Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Congress acts on appropriations

There was much activity in Washington over the weekend. Congress was working hard crafting a compromise bill to hold to the President's overall budget. A $517 billion appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008 was released late Sunday night and combines the remaining 11 appropriations bills that were not finished into one large omnibus appropriations bill.

Under the compromise bill, the Perkins Loans and LEAP (Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership) would get roughly $1.1 million less than the FY2007 spending level, and spending on TRIO and Gear Up programs, which prepare low-income students for college, would be frozen at FY2007 levels.

Spending on the Pell Grant program would be cut by $69 million from the maximum Pell Grant amount of $4,310 to $4,241. However the actual award would rise to $4,731 once funds from the budget reconciliation bill enacted in September are included. The budget reconciliation bill provided enough money for a $490 increase to the maximum award contained in the new spending bill for 2008. The increase is cautioned with the fact that it might not be long-term. Many higher education advocates are concerned about what might happen in five years, when the mandatory money runs out.

Many folks have been wondering what would happen with the earmarks in the spending bills given the latest sentiment over the last couple years about members of Congress directing funding back to specific projects/programs in their districts. However, earmarks were largely contained in the omnibus bill and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system made it into the bill for six of the system’s 12 earmark requests. Here are the six earmarks that made it into the bill;

1. Baccalaureate Nursing Program - Bemidji State University - $243,000 (Labor-HHS-Education)
2. Engineering Technology - Bemidji State University - $341,000 (Labor-HHS-Education)
3. Minnesota Center for Renewable Energy - Minnesota State University, Mankato and Minnesota West Community and Technical College - $500,000 (Energy-Water)
4. Minnesota National Child Protection Training Center - Winona State University - $775,000 (Commerce-Justice-Science)
5. Veterans Re-entry Education Program - $1,119,000 (Labor-HHS-Education)
6. Workplace Diversity Needs in Urban Nursing - Metropolitan State University - $487,000 (Labor-HHS-Education)

Other provisions in the bill include $2 million for two new programs to help colleges train more graduates in math, science, and foreign languages to become schoolteachers. This falls far short of the $276 million that Congress authorized for those programs this summer in the America Competes Act. In addition, the bill would expand federal support for training health-care workers. The budget for nursing education would increase by 4.3 percent, to $156 million.

The National Science Foundation would receive $6.07 billion in FY2008, an increase of only 2.5 percent over last year's budget, or less than the projected rate of inflation.

The bill also contains a provision that would prohibit the Department of Education from issuing regulations on accreditation until after Congress passes a bill to renew the Higher Education Act. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who is hoping to introduce new measures of "student-learning outcomes" into accreditation, has agreed not to act until a reauthorization bill is enacted.

The House began debate yesterday evening and the Senate is expected to take it up shortly. The bill is expected to pass both the House and Senate. It remains to be seen whether the President will veto the bill. We will continue to keep you updated. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Federal Budget, Emergency Prepardness and High School Redesign

Here is a brief update on where things stand with the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill. As you know, in November, Congress passed the bill which contained $3 billion worth of increases to education programs. President Bush vetoed it because it was over his budget request, and the House failed to override the President's veto by just two votes.

Currently, Congress is working on one large omnibus appropriations bill, combining the 11 unfinished spending bills (including Labor, HHS, Education), which would split the difference between the President’s budget request and the Congressional bills that were vetoed. Congressional staff has indicated that they will account for the difference by scaling back increases to programs such as No Child Left Behind, Pell Grants, IDEA, and other programs that received increases, in addition to removing some earmarks, but would not make cuts to programs from their FY2007 levels if they have not already done so.

The House is expected to start action on the bill today, with hopes of getting the bill to the Senate on Wednesday and having a final bill passed by the end of the year. Stay tuned.

State Update

Here in Minnesota, the Legislative Coordinating Commission, Preparedness for Terrorism and Disaster Working Group, is meeting today at 3:00 in Room 318 of the State Capitol to look at Minnesota's emergency and disaster-related programs and plans, areas of improvement, and opportunities for collaboration. Included on the agenda will be folks from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to talk about what we are doing in the area of emergency response.

Tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. in Room 200 of the State Office Building, representatives from the St. Cloud Technical College's Discovery Academy will present to the House E-12 Education Committee's High School Redesign Working Group. St. Cloud Technical College's initiative provides an opportunity for high school students to take college courses in a high school setting.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Legislative Update-December 3

Federal Update

With Congress approaching the end of the first session of the 110th Congress and gearing up for the second session convening in January, it's time to bring everyone up to speed on where things sit.

If you're keeping track of the 12 appropriation bills Congress needs to act on, your scorecard should now read one bill down (signed by the President) and only 11 more appropriation bills to go. Both the House and Senate passed the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill and it has been signed by the President. There has been work done on the other appropriations bills but nothing has else has earned the President's signature. Congress is about $20 billion in spending above the President's budget. As you know, the President vetoed the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill that was $10 billion above the President's budget, and the House, while close, did not have enough votes to override the veto.

So what happens now? Options include one massive omnibus spending bill made up of the 11 remaining appropriations bills. Democrats have also talked about meeting the administration half-way and cutting $10 billion out of the spending bills. This would mean a $3.5 billion cut to the Labor, HHS, Education Bill. Also it is likely that we will see a continuing resolution for the remainder of fiscal year 2008 that will keep spending at current levels until bills are acted upon. It remains to be seen if the earmarks in the Labor, HHS, Education bill will survive. As a reminder, the following are earmarks in the bill;

- $1.15 million for the Veteran's Re-entry Education program
- $350,000 for the Engineering Technology center at Bemidji State University
- $500,000 for Metropolitan State University nursing education
- $250,000 for nurse training program at Bemidji State University

On a different note, we may see tax legislation enacted this month that affects higher education. A tax extenders package includes the extension of the student tuition tax deduction as well as the IRA charitable rollover. The House passed the bill with these one year extensions, so it is now in the Senate's hands.

Budget Reconciliation - College Cost Reduction and Access Act

The budget reconciliation process is used to find savings in mandatory spending, and higher education was a big recipient of those redirected savings. As you know, Congress passed the Budget Reconciliation bill, or the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (HR 2669), and it was signed by the President into law late September. This legislation amends Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA), using funding from the savings in lender subsidies and redirecting those savings toward the Pell Grant program, as well as making significant changes in other parts of the HEA that impact federal costs, student benefits, and institutional aid. For more detail on this bill, please refer to the October 10, 2007 update by clicking here.

Higher Education Act

The Higher Education Act reauthorization bill includes program authorizations for Pell Grants, student loans, TRIO, GEAR UP, Strengthening Institutions, international education, and more. The House passed their version of the Higher Education Act (HEA), H.R. 4137, out of committee on November 15. You may recall, the Senate passed its version of the Higher Education Act reauthorization legislation back in July. The bill now needs to be taken up on the House floor which could happen anytime, and once passed it will head to conference committee to iron out the differences. After an agreement is reached, the bill then needs to be signed by the President.

Just a reminder that Congress has passed yet another extension of the HEA reauthorization that will expire on March 31, 2008. It is expected that this extension will give Congress enough time to finalize a reauthorization.

I think it is important to note, that while things are moving slowly and the Labor, HHS, Education bill was vetoed, higher education has received more attention in Congress than it has in a very long time. It will be important to watch what the 2008 presidential candidates say about higher education as we head into an election year and prioritize higher education to be as big a campaign issue as it was for the congressional election in 2006.

State Update

At the state level, 49 of 50 states are headed into a budget deficit, and Minnesota is not the lone state standing. On Friday, the Department of Finance announced a $373 million deficit projected for FY2008-09. Expectations of further weakening in the housing sector, higher oil prices, and tighter credit standards are being sited as the reason for the deficit. If you look further into out-years, there is a projected $211 million shortfall for the 2010-11 biennium (this number is not adjusted for inflation). So how does the economic forecast affect the upcoming 2008 session, in particular a bonding bill? In a press conference on Friday, it was stated that the bonding bill, while once projected at $1.2 billion, should be reduced to $965 million with the deficit.

Here's what's happening around the state:

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development invites you to attend a briefing to learn more about Governor Tim Pawlenty's new proposal for rural economic development, Strategic
Entrepreneurial Economic Development (SEED).

Regional briefings are scheduled for the following dates. No
registration is necessary to attend.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Albert Lea
9 to10:30 a.m.
Albert Lea Senior Center
1739 W Main Street (Skyline Plaza)

1:30 to 3 p.m.
South Central College - Cafeteria
1225 Third Street SW

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

9 to 10:30 a.m.
Southwest State University
1501 State Street

New Ulm
2 to 3:30 p.m.
Old Junior High School - Auditorium
15 North State

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

1 to 2:30 p.m.
Minnesota West Community and Technical College
1450 Collegeway

The Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota High Tech Association will be hosting eight STEM summits across the state in January and February. The events will address student engagement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

Similar to the STEM Forums that were held in fall 2006, the STEM Summits are designed to bring together K-12 students, teachers and administrators with representatives from business and industry. However, rather than featuring speakers, this year’s summits will focus on the delivery of hands-on STEM activities. Locations and dates of the events may be found at http://www.mhta.org/ittrium/visit?path=A1x66x1y1xa70x1y1xb76x1x73

Here's what's happening at the legislature:

Monday, December 3

10:00 AM
Education - Subcommittee on Achievement Gap
Room 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Patricia Torres Ray
Agenda: Achievement Gap Issues

11:00 AM
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Loren Solberg,
Agenda: Budget Forecast by Mr. Tom Hanson, Commissioner, Department of Finance, Dr. Tom Stinson, Assistant Commissioner/State Economist Department of Finance and James Schowalter, Assistant Commissioner/State Budget Director.

2:30 PM
Joint Meeting: Education - Subcommittee on Expectations and Accountability
Chair: Sen. Sandy Rummel
Room: 200 State Office Bldg.
Agenda: Recommendations for the Minnesota School Report Card

Thursday, December 6

2:45 PM
Joint House Biosciences and Emerging Technologies Committee and Senate Business, Industry and Jobs Committee
Room: St. Paul RiverCentre Room 9
Chairs: Rep. Tim Mahoney, Sen. James Metzen
Agenda: Presentation from bioscience industry leaders regarding barriers to growth and potential solutions.

5:30 PM
E-12 Education Alternative Schools Work Group
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. David Bly
Agenda: TBA

Tuesday, December 18

9:00 AM
Subcommittee on Employee Relations
Room: 112 Capitol
Agenda: TBA

Wednesday, December 19

9:00 AM
Education - Subcommittee on Technology and Learning
Chair: Sen. Michael J. Jungbauer
Room: Oak Land Junior High School, 820 Manning Avenue North, Lake
Agenda: To be announced

Monday, January 8

8:30 AM
Senate Committee on Education
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Charles W. Wiger
Agenda: Subcommittee Recommendations

Monday, January 14

10:30 AM
Joint Meeting: Agriculture and Veterans Budget and Policy Division and House Veterans Finance and Policy
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Sen. Jim Vickerman
Agenda: Veterans Long Term Care Advisory Committee Report, Veterans Mental Health and Psychological Support Services Report.
*will break for lunch

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Health and Human Services Bill moves ahead in U.S. Senate

After five days of debate, the Senate passed the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill last night by a vote of 75-19. Both Senators Coleman and Klobuchar voted for the bill. There was a motion to send the bill back to committee to bring the number closer to the president's level to avoid a veto, however it was voted down. Both Senators Coleman and Klobuchar voted against this motion, in order to not reduce the education funding level.

Amendments to the bill include; halting a long-term evaluation of the Upward Bound program until Congress completes its work to renew the Higher Education Act; and a requirement that the Dept. of Education provide college administrators with better guidance on when they may share information about potentially dangerous students.

Another amendment provides $10 million in grants to colleges and universities to prepare schoolteachers in science, mathematics, and foreign languages. This is a small amount in comparison to the $276 million authorized by the America Competes Act for 2008 for preparing schoolteachers.

Spending for all federal student-aid programs would remain flat, with two exceptions; TRIO programs for disadvantaged students would increase spending by 3.6 percent, to $858.2 million; and the Gear Up program, which helps financially needy middle-school students prepare for college, would get an increase of 3.3 percent, to $313.4 million.

The bill now heads to conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions (the House passed their version back in July). After the compromise bill clears both chambers, it will be sent to President Bush who is threatening a veto. It would take a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House to override a veto. Staff tells us that they are hoping to have a conference report out of committee and back to the floor by next week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Federal Legislative Update-October 23

Movement on the Labor, Health and Human Services,
Education Appropriations bill in the Senate- vote likely today

The fiscal year 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill is currently on the Senate floor with final passage of the bill likely today. Last night, the Senate rejected, by a vote of 68-24, an amendment to the bill proposed by Senator Allard, R-CO, that would cut all programs rated "ineffective" under President Bush's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) program by 10 percent. The Senate is voting on remaining amendments to the bill today, including one that would provide a $25 million increase to Career and Technical Education Basic State Grants.

Late last week, the Senate accepted an amendment to the bill by voice vote relating to the Upward Bound Program. The amendment would halt an evaluation of the Upward Bound program until Congress completes a reauthorization, or renewal, of the Higher Education Act, the law governing most federal student-aid programs.

In 2006 the Department of Education announced an evaluation rule which mandates Upward Bound programs to recruit twice as many students than they will be able to serve and use half of the students as a "control group" that will not receive the services provided under the Upward Bound program. The Education Department says the study is necessary to determine whether Upward Bound is serving the right students, however many claim the study is unethical because it denies services to some students. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH, with Senators Lincoln, D-AR, Obama, D-IL, Feingold, D-WI, Collins, R-ME, Wyden, D-OR, Kerry, D-MA, and Menendez, D-NJ, introduced the amendment that would prohibit the use of funds to promulgate, implement, or enforce the evaluation for the Upward Bound Program.

Just a reminder, that the full House approved its version of the fiscal year 2008 Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill in July. President Bush has threatened to veto any spending measures that exceed his budget request for fiscal year 2008, including the Labor, HHS, Education bill.

DREAM Act to be taken up tomorrow
The Senate is also expected to vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S.2205, tomorrow. In order to have a chance of obtaining the 60 votes that will be necessary for the bill to pass, the DREAM Act's sponsors have been forced to drop a provision that repeals the federal ban on in-state tuition for undocumented students. As a reminder, the DREAM Act provides a path to citizenship for undocumented students who are long-term residents of the United States and were initially brought to the country before the age of 16. Eligible students gain legal status through two years of higher education or military service.

Federal Budget Update
Now that it is mid-October and budget bills have not yet been passed, Congress must settle down and move forward on twelve appropriation bills before the end of the year, including the Labor,HHS,Education bill. Even with early year promises of earmark reform, earmarks (the measures inserted by members of Congress into the various appropriations bills that direct funds to a specific project or recipient) continue to be part of the budgeting process, including several identified for colleges and universities within the system. The following web resources are available to track bill progress:

View the Thomas legislative Web site

THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include the features and content listed below.
• Bills, Resolutions
• Activity in Congress
• Congressional Record
• Schedules, Calendars
• Committee Information
• Presidential Nominations
• Treaties
• Government Resources
• For Teachers

Taxpayers for Common Sense
View TCS Web site

Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) is an independent voice for American taxpayers. TCS is dedicated to cutting wasteful government spending and subsidies in order to achieve a responsible and efficient government that lives within its means.

Citizens against Government Waste
View CAGW Web site

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization. CAGW's mission is to eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government.

Legislative Update-October 10

Legislative Notes
October 10, 2007

Legislators learn of facility needs
Over the last three weeks, legislators have been learning about the current and future facility needs of our campuses, as they make their way through bonding tours across the state. The condition of campus facilities, along with emerging program needs, are being reviewed at system institutions as lawmakers and Finance Commissioner Tom Hanson, determine where the need is greatest. Both the House and Senate Capital Investment committees will be traveling through November and will then visit metro campuses in December and January. We will continue to update you as the metro dates become known.

Legislative funding for flood victims
Gov. Pawlenty called a special session September 11, 2007 to provide some relief for flood victims in Southeastern Minnesota. Included in the bill passed by legislators and signed by the governor was $3.7 million for the Department of Agriculture to allocate funding according to need to many programs and agencies, including grants to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees for mental health counseling support to farm families and business operators through farm business management programs.

Federal Update
When Congress returns next week from a brief recess, it is anticipated that they will be taking up the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill, as well as the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill. The full House approved its fiscal year 2008 Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill in July and the Senate committee approved its bill in June, but the bill has not gone to the Senate floor for a vote. President Bush has threatened to veto any spending bill that exceeds his proposed discretionary spending levels, so there is talk about a veto to the Labor, HHS, Education bill once it passes both bodies.

Two weeks ago, October 1, 2007, marked the beginning of fiscal year 2008 in Congress. A stopgap measure was passed that allows Congress to continue operating until November 16, 2007. While many appropriation bills passed one body or the other, fiscal year 2007 ended without agreement by both bodies on most appropriation bills. This continuing resolution allows government to be funded through mid-November until the spending bills for fiscal year 2008 are finalized.

College Cost Reduction and Access Act
Certainly not new news, but worth reporting is that Congress passed the Budget Reconciliation bill, or the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (HR 2669), by a vote of 292-97 in the House and 79-12 in the Senate. President Bush signed the bill into law on September 27, 2007. This legislation will amend the Higher Education Act (HEA), making major changes in federal expenditures for the Pell Grant program, as well as making significant changes in other parts of the HEA that impact federal costs, student benefits, and institutional aid. Funding for provisions in the bill would come from the savings in lender subsidies. The bill provides new funding for the Pell Grant program to fund increases in the maximum Pell Grant award. The Pell Grant will increase by $490 for award years 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, by $690 for award years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, and $1090 for award year 2012-2013. This increase will help the 81,816 Pell Grant recipients attending Minnesota post-secondary institutions (2004-2005 data).

Also included in the bill are newly created incentives to encourage teachers to teach in high-need schools. The TEACH Grant (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) program will provide scholarships of $4,000/year for high-achieving undergraduate and graduate students who commit to teaching a high-need subject in a high-need school.

The bill also lowers the student interest rate for new undergraduate subsidized loans beginning in July 2008 from 6.8 percent to 6 percent, in July 2009 to 5.6 percent, in July 2010 to 4.5 percent, and to 3.4 percent in July 2010. The bill also attempts to make student loan payments more manageable for borrowers by guaranteeing that borrowers will not have to pay more than 15 percent of their discretionary income in loan repayments, and allows borrowers to have their loans forgiven after 25 years. And the bill provides loan forgiveness after 10 years for public servants, including military service members, first responders, firefighters, nurses, public defenders, early childhood educators, librarians, and others.

According to a September 2007 report issued by the Institute for College Access and Success, Minnesota ranks fifth highest in the nation in student debt, with an average debt load of $23,375. You may view the complete report at http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/State_by_State_report_FINAL.pdf This new legislation is an attempt to alleviate some of that pressure facing new graduates not just in Minnesota, but around the country.

Higher Education Act
The latest update on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, is that Congress has yet to reauthorize the bill. Last Thursday, House Republicans presented a 400-plus-page bill that mirrors legislation that the House passed in 2006, when the chamber was under Republican control. It also contains some new language, including repealing a provision of the budget reconciliation bill singed into law by President Bush late September, that would test the concept of using an auction to set rates on student-loan subsidies. House Democrats have yet to introduce their reauthorization bill, but are expected to do so in the next few weeks. You may recall, the Senate passed its version of the Higher Education Act reauthorization legislation in July. Once the House passes its version, a conference committee will convene to iron out the differences. Stay tuned.

American Council on Education’s Office of Women in Higher Education accepting nominations for 2008 Leadership Awards

The Office of Women in Higher Education (OWHE) at the American Council on Education (ACE) is accepting nominations for its annual leadership awards, the Donna Shavlik Award and the ACE Network Award for the Advancement of Women in Higher Education. The nomination deadline is Nov. 16, 2007.

The Shavlik Award is presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated, at both the state and national levels, sustained and continuing commitment to women’s advancement in higher education. Award recipients will have demonstrated leadership and commitment to the advancement of women through actions or initiatives enhancing leadership development, career development, campus climate and mentoring programs for women.

Discussion continues over No Child Left Behind

The Associated Press reports today that President Bush said he is open to new ideas for changing the "No Child Left Behind" education law but said he will not accept watered-down standards or rollbacks in accountability. Lawmakers in both parties want changes to the five-year-old law, which faces a tough renewal fight in Congress. In a statement yesterday he said, "There can be no compromise on the basic principle: Every child must learn to read and do math at, or above, grade level." He also added that “…there can be no compromise on the need to hold schools accountable to making sure we achieve that goal." Bush listed several ways for enhancing the law; give local leaders more flexibility and resources; offer other educational options to families of children in low-performing schools; increase access to tutoring programs; reward good teachers who improve student achievement in low-income schools; expand access to advanced placement courses and improve math and science instruction.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekly Update - May 11, 2007

Governor Vetoes Higher Education Omnibus Bill
Too much funding and not enough money, those were the reasons Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave for vetoing the higher education omnibus bill Wednesday.

First, the bill contained too much ongoing funding for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Meanwhile, he said the $4 million for the Achieve scholarship proposal was too little. The Achieve program was a new concept introduced last summer by Gov. Pawlenty. It awards scholarships to high school students if they take and pass such rigorous courses as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. The higher education conference committee changed Achieve to ASPIRE (Achieve Success and Persistence through Innovative, Rigorous Education). ASPIRE would provide more opportunities to deliver rigorous courses to rural high school students and provide opportunities for those typically underrepresented in the advanced studies. Gov. Pawlenty hoped for $21 million in ongoing funds.

A final concern was a change in the makeup of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees. The conference committee altered the board to include two representatives from labor and two from business. Under the proposal, the board would still include a representative from each of the eight congressional districts and three students. The bill also calls for balancing the board with respect to racial, gender, geographic and ethnic composition.

Federal Update

Creating accountability
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings testified before the House Education and Labor committee on “Accountability for the Department of Education's Oversight of Student Loans” and the “Reading First Program” Thursday.

View Chairman Miller’s opening remarks (PDF)
View Margaret Spellings testimony (PDF)

New act in student loans
The U. S. House passed “The Student Loan Sunshine Act” by a 414-3 vote on Wednesday. The intent is to give students and families more information about various types of student loans. It also provides for more separation between institutions and lenders, specifically requiring institutions to disclose all relationships with lenders.

View summary from the Education and Labor Committee (PDF)

Local event focuses on creating innovations in the workforce
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) will hold a discussion on "Developing Minnesota’s 21st Century Workforce" on Monday, May 14, 2:30 - 4:00 p.m. The event will be held at the auditorium of Starkey Laboratories, Inc. 6425 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie. Panelists who will discuss workforce issues with Secretary Chao and Senator Coleman include: Jerry Ruzicka, president, Starkey Laboratories, Inc.; Erik Ajax, president, Ajax and Sons Metal Stamping; Steve Rothchild, founder & chair of the board, Twin Cities RISE!; and, James H. McCormick, chancellor, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Those planning to attend this event are asked to RSVP to (952) 947-4991.