Legislative Activity

Charter Schools

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced last week that he would visit a charter school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today to deliver a policy speech about expanding school choice. Majority Leader Cantor’s amendment on school choice was adopted as part of the House’s bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in July. The announcement came just days after Majority Leader Cantor and other Congressional Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing concerns about the Administration’s effort to end a private school choice program in Louisiana and requesting information related to the Department of Justice’s court filing in the case.

Senate Higher Education Act Hearings

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held the first in a series of hearings focused on issues related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). This first hearing focused on the relationship between entities involved in the accreditation Triad – the federal government, states, and accreditation agencies. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) indicated they might start from scratch and rewrite the entire bill. The committee plans to hold up to a dozen HEA-related hearings over the next six months on a wide range of topics that will likely include accreditation, college affordability, access, improving quality, reforming federal financial aid, innovation, and teacher preparation. The committee is soliciting feedback specifically tied to topics covered by each hearing, and stakeholders will have only one week to develop and submit comments after each hearing topic is announced. Specific comments with a five-page maximum should be submitted to hea_reauth113@help.senate.gov.

Based on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) comments made during the hearing and a letter she sent last week to Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan related to concerns about Sallie Mae’s servicing of student loans, there is expected to be a hearing focused on affordability and student loan debt. She and several other Senate Democrats were not satisfied with the deal struck to restructure student loan interest rates over the summer and will likely seek greater protections for borrowers through this process.

Career and Technical Education (CTE)

The House Education and the Workforce Committee plans to consider improvements to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in the coming weeks. The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held its first reauthorization hearing last week. Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) is expected to focus on the elimination of redundant federal mandates, flexibility, and relevance for CTE programs.

Regulatory Activity

President’s Plan on College Affordability

Last week, the Department of Education (DOE) launched its series of stakeholder feedback sessions with student groups in Washington, D.C. to discuss President Barack Obama’s college affordability and ratings plan released last month. The department will continue to hold listening sessions throughout the country and is expected to announce more locations on its dedicated website in the coming days, but stakeholders can submit suggestions related to college access, affordability, and outcomes at any time to collegefeedback@ed.gov.

Department of Education Strategic Plan

Last Friday, the DOE released its draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2014-2018. The plan focuses on the department’s goals and objectives in six areas: early learning; elementary and secondary education; postsecondary education, career and technical education, and adult education; equity; continuous improvement of the U.S. education system; and U.S. Department of Education capacity. The department has asked stakeholders to provide feedback on the draft plan by submitting comments to strategicplancomments@ed.gov by 5:00 pm on October 4.