Legislative Update: ESEA, Veterans’ Training, Education Jobs Fund

ESEA Work Continues Slowly in Congress

On Wednesday Democrat and Republican leaders of the House and Senate education committees met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Melody Barnes, the White House Domestic Policy Adviser, to discuss the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Education Week blogged about the meeting, reporting that Congress is working in a bipartisan manner to get the bill done, but that no one in the meeting would commit to a timeline. While Sen. Tom Harkin (IA) had previously stated his desire to get a draft done by Memorial Day, no firm deadlines came out of this meeting. What I have been hearing from Hill staffers in recent weeks is that Congress intends to release a draft this year, but there is not enough time on the legislative calendar to markup a bill, so the earliest ESEA could be reauthorized is next year.

Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act

Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI), chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently introduced S. 3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 which would make changes to the Post-9/11 GI bill which currently provides education funding and benefits to veterans. S. 3447 would allow veterans to use their benefits at educational institutions that do not award associate or higher degrees. This would be a change from the current Post-9/11 GI Bill, which does not allow participants to use funds at a non-degree granting institution. This bill would allow veterans to attend postsecondary education institutions that do not grant associate or higher degrees, such as area career technical schools, career schools, and apprenticeship programs. A hearing has been scheduled for July 21 by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to review the legislation.

Proposed Education Jobs Fund Faces More Obstacles

As Democrats work to secure votes and offsets for the proposed education jobs fund (which would be attached to the emergency war supplemental), time may be running short. “I am becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on the supplemental and strongly urge Congress to complete its work on the request as quickly as possible,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee during testimony Wednesday.

A proposal to use unspent ARRA funds as an offset to the $23 billion education jobs fund seems unlikely. Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (HI) had previously opposed Republican attempts to use stimulus funds to offset spending, and will likely oppose Democratic attempts to do the same now. Because of the push to offset spending (to secure more votes), the fund will probably be smaller than $23 billion. Sen. Tom Harkin (IA), chair of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, told CQ, “We probably won’t get the full $23 billion, but we may get something.”

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