LDA Legislative News

LDA Legislative News is our monthly newlsetter for legislative updates and news from Washington.

News-in-Brief – October 2013

Americans Lack Critical Workplace Skills According to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), American adults rank far behind counterparts in most other developed countries in mathematical and technical skills needed for success in today’s workplace. The Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which evaluates the skills of adults in 24 countries, also highlights a large gap between Americans and other nations surveyed in literacy skills. PIAAC provides a look at key skills and how they are utilized at work and at home. A major element is an assessment of how critical information-processing… Read More »

News-in-Brief – September 2013

Government Shutdown Looms Again LDA has reported for several months on Congress’s inability to enact appropriations (spending) bills to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014), which begins on October 1, 2013. Once Congress returned from its August recess, only nine legislative days were scheduled for action to avert a government shutdown in the wake of Congress’s inaction. As this article was in process, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was considering canceling the House’s planned recess the week of September 23 in order to finalize action to keep the government operating. For the past several years Congress… Read More »

News-in-Brief – July 2013

PARCC Approves Accommodations Manual The Governing Board of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two consortia developing assessments based on the Common Core State Standards, has given final approval to the first edition of its accessibility and accommodations manual. LDA provided comments on earlier drafts, and some favorable changes have been made. However, LDA and other disability organizations remain concerned about specific accommodations, including read-aloud features. The manual indicates the read-aloud accommodation is “intended for a very small number of students and will result in a valid score only for those students for… Read More »

News-in-Brief – June 2013

Senate Moves Forward on ESEA On June 13 with a straight party line vote of 12-10, the Democratic majority of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (“SASA,” S. 1094), a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind). Education laws generally are reauthorized every five years. ESEA was scheduled for this intensive reexamination process in 2007. Efforts to reauthorize the law since that date have been stymied by philosophical party differences, in part related to what role the federal government should play… Read More »

News-in-Brief – May 2013

ESEA to Move on Partisan Track Once again it appears the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind) may be delayed, despite efforts at least in the Senate to reach agreement.  Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) began meeting in January to find common ground on a proposal that would move the long-overdue ESEA reauthorization forward.  Unfortunately, they have reached an impasse, and Senator Harkin plans to introduce a Democratic bill in June. The ESEA was on schedule to be reauthorized in 2007.  House… Read More »

News-in-Brief – April 2013

President’s Budget Highlights LDA Priorities President Obama recently released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, which begins on October 1, 2013. The budget focuses on investing in the middle class, adding new jobs, and strengthening the economy while continuing to rein in the large federal deficit. The president’s plan prioritizes key LDA issues including early childhood education, career and technical education, and job training. The budget proposal, which includes $1.8 trillion of additional deficit reduction over 10 years, is focused on making America more competitive through enhancing workers’ skills. The president cites as essential to this goal a… Read More »

News-in-Brief – March 2013

“Fiscal March Madness” Threatens Key Programs A highly regarded DC budget guru has labeled the current federal fiscal woes “Fiscal March Madness.” With sequestration, no final decisions on current Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding, and introduction of FY 2014 budget bills, this is an apt description for what may happen if Congress doesn’t take charge of its fiscal responsibilities. Since the passage of the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), Congress has been unable to reach agreement on how to sensibly address deficit reduction. This poses a serious threat to all federal programs. On March 1, sequestration – across the board… Read More »

News-in-Brief – January 2013

Sequestration Delayed, Not Resolved As Americans were about to ring in 2013, Congress agreed to a late-night “fiscal cliff” bill that delayed, rather than eliminated, sequestration. Sequestration – automatic across-the-board cuts in most federal programs – has been a looming threat since passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach an agreement on the Act’s mandate of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over ten years. In December at the eleventh hour, Congress simply delayed implementation of sequestration until March. Sequestration was set to take effect originally on… Read More »

News-in-Brief – October 2012

Presidential Forum Highlights Disability Issues Five hundred people recently gathered in Columbus, Ohio, with thousands more in viewing parties around the country, to hear surrogates for President Obama and Governor Romney present each candidate’s views on matters of concern to Americans with disabilities. LDA joined with a long list of national organizations to sponsor the National Forum on Disability Issues, held on September 28. This was the only national event focused on disability issues during the presidential election campaign. Thirty-seven million of the approximately 57 million individuals with disabilities are of voting age. “If we’re talking 5 to 8 percent… Read More »

News-in-Brief – September 2012

Continuing Resolution Information Released The last order of business before Congress adjourns until after the election is the passage of a six-month Continuing Resolution (CR), a bill to keep the government operating until final Fiscal Year 2013 (FY 2013) spending levels are set. The House, which is first to take up a bill, states the CR will maintain current FY 2012 funding levels plus an across-the-board increase of 0.612 percent. No new programs will be initiated, and no programs will be eliminated through the CR. While the CR is generally a “clean” bill, meaning no controversial policy riders are attached,… Read More »

News-in-Brief – July 2012

Department Clarifies Impact of Sequestration Questions abound about the potential impact of sequestration, the across-the-board cut of approximately nine percent in most non-defense and defense discretionary programs set to occur on January 2, 2013, right in the middle of the 2012-13 school year. These cuts are designed to reduce the federal deficit and could have long-term serious effects on education and all other federal programs. For IDEA, Title I, and Career and Technical Education, the potential impact would be even greater due to the way funds are distributed in these programs. The U.S. Department of Education has just issued a… Read More »

News-in-Brief – June 2012

LDA Prominent in Fighting Across the Board Cuts LDA is an active participant in a new and very important national network of coalitions, the Non-Defense Discretionary (“NDD”) Summit. Last summer Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) to address deficit reduction. The BCA will trigger a process on January 2, 2013, known as sequestration, an across-the-board 8.4% cut in all federal programs. The NDD Summit is an attempt by all constituencies that are part of the “non-defense discretionary” budget to work together to ensure sequestration does not take effect and to counter efforts to exempt Defense and other security-related government… Read More »

News-in-Brief – May 2012

Sequestration Threat Prompts Worrisome Responses As reported several times here previously (“Super Committee Inaction Triggers Sequestration,” December 2011; “Super Committee Action in Doubt,” November 2011; “Jury is Out on Deficit Reduction Plan,” September 2011), a process called sequestration threatens cuts of around nine percent in all discretionary and some mandatory federal program beginning in January 2013. Sequestration was triggered when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failed last fall to reach agreement on how to meet the deficit reduction target. Some members of Congress are focused on averting cuts to the defense budget, prompting others to find ways to… Read More »

News-in-Brief – April 2012

OSEP Rescinds “Maintenance of Effort” Guidance As LDA previously reported (News in Brief, September 2011),the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued informal guidance in June 2011 representing a new interpretation of the IDEA local “maintenance of effort” requirement (MOE). The guidance letter said if a school district did not spend all its federal IDEA Part B funds during one fiscal year, its “maintenance of effort” would be reduced in the next fiscal year to the level of the previous year’s actual expenditure. In other words, a school district would have been rewarded if it did… Read More »

News-in-Brief – March 2012

President’s Budget Proposes Growth in Education Spending Kicking off the budget process for federal Fiscal Year 2013 (FY 2013; School Year 2013-14), the president has released his budget proposal. Despite the calls to cut spending, the budget includes a $1.7 billion, or 2.5 percent, increase for education. The Administration states an investment in education is necessary as a proven strategy to increase jobs and boost the country’s economic growth and global competitiveness. The president’s emphasis on education is welcomed. However, some of the details may cause concern. The proposed budget would freeze funding for the foundational elementary and secondary programs,… Read More »

News-in-Brief – February 2012

House ESEA Bill Rethinks Funding and MOE The House Education and Workforce Committee is poised to consider the Student Success Act, a comprehensive bill released in early January by Chairman John Kline (R-MN) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind). The bill would radically change how funding is configured under current law, moving programs with targeted funding streams for specific student populations under the same section in Title I that funds low-income students. Recommended for consolidation into the larger Title grants are those programs for English language learners, migrant, neglected and… Read More »

News-in-Brief – January 2012

Kline Sets New Path for ESEA Reauthorization Representative John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, has changed his thinking on the best method to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind). Previously he had directed staff to look at the bill incrementally rather than the usual comprehensive approach to the legislation and had hoped for a bipartisan product. However, the introduction of new comprehensive legislation that represents only Republican input may have further compromised the chances of a reauthorization this year. Of three smaller targeted ESEA bills introduced… Read More »

News-in-Brief – December 2011

Super Committee Inaction Triggers Sequestration After months of speculation, the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction–the Super Committee–failed to meet its congressional charge. The Committee’s mandate was to report a plan by November 23 that would produce $1.2 trillion in cuts over ten years, aimed ultimately at putting the country on the road to eliminating the deficit. The “stick” hanging over the Committee, which is still in play, was the threat of sequestration, a process of automatic across-the-board cuts in all discretionary spending: education, health, social services, environmental protection, and all other agencies, including defense and homeland security. More…. With the… Read More »

News-in-Brief – November 2011

Senate HELP Committee Passes ESEA Bill On October 21, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed a comprehensive bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind). All Democrats, joined by three Republican senators, Enzi (WY), Alexander (TN), and Kirk (IL), voted for the bill. LDA produced recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA in 2007 and has updated them several times over the course of the last few years. These recommendations have been shared and discussed with all members of the Senate and House education committees, and LDA staff… Read More »

News-in-Brief – October 2011

Federal Funding Process Moving Slowly Once again Congress did not complete work on the new federal Fiscal Year, FY 2012, which began on October 1. Currently the government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR), a stopgap measure that keeps federal agencies open until the final appropriations bills are completed. In the past, a CR usually meant continuation of funding at the level of the previous year. However, this CR which expires on November 18 funds programs at the FY 2011 rate minus 1.503 percent. At the same time, Congress is working to finalize FY 2012 appropriations bills. In mid-September… Read More »

News-in-Brief – September 2011

Department Alters Local Maintenance of Effort Interpretation The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education, has issued informal guidance that appears to change its interpretation of the IDEA local maintenance of effort requirement (MOE). The purpose of the MOE provision is to ensure consistency in the amount school districts spend on special education and related services from year to year. The new interpretation, which allows school districts to reduce the amount of funds spent on special education, has the potential to jeopardize important services for students with disabilities. The memo dated June 16, 2011, states that, if… Read More »

News-in-Brief – August 2011

Report Highlights Spending on Children Children’s Budget 2011 was released recently by First Focus, a bipartisan organization that concentrates on making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. The report reveals that spending on children in the 2011 federal budget dropped by nearly 10 percent from 2010, falling from a five-year high of 9.2 percent to 8.4 percent. “Children” are defined for purposes of the report as individuals age 18 and under. The Budget looks at overall federal spending and specific spending for child welfare, early childhood, education, health, housing, income support, nutrition, and safety. The… Read More »

News-in-Brief – July 2011

House Committee Introduces Funding Flex Bill Representative John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, introduced the third in a series of bills that are part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind). In rolling out the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, Mr. Kline stated the bill “addresses the problem I’ve heard from superintendents all across the country….. It has been perplexing to them and frustrating to schools all across the country that they cannot move money to where they need it.” The bill… Read More »

News-in-Brief – June 2011

House ESEA Reauthorization Bills Move Forward While the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee continues to work to bring an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill to a committee mark up, the House has begun to consider a series of smaller bills. The first bill, Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891), passed the House in May. Two other bills are under discussion right now, a charter schools bills and a bill on funding flexibility. H.R. 1891 would repeal the authorizations of 43 education programs which are part of the ESEA, including the Even… Read More »

News-in-Brief – May 2011

Appropriations Action Completed for Fiscal Year 2011 Congress finally concluded work on the spending bill for federal Fiscal Year 2011 (FY 2011) seven months after the fiscal year began. Funds for the U.S. Department of Education, not including money for Pell Grants, were cut overall by $1.251 billion or 2.7% below Fiscal Year 2010. Forty-seven education programs were cut, and an additional 38 programs were eliminated. In addition to the program cuts, the final bill had a 0.2% across-the-board cut, so even programs that were listed as frozen took a hit. Five programs, including the president’s priorities – Race to… Read More »