Sen. Murkowski's Education Newsletter for the week of March 29, 2010

The latest Education News you can use in one place.

Application Period Opens for USED Grants

A number of grants from the U.S. Department of Education are open for application, including School Leadership Grant Program, Foreign Language Assistance Program, Improving Literacy Through School Libraries, and the Investing in Innovation Fund (I3).  You can find all current USED grant opportunities at www.ed.gov/fund/grant/apply/grantapps/index.html?src=rt.  In addition, information about Race to the Top funds can be found at www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html.

In addition, the application period for the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy State Formula Grant Application is also open.  States must include school districts in their grant applications.  To learn more, go to http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-6750.htm.

Two New Quick Reviews from What Works Clearinghouse

Two new Quick Reviews have been released recently.  They are:

  • Culture and the Interaction of Student Ethnicity with Reward Structure in Group Learning-A study that examined the effects of different reward systems used in group learning situations on the math skills of African-American and white students. The study was a randomized controlled trial and analyzed data on 75 African-American and 57 white fourth- and fifth-grade students from urban schools in the northeastern United States.


  • Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings for Two Student Cohorts-A study that looked at the effects of ten reading and mathematics software products on student achievement by comparing standardized test scores. The study was a randomized controlled trial and analyzed data on more than 11,000 students in 400 classrooms and was conducted in 23 primarily urban, low-income school districts.  http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/quickreviews/QRReport.aspx?QRID=126


Senator Murkowski Introduces Bill to Assist Communities and Educators with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Last week, Senator Murkowski introduced S. 3154, the "Advancing FASD Research, Prevention, and Services Act".  Among other provisions, the bill will:

  • Develop and implement targeted state and community-based outreach programs;
  • Improve coordination among Federal agencies involved in establishing strategies to improve outcomes for individuals with FASD and FASD research by establishing stronger communication with these programs;
  • Improve support services for individuals who are living with FASD and their families;
  • Strengthen educational outreach efforts to doctors, teachers, judges and others whose work puts them in contact with people with FASD, or with women who might be at risk of drinking during pregnancy; and
  • Supports the development and implementation of best practices for educating children with FASD

A copy of the bill and a summary of its provisions are available here:


Health Care Reconciliation Bill Includes Harmful Changes to Federal Student Loan Program

Many of you, I'm sure, have been following with interest the debate on the health care bill and the reconciliation bill that is intended to improve certain portions of the health care bill.  There is one element of all this, however, that many don't realize was included.

The reconciliation bill also includes a government takeover of the student loan industry.  Senator Murkowski has opposed this provision for the following reasons:

College will cost more, not less, under the new federal student loan program.

The current fixed interest rate of 5.6 percent for student loans was set to go down to 3.4 percent next year - something Senator Murkowski supported when she helped write the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that was signed into law in 2007.  But under the new law that will be put into effect by the reconciliation bill, rates will be made variable and students will be charged up to 6.8 percent.  As a result, approximately 8,200 Alaskans will pay an average of $2,210 more for their federal student loans.  In addition, the federal government will be making a profit on students and their families by borrowing capital at 2.8 percent and lending it at interest rates of up to 6.8 percent.  These changes raise billions of dollars that reconciliation uses to fund health care and other government programs.  Also, student loan customer service will decline.  All questions about loans and repayment options will now be directed to just four nationwide call centers. 

We are hopeful that the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, Alaska's non-profit state agency that has provided federal student loans to Alaskans at low rates, will be able to find some way to continue to service student loans.  We'll have to see how USED implements the law.