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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

Congress Returns; Work on FY 2014 Spending Bill Continues

January 6-10, 2014 ~ Vol. 15, No. 1

  • Congress Returns; Work on Omnibus Spending Bill Continues
  • GED Testing Service Launches New 2014 GED Program
  • Virginia Supreme Court Hears U.Va. FOIA Case
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin to Speak at ACE’s Annual Meeting in March

After three weeks away for the holidays, the House and Senate returned to the Capitol this week. They will have just a few months to work on the full slate of issues facing them before attention turns to the 2014 midterm elections and legislative business slows to a crawl. 

While the most visible recent budget-related debate has been on legislation that would extend emergency unemployment benefits for three months, we have been watching for news of the fiscal year 2014 omnibus spending package, which would fund all federal government agencies through Sept. 30. The omnibus bill puts specifics on the budget agreement the House and Senate passed in December. That deal set the discretionary spending level for FY 2014 at about halfway between the relatively high number originally approved by the Senate and the much lower number originally adopted by the House. 

The appropriations committee leaders who are assembling the $1.012 trillion omnibus package have said little publicly about how they are allocating funding among the 12 appropriations bills, but reportedly​ “new investments in science and medical research will be possible.” The bill should be ready to submit to House and Senate leadership today or over the weekend, although House conservatives are pushing for appropriators to include many of the contentious policy riders that helped derail work last year on a FY 2014 spending plan. Because time will be needed to move the bill through the two chambers, a short-term stopgap spending bill likely will be needed to prevent a government shutdown after the current continuing resolution expires Jan. 15. 

In the coming weeks, Congress must also deal once again with raising the country’s debt limit. While the ostensible deadline to pass a debt ceiling extension is Feb. 7, the Treasury Department might be able to employ certain measures to prevent a default on the nation’s credit obligations and buy a little extra time for congressional action. This issue has been the subject of prolonged and contentious debate in recent years. President Obama has already reiterated his position that he will not negotiate on the issue.

I am pleased to inform you that the 2014 GED program was formally launched Jan. 2 by the GED Testing Service​. This new, comprehensive GED program is a critical step forward in ACE’s efforts to expand the pipeline of learners who are prepared for college-level work. 

As you may recall, we formed our joint venture with Pearson in 2011 to create the GED Testing Service as a way to recapture the incredible waste of human talent represented by the millions of Americans who lack a high school diploma, and are unprepared for the college and career programs required for most of today's jobs. 

Key to the 2014 GED program is a new test, aligned with state and national college and career readiness standards. The new GED program also includes a more flexible, test-taker-friendly computer-based system and same-day score results. It will transition the GED test from just a high school equivalency assessment to a comprehensive start-to-finish program. 

For more information about the new 2014 GED program, visit GED.com​.

The Supreme Court of Virginia yesterday heard oral arguments in American Tradition Institute v. the University of Virginia (U.Va.), a case in which we filed an amicus brief last month​.

The university has been engaged in legal proceedings for the past three years to protect various documents and emails relating to former U.Va. Professor Michael Mann’s climate change research, which was subject to attack by various activist organizations. A lower court ruled in favor of U.Va., finding that many of the records were protected by provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)​. The plaintiffs then appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

The justices were very engaged in the argument, asking numerous questions. One justice noted that it was unlikely the legislature intended the FOIA to put public universities at a disadvantage to their peers in the independent sector of higher education, which are not bound by the terms of the statute. The justices also expressed concern that based on their interpretation, they might have to consider thousands of other FOIA cases that may arise.

A decision is expected by the end of February.

I am looking forward to seeing you all in two months at ACE’s 96th Annual Meeting, scheduled for March 8-11 in San Diego. 

We just confirmed yesterday that Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will be a featured speaker at this year’s meeting. Other speakers include Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, who will deliver the Robert H. Atwell lecture at the opening plenary session Sunday, March 9; and Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, who will give the keynote address at the ACE Women's Leadership Dinner Saturday, March 8. 

Click here to register​.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE