ESEA/NCLB Update #121
NEA applauds Obama plan to repair schools and keep educators in classrooms
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel strongly lauded President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which includes funds to repair schools and to prevent teacher layoffs as well as to hire additional educators. “President Obama delivered a simple and powerful message to Congress and to the American people – it’s time to put partisan bickering aside and get our country back to work,” said Van Roekel in a statement after the Joint Session of Congress where Obama presented his jobs bill. “We are pleased and encouraged that the President continues to demonstrate his commitment to the success of all students by helping to make sure they have the best possible learning environment—a key element of quality education,” Van Roekel added. In a follow up conference call with more than 2,000 educators, Vice President Joe Biden urged all educators to call their representatives and senators to push for a quick passage of the bill.
Republican Senators introduce ESEA/NCLB bills with greater state and local flexibility
Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) announced Thursday that they would be introducing four bills to address major problems with No Child Left Behind. According to a statement released by Senator Alexander, the bills will “give states and local school districts greater flexibility to: improve state accountability systems; improve teacher and principal professional development programs; consolidate federal education programs to give state and local education leaders more freedom in meeting local needs; (and) expand the number of charter schools.” All four Senators serve on the influential Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “These bills are about getting Washington, D.C., out of the business of deciding which schools and teachers are succeeding and which are failing,” said Alexander. “America needs better state and local report cards, not a national school board.”
House hearing examines federal role in K-12 education
On September 14th, the Education and the Workforce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing entitled “Education Reforms: Examining the Federal Role in Public School Accountability.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the appropriate federal role in accountability. In his opening statement, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) stated: “We cannot continue to rely on a one-size-fits-all federal accountability system to gauge the performance of our schools and students.” Representative George Miller (D-CA), senior Democrat on the committee, emphasized the benefits of NCLB’s accountability provisions in his statement. “The law shined a bright light on how all students were performing, including low income students, minority students and students with disabilities,” said Miller.
The hearing brought education leaders from New Mexico, Maryland, Florida, and Pennsylvania who shared innovative state and local approaches to hold schools accountable for student achievement. Additional information and an archived webcast can be found on the committee Web site.
NEA outlined for Committee members its position on the federal role in a letter on the appropriate federal role in K-12 education, accountability systems and common-sense flexibility. For more information on NEA’s position, go to www.educationvotes.nea.org/and click on the “resources” tab.
NEA back-to-school bus tour highlights partnerships to help priority schools
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle traveled across the nation this week on a back-to-school bus tour under the banner, “Standing Strong for Students.” Van Roekel and Pringle visited schools in seven cities to view union-led innovation, transformation and partnerships that advance priority schools. The back-to-school tour coincided with the start of year two of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign. Details on the events during the tour can be found online.
Study questions Center for American Progress report on charter schools
The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) reviewed and found wanting a Center for American Progress (CAP) report highlighting charter schools as a means of turning around high schools labeled “dropout factories.” According to the NEPC analysis, by Dr. Tina Trujillo at the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, the CAP report, Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn Around the Nation’s Dropout Factories, failed to consider important evidence. For example, Trujillo notes that the report “omits any consideration of the research on reconstitution, which shows that firing and replacing entire school staffs has usually failed to achieve the intended effects.” The NEPC release, review and the CAP report can be found at www.greatlakescenter.org/.
House passes charter bill
On Tuesday, September 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2218, the Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act, by a vote of 365-54. The bill would amend and expand the scope of the current ESEA Charter School Program to include funding for new charter schools; replicable, high-quality charter school models; and the expansion of high-quality charter schools, while reducing the upper limit of federal charter schools funding from $450 to $300 million. NEA’s letter to Congress on the bill and other advocacy efforts call for stronger quality assurance, transparency and accountability provisions, including greater access and responsiveness to the needs of student populations currently underserved by charter schools, such as English Language Learners and students with disabilities.
The House bill has some improvements over current law including mandatory state funding to support quality authorizing, language promoting greater access and responsiveness to the needs of English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and removal of funding for entirely online “virtual” charters as a priority. NEA joined with the civil rights community to defeat an amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would have weakened accountability requirements for improving achievement among vulnerable student populations identified in the current ESEA. One harmful provision would allow Governors’ offices--in addition to state education agencies and independent state charter boards--to apply for federal grant funding to oversee startup, replication and expansion efforts. Another would remove as a priority the funding of blended or hybrid charter schools which supplement and do not replace “brick-and-mortar-based” schooling.
Department of Education gives six states $180 million for literacy programs
Six states will receive a boost in their efforts to implement comprehensive approaches to literacy as a result of $180 million in grants through the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program. The states are Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Texas. “These grants will increase access to strong literacy instruction through innovative approaches by providing states and districts the flexibility they need to identify the literacy programs best suited to meet their students needs,” said Secretary Duncan in a statement announcing the grants. In addition to the discretionary grants, 48 states received formula funding in 2010 to help develop comprehensive state literacy plans.
Race to the Top Round Three begins
The Department of Education (ED) is inviting finalists from Race to the Top (RTTT) Round 2 to apply for $200 million in Round 3 grants. The states eligible to apply are Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Comments on the Department’s proposed rules, which includes a commitment to the Department’s overall reform agenda and a focus on STEM education, are due on October 12.
Applications available for Supporting Effective Educator Development Grant Program
ED has announced that applications are available for grants under the Supporting Effective Educator Development Grant Program. This program provides grants to national non-profit organizations for projects “to recruit, select, and prepare or provide professional enhancement activities for teachers or for teachers and principals.” Details and deadlines can be found on the program Web page.