Legislative Activity

Child Care and Development Block Grant

Last Monday, the House passed a bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization bill by voice vote. The legislation represented a compromise between House and Senate leaders to reauthorize the CCDBG program for six years to provide funding to states for the child care costs of low-income families. After the House considered the bill last week, the Senate was also expected to vote on it prior to recessing until after the November elections but failed to do so after Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) put a hold on the bill until he could guarantee that the Senate would also consider his bill to strengthen background checks for teachers and principals. As such, the Senate plans to consider the CCDBG reauthorization bill when it returns after the mid-term elections and has tentatively scheduled a vote on the bill for November 13.

FY 2015 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations

This week, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education released the House Democrats’ proposal for the FY 2015 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which was the only appropriations measure not considered by the House Appropriations Committee this year. The bill would return “nearly all” programs within the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education to pre-sequester levels. It does not include funding for the Department of Education’s request for a $300 million Race to the Top – Equity and Opportunity program but does provide $250 million for the Administration’s request for competitive grants for preschool development.

While the Senate Appropriations Committee also did not mark up a FY 2015 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill this year, it did release a draft bill and committee report in July in order to ensure that it was in a position to negotiate with the House on a future omnibus bill for FY 2015. The House Democrats’ proposal also serves a similar purpose and will be used as a tool for Democratic members to highlight the differing funding priorities of Republicans on issues related to healthcare and education.

Student Loan Reform Legislation

Last week, the Senate tried once again to consider Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) student loan reform legislation – the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (S. 2432) – on the Senate floor. Similar to the previous attempt to pass the legislation in June, the bill came before the Senate but was unable to bypass the Senate procedural motions to allow it to be considered on the floor due to Republican opposition to the bill. If passed, the legislation would allow students to refinance rates on high-interest and private student loans.

Strengthening Education Through Research Act

Last Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Strengthening Education through Research Act that would reauthorize federal research programs in the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). The bill would authorize funding for the research activities at the Department of Education, including the Institute for Education Sciences. The House previously passed a similar version of the bill earlier this year which varies slightly from the version that the Senate HELP Committee considered. Most of the changes are related to spending levels for certain programs in order to take into account the feedback that stakeholders provided to the Senate HELP Committee leaders. Prior mark-up, the Senate leaders negotiated the changes to the bill with House leadership in order to ensure that it could be considered in both chambers when Congress returns in November.

Regulatory Activity

Promise Zones

The Obama Administration has launched its second Promise Zones competition for urban, rural, and tribal communities to submit plans to partner with local business and community leaders to make evidence-based investments to improve educational opportunities, spur economic growth, and revitalize communities. If selected, recipients will receive preferred access to: (1) specific competitive federal investments that further their strategic plans; (2) federal staff to help implement their goals; and (3) five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to strengthen the capacity of Promise Zone partners. Applications are due by November 21, 2014.

This past January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture led an interagency panel in selecting five Promise Zones in Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Los Angeles, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Southeastern Kentucky, and San Antonio, Texas.