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AAE Federal Update May 1, 2012
posted by: Alix | May 01, 2012, 02:16 PM   

House Approves Student Loan Rate Cut

Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation authored by Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) that would prevent a scheduled July 1st interest rate hike on certain federal student loans.  Under a 2007 statute, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans to undergraduate students was cut from 6.8% to 3.4%, but interest rates are scheduled to return to previous levels unless Congress acts.  Biggert's legislation, H.R. 4628, the Interest Rate Reduction Act, would extend lower rates for an additional year.  The bill was approved by a vote of 215 to 195, and it now heads to the Senate for consideration.

"Every penny counts when you're trying to start a career in a job market where even the most experienced workers can't find a job," said Congresswoman Biggert, a senior member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  "And the tax-and-spend polices in Washington haven't made it any easier. The last thing these students need is more debt, and my bill will prevent an unfair rate hike at the worst possible time."

During debate on the measure, Biggert pointed to a recent AP report showing that half of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed.  Without action, the Obama administration estimates that approximately 7.4 million students would accrue an additional $1,000 in higher interest costs over the life of an average loan. The legislation is considered a bipartisan priority with major support from the senate leaders and President Obama.  H.R. 4628 also has received support from higher education stakeholders.

National and State Teachers of the Year Recognized by President Obama

"A teacher is the key to a child reaching their potential," said President Obama earlier this month during a White House ceremony to recognize the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. Rebecca Mieliwocki, a 7th grade teacher English teacher from Burbank, California, was awarded the top honors alongside the 49 other State Teachers of the Year.

Standing before education leaders, Mieliwocki stressed, "I am not the best teacher in America. There isn't one. All across this nation there are millions of teachers who do the work that I do, and many do it better."

"What I do have are the qualities that some of the best teachers have. I have an absolute passion for my work. I have a bottomless well of belief in my students and their potential. I have a thirst for getting better at what I do every single day. And I have a warm and welcoming heart for all students and the unique gifts that they bring to my classroom," she said.

The White House ceremony was just one of many activities the National and State Teachers of the Year participated in while in Washington, D.C. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined the teachers at the Council of Chief State School Officers gala dinner for the National and State Teachers of the Year. "Our country needs great teachers like you," he told the group in recognition. The teachers also visited the Department of Education to discuss ways to elevate the teaching profession.

Click here
to watch the National Teacher of the Year ceremony at the White House.

Advancing Career and Technology Education

During a two-day visit to Wisconsin and Iowa, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

released the Obama administration's blueprint for transforming career and technical education (CTE), by reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.  The last Perkins authorization, in 2006, introduced important changes in federal support for CTE, helping to improve the learning experiences of students.  However, according to the Obama administration, it did not go far enough to systemically create better outcomes for students and employers competing in today's global economy.

With a proposed $1 billion investment in the administration's Fiscal Year 2013 budget, the blueprint will transform the Perkins program in four key areas:

  • Alignment.  The program will ensure the skills taught in CTE programs reflect the actual needs of the labor market so that CTE students acquire the 21st century skills necessary for in-demand occupations within high-growth industry sectors.
  • Collaboration.  By incentivizing secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers, and industry partners will work together to ensure that CTE programs offer high-quality learning opportunities.
  • Accountability.  By requiring CTE programs to show growth via performance measures, they will improve academic outcomes and enable students to build job and technical skills.
  • Innovation.  The program will promote systemic reform of state-level policies to support effective CTE implementation and innovation at the local level.
In related news, President Obama recently met with students at a community college to discuss future job training initiatives. A significant portion of the proposed education budget increases deal with advancing career and technology education standards in both secondary and higher education settings.

NEA Currently 4th Largest Super PAC Contributor

With the rise of "super" Political Action Committees (PACs), insiders have predicted that 2012 election spending will reach record levels. Coming off a difficult few years, the National Education Association is seeking to come back with a vengeance in 2012 by flexing their political power via partisan contributions. The nation's largest union is currently being tracked as the 4th largest national super PAC contributor.

Last summer, the NEA prematurely endorsed President Obama's re-election campaign and approved a measure that doubled individual member contributions to their political action funds from $10 to $20. Following the controversial moves, NEA PAC funds have been reaching state and federal elections coast to coast.

In March, the teachers union gave $3 million to its super PAC, the NEA Advocacy Fund. Also in March, the NEA gave $100,000 to the pro-Democrat American Bridge 21st Century super PAC, which has received large donations from other labor unions including $575,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public sector employees' union.

According to The Hill, the NEA spent $350,000 on a September ad supporting President Obama's controversial "jobs bill." The union has also set their sights on Republican congressional candidates for their proposed education reform preferences and reductions in spending. While numbers have yet to emerge on exactly how much the NEA will spend on federal elections this cycle, the union is poised to follow its sizeable spending ahead of 2010 numbers based on super PAC figures.

Click here to view the NEA PAC donor profile.

President Obama Endorses Anti-Bullying Legislation

On the heels of the White House screening of the documentary film "Bully," President Obama endorsed a pair of bills that would protect students who are bullied at school and in some cases, provide for students or their families to collect damages from school districts that don't act swiftly or strongly enough in students' defense.

In a statement, the White House said "the President and his Administration have taken many steps to address the issue of bullying. He is proud to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act, introduced by Senator Franken (D-MN) and Congressman Polis (D-CO), and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced by Senator Casey (D-PA) and Congresswoman Sanchez (D-CA). These bills will help ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment."

President Obama has shown support for anti-bullying measures several times, including hosting a summit at the White House on bullying last year and speaking before the national broadcast of another bullying documentary that aired recently on the Cartoon Network.

The bills have yet to clear the Senate Committee on Education.

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