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NEA urges Congress to reject flawed ESEA-flexibility measure

Van Roekel: “let’s not abandon the students who need us the most”

WASHINGTON - July 07, 2011 -

The National Education Association (NEA) today called a flexibility proposal before the House Education and Workforce Committee flawed and a dilution of the federal role of protector of funding for some of the nation’s most vulnerable students. The NEA contends that if enacted, instead of providing the kind of flexibility that would benefit schools, children and families, the "State and Local Funding Flexibility Act” would compromise the civil rights of low income, English language learners (ELL) and Native American students.

“All flexibility is not good flexibility. Let’s not abandon the students who need us the most,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  “Greatly flawed, this measure perpetrates the legacy of inadequacy and inequity in funding for special populations which has plagued our public schools for far too long.”

In response to a time when the rule of law was a barrier to a quality education, the federal government stepped in and created programs to level the playing field for populations vulnerable to the effect of educational disparities.  Though they remain chronically underfunded, Title I, Title III and VII addressing the needs of low income, ELL and Native American students respectively, have made a significant difference in addressing gaps in educational access and opportunity.

Despite its good intentions, NEA believes the “State and Local Funding Flexibility Act” could create a loophole allowing the diversion of already scarce resources. 

“The future of nearly 29 million students is at stake. If we’re going to get it right this time, a reauthorized ESEA must grant more decision-making power at the local level. But such empowerment must still uphold the federal government's responsibility to guarantee equal educational opportunity for all. Loosened reins can’t be allowed to narrow protections for the very students the federal government got involved in education to serve.”
Instead of misguided flexibility that undermines the spirit and intent of the original ESEA, NEA recommends that Congress:

  • give states and local school districts the flexibility to propose to target 75 percent of their non-Title I, III, or VII federal resources for flexibility to best serve the needs of their students;
  • allow states to apply to the Department of Education to waive certain statutory or regulatory requirements under law, consolidate federal education programs while being accountable for results, and use an alternative method for making allocations to local school districts instead of the current formula if their new proposal targets funds more effectively to those areas with high concentrations of low-income families; and
  • lower the poverty threshold for school-wide programs, which frees local schools to consolidate all federal funds to improve the quality of the entire school.

“NEA supports increasing flexibility within ESEA by expanding collaborative decision making at the local level and relief from a one-size-fits all, test-based, overly punitive NCLB.  But the ‘State and Local Funding Flexibility Act’ is the wrong way to go. As it moves through the reauthorization process, Congress must take great care not to abdicate the federal role of enforcer of protections for students. If districts are no longer required to target dollars to low income, ELL and Native American students, who else will stand up for their basic right to a quality education?”

For more information on NEA’s principles on ESEA/NCLB reauthorization, including our message to Congress, click here.
For’s coverage of ESEA/NCLB reform, click here.
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Stacey Grissom  (202) 822-7823,