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ESEA/NCLB Update #123

Harkin introduces ESEA reauthorization legislation

On Tuesday, Senator Tom Harkin, D-IA, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released a draft of a comprehensive bill that seeks to reauthorize the Elemenatry and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Amendments are likely to be introduced at the committee mark-up scheduled for October 19. In a statement announcing the mark-up, Harkin said that his proposed bill takes “important steps to advance the state, local and federal partnership that is needed to improve educational equity and ensure all students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and careers.” NEA and its affiliates are analyzing the 860-page bill and will provide feedback to Congress on its specific provisions. For more information, please see the draft bill language or the committee’s section-by-section analysis.

39 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico say they will seek waivers under ED’s new flexibility program

While Congress considers the ESEA reauthorization, 39 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico notified the Department of Education (ED) of their plans to apply for waivers from the unreasonable mandates of No Child Left Behind. According to an ED chart, as of October 12 the following states said they will apply for the first round of waivers by November 14: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Another group plans to meet the mid-February deadline: Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, and Washington. Two states, Connecticut and Oregon, have not announced when they plan to apply. Two other states, Arizona and Utah, applied after a requested October 12 deadline to signal intent, according to an EdWeek report. For details on the rules governing ED’s waiver program, including newly posted PowerPoints, go to www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility.

Report condemns role of suspension and expulsion in schools

A new research brief by the National Education Policy Center strongly criticizes the use of suspension for minor forms of school misbehavior. According to the study, Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice, “there is no research base to support frequent suspension or expulsion in response to non-violent and mundane forms of adolescent misbehavior.” The report also finds that “large disparities by race, gender and disability status are evident in the use of these punishments; frequent suspension and expulsion are associated with negative outcomes; and better alternatives are available.” Among the recommendations of the study: any new versions of ESEA and IDEA should “provide positive incentives for schools, districts and states to support students, teachers and school leaders in systemic improvements to classroom and behavior management,” and out-of-school suspensions should be a factor in assessments of school efficacy. The study was written by Dan Losen of the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

Eskelsen joins commission on education challenges facing Hispanic students

NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen highlighted the societal importance of addressing the education needs of Hispanic students as she recently joined the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ Presidential Advisory Commission. “Hispanic students are enrolled in our public schools now and they will make up a large portion of our labor force in the future—they are the future taxpayers, business leaders, inventors, writers, artists and engaged members of society that will drive this economy,” Eskelsen said in a press statement. “It is imperative that we start addressing their educational needs now. If America leaves our Latino community behind, we do so at our own peril.”

State funding for schools plummets

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) updated its report on this school year’s education funding this week. According to the report, New School Year Brings Steep Cuts in State Funding for Schools, “elementary and high schools are receiving less state funding than last year in at least 37 states, and in at least 30 states school funding now stands below 2008 levels—often far below.” These cuts are not only hurting education, they are extending the recession by creating massive job losses, CBPP said. The report blames the government’s failure to extend emergency fiscal aid and “the failure of most states to enact needed revenue increases and instead to balance their budgets solely through spending cuts.”

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