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March 23, 2007 ED Review
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 March 23, 2007
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FY 2008 Budget
Transforming Higher Education
Intel Science Awards
Teacher World's Fair
QZABs
State Reforms Overview
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

FY 2008 Budget

Last week, it was all about the Hill as Secretary Spellings and other senior staff testified before the relevant House and Senate appropriations subcommittees regarding the President's Fiscal Year 2008 budget request. "As 9% investors in K-12 education, our role at the federal level is limited," the Secretary observed during her opening statement before the House subcommittee. "But we can make a real difference for students by targeting resources strategically. We all agree that education is a top priority for our country's future, and we all agree that we must produce a balanced budget." (Note: The federal investment in postsecondary education is about 33%.) The Secretary delineated three critical goals of the budget: improving chronically underperforming schools; increasing resources and rigor in high schools, especially in math and science; and making college accessible and affordable for every student. She then outlined the programs in support of these goals, from School Improvement Grants and increased Title I funding for high schools to the largest Pell Grant increase in 30 years and increased funding for Academic Competitiveness and National SMART grants. Of course, the budget request "was developed in concert with our [No Child Left Behind] reauthorization proposal to help move the debate forward in key areas," the Secretary reminded the Senate subcommittee.... I look forward to what I expect will be a vigorous debate...as we work together on both the 2008 appropriation for the U.S. Department of Education and the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind."

The Secretary's House testimony was followed by testimony from other Department officials, elaborating on their primary areas of responsibility. Among the presenters: Deputy Secretary Ray Simon (K-12), Undersecretary Sara Martinez Tucker (higher education), Director of the Institute of Education Sciences Grover Whitehurst, and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Troy Justesen. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget08/testimony.html.

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Transforming Higher Education

Meanwhile, the last two weeks have been building to the Secretary's Higher Education Summit:

First, in between her testimony, the Secretary offered remarks at a March 13 American Enterprise Institute seminar on higher education, detailing her action plan to make college more accessible, affordable, and consumer-friendly for families. "No matter what challenges we encounter, from global competition to national security, we rely on our rising generation to invent the technologies that will keep us on top, crack the codes to keep us safe, and lead our nation in the years ahead," she noted. "Only education will give them the skills they need to rise up to these challenges." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/03/03132007.html.

Next, on March 21, the Secretary unveiled the FAFSA4caster, an online tool which provides students with an early estimate of their eligibility for federal financial aid. Starting on April 1, the FAFSA4caster will instantly calculate a student's eligibility for federal student aid, including grants. It will also reduce the time it takes to complete the full Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as it pre-populates 51 of the 102 questions on the FAFSA. The FAFSA4caster meets one of the Secretary's action steps to improve the U.S. higher education system: notifying students of their eligibility for aid earlier than spring of their senior year. For more information, please go to http://www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov/fafsa4caster.html.

Then, on March 22, nearly 300 college presidents, administrators, association and business leaders, and government officials gathered at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., to formulate "next steps" in carrying out the recommendations of the Secretary's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. In the morning, attendees considered a set of 25 initial recommendations from five pre-summit, subject-specific working groups: aligning K-12 and higher education expectations; serving adults and other non-traditional students; increasing need-based student aid; enhancing affordability, decreasing costs, and promoting productivity; and using accreditation to emphasize and support student learning outcomes. In the afternoon, attendees identified core tasks that need to be done to achieve the recommendations and which stakeholders (colleges, foundations, government, etc.) should be responsible for them. "It's a truth Lyndon Johnson recognized when he signed the Higher Education Act," the Secretary said. "As he put it, 'The leadership of your country believes it is the obligation of your nation to provide and permit and assist every child born in these borders to receive all the education that he can take.' Forty years later, we're 'the leadership' to whom he's referring.... It's our responsibility and privilege to meet this obligation." This summer, the Department plans to hold regional summits (Atlanta, Boston, Kansas City, Phoenix, and Seattle) to solicit more advice and involvement and explore whether and how the issues are playing out differently at a local or regional level. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/03/03222007.html.

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Intel Science Awards

At a March 13 ceremony, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett honored 40 Intel Science Talent Search (STS) award winners, comprising, for the first time, an equal number of young men and women. Sponsored by Intel since 1998, STS is America's oldest (1942) and most prestigious high school science competition; 1,705 students entered the contest this year, representing 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Top honors went to Mary Masterman of Oklahoma City, who built an accurate spectrograph for about $300 that identifies the characteristics—or "fingerprints"—of different kinds of molecules. (Commercial units can cost up to $100,000.) She joins some rather esteemed alumni: six Nobel Laureates, three National Medal of Science winners, 10 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, and two Field Medalists. For more information, please go to http://www.intel.com/education/sts/.

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Teacher World's Fair

Today (March 23) in New York City, Secretary Spellings joins thousands of educators for PBS' second Celebration of Teaching and Learning conference, dubbed the "World's Fair for Teachers." This year's conference focuses on science and global awareness issues with dozens of sessions and workshops led by respected experts. Teachers and other professionals will also collaborate with colleagues and learn about the resources and services offered by public television. For more information, please go to http://www.thirteencelebration.org/.

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QZABs

In a recent letter, the Secretary informed Chief State School Officers of the extension of Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) through 2007. She also reminded them 2005 QZABs allocations will expire at the end of this year. QZABs are bonds subsidized by the federal government which can be used for rehabilitating and repairing school facilities (but not new construction), purchasing equipment, developing curricula, and training school personnel. QZABs can help schools save up to 50% of the cost of financing allowable activities, and states are not required to submit an application to the federal government before using QZABs. Enclosed with the letter is a table showing the state allocations of QZABs for 2005-2007, denoting the maximum amount of QZABs that may be issued within a state for a given year. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/070301.html.

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State Reforms Overview

The National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) State Education Reforms (SER) web site describes the growing role of states in public elementary and secondary education throughout the 1990s. To facilitate discussion, the site groups reform efforts into four categories: standards, assessments, and accountability; school finance; teacher training and resources; and school choice options. Topics include student and teacher assessments, Adequate Yearly Progress, highly qualified teachers, and charter schools. For more information, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/programs/statereform/.

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Quote to Note

"There's a strong case that strengthening higher education is critical to our future competitiveness. But, in my opinion, there's an even stronger moral case to be made. Helping more Americans earn a degree is not only important for our economic standing, it's essential to reinforcing what our country stands for. If our nation stands for equality, if we believe every child deserves access to the opportunities education provides, then the sad fact that so many of our low-income, minority students are, in effect, being locked out of higher education doesn't reflect those uniquely American ideals."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (3/22/07),
addressing the Higher Education Summit

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Upcoming Events

The Department's next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast, on charters and school choice, is scheduled for April 17. Also, if you missed it, be sure to view the archived webcast of this month's show on higher education. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/av/video/edtv/.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the National Science Teachers Association's annual conference in St. Louis (March 29-April 1) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals' annual convention in Seattle (March 29-April 2). If you are attending either of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Last Modified: 04/09/2007