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Federal Update: February 11, 2013
posted by: Ruthie | February 11, 2013, 09:57 PM   

U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee Holds Hearing on Challenges and Opportunities Facing America's Schools and Workplaces

Last week, the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee held a congressional hearing to explore the challenges and opportunities facing America's workforce and K-12 students. In testimony by several prominent education and business leaders, witnesses argued that our nation must prepare our students for the jobs of the 21st century.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert outlined several major initiatives for improving education, including the 66 by 2020 Campaign, an effort for 66% of Utah adults to have college degrees or postsecondary certificates by 2020, a continued focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education as another Utah education initiative, and a plan to expand dual immersion education programs and the importance of a multilingual workforce for optimizing the state's prepared workers.

While many Americans believe there are simply no available jobs, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers Jay Timmons said 600,000 manufacturing jobs are vacant due to a lack of prepared workers. "Worker training will be largely instrumental in improving the economy and preparing students for the workforce," Timmons stated.

Many of the witnesses agreed that government red tape hampers students' ability to prepare for the jobs of a global economy. Governor Herbert stated that the role of the federal government should be "helping disadvantaged children by supplementing income on the local level." He continued to say, "Resources need greater flexibility to go ahead with initiatives."

Click here to watch the entire hearing and read witness testimony.

Congressional Leaders Seek Clarification on School Safety Recommendations from Obama Administration

Last week, congressional leaders including Chairman John Kline (R-MN) of the U.S. House Committee on Education, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) of the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, as well as Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, asking for additional details and clarification on the school safety components of President Obama's recommendations to reduce gun violence.

"Protecting the nation's children is a shared goal," said Chairman Kline. "The House Education and the Workforce Committee has already launched a careful review of programs and policies under our jurisdiction to determine what is and is not working when it comes to school safety. I call on the administration to help us in this endeavor by providing the requested briefing on its safety recommendations as soon as possible."

The members posed specific questions to each recipient on timelines, planning, cost, and methodology for the implementation of the administration's executive actions, and requested a briefing no later than February 7th.

The letters come on the heels of the Obama administration's controversial rhetoric on gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Click here to read the full letters.

Secretary Duncan Defends No Child Left Behind Regulatory Waivers

Last week, the Senate Health Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee held an oversight hearing on the Department of Education's plan to grant states regulatory relief under No Child Left Behind in exchange for education reforms. In a controversial move that side-steps Congress, the waivers have already been granted to 30 states in the last year.

Congressional leaders express mixed reviews over the waivers. "Let's move away from this Washington version of 'Mother May I,'" said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Alexander maintained that the waivers exceed the bounds of Secretary Duncan's power as education secretary. Decisions on teacher evaluations and school accountability, he said, "should be made ... by state and local governments," and not by the federal government.

However, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), called the waivers "fair," and said that Duncan showed courage in pursuing them. Proponents of the waivers argue that they allow states to implement reform plans immediately.

In his testimony, Secretary Duncan argued that the waivers allow for customization. "We don't specify the content of academic standards or negotiate teacher contracts," Duncan said. "We do have a responsibility to set a high bar to protect the interests of students... but how to reach that bar, I believe, should be left to states."

Congress continues to debate a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. The law expired in 2007.

Click here to watch the entire hearing and read witness testimony.

Department of Education Endorses Digital Learning Day

On February 6, 2013, students and teachers across the country celebrated Digital Learning Day. The Department of Education endorsed digital learning and the bipartisan movement as equally important to library access.

"We need to make digital learning the norm rather than the exception. Every day should be digital learning day," Secretary Arne Duncan stated on Wednesday following a celebration of Digital Learning Day in Washington.

Duncan and senior leaders from the Department of Education joined educators from across the country to celebrate teachers and shine a spotlight on successful instructional practice and effective use of technology in classrooms across the country.

Click here to view the entire statement.

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