Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in education, research, science, agriculture, immigration, energy, environment, natural resources, and intellectual property. 

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Capitol News:  Funding and Budget Battles.

Congressional, Administrative

  • CONGRESS: Immigration, Bad Colleges, Higher Ed and Sequestration, Congressional Hearings
  • Administration & independent agencies: President’s Budget, ED and Sequestration, AmeriCorps and Schools, Reformers True Intentions,

Noteworthy News: Funding Publics, Customized Learning, College Graduation Rates, Value of College Degree, Business of Education, Publics and Sequestration, Humanities Under Siege

In the Know: A Preview of Upcoming Events in DC.

Capitol News.

Appropriations, Budget, and Sequestration: March 1 came and went.  Soon we will see the impacts of sequestration if funding is not restored in the next the FY13 Continuing Resolution (CR) appropriations bill, which is set to expire on March 27, 2013.  The House already passed its version of the CR – and it does not bode well for education, research or other discretionary accounts.  Specifically, it includes funding for the Defense Department and the Veterans Administration, while maintaining the sequestration cuts in addition to providing funding at last year’s appropriations level for all other federal Departments and agencies.  The President issued a Statement of Administration Position (SAP) that raises concern, but does not threaten to veto the bill, so it is up to the Senate to fight for funding.  The Senate Democrats will release their plan next week, and expect it to include funding for more government agencies, but potentially at the House levels.  Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) outlined the impacts of sequestration, so we will have to see what see says.  At the same time, expect dueling budgets from the House and Senate Budget Committees the week of March 11.


  • Immigration. With immigration reform discussions ongoing, the Republican Party seems resigned to accept its inevitability, even without credit, according to Congressman Labrador (R-ID), as reported in National Journal.  Unlike President Obama, Labrador does not favor a special path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but does favor legalization.
  • Bad CollegesHELP Committee Chairman Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Students First Act, which provides ED with increased oversight of higher education institutions that “take advantage of low- and middle-income students who rely upon federal student aid to help make college affordable.”
  • Higher Education and Sequestration. The Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on sequestration.  Hunter Rawlings III, President of the Association of American Universities, testified before the Senate Budget Committee hearing and called the sequester “terrible policy in the short and long term.” More specifically, he said:
  1. Sequester is already impacting affecting hiring decisions for research scientists and postdoctoral researchers and it is causing uncertainty for graduate students.”
  2. Sequester cuts to financial aid hurts low-income students.
  3. Sequester will harm R&D, which hurts in the short and long-term research and innovation.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings

House Education & Workforce

House Judiciary:

Administration & Independent Agencies:

  • President’s Budget. The President typically releases his budget the first Monday of February.  The budget is now expected April 8, 2013
  • ED & SequesterSecretary Duncan continues to point out the negative impacts of sequestration on education.  For example, he pointed out that many school districts will cut jobs and programs like Head Start (based out of Health and Human Services) will be curtailed.


  • Funding Public Education. Decreasing support for public institutions, to the tune of seven percent in 2012, reflects a per-student decline to the lowest level in the past 25 years.  The Report released by the State Higher Education Executive Offices Association “provides a comprehensive review of state and local funding, tuition revenue, and enrollment trends for public higher education.”
  • Customized Learning.  Several online degree institutions are expanding their competency-based offerings.  The offerings, unlike typical credit hours, often do not follow the typical semester timeline and allow non-classroom activities.  The newest approach, direct assessment, as reported by Inside Higher Education, is to offer credit based on assessed learning, with no link to time spent in class or on work for courses.
  • College Graduation Rates.  The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a new report that reveals that the rate of six-year graduation rate for first time students is just over 54 percent, and some from a different institution from which they originally enrolled. Read more at The New York Times blog.
  • Value of a College Degree.  While a college degree increases a graduate’s chance of employment, some employers feel they could be of more value.  In the survey of employers, conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, employers complain that students are “unprepared” and “recent graduates often don’t know how to communicate effectively, and struggle with adapting, problem-solving, and making decisions.”  This raises the current issue of how much colleges should focus on more practical or vocational training or continue promoting a broad-based education, or something in between.
  • The Business of Education.  With the education industry booming, News Corp. is trying to financially benefit from the education reformers attempts to alter public education.  As reported by The New York Times, News Corps’ education company Amplify will sell both curriculum and a tablet for K-12 students.  The tablets are for individual student use, maximizing the potential profits for News Corp.  In advocating for Race to the Top, Amplify and its leaders are now hoping to benefit from the grant funding that comes with the funding.
  • AmeriCorps and SchoolsAmeriCorps is placing members in low performing schools, as part of School Turnaround AmeriCorps program.  A new agreement between the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and ED creates a $15 million competitive grant program for efforts in the least performing schools.  According to the CNCS release the program “will support the placement of a dedicated cadre of AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the country. This innovative approach seeks to increase student academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates, and college and career readiness in those schools.”
  • Reformers True Intentions.  According to a report in The Washington Post, former Florida Governor Bush’s education foundation, Foundation for Excellence in Education, is working to benefit its corporate funders by lobbying state officials to change education laws to benefit those funders. The article goes on to discredit Bush’s Florida education reform efforts. Unfortunately, Bush’s Foundation and others (like News Corp.) are having a major impact on education policy.
  • Publics and Sequestration. Peter McPherson, the President of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, wrote an opinion piece published in Roll Call in which he stated “I’m deeply concerned that massive cuts to our education and innovation capacities, which are critical to both economic growth and deficit reduction, would have severe, long-term effects that would put our nation at an extreme disadvantage for decades to come.”  Specifically, he highlighted the following impacts: 200,000 research-related jobs per year through 2016, and other nations, like China, that are investing in R&D will become relatively more competitive with the US.
  • Humanities Under Siege.   Not only are humanities professors in the US feeling the pressure, but so are humanities professors around the world.  As reported by Inside Higher Education, both the humanities and social sciences are vulnerable to cuts and questions of their intrinsic value worldwide. Even abroad, there is a push for STEM or other majors considered more practical.


Upcoming Events (listed by date):




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