AAUW Washington Federal Update

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From: AAUW Public Policy & Government Relations Dept.

  • The 109th Congress Still Hasn’t Finished Its Business
  • Senate Confirms FDA Chief
  • Short Work Week for Members of Congress Goes the Way of the Dodo
  • Despite Gains in Politics, Women Still Have a Long Way to Go
  • Most Parents Are Very Satisfied With Their Child’s School
  • Dept. of Education Convenes Forum on Higher Education
  • Hunting for a College is COOL
  • LAF Plaintiff’s Case Settled After Supreme Court Decision



The 109th Congress Still Hasn’t Finished Its Business
With the continuing resolution funding the federal government set to expire Friday, Dec. 8, the outgoing Congress must take action today to keep the government operating. A new continuing resolution to continue funding the government until the new Congress can settle the budget snarl must pass the House, the Senate, and be signed by President George W. Bush before midnight tonight. The new continuing resolution will keep the government operating through February, 2007. The federal government’s fiscal year (FY07) began Oct. 1. Only two FY07 spending bills—Defense and Homeland Security—have been passed to date. That leaves nine bills worth at least $460 billion, including the critical Fiscal Year 2007 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations, which contains many AAUW funding priorities. The outgoing Congress had scheduled their final session to run through today, Friday, Dec. 8. See Action Alert for a full discussion of the FY07 budget situation.

Senate Confirms FDA Chief On Thursday, Dec. 8, the Senate confirmed Andrew C. von Eschenbach to become commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration despite attempts by two Senators, Charles Grassley (R-IA) and David Vitter (R-LA), to block the final vote. The vote was forced by retiring Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). Von Eschenbach had been acting commissioner since September 2005, but his nomination had been bogged down in Congress for nine months, with at least five senators from both parties holding up a vote.

Short Work Week for Members of Congress Goes the Way of the Dodo The incoming House Majority Whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), has issued the calendar for House business for the first session of the 110th Congress. Notably different from calendars issued when the Republican Party held the majority from 1994 until 2006 is that votes are scheduled for Monday evening through Friday afternoon instead of the previous Tuesday through Thursday schedule during most weeks the House is in session.

Despite Gains in Politics, Women Still Have a Long Way to Go While the first woman speaker of the House, and a record number of women in Congress and in governorships is a big step forward for women’s political status, a new report by the World Economic Forum ranks the United States only 66th for political empowerment for women worldwide. One important strategy for making progress and protecting hard-fought gains on issues important to women is to increase women’s turnout at the polls. As more women become involved in the electoral process, women’s influence in politics will increase and elected officials will be forced to respond to the interests of women voters. It’s not too soon to begin planning to turnout women voters for 2008. For a free, members-only PDF copy of Woman-to-Woman Voter Turnout, visit www.aauw.org/onevote. One free copy of the print edition is available to branch leaders who are considering planning a voter turnout campaign Send an e-mail to VoterEd@aauw.org to request a copy.

Most Parents Are Very Satisfied With Their Child’s School
The “2006 Condition of Education” report was recently released by the U.S. Department of Education. The report, published annually, revealed that despite all of the criticism about our nation’s public schools, the majority of parents with children in grades K-12 are very satisfied with their child’s school. The publication focuses on participation rates, satisfaction, higher educational statistics, international assessments, and overall student progress. Highlights from the report are available at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe.

Dept. of Education Convenes Forum on Higher Education On Nov. 29, the Department of Education held a forum for 60 college officials, accreditors, and business leaders to discuss the recommendations of the commission that Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings appointed to examine the current state and the future of American higher education. For a more detailed description of the forum, please visit http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/30/accredit.

Hunting for a College is COOL Secretary Spellings often tells of her personal struggles trying to find out basic information about colleges and universities when her daughter was in high school and looking at prospective institutions just two years ago. Spellings has said this absence of information that she and so many parents suffer from during their children’s college search was one of the primary reasons she appointed a commission to study what’s wrong with America’s colleges. The College Opportunities Online Locator (COOL) is available free of charge and provides valuable information such as tuition costs, retention and graduation rates. You can access the article in Inside Higher Ed at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/29/spellings.

LAF Plaintiff’s Case Settled After Supreme Court Decision Roderick Jackson, a teacher and coach at Ensley High School in Birmingham, Alabama, sued the Birmingham Board of Education under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging that he was retaliated against for protesting sex discrimination against his girls’ basketball team. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in June 2004 and heard oral arguments in the case on Nov. 30 of that year. The issue presented to the Court was whether Jackson had a private right of action under Title IX to challenge the retaliation against him. On March 29, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (5-4) in favor of Jackson, holding that individuals who complain about sex discrimination have a private right of action for retaliation under Title IX. Finally, last week the Birmingham Board of Education and Jackson reached a settlement that includes a school board promise of equal facilities for female athletes. Under the settlement, Jackson was ensured his position as the coach of the girls’ basketball team at Jackson-Olin High Scholl and will also receive $50,000. Roderick Jackson was an AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund supported plaintiff. Prior to his case, AAUW signed onto an amicus brief in support of Jackson. For more information on the case, please visit: http://www.aauw.org/laf/cases/jackson.cfm.

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