Legislative Action Team Advisory

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Government Relations Update - November 7, 2007

There are three issues addressed in this update, the funding bill and what happens next; the status of NCLB and the expected pending action on the Higher Education Act. The backdrop driving all three of these issues is the calendar. The First Session of the 110th Congress is scheduled to adjourn sometime this month. The House hopes to be finished by November 16th and the Senate is planning on coming back after Thanksgiving. This means that there is very little time to finish anything. The second conundrum is that next year is both a presidential and Congressional election year. Interestingly enough, after the first week of February, both parties may know who their presidential nominee will be. There may be a bit of a window for Congressional action on several measures including the re-write of NCLB.

The House and Senate Conferees met and came to an agreement on funding for school year 2008-09 (Fiscal Year 2008). The president has said that he will veto this spending level when it is presented to him. Congressional leaders are creating a funding bill that will include not only the traditional Labor/Health and Human Service/Education spending bill with two other spending bills, Military Construction and Veterans. This large appropriations bill will most likely be vetoed and the Congress will then move for an override. The bill originally passed the Senate with enough votes to override a veto but not enough to override in the House. The override fight will be in the House. A chart from the IRA supported Committee for Education Funding can be viewed at www.reading.org/association/advocacy/updates.html.
Please note several key points: first, Title I funding is increased; Reading First is decreased, as is Even Start; Striving Readers received a small increase. It is expected that the entire education, health, and other communities will push for a veto override because this bill increases funding over all for education. The president’s spending recommendations were over $2 billion less than this measure.

If the override vote isn’t successful, then Congress is likely to pass another emergency spending bill that will keep the spending levels at last year’s levels for at least the next three months.

The House and Senate Education Committee chairs have acknowledged that moving a reauthorization of NCLB this year will not happen. At the same time, Senator Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Enzi (R-WY), the chair and ranking member on the Senate Education Committee, have said that they will be moving a proposal early in the new year. Senator Kennedy has said they might have until the spring of 2008 to finish it. The Senate Education Committee has released a draft proposal, but without the sections of Title I, covering literacy, adequate yearly progress, growth models, and other controversial areas.

Higher Education
The House and Senate Education committees have announced that they are now going to focus their time for the balance of the session on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. We are expecting new language to be introduced in the next week and will update you on the literacy sections.

Next Steps
The next big step for the education community will come if the president vetoes the education spending bill. While the veto may not be overridden, the amount of attention it gets is. It is important to get members of Congress on record as to whether or not they support funding for education programs. Please watch the IRA Legislative Action Team blog for updates at http://www.latadvisory.blogspot.com/.


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