Policy Connection Spotlight Archive 2011-2012
December 2011: Early Learning Challenge Winners
On December 16, 2011 nine grant award winners were named in President Obama's Early Learning Challenge competition. The nine states include: Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and the state of Washington. Each winning state will receive at least $50 million to help reform their pre-kindergarten programs.
The Early Learning Challenge is part of President Obama's Race to the Top initiative http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/fact-sheet-race-top. For the national ELC, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services made $500 million available for pre-K funding. Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for the grant by developing plans to improve the quality of early learning programs.
Seven of the winning states are governed by Democrats, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that the Education Department only graded applications for the funding based on the quality of the pre-K reform plans, with no regard for the political leanings of the states.
- White House announcement
- Full summary of grading results http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge/awards.html
Massachusetts is eligible for $50 million under the ELC. Massachusetts also won funding in last year's ELC competition, receiving $250 million to put towards early learning programs.
Massachusetts' plan, From Birth to School Readiness: Massachusetts Early Learning Plan, 2012-2015, can be viewed here.
Key Elements of the Massachusetts Plan:
- Securing universal participation in the Massachusetts tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
- Strengthening standards for birth to age five early learning, including creating English Language Development standards in early learning
- Creating the Massachusetts Early Learning and Development Assessment System (MELD) from birth to grade three. This involves expanding screening for children and developing a standardized assessment for kindergarten entry
- Increasing diverse and appropriate engagement with parents, families and community members regarding statewide education priorities
- Increasing the competency of early learning educators by working with higher education institutions and providing support for teachers
- Better alignment between early learning initiatives and K-3 programs
December 2011: Military Children and Families
The national unemployment rate for military veterans currently tops 12 percent. More than 1 million service members are expected to return home and to civilian jobs as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dwindle - but where are the jobs for military families?
In an effort to quell the rising unemployment rate among veterans, President Obama signed two tax credits as part of the American Jobs Act that encourage businesses to hire veterans. The "VOW to Hire Heroes Act" was signed on November 21, 2011. The federal government plans to hire 120,000 veterans, and the president challenges private sector employers to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014.
The Obama administration also launched a series of online tools including a job bank to help military families searching for employment. The National Resource Directory currently has over 500,000 job listings in the Veterans Job Bank.
Other tools include the following:
- My Next Move - A site created by the Department of Labor to help veterans find the best civilian careers that match their skills sets.
- The Veterans Gold Card - A card that allows veterans to access six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling
- Milicruit - A virtual recruitment center connected military families to military friendly employers
- Military Spouse Employment Partnership - web recruitment and career partnership site for military spouses
According to the Washington Post, the unemployment rate among veterans has increased from 9.8 percent in August to 12.1 percent in October. Currently the veteran unemployment rate is more than three points above the civilian unemployment rate, and the unemployment rate among veterans has consistently outpaced the rate among civilians.
Additional Information and Resources:
- Joining Forces
- Company Commitments
- White House Blog
- NPR - Children of Military Families Feel the Strain
- National Military Family Association
- Military Child Education Coalition
Military Family Issues in Massachusetts:
- Massachusetts Veterans Guide to Benefits
- Massachusetts Veterans Unemployment Rates
- Home Base program at work in Massachusetts
- Wheelock Center of Excellence for Military Children and Families
November 2011: Bullying
On September 21, 2011 the U.S. Department of Education hosted the second annual Bullying Prevention Summit. The summit placed increased focus on the problem and growth of bullying in school. A press release from the U.S. Department of Education highlighted the need for increased awareness around bullying issues:
"According to recently released data by the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 70 percent of students play some role in bullying, whether as a bully, a victim or a witness, demonstrating the need for increased awareness. Other research suggests that bullying and harassment can lead to poorer educational outcomes, lower future aspirations, frequent school absenteeism, and lower grade-point averages."
There are no national anti-bullying laws. However, there are many government supported campaigns directed at addressing the bullying issue.
National Research and Awareness Sites
- Cyber Bullying Research Center
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Taking a Stand Against Bullying Research
- Student Reports of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: Results From the 2009 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey
States have taken on a wide and varied approach to addressing this issue. Cyber Bullying Enacted Legislation 2006-2010
The Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law was approved by Governor Deval Patrick on May 3, 2010. Partly in response to the suicides of Massachusetts students Phoebe Prince and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, the comprehensive law specifically addresses cyberbullying, requires teachers and school staff to report bullying to a principal or administrator, and requires prevention and intervention training for all staff and students.
According to the Massachusetts law, bullying is defined as:
The severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal, or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another student that has the effect of: (i) causing physical or emotional harm to the other student or damage to the other student's property; (ii) placing the other student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creating a hostile environment at school for the other student; (iv) infringing on the rights of the other student at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
Bullying is prohibited in Massachusetts on school property, at school functions with school equipment, and also at locations that are not school related or through the use of technology that is not owned by the school. In Massachusetts bullying can occur outside of school if a situation "create[s] a hostile environment at school for the victim, infringe[s] on the rights of the victim at school, or materially and substantially disrupt[s] the education process or the orderly operation of a school."
Additional News Articles
CBS Boston Coakley To Testify for Bullying Committee October 22, 2011
WBUR Challenges Persist Surrounding Bullying Prevention By Lynn Jolicoeur Sep 23, 2011
Education Week We're all Responsible for Bullying by Peter DeWitt August 15, 2011
October 2011: American Jobs Act
On September 8, 2011 President Obama called on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act. The plan's goal is to help get people back to work and help those in work become more financially stable. The American Jobs Act includes the following five aspects:
Tax cuts to help businesses grow and hire new employees
Getting people back to work by focusing on rebuilding and modernizing the country
Making new pathways for Americans looking for jobs to get back to work
Tax relief for all American workers
Will be fully paid for as part of long term deficit reduction plan
According to WhiteHouse.gov, the following details how the American Jobs Act will impact Massachusetts in four specific ways:
1. Tax Cuts
- 140,000 employer firms will receive a payroll tax cut
2. Employing Workers to Rebuild America
- Immediate investments of at least $850,700,000 in Massachusetts' highway and transit projects could support a minimum of approximately 11,100 local jobs
- Massachusetts could receive $591,800,000 to support up to 6,300 educator and first responder jobs Massachusetts could receive $378,600,000 in funding to support as many as 4,900 school improvement jobs
- Massachusetts could receive $40,400,000 to revitalize and refurbish local communities.
- Massachusetts could receive $68,800,000 in funding in the next fiscal year to support its community colleges
3. Pathways Back to Work for Americans Seeking Employment
- Help for the 123,000 long-term unemployed workers in Massachusetts
- Extending unemployment insurance and preventing 49,300 people looking for work in Massachusetts from losing their benefits in just the first 6 weeks.
- Pathways Back to Work Fund to could place 2,500 low-income adults and 9,200 low-income youths in jobs in Massachusetts
4. Tax Relief
- Payroll tax cuts; A typical household in Massachusetts, with a median income of around $59,000, will receive a tax cut of around $1,830
For more details: The American Jobs Act - Impact on Massachusett
Find out how the Jobs Act will affect other states: A State by State Look at the American Jobs Act
April/May 2011: MA Budget Cuts
Budget cuts remain on the minds of many education advocates:
Undergraduate enrollment: 830
Graduate enrollment: 332
Undergraduates on financial aid: 95%
Undergraduate students receiving need-based financial aid: 84.2%
Undergraduate students receiving merit-based financial aid: 75.2%
Average size of need-based financial aid award: $15,922
Status on student aid funding in the budget deal between the House, Senate, and White House.
Student Aid for the Academic Year Beginning July 1, 2011
- Pell Grant maximum remains at $5,550
- Year-Round Pell is eliminated immediately
- SEOG is maintained, but with a cut of $20 million (from $757 million), in addition to the across-the-board cut of 0.2 percent (below)
- Federal Work Study, and most other non-defense, domestic programs, have a 0.2 percent across-the-board cut
- The previous decision to eliminate LEAP state grants was sustained.
Your advocacy efforts have been a major factor in students not being faced with more dire cuts this year. Congress was particularly persuaded by the fact that student aid letters had already gone out. Many education programs had a worse fate, and the GEAR UP and TRIO programs were also trimmed. Please see below for all cuts and eliminations.
Budget Deal (H.R. 1473, FY 2011)
Summary of Education Program Cuts (Effective July 1, 2011)
- All programs are subject to a 0.2 percent across-the-board cut; not reflected in the numbers below.
- The Pell maximum award is maintained at $5,550 and $23,002 billion is appropriated.
- Rejects a 15 percent cut to the maximum Pell Grant award that would have jeopardized the ability of millions of low- and middle-income students to receive a higher education.
- Prevents 218,000 low-income children from being kicked out of Head Start.
- Maintains funding for AmeriCorps, which would have been eliminated under H.R. 1.
- Rejects a cut to Title I education grant funding that would have cost approximately 10,000 jobs and reduced educational services to 1 million students.
- Provides $700 million for the Race to the Top education reform program, which will now include a new initiative to improve the quality of State early childhood care and education.
- Continues the nation's regional educational laboratory system, which helps schools apply research-based practices to education; H.R. 1 eliminated this funding.
The final FY11 compromise bill, H.R. 1473, includes numerous cuts to Labor-HHS programs. But it preserves far more than H.R. 1, the spending bill originally passed by the House.
Read a summary of CR FY11 - Labor, HHS, and Education on the Senate Appropriations Committee website.
- Race to the Top = $700 million.
- Investing in Innovation = $150 million
- Promise Neighborhoods = +$20 million (total of $30 million)
Program cuts and eliminations:
- ESEA Evaluation = -$1 million
- School Improvement Grants = -$10 million
- Striving Readers = -$250 million (eliminated)
- Even Start = -$66.5 million (eliminated)
- Literacy through School Libraries = -$19.1 million (eliminated)
- Education technology State Grants = -$100 million (eliminated)
- Arts in Education = -$40 million (eliminated)
- Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners = -$8.8 million (eliminated)
- National Writing Project = -$25.6 million (eliminated)
- Reading Is Fundamental =-$24.8 million (eliminated)
- Javits Gifted and Talented = -$7.5 million (eliminated)
- State Assessments = -$20 million
- Comprehensive Centers = -$5 million
- Teacher Quality State Grants = -$5 million (earmark for New Leaders for New Schools)
- National Board for Professional Teaching Standards = -$10.6 million (eliminated)
- Close-up Fellowships = -$1.9 million (eliminated)
- Teach for America = -$18 million (eliminated)
- Teaching of Traditional American History = -$73 million
- Grants to Gulf Coast States' LEAs = -$12 million (eliminated)
- Safe and Drug-Free Schools National Programs = -$97 million
- English Language Acquisition State Grants = -$15 million
- Special Olympics = -$8.1 million (eliminated)
- Recordings for the Blind = -$13.3 million
- FIE projects (Earmarks) = -$88 million
- Smaller Learning Communities = -$88 million (eliminated)
- Training for Incarcerated Individuals = -$17.2 million (eliminated)
- LEAP = -$63.9 million (eliminated)
- Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants = -$20 million
- TRIO = -$25 million
- GEAR UP = -$20 million
- Byrd Scholarships = -$42 million (eliminated)
- Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions = -$15.1 million (eliminated)
- Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions = -$8.2 million (eliminated)
- Higher Education Demonstration Projects for Persons with Disabilities = -$6.8 million (eliminated)
- Thurgood Marshall Legal Scholarships = -$3 million (eliminated)
- B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarship =-$1 million (eliminated)
- Underground Railroad Program = -$1.9 million (eliminated)
- B.A. and Master's STEM Foreign Language Teacher Training = -$2.2 million (eliminated)
- Javits Fellowships = -$1.6 million
- FIPSE = -$101.5 million (earmarks)
- Emma Byrd Scholarships = -$1.5 million (eliminated)
- Regional Education Labs = -$13 million
- Civic Education = -$33.8 million
- Career and Technical Education = -$138 million
- Adult Education = -$31 million
- International Education and Foreign Language = -$50 million
- Institute of Museum and Library Services = -$44 million
There will be a new 1 percent competitive set-aside ($29.4 million) within the Teacher Quality State Grants program; groups such Teach For America, National Writing Project, and the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards will be eligible to compete for this funding.
What's in store for the future?
Student Aid for the Academic Year Beginning July 1, 2012
The House Budget Committee started the process last week, and we now have details on the committee's proposal for student aid funding effective July 1, 2012. This marks just the beginning of the funding deliberations, but Congress wants to move quickly.
The House budget proposal for 2012 would:
- Continue to trim Pell Grants, including an undecided cut to the maximum of at least $550.
- Eliminate the in-school interest subsidy for both graduate and undergraduate student loans.
- Repeal the 2007 expansion of Income-Based Repayment for student loans.
- Make major cuts to the overall pool of money available for Education, Labor and Health and Human Services (no list of specific programs is yet available)