John Konop steered me to this article from MSN.com on the compelling education policy challenges facing President Obama and Congress.
Seems like a lot to get done, some of which has to be done in a matter of weeks.
Here is an excerpt but try to read the full piece before commenting:
…First up is sequestration, the automatic, government-wide spending cuts set to knock out 8.2 percent of the funding to almost all of the Education Department’s programs — unless Congress acts before the end of the year to avert the cuts.
Programs intended to reduce educational inequities will take a hit of $1.3 billion, according to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Special education, already funded far below the levels Congress originally promised, will be slashed by more than $1 billion. Most of the reductions won’t take effect until next fall, when the 2013-14 school year starts, but Impact Aid, which helps districts that lose revenue due to local tax-exempt federal property, would be cut immediately.
Education advocates are optimistic a plan will be hashed out that will leave most major education programs relatively unscathed.
“Even Republicans understand that cutting education spending is not something that is popular with voters,” said Michael Petrilli, a former Education Department official and executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank…..
… In Congress, both parties agree that college costs are spiraling out of control, but there’s not much government can do to control that. What it can control is student aid, and the debate about federal loans raises a familiar disagreement about the role of government. In 2010, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, the federal government cut banks out of the process and started administering all loans directly. Many Republicans favor restoring the private sector’s role in issuing federally backed and subsidized loans.
Higher ed also comes with a delicate set of ticking time bombs. Student loan interest rates, capped at 3.4 percent for new subsidized Stafford loans, are set to double July 1, the expiration date for a stopgap Congress passed last year. Pell Grants, the main source of federal aid for low-income students, face the same type of crisis as entitlements like Medicare and Social Security: a cost curve that’s become difficult to contain as more people take part……
.. Lawmakers are more than half a decade overdue to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Education Department has been copiously granting waivers to No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era iteration of the act, giving states flexibility with performance targets.
There’s bipartisan agreement in Congress that the law should be fixed and reauthorized. “While the administration’s efforts to grant waivers are helpful for states operating under the tenets of No Child Left Behind, these fixes are temporary and piecemeal,” Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democrat who chairs the Senate committee responsible for education, said in an email.
But the Obama administration has shown little desire to put the policy back in lawmakers’ hands. Duncan didn’t mention reauthorization in a lengthy speech in October laying out his agenda.
“Waivers are not a pass on accountability, but a smarter, more focused and fair way to hold ourselves accountable,” Duncan said in that speech.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog