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Education Funding

Education Amendments Abound in Senate Budget ‘Vote-a-Rama’

By Lauren Camera — March 26, 2015 2 min read
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The Senate kicked off its annual “vote-a-rama” Thursday—a lengthy part of the budget process in which lawmakers offer hundreds of amendments—and we’re keeping tabs on the education-related proposals.

For those looking to wonk out on Senate process, the rules pertaining to the annual budget resolution stipulate that after the maximum 30 hours of deliberation have ended, senators may propose an infinite number of amendments and ask for recorded votes on each. The ritual is more about political gimmickry than actual policy debate. In general, the goal is to make those on the opposite side of the aisle take hard votes and look bad.

And while lots of senators withdraw their amendments or don’t bother asking for a recorded vote after an amendment is defeated by voice vote, the process is expected to extend into the early morning hours on Friday.

In the education space, senators plan on offering amendments on a range of policies, including the Common Core State Standards, charter schools, and student loans, to name a few.

Here is a list of some of the amendments that we’ll update as the process goes on:

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, plans to file two amendments, one that would prohibit federal funds from being used to create a college ratings system—something the U.S. Department of Education has been trying to put together for months now—and another that seeks to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools.
  • Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who plans to run for governor after his term in the Senate expires next year, filed an amendment that would require the federal government to allow states to opt out of the common core without penalty from the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, filed an amendment that would reinstate the year-round Pell Grant, a tuition assistance program for low- and middle-income students
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., filed two higher education-related amendments. One would reduce the student loan debt levels in the Republican budget by 15 percent by eliminating new mandated interest charged while students are still in school, and the other would mandate that students currently in college pay interest on their loans before they have received their education benefits.
  • Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ranking member on the Senate education committee, filed an amendment that would establish and fund a new federal-state partnership to expand access to high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families. Murray also filed an amendment that would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund for legislation that reforms and strengthens elementary and secondary education.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., filed an amendment that would allow borrowers with outstanding federal and private student loans to refinance at the equivalent interest rates that were offered to federal student loan borrowers during the 2013-2014 school year.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., filed an amendment that would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to simplifying and expanding tax incentives for higher education to boost student attendance and completion.
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., filed an amendment that would provide additional resources to create the opportunity for more Americans to obtain a higher education and advanced job skills by supporting two free years of community college.

Stay tuned for more amendments as this page will be updated throughout the day.

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