Legislative Update: SAFRA, Jobs Bill, Nanotech Bill, and ESEA

Reconciliation Bill to Invest $2 Billion Over Four Years in Community Colleges

As we told you last week, Congress has been in discussions to determine what would be cut from Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) after CBO scored the bill $20 billion less than expected. The American Graduation Initiative was unfortunately cut from SAFRA, but the reconciliation bill does contain a $2 billion investment over four years in community colleges as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA). According to the House Education and Labor Committee, the investment will “prepare students and workers for competitive jobs by investing $2 billion in a competitive grant program for community colleges to develop and improve educational or career training programs.”

The House is expected to hold a vote on the legislation this Sunday, after which the Senate will then take up the legislation. The text of the reconciliation bill can be found here.

Promote Nanotechnology in Schools Act

This week Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) , introduced the Promote Nanotechnology in Schools Act to help community colleges, universities, and high schools purchase the advanced equipment needed to educate students and train workers in the emerging nanotechnology field. The goal of the bill is to help develop the next generation of scientists and engineers leading innovation in nanotechnology.

The bill establishes a grant program under the National Science Foundation to provide schools, community colleges, two and four year colleges and universities and other educational institutions with up to $400,000 to purchase nanotechnology equipment and materials. Schools participating in the program will be required to provide matching funds of at least one-quarter the grant amount.  According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative the global nanotechnology workforce will need 2 million trained workers in the next five years.

HIRE Act Signed into Law

This week the Senate passed the HIRE Act by a vote of 68-29.  The HIRE Act is a $17.6-billion job creation bill that seeks to spur hiring through:

  • A tax credit for employers who hire employees this year;
  • An extension of the highway bill to fund job-creating transportation projects in Nevada;
  • A provision allowing small businesses to write off the cost of major purchases, and;
  • Build America Bonds, which provide a much-needed funding mechanism for projects such as work on courthouses, schools, roads and public safety buildings.

The bill had passed the Senate last month, but was modified by the House, so it required a second Senate vote. The bipartisan bill was supported by eleven Republicans. President Obama signed the bill into law yesterday.

ESEA Reauthorization Hearing: Addressing the Needs of Diverse Students

Yesterday, the House Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing to examine how schools can properly address the needs of diverse students under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), particularly low-income students, minority students, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, Native Americans, and homeless students. Witnesses included:

  • Dr. Daniel Curry Superintendent Lake Forest School District Felton, DE
  • Dr. Jack Dale Superintendent Fairfax County Public Schools Falls Church, VA
  • Arelis Diaz Assistant Superintendent Godwin Heights Public Schools Wyoming, MI
  • Jacqui Farmer Kearns, Ed.D. Principal Investigator National Alternate Assessment Center Lexington, KY
  • Marcus Levings Chairman Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation New Town, ND
  • Michael T. S. Wotorson Executive Director Campaign for High School Equity Washington, DC

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