications:

The following states’ applications are still pending approval: Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Wyoming

The Workforce Alliance is hosting a 3-part Audio Update Series entitled “Recovery to Reauthorization.”

The second call in the series will take place Friday, July 24 at 1 p.m. ET, and will cover ongoing challenges and innovative solutions associated with career pathway strategies on the state and local level, and address how WIA reauthorization can help low-skilled workers move into middle-skill careers

July 7: Draft Guidance on Title I, Part A Waivers —

The draft guidance and Appendix I to the draft guidance can be found under “Title I, Part A Recovery Funds for Grants to Local Educational Agencies” by following the link to ED Recovery Act Programs at, or you can go to the guidance and Appendix I directly at and

July 2 : Secretary Duncan announced last week that $2.7 billion in government services funds will be released early.

This chart shows how much money each state will get early:

Timeline for Race to the Top funds:

The Department posted spending reports by state and by program (at the bottom of the webpage, updated June 26):

Education Recovery and Reinvestment Center:

The State and Local Resources page is tracking all activity at the state level and has a good collection of links, documents, and local news stories on distribution of education stimulus money:

The Department has released guidance, fact sheets, and applications for various stimulus funding, including the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Title I funding, IDEA funding Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants, Independent Living Services funding, Impact Aid Construction Formula Grants and McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth Grants (updated April 13):

Please contact D’Arcy Philps, Vic Klatt, Rich Stombres or Danielle Ballard at Van Scoyoc Associates with any questions or comments.
(202) 638-1950

Article 1

Charter Schools Gain in Stimulus Scramble

Cash-Strapped States, Districts Signal Expansion of Public-Education Alternative Despite Some Teachers’ Strong Opposition


Some cash-strapped states and school districts are signaling a major expansion of charter schools to tap $5 billion in federal stimulus funds, despite strong opposition from some teachers unions.

Charter schools are typically non-unionized, publicly funded alternative schools that have been widely promoted by conservatives as a needed dose of competition in public education.

Last month, the Louisiana legislature voted to eliminate that state’s cap on new charter schools. The Tennessee legislature recently passed a bill expanding charter schools after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan personally lobbied Democrats who had been blocking it. And the Rhode Island legislature reversed a plan to eliminate funding for new charters after Mr. Duncan warned such a move could hurt the state’s chances for grant money.

The most striking example may be in Massachusetts. Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino — both Democrats with histories of strong labor support — are proposing new state laws that would give them broader power to overhaul troubled schools, open more charter schools and revamp collective-bargaining agreements.

Gov. Patrick Thursday proposed increasing the number of available slots for students in state-sponsored charter schools to 37,000, from 10,000. He also wants to give state officials the explicit power to appoint outside receivers to run chronically underperforming schools. Mr. Duncan came to Boston to join Gov. Patrick and the mayor as they detailed their plans.

Charter schools receive public money but are free from many of the rules and restrictions that govern traditional public schools.

Mr. Menino, who oversees the Boston schools, wants Massachusetts communities to be able to transform traditional public schools into district-controlled charter schools and link teachers’ pay to performance.

Formerly a charter-school critic, Mr. Menino said he is fed up with opposition from the Boston Teachers Union. “I’m just tired of it,” he said. “We’re losing kids.”

Richard Stutman, the Boston Teachers Union president, declined to be interviewed.

Massachusetts public schools have regularly been among the nation’s top performers. But officials have struggled to turn around the worst-performing schools and eliminate achievement gaps between white and minority students.

“We have been talking about these gaps for years while children wait,” Gov. Patrick said Thursday.

The Obama administration created the “Race to the Top Fund” earlier this year to dole out federal money for school innovation. States and school districts nationwide suffering from deep budget cuts are scrambling for a share of the funds.

Mr. Duncan has warned states in recent months that they are unlikely to qualify for the grants if they don’t move toward changes such as merit pay for teachers and lifting caps on charter schools — measures that unions have either opposed or tried to limit.

In a speech earlier this month to a convention of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union, Mr. Duncan urged teachers to embrace revamped pay and seniority rules to give schools greater flexibility.

“When a Democratic secretary of education goes to the NEA and mentions merit pay explicitly as something that has to happen, the ground has shifted,” said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

Teachers are starting to adjust to the new landscape. They are “both feeling the pressure and willing to think about doing new things,” said Jane Hannaway, director of education policy at the Urban Institute, a left-leaning research group. “It’s a new world.”

Some teachers unions have made moves to give administrators greater flexibility. In New York City, for instance, the United Federation of Teachers, which operates two charter schools, has accepted a form of merit pay.

Even so, Randi Weingarten, departing UFT chief and president of the American Federation of Teachers, the national union, said some states are moving too fast. The availability of the new federal grants “is pushing people to say and do things simply because everybody is desperate for resources,” said Ms. Weingarten, whose union represents 1.4 million members.

School takeovers and overhauls have a mixed record. While test scores rose in cities like Boston, Chicago and New York after mayors took control of the schools, state takeovers have been less successful. Most state education departments aren’t staffed to manage a school district or an individual school. Even bringing in a private school-management concern doesn’t ensure improvement.

In 2004, long-troubled Cole Middle School in Denver became the first school to be taken over by the state of Colorado. Management was turned over to KIPP, a large San Francisco-based school-management concern. It ran Cole as a charter school and test scores rose.

But KIPP had difficulty finding the right administrator for the long haul, and it eventually withdrew from the effort. The school was closed for several years.

Reopened last fall as an arts and sciences academy serving students in preschool through eighth grade, Cole is seeking state approval to undergo yet another transformation and become a so-called “innovation” school, which would give it charter-like status under state law.

In Massachusetts, with its long history of local control of schools, the proposals of the mayor and the governor are likely to face opposition from school boards as well as teachers unions. But with the availability of the new federal funds at stake, some think legislators will have a tough time voting against them.

“It would be a political disaster for anybody to be seen as reducing our ability to access that money,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a right-leaning, Boston-based think tank.

Article 2

Op-Ed Columnist

No Size Fits All


If you visit a four-year college, you can predict what sort of student you are going to bump into. If you visit a community college, you have no idea. You might see an immigrant kid hoping eventually to get a Ph.D., or another kid who messed up in high school and is looking for a second chance. You might meet a 35-year-old former meth addict trying to get some job training or a 50-year-old taking classes for fun.

These students may not realize it, but they’re tackling some of the country’s biggest problems. Over the past 35 years, college completion rates have been flat. Income growth has stagnated. America has squandered its human capital advantage. Students at these places are on self-directed missions to reverse that, one person at a time.

Community college enrollment has been increasing at more than three times the rate of four-year colleges. This year, in the middle of the recession, many schools are seeing enrollment surges of 10 percent to 15 percent. And the investment seems to pay off. According to one study, students who earn a certificate experience a 15 percent increase in earnings. Students earning an associate degree registered an 11 percent gain.

And yet funding lags. Most people in government, think tanks and the news media didn’t go to community college, and they don’t send their children to them. It’s a blind spot in their consciousness. As a result, four-year colleges receive three times as much federal money per student as community colleges. According to a Brookings Institution report, federal spending for community colleges fell six percent between 2002 and 2005, while spending on four-year colleges increased.

Which is why what President Obama announced this week is so important. He announced a $12 billion plan to produce 5 million more community college grads by 2020.

If the plan were just $12 billion for buildings and student aid, it wouldn’t be worth getting excited about. The money devoted to new construction amounts to about $2 million per campus. With new facilities costing in the tens of millions, that’s not a big deal.

Nor is increased student aid fundamentally important. I’ve had this discussion with my liberal friends a thousand times, and I have come to accept that they will never wrap their minds around the truth: lack of student aid is not the major reason students drop out of college. They drop out because they are academically unprepared or emotionally disengaged or because they lack self-discipline or because bad things are happening at home.

Affordability is way down the list. You can increase student aid a ton and you still won’t have a huge effect on college completion.

What’s important about the Obama initiative is that it doesn’t throw money at the problem. It ties money to reform and has the potential — the potential — to spur a wave of innovation.

People who work at community colleges deserve all the love we can give them, since they get so little prestige day to day. But the fact is many community colleges do a poor job of getting students through. About half drop out before getting a degree.

Most schools have poor accountability systems and inadequately track student outcomes. They have little information about what works. They have trouble engaging students on campus. Many remedial classes (60 percent of students need them) are a joke, often because expectations are too low.

The Obama initiative is designed to go right at these deeper problems. It sets up a significant innovation fund, which, if administered properly, could set in motion a spiral of change. It has specific provisions for remedial education, outcome tracking and online education. It links public sector training with specific private sector employers.

Real reform takes advantage of community colleges’ most elemental feature. These colleges educate students with wildly divergent interests, goals and abilities. They host students with radically different learning styles, many of whom have floundered in traditional classrooms.

Therefore, successful reform has to blow up the standard model. You can’t measure progress by how many hours a student spends with her butt in a classroom chair. You have to incorporate online tutoring, as the military does. You have to experiment with programs like Digital Bridge Academy that are tailored to individual learning styles. You have to track student outcomes, as the Lumina Foundation is doing. You have to build in accountability measures for teachers and administrators.

Maybe this proposal, too, will be captured by the interest groups. But its key architects, Rahm Emanuel in the White House and Representative George Miller, have created a program that is intelligently designed and boldly presented.

It’s a reminder that the Obama administration can produce hope and change — when the White House is the engine of policy creation and not the caboose.

Article 3

Education and Labor Officials Pledge Closer Cooperation on Job Training

Washington — Appearing before the Senate education committee today, a pair of top officials from the Education and Labor Departments pledged to work together to better align federal education and labor programs.

“One criticism that we hear repeatedly is that we have asked local areas to partner with various stakeholders, and yet inside the Beltway we are conducting siloed business as usual,” said Jane Oates, an assistant secretary of labor and former top education aide to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Ms. Oates said representatives of both departments had already met several times, echoing comments made on Wednesday by Martha J. Kanter, the under secretary of education, at a conference of state higher-education leaders in Santa Fe, N.M.

Ms. Oates, who was joined by Ms. Kanter at today’s hearing, also cited a recent joint letter to states and colleges as the first fruit of the departments’ collaboration. In the letter, the agencies asked states to continue unemployment benefits for workers who enroll in college and encouraged colleges to factor in the financial situation of unemployed applicants when awarding aid to them.

Ms. Kanter and Ms. Oates said they would also work with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs to reauthorize, or renew, the Workforce Investment Act, the major law governing job-training and education programs. The law was enacted in 1998 and expired in 2003.

“We have a unique opportunity to better align and integrate programs within and across federal agencies, states, and localities to improve education and employment outcomes,” said Ms. Kanter.

As an example, she called for marrying adult-literacy and job-training programs, so that literacy training pertains to the prospective job. Ms. Oates agreed, and said that remedial education should also be embedded in job training.

“We can’t tell someone who wants to be a nurse that it will take two years of remedial work before they get credit” toward a degree, she said. “They’re going to lose their taste for nursing. We need to integrate job skills and adult basic ed.”

Ms. Oates said the agencies would also team up to streamline the reporting requirements for participants in the job-training system.

“Far too many people are wasting their time answering a question for me one way and for Martha another way,” she said. “We can’t afford to waste people’s time doing duplicative paperwork.” —Kelly Field

Posted on Thursday July 16, 2009

Article 4

New Study Takes a Crack at Measuring Higher Education’s Productivity

Measuring value and productivity in higher education can be a complex and controversial topic: Lawmakers, taxpayers, and people paying tuition want to get the most for their money, while college administrators and faculty members argue that the quality of their educational product is directly tied to the amount of public support they receive.

Now, a new report from the the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability attempts to rank which states are getting the most college bang for their bucks.

Florida, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and North Dakota are the most productive states because their cost per credential is the lowest in the nation, the Delta Project concludes. The report, which was released today, then goes a step further, saying that the less-costly degrees also provide a greater economic value to their states.

Degrees are most expensive in Alaska, Wyoming, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, which the report says are the least-productive states.

The report was prepared by Patrick Kelly, a senior associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. Mr. Kelly’s method compares median earnings of people at each degree level, by state, to the cost of each degree.

The new analysis, however, is only a starting point in the conversation, concedes the author in a news release that accompanies the report. “The framework for measuring productivity presented here charts a new course,” he says. “Even though it does not reach the finish line, it may go as far toward it as any other approach, but with fewer twists and turns.”

The end of the report also lists several more limits in its approach, including the fact that it does not account for states that may simply be starving their higher-education systems. “Some states work their way into high levels of productivity by running their systems ‘on the cheap,’” the report says. —Eric Kelderman

Posted on Thursday July 16, 2009