Federal round-up December 11

Charitable giving and tax reform - US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is leading an effort with Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) to highlight the unique value of the charitable tax deduction. The letter is addressed to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) and ranking member  Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and states:

“The charitable deduction is unique. It is the only provision that encourages taxpayers to give away a portion of their income for the benefit of others. For this reason, it is not a loophole, but a lifeline for millions of Americans in need.  Analysis has repeatedly shown that proposals to cut, cap, or limit the charitable deduction could cause charitable donations to decline by billions of dollars annually. Worse yet, weakening the charitable deduction would most hurt the adults and children who receive vital charitable services from organizations like soup kitchens, after-school programs, and medical research projects, just to name a few. In many cases, the government would be required to step in and fund those services now being provided through private generosity. Accordingly, preserving the charitable deduction is also prudent as a matter of broader fiscal policy.”

The effort is notable given Wyden’s seniority as the second highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. The Administration has continued to include the possibility of modifications to the charitable deduction as part of its tax reform proposals.

PathwayOregon program featured in US Secretary of Education's keynote address

Speaking to financial aid leaders from institutions from all around the country, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted the UO program as a model for others.  PathwayOregon makes up the balance of Pell-eligible students' tuition costs and also provides other academic support services. The Administration has made a priority of emphasizing college affordability with a bus tour earlier this year and a pending White House summit of university leaders with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Institute of Education Services reauthorization stalled

The US House Education and Workforce Committee has been considering reauthorization of the US Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the vehicle through which most of the federal funding for education research flows.  President Michael Gottfredson and Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president of research and innovation and dean of the graduate school, participated in a roundtable with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), a member of the committee, and UO education researchers in November to discuss education research funded by IES. 

At the time, reauthorization was expected to be non-partisan and non-controversial. Last week, however, negotiations broke down over spending levels, particularly for the National Center for Special Education Research, which would have seen its reauthorized spending levels set at sequestration levels (or a permanent cut of nearly 20 percent from FY 2012 and a cut of about 40 percent since FY 2005, the first year of the program). For additional analysis, see http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2013/12/bipartisan_negotiations_break_.html