Legislative Activity

Senate Committee on Appropriations Approves Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill

Thursday, June 9, the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations package, S. 3040, which funds the Department of Education at $67.8 billion, a $220 million decrease from the current year. A Committee summary of the bill can be found here.

The bill re-establishes year-round Pell Grants. Colleges and universities, especially community colleges, have fought to restore the benefit since it was cut in 2011. Despite large bipartisan support for the initiative, some critics oppose redirecting a portion of the $7.8 billion surplus in the Pell program to other areas. Roughly $1 billion from the Pell surplus have been directed to boost funding in other areas, specifically the National Institutes of Health. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said using the money outside of student aid programs “sets a dangerous precedent,” and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) released a joint statement that the bill “balances other needs on the backs of low-income college students without doing anything to put additional dollars in their pockets each semester.”

The funding package made it through the markup without any amendments blocking controversial final rules put out by the Department of Labor this year; however, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) has indicated he intends to offer an amendment to either block or scale back the overtime rule when the bill comes to a vote on the Senate floor.

Senators Introduce Resolution to Block Overtime Rule

Tuesday, June 7, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced a resolution to block the Department of Labor’s final overtime rule under the Congressional Review Act. At a Senate subcommittee hearing, Senator Alexander said his focus would be on the rule’s effect on colleges and universities. “It’s very strange to see the president running around the country talking about college costs and then, offering an overtime rule that Tennessee colleges say adds several hundred dollars a year to tuition,” he said.

The resolution would nullify the final rule if passed, and prohibit the Administration from issuing a substantially similar rule without congressional approval. It is almost certain President Obama would veto the resolution.

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Holds Hearing on Overtime Rule

During a June 9 hearing titled, “The Administration’s Overtime Rule and Its Consequences for Workers, Students, Nonprofits, and Small Businesses,” the House Committee on Education and the Workforce heard from witnesses concerned that the administration failed to streamline existing overtime regulations and finalized a rule that will lead to fewer jobs, less workplace flexibility, and fewer opportunities for career advancement.

Michael Rounds, associate vice president for Human Resources Management at the University of Kansas, predicted that his university and other similar institutions will have to raise tuition to absorb the costs of the new rule and limit the impact on academics and research.

This Week’s Hearings

On Wednesday, June 15 at 10:00 am EST, the Senate Committee on Appropriations will hold a hearing titled, “Implementing the Child Care Development Block Grant Act of 2014: Perspectives of Stakeholders.”

Regulatory Activity

Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation Make a Push for Diversity

Three federal agencies teamed up this week to help increase diversity in schools and communities and narrow “opportunity gaps.” The Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation issued joint letter to state and local leaders, urging them to identify and address barriers that impede socioeconomic growth and racial diversity. The Department of Education also published a Federal Register notice that seeks to prioritize projects aimed at increasing socioeconomic diversity when it comes to awarding funds through discretionary grant programs. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) held a congressional briefing where they discussed increasing diversity in schools and communities. The three federal agencies also held a listening session at the Department of Education on closing racial and socioeconomic gaps.