November Government Relations Update

Broadband Access in Schools The government recently released a report on broadband access in schools. View the data map here and find more information here.

Early Learning Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico submitted applications in October for $500 million in competitive grants under the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. During the coming weeks, the applications will be reviewed by early childhood experts nationwide, with awards being announced in mid-December. Depending on the state’s percentage of low-income children and its proposed plan, awards will range from approximately $50 million to $100 million. More information can be found here. The Department also announced plans to create an Office of Early Learning that will oversee the grants and other federal early learning programs. Senior Advisor for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones has been named as the office’s leader, and the new office will fall under the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE).  Learn more on the Office of Early Learning here.

Investing in Innovation Finalists Earlier this month, the Department of Education announced that 23 school districts, non-profit organizations, and institutions of higher education have been selected as finalists from among nearly 600 applicants under the Investing in Innovation (i3) program.  Applicants submitted proposal in one of five areas, including STEM education.  The finalists are competing in three categories: up to $25 million per “scale up” grant for projects with the strongest evidence and track record of success; up to $15 million per “validation” grant for projects with emerging evidence of success; and $3 million per “development” grant for promising but relatively untested ideas with high potential.  Finalists must also guarantee a privately funded match of 5%, 10%, and 15%, respectively, by December 9.  See the press release here and learn more about the i3 program here.

Student Loan Relief The Obama Administration recently announced plans to address student loan debt, proposing a new “Pay As You Earn” plan to reduce monthly payments for approximately 1.6 million students and borrowers.  Under current law, eligible borrowers can limit loan payments to 15% of discretionary income, with all remaining debt forgiven after 25 years, and under a law enacted in 2010, these “income-based repayment” (IBR) levels will go down in 2014 to 10% of discretionary income, with loan forgiveness coming after 20 years. The President’s new proposal will put that law into effect two years earlier, in 2012. Additionally, borrowers with both a direct loan and a federal family education loan will be able to consolidate loans starting in 2012.  These changes carry no additional cost to taxpayers. Visit here for more information.