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EPI Honors Senator Michael Enzi and the Late Senator Claiborne Pell

WASHINGTON, DC, January 27, 2009 — At this week’s National Capitol Summit on Education and the New Administration, the Educational Policy Institute honored Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and also posthumously honored Senator Claiborne Pell, the father of the Pell Grant.

Senator Enzi is a two-term Senator of Wyoming and a former Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee. He currently serves as the ranking member next to Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

In receiving the EPI 2009 Leadership in Education Award, Senator Enzi told the audience that it comes down to reaching across the aisle and making things happen. “I believe in the 80/20 rule, where if you get 80 percent of what you want, get an agreement. It takes cooperation and that’s what we need to do right now.”

The Educational Policy Institute also honored the memory and legacy of Claiborne Pell, the six-time Senator of Rhode Island who passed away on January 1, 2009. Pell is most famous for his contribution to students in higher education through the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, now known as the Pell Grant. Dr. Carrie Besnette, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Metropolitan State College of Denver, provided remarks about Senator Pell and his frugal nature. “Regardless of his wealth,” said Besnette, “the Senator was known to jog in tweed jackets."

Senator Pell also was also largely responsible for establishing the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities. But when asked about his major contributions in his years of civil service, he said the Pell Grant was his greatest legacy as it helped students with "moxie" achieve their dreams. He will be sorely missed by educational opportunity practitioners, students, and lawmakers, but never forgotten.

The opening day of the National Capitol Summit included a panel discussion on No Child Left Behind. Moderated by Henry Fernandez of USA Funds, the panel included Dan Domenech, President, American Association for School Administrators, Gary Huggins, Director, Commission on No Child Left Behind, Joel Packer, Director of Education Policy and Practice, National Education Association, Eric Smith, Commissioner of Education , Florida Department of Education, and Linda Valli, Professor of Teacher Education, University of Maryland, College Park engaged in a spirited discussion of the controversial law, which presidential candidate Obama had pledged to fix during the recent election campaign. Panelists shared mixed views about the contributions of the law, praising its emphasis on equity but at times harshly critical of its unintended consequences, including, as Valli and Domenech argued, the narrowing of the taught curriculum.

Former Secretary of Education Rod Paige followed the panel by pointing out the “practitioner-policy gap” that plagued American educational policy. This dilemma in public education was caused, he asserted, by the creation of policy without significant participation of those who work in schools. Without the involvement of teachers and school administrators, attempts at policy to change schools will fail, Dr. Paige argued. His comments met with the favor of several teachers in attendance, one of which rose to his feet in support of Dr. Paige’s comments.

The Summit will open on Wednesday, January 28, with a keynote talk by David Cleary, Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Children and Families, Office of Senator Lamar Alexander. Discussion panels on early childhood education, teacher preparation, induction, and professional development, college access and success, and college affordability and student aid will follow.

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The Educational Policy Institute is a 501(c)3 corporation based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with offices in Toronto, Canada, and Melbourne, Australia. The mission of the Educational Policy Institute is to “expand educational opportunity for low-income and other historically-underrepresented students through high-level research and analysis.” For more information on EPI, visit www.educationalpolicy.org.