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ESEA/NCLB Update #133

NEA outlines federal budget priorities for FY 2013

NEA urged Congress to make a quality education for all students a top priority in the FY 2013 federal budget in a letter to the House detailing its budget recommendations for the next fiscal year. “Particularly in these troubling economic times, investing in education makes both good fiscal sense and good public policy,” NEA said. NEA voiced strong support for the overall 2.5 percent increase in education spending contained in President Obama’s proposed budget, the largest percentage increase in any discretionary funding area in his proposal. NEA also applauded the President’s commitment to college affordability, job training, and job creation in his budget, including his call for $30 billion for school modernization and $25 billion to help retain and hire teachers, education support professionals, and first responders.

NEA’s letter included a chart detailing specific NEA spending priorities within the overall budget framework, including:

  • An additional $650 million for Title I state grants ($15.2 billion, +4.5%).
  • An additional $675 million for IDEA/special education ($12.3 billion, +5.8%).
  • An increase of $66 million for School Improvement Grants ($600 million, +12.5%).
  • An increase of $43 million for English Language Learner grants ($775 million, +5.9%).
  • An increase of $21 million for Rural Education ($200 million, +11.6%).

These increases would help support badly underfunded programs designed to address growing student needs, including a 20.7 percent child poverty rate, the NEA letter said. 

President Obama urges governors not to cut education budgets

President Obama urged our nation’s governors to show what they value as states by investing in education even when state budgets are tight. Speaking at a meeting of the National Governors Association on February 27, Obama told the governors:

"I realize that everybody is dealing with limited resources. Trust me, I know something about trying to deal with tight budgets. We’ve all faced some stark choices over the past several years. But that is no excuse to lose sight of what matters most. And the fact is that too many states are making cuts to education that I believe are simply too big."

Obama focused on college affordability and educator layoffs as two areas needing particular attention, noting that school districts have lost 250,000 teachers, education support professionals, and other school staff in the last four years. “Think about that,” Obama said. “A quarter-million educators, responsible for millions of our students, all laid off when America has never needed them more.” Obama said that states have received billions of federal dollars to keep teachers in classrooms, and that he was calling for additional federal support. “Congress still is in a position to do the right thing,” said Obama. “They can keep more teachers in the classroom, but you’ve got to keep the pressure up on them to get this done.” 

Civil Rights Data Collection highlights disparities

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has released new civil rights data based on a voluntary survey of 7,000 school districts and more than 72,000 schools. The Civil Rights Data Collection covers key areas such as discipline, college readiness, school finance, and grade level student retention. A department release listed the following highlights:

  • Black students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.
  • Black students represent 18 percent of the students in CRDC’s sample, but 35 percent of students suspended once, and 39 percent of the students expelled.
  • Students learning English were 6 percent of the survey’s high school enrollment but 12 percent of students retained.
  • Only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55 percent of schools with the lowest Black and Hispanic enrollment.
  • Teachers serving in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues serving in low-minority schools in the same district.

The data also showed that only 15 percent of high schools have guidance counselors. In the department release, Secretary Duncan said, “The undeniable truth is the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” According to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, the untenable “disparities highlighted in this report should serve as a call to action for all of us.” He stressed that a student’s “quality of education should not be determined by race or income.”

Kahlenberg: magnet schools promote integration, student outcomes

Author Richard Kahlenberg recently discussed the benefits of magnet schools in promoting both integration and achievement, contrasting magnet schools with less integrated charter schools. In a Hechinger Report interview, Kahlenberg drew upon positive data about magnet schools in a newly released UCLA Civil Rights Project Report, Reviving Magnet Schools: Strengthening a Successful Choice Option. Asked why support for magnet schools has stalled relative to charters, Kahlenberg noted that “education policy is particularly susceptible to fads,” adding:

“Even though research finds that the economically diverse student bodies in magnet schools can substantially raise student achievement, many districts flocked to the new idea of charter schools. As a result, annual federal appropriations for magnet schools have remained at about $100 million per year since 1990, while federal charter-school funding has skyrocketed from nothing in the early 1990s to more than $250 million today."

Kahlenberg said “the major advantage of magnet schools is that they can, through voluntary choice, achieve a socioeconomically diverse student body, which 40 years of research suggests has substantial benefits for student outcomes.”

MetLife survey reveals sharp decline in teacher morale

The 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher reveals a startling 15 point drop in teacher satisfaction since the last survey two years ago—the lowest level of job satisfaction in more than two decades. According to MetLife, this decline coincides with “large increases in the number of teachers who indicate that they are likely to leave teaching” and increased job insecurity. The survey notes that several factors differentiate teachers with high and low job satisfaction:

“Teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely to feel their jobs are secure and say they are treated as a professional by the community. They are also more likely to have adequate opportunities for professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers, more preparation and supports to engage parents effectively, and greater involvement of parents and their schools in coming together to improve the learning and success of students."

The survey also reports that "the effects of the economic downturn are felt widely and deeply in education.” Commenting on the report, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel expressed deep concern that “some 29 percent of teachers—professionals of extraordinary talent and dedication—are thinking of leaving the profession they love due, in part, to the unconscionable cuts to the resources their students need.” Van Roekel urged parents and community leaders to “join us and speak up against the devastating impact of budget cuts and instead demand that students have the resources they need to succeed.” 

Department of Education proposes new Teacher Incentive Fund rules

 
The Department of Education (ED) is asking for public comment on its proposed priorities and other requirements for the FY 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) competition which will award approximately $284 million. The TIF competition is designed to promote performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools. According to ED, comments must be received on or before March 30, 2012.

Take Action: Raise your voice for an ESEA reauthorization bill that works

The experience and expertise of educators are critical to the debates in Congress. Policymakers need to hear what you have to say now that an ESEA reauthorization bill has been passed by a key House committee. Contact your Representative today to share your thoughts on what will work best for your students and school.

(Published March 16, 2012)

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