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Scandal, House of Cards, and an Inside Look at Education Advocacy in Washington

house of cards

House of Cards/Netflix

By Bob Zigmund
St. Ignatius College Prep

Characters like Olivia Pope of Scandal and Frank Underwood of House of Cards offer the average television and Netflix viewer a fictional, insider’s look into Washington D.C. politics and the schemes that go on behind the scenes in our nation’s capital.  On Monday, March 4, 2013, members of IACAC were able to get their own insider’s look at the House, Senate, and beyond.

Every year, NACAC’s Government Relations Committee hosts a day of education advocacy in which members from across the country, including NACAC leadership, are able to participate. IACAC President Todd Burrell, President-Elect Mike Dunker, Past President Laura Docherty and Government Relations chairs Bill Morrison and Robert Zigmund as well as GRC member Bob Skorczewski represented our state’s affiliate and met with a total of eight offices of the House and Senate. The advocacy event was preceded by a day of meetings hosted by the National Government Relations Committee and included presentations by NACAC, the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), Joel Packer of the Committee on Education Funding, and Rohit Chopra, a Policy Analyst with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The National Government Relations Committee is currently focused on six major policy areas, all of which were discussed during the meeting and then later presented to the members of the House and Senate offices. The main points are divided between two agendas: the college access agenda and the student protection agenda. The college access agenda promotes 1) access to quality counseling, 2) need-based financial aid, and 3) rigorous curriculum for all students. The student protection agenda promotes 1) the protection of students in the admission process, 2) the protection of student borrowers, and 3) the protection of taxpayer dollars. This second agenda has been created more recently by the National Committee and aims to regulate college admission activities such as incentive compensation, misrepresentation of information to students, the promotion of private loans over federal loans, and more.

The members of the House and Senate offices were all receptive to the goals that were presented and some even solicited the assistance of NACAC and IACAC to help promote these agenda items even further. Coincidentally enough, several house and senate members were former teachers and professors and continue to hold education as a top priority. The majority of the meetings were conducted by legislative assistants who have education policy as a part of their work; these assistants were attentive, engaged and appreciated the NACAC documents and folders that were left with their offices. NACAC Government Relations members made it known that, with the Sequestration battle at the forefront of the agenda, movement on current legislation will not be swift, yet they are strong priorities.  The conversations with government aides were geared toward reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA).

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