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Student Success Act Superlatives: the Best (and Worst) Additions to the House NCLB Overhaul

July 17, 2013

Following the world’s speediest markup, the House of Representatives could begin floor debate on the Student Success Act, the House Republican proposal to rewrite No Child Left Behind (NCLB), tomorrow. That would mark the first time (ever!) that an NCLB reauthorization bill has reached the floor in either chamber of Congress. However, the chances of the House proposal making it out of the Senate and to the President’s desk are non-existent. No Democrats supported the bill in committee, adamantly opposing its changes to accountability, school improvement, and funding requirements. And while every Republican on the committee supported the legislation, it may not be conservative enough for many members of the House Republican caucus – who would like to add Title I vouchers to the bill, eliminate the teacher evaluation provisions, and further diminish the role of the federal government.

Alyson Klein over at PoliticsK-12 has a super-detailed rundown of many of the 74 amendments offered to the legislation. It’s well worth a read. While many of these amendments are likely to be ruled out of order by the House Rules Committee this afternoon, they are still an interesting – and sometimes amusing – read. Here are my picks among them for Student Success Act Superlatives.

Most obvious pet project: Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) would like to add a grant program to support female students in higher education taking STEM courses serving as mentors to high school girls enrolled in STEM dual enrollment programs.Science, it’s a girl thing!

Most thrifty: This one’s a tie between Paul Broun (R-GA) and John Culberson (R-TX). Because the Student Success Act would consolidate or eliminate over 70 programs at the Department of Education, Broun would require the Secretary of Education not only to report how many Department employees are terminated, but also their average salary (in addition to the salaries of remaining employees). Further, Broun wants an additional 5% reduction in Department staff after the program consolidation. Ouch.

Culberson’s amendment uses a different tactic to rein in spending. While limiting the Secretary from placing conditions on states to receive federal money, Culberson would also clarify that states could reject federal grants. The rejected funds would then go toward paying down the national debt. Given state reliance on federal education money, I doubt this is the most efficient strategy to tackle the debt problem.

Least changed since 2001: Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Mark Takano (D-CA) have a rare, bipartisan amendment to change the requirements for student assessment… to those that were in place before NCLB in 2001. This would mean students would be tested by grade spans in reading and math (grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12). While high school students are only tested once under current law, the amendment could eliminate annual testing in grades 3-8. If successful, say goodbye to loads of student performance data the public has come to rely on and any hope of measuring individual student growth.

Most popular: Maintenance of effort definitely has the Democrats’ votes for prom queen. Four amendments to restore the funding requirement (or delay its elimination) were offered, more than any other single issue.

Most likely to succeed? Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wants to add Title I funding portability, allocating funds not on the basis of a district’s concentration of poor students, but instead directly following eligible children to the schools where they enroll. Students could attend their assigned public school, a charter school, or an out-of-district school if the state opts-in to the program. In an appearance at a Washington, D.C. charter school, Cantor said he believes his amendment (and the overall bill) could gain bipartisan support. But given reaction to the amendment and the fact that Senate Democrats voted down a similar amendment to their proposal, Cantor’s optimism is more comical than anything.

Class Clown: Speaking of amusing, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) would like to clarify that the “sense of the Congress” is that Education Secretary Arne Duncan – through Race to the Top and NCLB waivers – “coerced” states to adopt common standards and assessments. Never mind the obvious lack of fact-checking (Alabama, Alaska, Minnesota, Utah, and Virginia have received waivers without adopting the standards and/or joining one of the testing consortia). In pointing out the harmful influence of the federal government on states, the amendment clarifies:

“The Race to the Top Assessment grants awarded to the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SMARTER Balance) initiated the development of Common Core State Standards aligned assessments that will, in turn, inform and ultimately influence kindergarten through 12th-grade curriculum and instructional materials.”

And this is an argument against the consortia’s efforts? Because curriculum and instructional materials informed by rigorous, internationally-benchmarked standards sound like a fabulous idea!

Biggest nerd: Disappointing robots everywhere, Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) withdrew an amendment that would have added computer coding as an official “critical foreign language” in the bill.

Stay tuned to Ed Money Watch for continuing coverage of NCLB reauthorization and the Student Success Act (and for more on what the proposal actually does, make sure to download our side-by-side cheat sheet here).

Parent PLUS Loans: A No-Strings-Attached Revenue Source

July 17, 2013
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This blog post is the second part in a series that takes a look at recent changes to the credit criteria for Parent PLUS loans and the subsequent effect on historically black colleges and universities. You can find the introductory post here.

Last Tuesday, the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Obama and reportedly the first agenda item was the change to the Parent PLUS loan that has resulted in widespread denials. “We believe the criteria ought to be more lenient,” said Representative Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), “If you have 100,000 students and families that can’t get Parent PLUS loans, that’s a problem for us.” While much of the public conversation around PLUS loans has been the result of vocal HBCUs talking about how the changes have hurt not only their students but their bottom lines, there’s been no consideration given to how changing the credit screen for PLUS loans protected parents from taking on high-interest, non-dischargeable, unlimited debt they cannot afford.

But what if institutions are not just protesting the tighter credit criteria because of its effect on their bottom line, but also because excessive reliance on these expensive debts is a way to evade meaningful federal accountability? At a public Education Department hearing recently held in Atlanta, there's evidence that some colleges and universities might be steering students away from other, better federal student loans and toward Parent PLUS to avoid penalties associated with high student loan default rates. According to testimony from Everette Freeman, the president of Albany State University, an HBCU in Georgia:

Now the federal Parent PLUS loan has at least one feature that helps students and at the same time it hurts students. A student who is denied a federal Parent PLUS is able to apply for a federal Stafford loan. The federal Stafford loan program, if it is not repaid, has a direct and negative impact on the institution’s ability to draw down federal funding. (Emphasis added.)

He’s right. When a parent is rejected for a Parent PLUS loan, students are allowed to borrow an additional $4-$5,000 in Stafford loans to make up the difference. Since Stafford loans are included in the official federal default rate and Parent PLUS loans are not, if students from a particular institution default at high rates, the institutions face penalties. The Cohort Default Rate (CDR) holds institutions accountable for whether their students default on their loans within three years of leaving college and entering repayment. A CDR of 30 percent or more comes with various sanctions including losing eligibility for Title IV financial aid funds.  This would be a huge blow since federal student aid is the lifeblood for many colleges and universities.

But it was what President Freeman said next that was truly alarming:

Our institutions as a group have been trying to move away from Stafford loans, to the degree that we have been able to. And with the changes that were wrought last year, that has allowed us, unfortunately, prompted us to increase the number of applications for Stafford loans. We are worried about this.

If that statement doesn’t make you nervous, it should. It suggests that institutions are skirting accountability meant to protect students, families, and taxpayers.

President Freeman’s conclusion illustrates this point exactly:

We know that the federal government monitors our default rate. We certainly monitor our default rate, and this is one of those canaries in the mines, that if we do not return to provisions that allow for a credit formula that makes sense, we will, indeed, find an increase in the Stafford loan and the corresponding negative impacts that defaults will create.

But what he neglects to mention is that while shifting the debt burden onto parents through PLUS loans is easy for the institution, it may not be easy for struggling parents who are unable to discharge PLUS loans through bankruptcy.

What he also neglects to mention is that shifting debt from Stafford to Parent PLUS loans is costly for families. If a student borrowed the full amount of Unsubsidized Stafford loans available to him over four years for a bachelor’s degree, he would borrow $27,000. Under the standard 10-year repayment plan, that equates to approximately $323 per month, or $38,725 total. But under PLUS loans, that same debt would cost approximately $387 a month, or $46,468 total. So the parent would have to pay nearly 20 percent more for the same debt—an extra $64 more per month and more than $8,000 more over the lifetime of the loan. Not only that, but struggling parents would not be able to take advantage of the income-based repayment plans that the student would have qualified for with a Stafford loan.

Colleges and universities are using Parent PLUS loans like their own slush fund because there’s no reason not to. If you were a university facing tough economic times while trying to remain competitive and attract students, you would jump at the chance to get ahold of a nearly no-strings-attached source of revenue. But at the end of the day, parents are the ones on the hook for these loans. For this reason, at minimum, the Education Department should publish PLUS loan default rates by institution and close any loopholes that would discourage the use of cheaper Stafford loans by colleges and universities. Protecting families should come first and foremost when making changes to federal student aid—that’s why the Department of Education was right to make the changes it did to the PLUS credit check, and that’s why the Department must do more as it considers future changes to the program.

Stay tuned to Higher Ed Watch for the continuing coverage of the Parent PLUS loan crisis at HBCUs.
Thanks to Clare McCann for calculating the total amount repaid in Stafford and PLUS. 

Senate Panel Approves New Early Education Funding for 2014

July 15, 2013
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For more details on the Senate Appropriations Committee Labor-HHS-Education bill, check out this post from our sister blog, Ed Money Watch.

Senate Appropriations Panel Approves 2014 Spending Bill

July 15, 2013
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For more details on early education in the Senate Appropriations Committee Labor-HHS-Education bill, check out this post from our sister blog, Early Ed Watch.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to approve a fiscal year 2014 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services (HHS), and Education. (Fiscal year 2014 starts this October 1.) That development is a reminder that key funding decisions for education programs are wending their way through Congress, and that the House and Senate could not be further apart in their proposals.

While the House hasn’t yet published or voted on an education appropriations bill for 2014, it indicated earlier this year that it would reduce overall funding substantially – from $150 billion in 2013 to $122 billion next year – for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services (HHS), and Education.

Why the big cut? The House wants to conform to the spending limit set forth in law by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which requires total appropriations funding be cut by $18 billion from fiscal year 2013 to 2014, to $966 billion. But the House also wants to hold defense spending harmless in those cuts, with domestic programs making up the difference. (For more details, check out our April issue brief on this issue, Federal Education Budget Update: Fiscal Year 2013 Recap and Fiscal Year 2014 Early Analysis, and our May post, House Could Set Education Funding Back to Year 2001 to Fund Defense.)

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are ignoring the $966 billion overall appropriations limit for fiscal year 2014, and instead drafting bills within a $1.058 trillion limit. The president, for his part, supports that higher level.

Leaving aside the gulf between the House and Senate, the Senate’s committee-passed Labor, HHS, and Education bill totaling nearly $166 billion gives us some clues about senators’ priorities in the budget fight that looms in the latter half of the year. (See table below for more details.)

For most programs, the Senate appropriations bill would reverse the across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) that took effect earlier this year, and would actually increase funding for many programs. The Senate Appropriations Committee would increase the two largest federal K-12 programs, Title I grants to school districts and special education grants to states, from 2013 levels, even over the pre-sequester total. The committee would also reverse sequestration for Improving Teacher Quality State Grants and the Teacher Incentive Fund, but wouldn’t increase funding over those levels. It would bump up Impact Aid slightly from 2013 pre-sequester totals.

Under the bill, the Obama administration’s signature competitive grant programs, Race to the Top (RTT) and Investing in Innovation (i3), receive funding for new competitions next year. The Department of Education would run a Race to the Top college affordability and completion competition, rather than the early learning and K-12 ones it has already run. But the bill would appropriate only $250 million for the competition, shy of the $548 million it received last year pre-sequester and well short of the administration’s requested $1 billion. It would fund i3, meanwhile, at $170 million, above the $149 million provided in 2013. The committee also approved a healthy increase in funding for state data systems, from $38 million last year to $75 million.

Another of the administration’s own initiatives gets a mention, too: preschool. The Senate Committee explains that the president’s “Preschool for All” program isn’t included in the appropriations bill because the administration requested mandatory funding for it, which is provided outside the appropriations process. (Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA] has said she plans to introduce this portion of the pre-K plan separately.) But the Senate panel did include the president’s requested $750 million for Preschool Development Grants to help states build systems, as well as a $1.6 billion increase to Head Start, much of which will go to the White House’s proposed Early Head Start-child care partnerships.

On the higher education side, the Committee maintains a maximum Pell Grant award of $4,860, which, when combined with supplemental entitlement funding, brings the total figure to an estimated $5,785. It also awarded small funding increases to several pet projects, including international education and the high school intervention programs TRIO and GEAR UP. The president’s request for $250 million for a First in the World higher education competition was not granted.

In total, funding for the Department of Education – and for discretionary spending across these three agencies – would increase next year. But as explained above, it’s so far from what the House has indicated it will support that the two committees may as well be on different planets. It’s too early to say what the ultimate House-Senate agreement looks like for fiscal year 2014 education funding, but not too early to predict that a lot of squabbling lies ahead.


If Congress Agrees the Era of Big Government is Over, Why Can’t We Get an ESEA Deal?

July 2, 2013

UPDATED 7/22: The side-by-side comparison of each proposal now reflects the final version of the Student Success Act, as amended during floor debate on July 18 and 19. For full coverage of the House debate and vote, read the Storify here.

Considering Congress hasn’t figured out how to compromise on student loan interest rates (despite the fact that President Obama and a bipartisan group of Senators proposed shockingly similar plans), it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) remains at a standstill. Sure, the Senate and House of Representatives marked up proposed legislation and moved it out of their respective education committees. But everyone – including Congress itself – knows these bills aren’t going anywhere. How else can you explain a Senate markup so sparsely attended that Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) threatened his fellow members’ subcommittee leadership? Or a House markup so speedy that you missed it if you took a long lunch?

Part of the problem is that there is absolutely no pressure to get a rewrite of ESEA (a.k.a. No Child Left Behind) done, and these days Congress needs a cliff or a crisis (or a rapidly expanding minority population to win over) in order to accomplish anything. The deadline built into NCLB – that 100 percent of students in every Title I school be proficient in reading and math by 2014 or face sanctions – won’t hit until next summer. But the U.S. Department of Education has already leveled this “proficiency cliff” by giving ESEA waivers to 39 states and Washington, D.C. (that number could balloon to 45 states and a handful of districts in California if all remaining requests are approved).

While states – via the National Governor’s Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and other groups – claim they want a reauthorization, surely they’d prefer to stick with waivers if a new ESEA meant additional federal requirements or any significant changes to their Department-approved plans. This makes reauthorization more difficult than ever. Waivers are complicated, involve dozens of policy choices for states, and vary tremendously. Bellwether’s Andy Rotherham put it best: “It’s hard to overstate how completely incoherent federal policy on K-12 schools now is. States are all over the place on timelines, approaches, and so forth with little rhyme or reason.” Accordingly, any ESEA reauthorization proposal that seeks to win over state education officials or build off of existing waiver policies has to envision such a weak federal role that states can pretty much do whatever they want.

And that’s exactly what we got… and not just from the usual suspects (i.e. congressional Republicans). Even the Democrats’ proposals envision an incredibly limited federal role in education. You can see for yourself by downloading our complete cheat sheet here. The central ESEA reauthorization question today isn’t “what is the appropriate federal role?” but rather “how weak a federal role can we live with?”

Take Senator Harkin’s proposal. Yes, states must adopt college- and career ready standards, test students annually in reading and math, establish an accountability system with performance targets, identify at least 15 percent of schools for improvement, and implement performance-based evaluation system for teachers and principals. But all of the details (with the exception of federal reporting, where the requirements are quite specific) are left up to states. Waivers can remain in effect, and for nearly every provision there’s an option to design and get approval for states’ preferred policy choices.

The Ranking Member on the House education committee, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), would give states slightly less leeway. For example, Miller’s proposal defines what adequate student growth means, gives states fewer choices in setting performance targets, and requires states to get approval for their academic standards from institutions of higher education unless they are common to several states. Still, Miller wouldn’t require states to intervene in a certain number or percentage of schools (just particular categories of schools), and it gives states flexibility to design their own accountability systems and teacher evaluations.

What’s incredible is that the Republican proposals cede even more authority to states – significantly curbing the Secretary of Education’s authority, eliminating (or consolidating, depending on your point of view) funding and programs like those for English language learners, and dismantling nearly every federal guideline for standards and accountability. Their plans also eschew many of the lessons learned from NCLB, including bipartisan, commonsense ideas like uniform graduation rates and using a balance of proficiency and growth for accountability. Is it intrusive to ask states to set some kind of school performance goals? Is it so burdensome for states to also take student growth into account? And is it really that unreasonable to expect states to report school data in a comparable way?

None of the ESEA reauthorization proposals are perfect. But if you actually read them – and I have – it seems like there should be more room to compromise. Everyone envisions a limited federal role! (To be clear, I’m not arguing that this is the best policy choice, only that it should make the politics easier.)

If Congress seriously wanted to make a deal, perhaps Republicans could get on board with a few more state requirements – performance targets or interventions in some number of schools, a measure of student growth, graduation rate accountability, and performance-based teacher evaluations that guide professional development – as long as states still had flexibility to make their own choices. Democrats could appease Republicans by streamlining reporting requirements, eliminating some of the required actions for schools in improvement, allowing teacher evaluations to be used only for professional development, or working on language to clarify the Secretary’s authority to grant waivers or encourage Common Core participation.

Yes, there would still be big differences to iron out (maintenance of effort, funding comparability, etc.), but the two parties aren’t nearly as far apart on policy as the political rhetoric might suggest. Unfortunately, with midterm elections fast approaching, lawmakers appear more concerned with scoring political points and toeing the party line than with the give and take of writing complicated policy. And waivers enable the administration to enact its preferred policies, at least temporarily, while simultaneously blaming Congress for inaction. In short, gridlock is a win-win. Despite two markups, four proposals, and thousands of pages of legislation, nobody in Washington benefits from making a deal. So get ready for those waiver renewals because ESEA isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

It’s Official: Interest Rates on Subsidized Stafford Loans Double

July 1, 2013

Interest rates on a subset of federal student loans officially doubled today from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. The rates apply only to newly issued Subsidized Stafford loans, affecting about 7.4 million students next year. But the increase in interest rates could have been prevented – and many members of Congress tried.

The scheduled increase has been circled on many stakeholders’ and policymakers’ calendars since Congress granted a one-year reprieve last summer. Unlike last year, though, Congress debated a host of reform proposals, many of them market-based (tied to the rate on the 10-year Treasury note), rather than just a simple one-year extension. The latest plan, a bipartisan proposal from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), was immediately rejected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Though the House and Senate haven’t yet managed to agree on a plan, it is still possible that Congress could vote to retroactively reset the rates before students start school in the fall. Working with Slate, we developed a calculator that explores several of the proposals on the table: the bipartisan Senate plan, a similar proposal from President Obama, a temporary extension of the 3.4 percent rate, and the now-effective 6.8 percent rate. Enter your loan amount for next year, and see what your interest rates and monthly payments could be under each of the plans:

Storify: House Ed & Workforce Committee ESEA Markup

June 19, 2013

On Wednesday, the House Education & Workforce Committee convened to debate Chairman John Kline's (R-MN) proposed Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization. Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) also proposed his own version of the bill. ICYMI, here's the play-by-play.

Click here for the Storify of last week's Senate HELP Committee markup.

Storify: House Ed & Workforce Committee ESEA Markup

June 19, 2013

Click here for the Storify of last week's Senate HELP Committee markup.

Voices from the Front Lines of the HBCU PLUS Loan Crisis

June 19, 2013
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Last year the U.S. Department of Education tightened eligibility requirements for federal PLUS loans, leading to a significant increase in rejection rates, from 28 to 38 percent.  Many families and higher-education institutions were shocked to find that parents approved for Parent PLUS loans one year were suddenly denied the next. Some sectors, like historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), were hit harder than others. In response to concerns over the changes, the Education Department added PLUS loan eligibility criteria to a list of potential topics to be considered for regulatory action. As part of this process, the Education Department asked for written comments and held four public hearings to allow individuals to provide testimony. One of these hearings was held at Spelman College, an HBCU in Atlanta. I attended the day-long meeting, where scores of representatives from HBCUs criticized the changes made to the credit requirements for Parent PLUS Loans.

The testimony from the president of Clark Atlanta University was representative of the day’s tone: “The drastic decision to change the credit regulations for Parent PLUS loans without effective evaluation of its impact nationally and specifically on HBCUs and without prior communication and input has resulted in a tornadic effect …A one-year drop in over 50 percent of approved Parent PLUS applications, [and] more than $50 million in revenue lost.” It was a storyline repeated throughout the day—not only did the PLUS loan change inhibit access to college for low-income students, but it also caused institutions to lose millions of dollars in revenue.

While the Department of Education was opaque in the changes it made to the credit requirements that caused the rug to be pulled out from under many students, the subsequent bad publicity surrounding the Department’s bungled implementation masked an equally important part of the PLUS loan story. The changes were modest and were meant to prevent overburdening low-income families with significant amounts of debt.

The Department was right in trying to prevent parents from borrowing loans they cannot afford. Unlike federal student loans, Parent PLUS loans are borrowed by parents. PLUS loans allow parents whose children are already eligible for student loans to borrow even more. Since parents are investing in the future of their child, not in their own human capital, it means that their earnings—and the ability to repay loans—are largely unchanged by their child’s education. Since parents don’t receive direct financial benefit from the loan in terms of increased income, it’s not good federal policy to saddle parents with debt they can’t afford—debt that is seldom dischargeable in bankruptcy and that doesn’t qualify for the protections of other federal student loans, including a lower interest rate and income-sensitive repayment.

While it makes sense for the federal government to provide students access to loans without consideration of their current ability to pay, this should not be the case for parents. Because an “Ability to Pay” metric is not currently included in approval for Parent PLUS loans, the Department had to figure out other criteria to identify whether parents could pay off these loans. Before October 2011, prospective parent borrowers couldn’t have any current accounts more than 90 days delinquent, or any foreclosures, bankruptcies, tax liens, wage garnishments or defaults in the past five years. After October 2011, the Department expanded its definition of what was considered a 90-day delinquency to include accounts whose most recent status was “in collections” or “charged off” in the last five years. This means that if a parent went into collections in the past five years and fixed her status, then she would be approved. But if a parent went into collections within the past five years and never managed to rehabilitate the status—indicative of continued financial troubles—she would be ineligible for a Parent PLUS loan. Even though she would not be able to borrow, her child is still able to borrow $9,500-$12,500 in federal Stafford loans depending on the student’s year in school.

Most of the HBCU representatives at the hearing urged the Department to return to the pre-October 2011 credit standards for PLUS. They provided anecdotes of students and families who were denied access to college once they were denied a PLUS loan. But these anecdotes often did more to highlight the problematic nature of the Parent PLUS loan program as providing pure revenue to the institutions on the front end with no institutional accountability on the back end.

The sole parent in attendance, a Spelman alumna, was the only one to point out that the cost of an HBCU education, and college in general, has increased greatly during a time when wages have been stagnating. “We want our students to attend the schools we’ve been to but they’ve become very expensive,” she said. “While my student was attending, we were getting angry with the school for going up so much for tuition.” If the mission of an institution is to serve a specific group of students, and those students and their families are being priced out, then the institution must have a difficult conversation about how to provide an education for the students they have at an affordable price. Instead, institutions use these loans to kick the “affordability” can down the road at the expense of parents.

An administrator from North Carolina A&T, offered one of the final comments that highlights this unfortunate mission drift at HBCUs, “A PLUS loan is the mechanism to offer all students a higher education. We have to remember that this is not a hand out, it is a loan. The students and parents must pay them back, we just need to be able to pay it forward so that they have an opportunity to attend, matriculate, and graduate so they become positive vehicles in moving our economy forward.”

It seems that one person’s loan is another’s grant. PLUS loans act like grants to institutions that parents are on the hook for repaying. A Parent PLUS loan should never be the mechanism to a college education. So many other programs exist—from the Pell Grant to Stafford loans—that are meant to help students pay for college. No student should be expected to move the economy forward by burdening their parents with unaffordable debt.  

Stay tuned to Higher Ed Watch for the continuing coverage of the Parent PLUS loan crisis at HBCUs.

Update: A New NCLB Reauthorization Cheat Sheet

June 19, 2013

After the partisan markup in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, it is the House of Representatives' turn to debate reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. The Student Success Act, offered by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), is set for a markup Wednesday morning in the House Education and Workforce Committee. Accordingly, we’ve updated our Senate markup cheat sheet to provide a comprehensive, side-by-side comparison of current law, the Obama administration’s waiver policy, and the current legislative proposals in the Senate and House. You can download the new cheat sheet here.

Here are a few of the highlights from the Kline proposal:

  • The Student Success Act would eliminate over 70 programs and consolidate many stand-alone programs (for instance, Title III for English Language Learners) into Title I, with flexibility for states and districts to shift money between them. The bill would also eliminate maintenance of effort requirements, meaning states and local school districts would not be penalized for spending less on required education programs.
  • Kline would not require states to adopt college- and career-ready standards, but they would have to maintain academic content standards – and aligned assessments – in reading, math, and science. And the bill includes really specific language, over and above the Alexander proposal, to prohibit the federal government from promoting participation in the Common Core State Standards initiative in any way.
  • The bill, similar to the Alexander proposal, would allow states to design whatever school accountability and improvement systems they want, including setting performance targets (if any). Kline would also clamp down on the Secretary of Education’s authority to offer waivers to states and districts in exchange for external conditions.
  • Kline, however, would be more prescriptive than either Harkin or Alexander in one area: teacher evaluations, with states required not only to develop them, but also to use the results to make personnel decisions.
  • Kline would not allow Title I funding to follow the child to other public or private schools, but there is speculation that a backpack funding provision could be added to the Student Success Act at a later point. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), for example, has expressed an interest in some sort of portability provision.

Stay tuned to Ed Money Watch and Early Ed Watch for continuing coverage of these bills and the markup, as well as any alternative proposal from Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the Ranking Member on the House committee. And be sure to follow the markup on Twitter with me, @afhyslop, and my colleagues @LauraBornfreund and @ConorPWilliams

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