The Grant Advisors work hard to keep track of the federal budget and the 26 grant making agencies which distribute billions of grants each year in annual competitions. We catch our readers up with a flurry of recent activity.
WIA Passes in Senate: The Senate overwhelmingly passes (95-3) legislation to update the federal workforce development system through a reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). It would replace the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which was originally passed in 1998. WIOA is a compromise between the SKILLS Act (HR 803), which passed the House, and S 1356 which cleared the Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee last summer. HR 803 will provide job training and career services to youth and adults to help them prepare for work or additional education, find and keep jobs, and build the skills necessary for the 21st century. It will provide a wide range of services for low-skill, low-income people and individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
New ConnectED Private Commitments: ED Secy. Arne Duncan and National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients announce that 10 businesses that have made ConnectED commitments are making privately funded resources available to schools across the country Companies like Adobe, Autodesk, Esri, O’Reilly Media, and Prezi are opening up learning software and content resources to eligible schools. Others, like Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, are partnering with communities and nonprofit organizations to equip the neediest schools with hardware, software, and wireless connectivity. It is part of a larger White House effort to improve K-12 wireless connectivity.
Addressing the Needs of Confined Youth: The federal My Brother’s Keeper Task Force recommends action addressing persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and men of color. ED Secy. Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Chief State School Officers and state Attorneys General highlighting the importance of supporting youth in juvenile justice facilities, describing how federal funding can support improved services, and signaling coming work to clarify the components of high-quality correctional education. This step continues recent efforts by the agencies to support youth in facilities — from model demonstration projects for returning students with disabilities to a commissioned report from the Nat’l Academy of Sciences to understand developmental needs. The agencies intend to invest in an initiative to design an evidence-based education model for returning youth and support demonstration projects in selected jurisdictions.
Groups Hold Restraint & Seclusion Briefing: The American Civil Liberties Union, the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion and the Congressional Black Caucus Education & Labor Taskforce, host a congressional briefing on the detrimental effects of restraint and seclusion in schools. Panelists described their personal experiences with restraint and seclusion and voiced their support for the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S 2036 / HR 1893), bills introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) to set minimum federal standards. These bills would ensure that children in all states are given equal protection from dangerous practices and create a cultural shift toward preventive, positive intervention strategies. The bills would also create a competitive grants program for schools to implement new seclusion policies.
Minibus Appropriations Stalls in Senate: Senate work on a “minibus” package of three appropriations bills — Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD – stalls on the Senate floor in a partisan fight over amendments. Although senators voted overwhelmingly in favor (95-3) of beginning consideration of the package (HR 4660), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the legislation when Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a process for allowing and voting on amendments. Democrats wanted only germane amendments to be allowed, and Republicans balked at Democrats’ initial insistence that amendments reach a 60-vote threshold for adoption. One amendment worrisome to child nutrition advocates would allow schools to opt out of several school lunch and snack food requirements. Filed by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), the amendment goes even further than a similar provision in the House bill. It would allow schools to opt out of the standards if they believe compliance would otherwise cause them financial stress – and they could opt out without having to provide any evidence to support their concerns. The Senate is headed into its July 4th recess wihout having voted on a single appropriations bill.
Bill Would Cut 100-Question Student Aid Form to 2 Questions: In an effort to help high school students get into college, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) release a draft bill that would simplify the process of applying for and receiving federal financial aid. The bill would reduce to a single postcard — called the “Student Aid Short Form” — the questions students must answer in applying for federal financial aid and inform high school students in their junior year of the amount they’ll receive in federal aid to help pay for college. It would also address the problem of some students borrowing too much money, and simplify the options students have to repay their federal loans. The act also streamlines federal grant and loan programs to better serve more students more effectively.