Letter to the House Education and the Workforce Committee on the Mark-up of the NEA-opposed State and Local Funding Flexibility Act
July 12, 2011
On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we urge your opposition to the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act (H.R. 2445), scheduled for mark-up in the Committee on Education and the Workforce this week. As it now stands, this legislation dilutes the federal government’s role in protecting funding for 29 million of some of the most vulnerable among us: students from low-income families, English-language learners (ELLs), and Native American students. In doing so, it compromises their civil rights and violates the core values that are the foundation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Actions in committee on these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 112th Congress.
NEA wholeheartedly supports increased flexibility and relief from the one-size-fits all, test-based, overly punitive accountability system under No Child Left Behind. However, we believe that any increased flexibility and local control must still uphold the federal government’s responsibility to guarantee equal educational opportunity for all students and must continue to hold school districts accountable for improving results for all students. H.R. 2445 fails this test.
More than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education, when ESEA was first passed in 1965, the rule of law was still a barrier to quality education for many millions of students. The federal government stepped in and created programs to level the playing field for the most vulnerable: low-income students (Title I), English-language learners (Title III), and Native American students (Title VII), as well as migrant, foster, and homeless students. Today, despite chronic underfunding, those programs have made a significant difference in addressing gaps in educational access and opportunities for these groups.
Despite its good intentions, the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act includes loopholes allowing the diversion of already scarce resources for vulnerable populations to totally different purposes. As a result, this misguided “flexibility” would undermine the spirit and intent of the original ESEA by narrowing protections for the very students it was designed to protect.
The federal government should support states, districts, and schools—not micromanage them.
The current one-size-fits all, test-based, punitive approach must be replaced by common-sense flexibility built on collaboration that enhances decision-making at the local level. At the same time, the federal government must uphold its responsibility to guarantee equal educational opportunity for all. We stand ready to work with Congress to achieve these goals and fulfill the original promise of ESEA.
Director of Government Relations
Manager of Federal Advocacy