News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Bid to Extend Tax Cut For Education Falters
House supporters of education tax breaks contained in the 2001 federal tax cuts failed to generate enough votes last week to extend those benefits beyond 2010.
The House on Sept. 4 voted 213-188 on a procedural motion that would have allowed the legislation, HR 5203, sponsored by Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., to move forward. Republicans have been moving on several fronts to void "sunset" provisions contained in the $1.35 billion, 10-year tax-cut law passed last year. Only a handful of Democrats voted yes on the motion, while even fewer Republicans voted no.
HR 5203, among other provisions, would have extended the life of an expansion of education-savings-accounts contributions from $500 a year to $2,000. And it would have preserved beyond 2010 a change that allowed money from such accounts to be used for K-12 expenses, including private school tuition. Since only the interest on such accounts is exempt from taxes, the actual tax savings of expanding the break to a contribution of $2,000 a year typically would be less than $30 a year.
Agency Joins Outreach To Faith-Based Groups
The Bush administration will hold at least five conferences across the country to help faith-based organizations secure federal dollars for a variety of programs, including those that treat drug abusers, aid the homeless, and tutor students after school.
Five federal agencies that have their own centers for "faith-based and community initiatives," including the Department of Education. Those five offices will co-sponsor the meetings, the first of which will occur Oct. 10 in Atlanta.
The Education Department office has already been holding educational seminars specifically aimed at helping groups navigate the agency's grants process, long thought to be off-limits for religious groups.
—Michelle R. Davis
Child-Care Bill Passed By Senate Committee
The Senate Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee passed a bill last week designed to improve the quality of child-care nationally by providing more money for staff training and increasing providers' pay and benefits.
The 2002 Access to High-Quality Child Care Act would authorize $3.1 billion for fiscal 2003, which begins Oct. 1, and bring the total amount for the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant to $8.6 billion.
Proposed by Sens. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., James M. Jeffords, I-Vt., and Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, the measure now moves to the full Senate.
Among its provisions, the bill would also reduce co-payments for low-income parents and require states to coordinate the variety of federal, state, and local child-care programs.
Auditors Cite Agency For Stagnant Penalties
The Department of Education has failed to upgrade several civil penalties that are covered by the Inflation Adjustment Act, according to congressional investigators.
In a report issued Aug. 26, the General Accounting Office listed eight types of financial penalties that the department has not adjusted for inflation. For example, the $25,000 penalty for violations of Title IV of the Higher Education Act, which authorizes various programs of student financial assistance, has stayed the same since 1986.
The department's general counsel, Brian W. Jones, responded in an Aug. 20 letter that the department had already taken action to "remedy our oversight" and would soon initiate the regulatory process for making adjustments.
—Erik W. Robelen
Financial-Aid Office Gets New Executive
A former executive in the student-loan industry has been appointed the chief operating officer of the Department of Education's office of federal student aid.
Theresa S. Shaw will take over an office charged with delivering financial assistance and services to college students and higher education institutions around the country.
Ms. Shaw worked for more than 20 years in the private sector, much of it at Sallie Mae, the nation's largest private student-lending company. Most recently, Ms. Shaw worked at eNumerate Solutions Inc., which sells software for Internet-based financial information and analysis.
She replaces Greg Woods, who resigned as the office's chief operating officer in May for health reasons. Mr. Woods' position was briefly filled by James Manning, who was appointed chief operating officer of the financial-aid office on an interim basis in mid-August.
Vol. 22, Issue 2, Page 24