State Legislative Successes
Seven States Helped by NEA Achievement Gaps Grants
Nine NEA state affiliates secured "public policies and associated funding for closing the achievement gaps" in 2006-07. (From NEA Strategic Goal #1 for 2006-08, which says that "up to twelve states" will have such policy successes by the end of 2008.) Seven of the affiliates listed below received an NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps, and they attribute their success in total or in part to their NEA grant. 2006-07 was the third year that NEA made these competitive grants available to interested state affiliates.
State Affiliates That Received NEA Grants
IndianaThe Indiana State Teachers Association attributes two legislative successes in part to its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps. First, the school funding formula factor for allocating funds to school corporations with high concentrations of children who are eligible for the federal free lunch program increased from $1260 to $2250. Indiana's school funding formula now recognizes poverty as a primary determinant of school funding. Second, the 2007 legislature passed a law that addresses gaps in high school graduation and college participation by allowing students who are eligible for the federal free or reduced price lunch program to complete dual high school-college credit courses at a high school or a community college without any additional tuition charges by the college.
In addition, the Indiana General Assembly passed average funding increases for 2008-09 that will fully fund textbooks for free and reduced lunch students, which will relieve pressures on the school general fund and property taxpayers. The state's 2008-09 budget also increased funds for: (a) remediation, which reversed previous declines; (b) the state's full-day kindergarten grant program; and (c) special education reimbursement rates for all exceptionalities, which was the first increase since 2003; (d) gifted and talented programs; and (e)and Indiana's English language learner program, which increased tenfold (i.e., $700,000 to $7 million).
MaineWith the support of the Maine Education Association (MEA) and staff time funded by MEA's NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps, Portland negotiated a professional learning salary schedule that will take effect in 2008-09. Under the new schedule all teachers currently employed in the district will be placed on a salary lane or step that is identical to or higher than the salary they would have made on the district's experience-based salary schedule. The experience-based salary schedule will only be used for new hires. To advance one salary lane on the professional learning salary schedule, teachers must accumulate 225 approved salary contact hours, defined as follows: (a) one university or college credit = 15 salary contact hours; (b) one continuing education unit = 10 contact hours; and (c) one approved contact hour = 1 contact hour. Portland's interest in pursuing this line of bargaining began with information MAE provided the district from a 2005 NEA meeting on the closing achievement gaps.
In addition, the legislature unanimously passed Maine Department of Education Regulation 131: The Maine Federal, State and Local Accountability Standards. The law establishes content standards for math, reading, and science and technology provide a clear, coherent, and essential perspective on the knowledge and skills required for students' success in college, careers, and as citizens in the 21st century.
The content standards provide an explicit progression of student knowledge up the grade levels which is a significant change from the previous standards which often left teachers wondering what they needed to teach. Feedback from Maine educators, professional associations and parent groups indicates that these standards will be more useful to Maine's educators, especially entry level professionals, and will serve as an effective tool for curriculum development in the schools.
MissouriMissouri NEA (MNEA) reports it successfully advanced legislation establishing standards that govern the quality the state's local mentoring programs. This policy success relates to MNEA's previous success in 2005-06 that embedded language in Missouri’s Professional Development Guidelines which encourages schools to create professional learning communities (PLC) that examine student work to inform teaching. MNEA believes the PLC model is an excellent way for beginning teachers to interact with their mentors.
NebraskaIn November 2007, Nebraska voters passed a constitutional amendment to allow the use of the interest from the school lands trust fund, and triggers private endowment money, to pay for early childhood programs in public schools. This is a major 2006-07 NEA Grant activity. It implements a Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) win from the 2006 legislative session that established an early childhood endowment, which will now be funded.
New MexicoNEA-New Mexico (NEA-NM) reports that its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps helped it advocate successfully for passage of the "K-3 Plus Project" in the 2007 legislative session. This project establishes funding for additional instructional time and student resources to narrow the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and others in high-poverty public schools. The project also funds professional development for participating educators. In addition, NEA-NM secured an average five percent salary increase for all New Mexico school employees, and it convinced legislators that local school districts should be allowed flexibility in applying the salary increases. This effectively empowers local bargaining teams to use state salary allocations to best suit the unique needs and circumstances of local school employees. This salary increase also enables New Mexico to implement its final mandated minimum salary of $50,000 for Level III teachers, which teachers can attain in seven years.
OklahomaThe Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) reports two successes in the 2007 legislative session that it attributes to its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps. The first requires that 25 percent of the candidates who are seeking National Board certification must be recruited from high-need schools in which at least half of the students receive free and reduced lunch. The second authorizes the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation to provide professional development for "residency committees" for beginning teachers. Established in 1982, the residency committee is composed of the building administrator, the mentor, and a higher education representative from the university where the beginning teacher graduated. The committee is required to meet three times a year, conduct three formal evaluations of the new teacher, and decide whether the beginning teacher receives his/her certification. While the law that created the residency committee also requires the mentor and beginning to meet for at least 72 hours during the school year, it did not provide guidance about how this time might be spent. The Oklahoma Commission Teacher Preparation now has the authorization to train the residency committee on how to best work with beginning teachers, a key step for OEA, which has developed a professional development model that would be appropriate for training committee members.
South DakotaThe South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) dedicated its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps to the successful passage of the Indian Education Act of 2007. SDEA was part of an advisory committee that helped draft the law, which codifies several existing programs and assures that they can only be modified by action of the governor. More specifically, the Indian Education Act includes provisions for an Office of Indian Education; an Indian Education Advisory Council comprised of tribal-council nominees from the state’s nine tribes; a pilot South Dakota American Indian language revitalization program; a requirement that teachers who are new to the state, or were certified after 1993, take a three-hour course in South Dakota Indian Studies; and development of curriculum and coursework related to South Dakota American Indian history and culture.
More State Affiliate Successes
IowaThe 2007 Iowa legislature approved nearly all of the Iowa State Education Association's legislative priorities for the last several years, including enacting an historic pay raise for educators. SF 277 provides an average salary increase of $3,600 per teacher in 2007-08 and $1,800 in 2008-09 for a total average increase of $5,400. This, along with competitive salary increases negotiated at the local level, should bring Iowa teaching salaries up to 25th in the nation. The law also increases the minimum salaries by $1,000. This brings the salary for beginning teachers to $26,500; career teachers (third year) to $27,500; and all other career teachers to $28,500. In addition, it makes area education agency professionals, and school nurses who hold a teaching license or statement of professional recognition, eligible to receive the salary increases.
The law also improves the current accountability system by ensuring that teacher evaluations are conducted in a fair and consistent manner that is focused on improvement and by eliminating unnecessary paperwork. As significant, it calls for the development of an administrator improvement and accountability system similar to the one already in place for teachers.
In the area of professional development, SF 277 calls for the creation of local teacher quality committees, made up of an equal number of teachers and administrators, to determine the use and distribution of professional development funds, monitor the teacher evaluation process, and recommend the use of the market factor incentives to recruit teachers in shortage areas. The law also provides funding for quality professional development opportunities determined at the local level. The funds can be used for additional time, substitute teachers, materials, speakers, content, and costs associated with implementing individual professional development plans.
The law also calls for the creation of pilot projects that will study pay-for-performance and career ladders; expands the use of "market factor pay" to include a wide variety of teacher recruitment incentives; and ensures that teachers who register for National Board Certification by the end of 2007, will be eligible for registration reimbursement and a $2,500 stipend each year for ten years if they are certified by the Board.
Finally, SF 277 reinstates the requirement that school districts employ at least one teacher librarian, guidance counselor, and school nurse. School districts can request a two-year waiver but they will be required to fill these positions after this period. School districts also must work toward a goal of having one guidance counselor for every 350 students and one school nurse for every 750 students.
WashingtonIn the two-year state budget passed in the 2007 legislative session, the Washington Education Association (WEA) was able to guarantee $5,000 annual bonuses for national board-certified teachers, with an additional $5,000 if they teach in high-poverty schools. Codified in law, the base annual bonus of $5,000 will increase each year to keep up with inflation. The state budget also will allocate funds to pilot smaller class sizes in grades K-3 and all-day kindergarten (10 percent of kindergarten enrollment in the state's highest poverty schools).
In addition, K-12 educators will receive a voter-mandated 3.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment, and the final FY 07 state budget provides significant new funding for community and technical college faculty salary increases and salary equity for part-time instructors. In addition, increases in per-student funding required by voter-approved Initiative 728, which passed in 2000 with WEA support, can be used for a variety of purposes including professional development and smaller class sizes.
WEA also placed $4.2 million for the "Closing the Achievement Gap — Flight Program" ($2.136 for 2007-08 and $2.136 for 2008-09) in the Washington state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development budget. The funds will support collaboration between the Seattle Public Schools and the community. The primary intent is to close achievement gaps for students of color and student in poverty by promoting parent and family involvement and enhancing socio-emotional and academic support for students. By June 30, 2009, the Seattle Public Schools must provide an evaluation of the effect of these activities on class size, graduation rates, student attendance, student achievement, and the closing of the gaps.
Source: NEA report on State Affiliate 2007-08 Public Policy Successes, dated June 20, 2007.