Legislative Activity

School Choice

As part of National School Choice Week this week, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) plan to introduce new legislation to incentivize states to expand school choice – without imposing new federal mandates – on Tuesday at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. The legislation is expected to be marketed as the Republican response to President Obama’s campaign against income inequality, which will be a central theme of his State of the Union address later that evening.

Education Leadership Changes

With Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) planned retirement at the end of the year, it is rumored that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) may succeed Harkin as the Democratic leader of the Committee in 2015. If that is the case, the former teacher also would likely chair the Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, as does Sen. Harkin. While Sen. Murray has shown a passion for education policy, she is unlikely to make a public commitment about her future plans any time soon.

Upcoming Hearings:

  • Tuesday, January 28: The House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold its next hearing in Keeping College Within Reach series, titled “Sharing Best Practices for Serving Low-income and First Generation Students.”
  • Wednesday, January 29: The Senate HELP Committee will hold a markup to vote on several nominations for the Department of Education, including: Michael Yudin to be Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; James Cole Jr., to be General Counsel; Theodore Mitchell to be Under Secretary; and Ericka Miller to be Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.

Regulatory Activity

College Ratings System

The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) meeting scheduled January 22 to discuss the Administration’s proposed college ratings system was cancelled due to inclement weather.  The event, which will gather experts on college ratings and quality analysis in other fields, has been rescheduled for February 20. Following the symposium, NCES will publish a summary of the recommendations developed by participants and received from its Request for Information (due January 31) on the Department’s website: www.ed.gov/college-affordability.

High-Impact Learning Technologies

The Office of Science and Technology Policy released a Request for Information (RFI) that seeks to collect information to inform its policy development related to high-impact learning technologies. The RFI asks for feedback “to identify public and private actions that have the potential to accelerate the development, rigorous evaluation, and widespread adoption of high-impact learning technologies.” Specifically the RFI is focused on designing and implementing “pull mechanisms,” such as incentive prizes, milestone payments, and/or Advance Market Commitments, for technologies that significantly improve a given learning outcome. Respondents should submit comments to learning@ostp.gov by March 7, 2014.

Experimental Sites Initiative

Friday, January 31 is the deadline for responses to the Department of Education’s call for feedback from institutions of higher education that participate in the student assistance programs authorized under Title IV. The notice invited institutions to propose ideas for new experiments designed to test alternative ways of administering the federal student aid programs as part of the ongoing Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI), with a particular interest in increasing academic quality while also reducing costs in higher education.

Upcoming Events:

  • Thursday, January 30: The United States Agency for International Development will hold a meeting of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development on “Higher Education and U.S. University Student Engagement.”