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Federal Update October 16, 2012
posted by: Ruthie | October 16, 2012, 10:03 PM   


Congress to Face Uncertainty after November Election

With the November election just weeks away, a newly-elected Congress will undoubtedly face gridlock over education issues such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reauthorization and dire budget realities. Experts contend that regardless of who wins both presidential and congressional elections, federal officials will face difficult roadblocks in 2013.


Some pollsters predict that the majorities in the House and Senate are unlikely to change in 2013. If that prognosis is correct, and if President Obama is able to survive reelection, that would leave the current political landscape virtually unchanged from the previous session. So far, the combination of a Republican House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic White House has added up to notorious delays on a host of budget and policy fronts.


The new focus on college affordability and spending means the renewal of NCLB could be pushed to 2014 or even beyond according to insiders, particularly since most states have now been granted waivers from key portions of the law.


If majorities shift, however, lawmakers may choose to act quickly on NCLB reauthorization, due to Republican discontent over the administration's granting of waivers from portions of the NCLB law. In that case, the final legislation could look like a package of measures passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee last year, which would limit the Department of Education’s role in school improvement.


Regardless of election outcomes, lawmakers' to-do list is going to get even longer in 2013. Nearly every major education bill is up for renewal in the new Congress including: the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Program, the largest federal program for high schools; the Community Development Block Grant program, which includes child-care funds for communities; the Workforce Investment Act, which deals with job-training; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which covers special education; the Higher Education Act, which sets policy for the student lending program as well as teacher education; and the Education Sciences Reform Act, which governs the Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Department's research arm.


Department of Education Awards Statewide Grants to Help Improve Disability Training Systems

Earlier this month, the Department of Education announced their plan to award $24 million in grants in an effort to improve personnel training systems for students with disabilities. The states receiving grants are Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.


“The quality of education our children with disabilities receive is dependent on how well-equipped the workforce is in supporting young people with disabilities," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement. “These grants will support states' efforts to improve their training systems for staff, and better serve children with disabilities as a result."


Grants will be used toward several different projects, including the recruitment and retention of highly qualified special education teachers; training in how to connect instruction for students with disabilities with the common core standards; teacher mentoring; collaborating with regular education teachers; and, training in methods of positive behavioral interventions and supports to improve student behavior in the classroom.


Click here for more information about the special education grants.


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Speaks About the State of American Education at the National Press Club

In a high profile speech at the National Press Club, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan lauded parents, teachers, students, and school administrators for the ongoing education reform initiatives across the country. “People everywhere understand that education and the economy are closely linked,” Duncan stated. “They know the path to the middle class runs right though classrooms.”


Secretary Duncan addressed concerns over education funding, saying, “Some people see education as an expense government can cut to help balance our budgets. The President sees education as an investment in our future.”


Vowing to, “double on what we know is working ,” Secretary Duncan outlined how he planned to keep American education “steadily moving forward, while staying focused.”  The policies aimed to achieve Duncan’s goal range from helping the children of illegal immigrants via the DREAM Act, to closing the skills gap in unemployed and under-employed adults via work programs, and hiring new teachers focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).


Closing his remarks with an appeal for bipartisan commitment to education reform, Secretary Duncan asserted, “We must unite behind the cause of public education and recognize that the solutions don’t come from one party or one ideology….  They come from all of us -- you and me -- challenging ourselves and holding ourselves accountable.  We don’t have a minute to waste.”


Click here to watch video from the speech.


$11 million for 40 additional Upward Bound Projects Awarded by Department of Education

This week, the Department of Education announced its second set of awards for the Upward Bound Project, providing a total of over $268.2 million to serve more than 62,500 students via programs aimed at low-income students.


These funds are flagged to assist nearly 3,000 students acquire the knowledge and skills they need  to succeed in college by increasing both the high school graduation and college completion rates of low-income, first-generation students.


“The Upward Bound program has a legacy of helping low-income and first-generation students enter college, graduate, and move on to participate more fully in the workforce and America’s economic life,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These new grants will continue to make a difference in the lives of students and families -- nurturing, motivating, and challenging young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to realize their dream of getting a college education and contributing to our Nation’s prosperity.”


By targeting preference priorities, many of this year’s grantees will be serving more students in the persistently lowest-achieving schools. The grants also introduced a new funding framework that created strong incentives for applicants to serve additional students, but still allowed for less efficient applicants to improve.


Click here for more information about the Upward Bound projects.

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