News in Brief

Guaranteeing back pay, sequester survey, another hackathon and more

Shutterstock image (by Julia Tim): businessman receiving a bag of money.

Cardin wants to guarantee back pay for feds in event of shutdown

As the clock ticks down to the end of the fiscal year and a possible government shutdown, one lawmaker is looking to ensure that federal employees get paid for lost days, and that employees deemed essential are still permitted to use their leave while the government is closed.

The government last saw a shutdown in October 2013. If Congress and the administration can't agree on a continuing resolution by Sept. 30, another partial shutdown will result. Any movement in the Republican-led on the Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Senate is unlikely, especially in the short time before the end of the current appropriations period. The legislation was endorsed by the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal employees.

GSA hackathon, round 2

The General Services Administration is hosting another hackathon Oct. 16.

Participants in the day-long event will be able to work on one data visualization or one of two data mashup projects.

At the agency's previous hackathon in May, two teams composed of various industry and academic representatives won the day, providing a handful of data-cleaning solutions for $12,000 in prize money.

The new 'free online school stuff' czar

Andrew Marcinek will be the Education Department's first open education adviser.

In announcing the hire, the department said Marcinek would work in the Office of Educational Technology, and that his role will revolve around connecting public school teachers across the country with free learning materials online, from podcasts to games to text for courses.

"The use of openly licensed resources not only allows states and districts to adapt and modify materials to meet student needs, but also frees up funding to support the transition to digital learning," said OET Director Richard Culatta.

Marcinek has served in a variety of education technology roles over his career, most recently as a co-founder of consulting team EducatorU and director of technology for a public school district in Massachusetts.

Contractor survey pans sequester

The 2013 sequestration has had a significant impact on federal contractors, according to Grant Thornton's 2015 Government Contractor Survey released Sept. 17.

The survey noted that 42 percent of the more than small, medium and large federal contractors it polled for the study reported increased revenue from government contracts, while 37 percent reported reduced revenue. The remaining 21 percent reported no significant changes.

"The percentage of companies experiencing reductions is at the high end of the trends that we have noted over the many years we have published this survey," according to the study. "The reductions this year are the inevitable consequence of altered government spending priorities as well as sequestration; this will almost certainly be resolved in the next year or two."

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