Busy Week in Congress, Budget Deal and Rep. Ryan Receives GOP Nomination for Speaker of the House
Two important votes took place in Congress last week, election of a new Speaker to replace John Boehner (R-OH) and final passage of legislation enacting a new bipartisan budget deal to keep the federal government operating and paying its bills. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) reluctantly accepted the post when it seemed apparent he was the only representative of who could pull enough of the House Republican caucus together to be elected without a long, drawn-out fight.
The budget deal suspends the statutory debt ceiling for two years, clearing the deck for the election year, and in essence acts as a new Congressional Budget Resolution by increasing the caps on discretionary spending, both for defense programs favored by Republican hawks and the domestic programs favored by many Democrats. The caps are higher than called for by the 2011 budget legislation that employed the widely criticized sequester. The two-year agreement will raise spending by $80 billion.
Department of Education Announces New Experiment Involving Pell Grants and Dual Enrollment
On October 30th the Department of Education announced a new experiment that will allow high school students to access Federal Pell Grants to take college courses through dual enrollment at participating institutions. Many see dual enrollment, in which students enroll in postsecondary coursework while also enrolled in high school, as a promising approach to lower costs and improve outcomes.
Next week, instructions will be published in the Federal Register for institutions interested in applying. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country.
NAEP SCORES SHOW DROP IN CRITICAL MATHEMATICS SKILLS OVERALL - No Significant Change for Students with Disabilities
Last week the math and reading results for 4th and 8th graders from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released. As many experts expected for a variety of reasons, they were disappointing. While many are rushing to use the scores either to deplore reforms or call out for them, the data is clear. Math scores for both 4th and 8th grade students dropped nationwide from the previous year (2013) for the first time since the exams were administered in 1990. Only three regions—D.C., Mississippi, and Department of Defense schools, saw math scores increase this year. All other jurisdictions saw no gains or scores drop. Ranking Member of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released a statement pointing out that rather than engaging in finger pointing, “We need to focus on the work that needs to be done.” It went on to read, “We cannot lose sight of how critical investments in education are to our students’ long term success and our nation’s economic growth and competitiveness.”