Legislative Activity

Committee Passes the Strengthening Education through Research Act

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted via voice vote to approve the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA/S. 320). The bill would reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) to improve the federal education research structure and provide states with access to useful data that can be used to raise student achievement levels. SETRA is a bipartisan bill that also has widespread support in the House. It passed the House last year by voice vote but was never voted on in the Senate. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) indicated last week that he expects the bill to be sent to the President for his signature this year.

Senate HELP Committee to Hold ESEA Roundtable

On Tuesday, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a roundtable to continue to discuss the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The goal of the roundtable is to discuss ways that innovation in education can better meet the needs of students. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has repeatedly stated that he plans to complete the Committee’s work on ESEA reauthorization by mid-February and move the bill to the Senate floor quickly. He noted this week that it will likely take a couple of weeks of floor debate to finalize the Senate’s work on an ESEA bill but he is optimistic that it will happen soon. Comments from stakeholders on his draft bill are due today.

This Week’s Hearings

  • Tuesday, February 3: The Senate HELP Committee will host a roundtable titled “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Innovation to Better Meet the Needs of Students.”
  • Wednesday, February 4: The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Expanding Opportunity in America’s Schools and Workplaces.”

Regulatory Activity

President Withdraws His Proposal to Tax 529 College Savings Plans

The President will release his FY 2016 Budget today, which will no longer include a previously announced proposal to tax 529 college savings plans for wealthier families. The President had originally announced in his State of the Union address that he would tax the 529 college saving plans as part of his tax proposal to pay for the Tuition Free Community College plan. The President announced his decision to delete the proposal from the Budget after numerous Members of Congress, including Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Members from both parties, called on the Obama Administration to remove the proposal from his FY 2016 Budget.

Several Members of Congress have introduced a handful of bills that would preserve and expand the current college savings plans. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) introduced legislation (S. 306) that would allow funds from 529 savings accounts to be used for K-12 education in addition to higher education. Additionally, Rep. Lyn Jenkins (R-KS) introduced a bipartisan bill (H.R. 529) with Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) to expand the scope of expenses that are covered by the tax-free withdrawals from the 529 savings accounts to include computers for college students.