ESEA hits Senate floor next week, House action possible
After calls for action from NEA and other key education stakeholders, full Senate deliberation of the bipartisan reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, July 7. NEA and its affiliates have been working to make sure that the final bill will ensure equity and opportunity for all students and emphasize learning over testing. In a new development, the House Rules Committee announced yesterday that it would meet July 7 to discuss the House reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which was approved by a party-line vote in committee, but was pulled off the House floor in late February after debate but before a final vote. The Rules meeting means the House bill could be on the floor soon, with additional amendments under consideration. If the bill passes both chambers, it would go to a conference committee. For ongoing updates on legislative developments, see NEA's Legislative Action Center page.
Eight NCLB waiver renewals approved
The Department of Education (ED) granted NCLB waiver renewals to seven states and the District of Columbia. The states are: Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New York, and West Virginia. Copies of the renewal letters can be found by clicking on ED's flexibility state map.
The renewals are the first since March when ED granted five expedited renewals to Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia. More renewals are likely in the coming weeks.
Sequestration blocks critically needed education funds in Senate bill
The Senate Appropriations Committee that funds ED's budget approved a bill (S. 1695) that would reduce funding in fiscal year 2016 to $1.4 billion below the current level. Under the committee bill, federal funding for education in 2016 would be at about the same level as in 2013 after sequestration and would remain below the 2011 level.
The spending caps in place for 2016 as a result of sequestration reduced the allocation the committee had to work with for several agencies for the coming fiscal year (which begins October 1 of this year) by $3.6 billion compared to the current year. Starting with less money means that to fund any program even at the same level as the current year would mean taking money from another program. NEA's letter to members of the committee urged a "no" vote on the bill and emphasized that "continuation of sequester-level funding is entirely inadequate." "With Congress moving forward on ESEA reauthorization, it is crucial that adequate resources are invested in education to help close opportunity and resource gaps and ensure all students have access to a high-quality education."
Here is a summary of how Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs fared under the committee's bill.
- Programs eliminated: Striving Readers, Preschool Development Grants, Carol M. White Physical Education Program, Investing in Innovation, and Full Service Community Schools, among others.
- Programs cut: School Improvement State Grants by $56 million (-11 percent), Improving Teacher Quality State Grants by $103 million (-4 percent), 21st Century Community Learning Centers by $117 million (-10 percent), English Language Acquisition State Grants by $25 million (-3 percent), Elementary and Secondary School Counseling by $26 million (-53 percent), and Promise Neighborhoods by $20 million (-35 percent), among others.
- Programs flat-funded: Impact Aid, Rural Education, and Education for Homeless Children and Youths, among others.
- Programs increased: Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) by $150 million (+1 percent), and Charter Schools Grants by $20 million (+8 percent), among others.
The committee bill also includes policy riders, such as one that prevents any funds from being used to mandate or incentivize states, LEAs, or schools to adopt any specific set of standards or assessments.
The passage of the spending bill by the Senate committee follows similar committee action cutting much needed funds in the House. The Senate bill must now go to the floor and be reconciled with whatever bill comes out of the House before going to the president for either his signature or veto.
ED asserts three family educational rights
Speaking at the National PTA convention, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a set of three foundational family education rights:
- Free, quality preschool
- High, challenging standards and engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school
- An affordable, quality college degree
"I want to describe educational rights that I firmly believe must belong to every family in America-and I hope you'll demand that your leaders in elected or appointed offices deliver on them," Duncan told the PTA. "They come together as a set of rights that students must have at three pivotal stages of their life, to prepare them for success in college and careers and as engaged, productive citizens." ED elaborates on these three rights here.
Oregon governor signs opt-out bill
Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed assessment reform legislation containing a standardized testing opt-out provision (HB 2655). The legislature recently passed the amendment with Oregon Education Association support. (ESEA/NCLB Update #214). NEA background information on state and local opt-out laws can be found here.
Take Action: ESEA action imminent
The reauthorization of ESEA is scheduled to be on the Senate floor next week, and there is new momentum in the House. Now is the time to let your voice be heard by contacting your senators and insisting that Congress get ESEA right.