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Letter to Senate HELP Committee on NEA positions on amendments to Senate ESEA bill

April 14, 2015

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, and as a follow-up to our letter on the underlying bill, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, we wish to share our views on selected amendments to be voted on this week. Votes associated with this bill may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress. 

The following are priority amendments that we strongly support:

  • Baldwin Title I, #1. Incorporates the SMART Act to allow state education agencies and other eligible entities to use Local Academic Flexible Grant funds to audit and streamline assessment systems, eliminate unnecessary assessments, and improve the use of assessments.
  • Baldwin Title I, # 5 – Requires state plans to identify and address disparities in access to critical educational resources so all students are supported in meeting challenging state standards.
  • Collins / Sanders Title I, #1 – Ensures pilot program on state-designed assessments are accessible to all states that meet the criteria and ensures those systems are driven by teaching and learning and not accountability alone.
  • Isakson Title I, #1 – Ensures parent and guardian rights and allowing for them to opt their child out of statewide academic assessments.
  • Isakson Title I, #2 – Removes the arbitrary 1 percent cap on alternative assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. We believe these decisions are best made by the multidisciplinary IEP team that includes the student’s parents.
  • Kirk Title I, #1 – Incorporates an “opportunity dashboard” to identify resource gaps and hold states accountable for providing a meaningful opportunity for all students to learn.
  • Murray / Isakson Title V, #1 – Authorizes early learning alignment and improvement grants to improve coordination of existing funds for early-childhood education.

The following are our positions on additional amendments, listed alphabetically: 

  • Alexander Title IX, #1 – Support. Requires background checks for school employees.
  • Alexander Title I, #1 – Oppose. Allows Title I funds to “follow the child,” providing a flat dollar amount per child instead of greater funding for greater concentrations of poverty. This approach undermines the purpose of Title I funding and will lead to less funding for the schools that serve the most children in poverty.
  • Baldwin Title I, #2 – Support. Requires states and local educational agencies to report Perkins Act proficiency data for career and technical education, which will help create school environments conducive for college and career.
  • Baldwin Title I, #3 – Support. Strengthen support for children and youth from birth through high school to increase the number and percentage of students that graduate ready for college and career.
  • Baldwin Title I, #6 – Oppose. Regarding “N” size for accountability, we oppose the use of a one-size-fits-all number and support flexibility to use the best evidence to make this determination at the state level.
  • Baldwin Title IV, #1 – Support. These grants will increase opportunities and enhance support for physical education programs.
  • Baldwin / Hatch, Title V, #1 – Support. To award grants to encourage states, LEAs and schools to utilize technology to improve student achievement and college and career readiness.
  • Bennet Title I, #1 – Support. Requires the use of actual personnel and non-personnel expenditures when determining compliance with Title I comparability.
  • Bennet / Franken / Casey Title I, #3 – Support. Requiring disclosure of this information would inform parents as to the reason for tests and also help states ensure assessments are necessary.
  • Bennet Title I, #4 – Support. Requires states to assess how LEA’s are required to collect data and ensure they have the technical and professional support needed to do so.
  • Bennet Title I, #5 – Support. Moves in the direction of acknowledging that too much time is spent on testing at the expense of one-on-one instructional time for students.
  • Bennet Title I, #6 – Support. Amends school identification, interventions and supports to require states to intervene in the bottom 5 percent of schools.
  • Bennet / Casey Title II, #1 – Support. Provides leadership opportunities and pathways for teachers.
  • Bennet Title II, #2 – Oppose. Gives financial aid to alternative route certification programs and allows teachers still in training to be considered teachers of record. All teachers of record should be profession ready when they enter the classroom to teach.
  • Bennet Title IV, #1 – Support. Provides resources to assist and enhance family and community involvement in schools.
  • Bennet Title IV, #3 – Support. Creates Advanced Research Projects Agency within the Department of Ed (ARPA-ED) to focus on supporting the development and implementation of education technology.
  • Bennet Title V, #1 – Support. Would make the i3 innovation grant program part of ESEA.
  • Bennet Title VI, #1 – Support. Establishes a weighted student funding flexibility pilot program in an effort to more equitably allocate funding from LEA’s to schools based on individual student needs.
  • Bennet Title IX, #1 – Support. Provides support to rural local education agencies.
  • Bennet Title IX, #2 – Support. Allows flexibility in the use of funds to support high-quality early learning initiatives.
  • Bennet Title XI, #1 – Support. Allows more health, education, workforce training and other programs to be carried out at public schools.
  • Bennet Title XI, #2 – Support. Creates an office of rural education within the Department of Education.
  • Burr Title II, #1 – Support. Adjusts the funding formula to states by increasing the weight attached to the number of students in poverty to better target funds to the neediest schools.
  • Casey Title II, #1 – Support. Funds Ready-to-Learn television for early learning.
  • Casey Title II, #2 – Support. Ensures teachers, principals and other school leaders are profession ready.
  • Casey Title IV, #1 – Support. Amends the bill to effectively address harassment and bullying.
  • Casey Title IV, #2 – Support. Provides increased access to high quality instruction for a well-rounded education.
  • Casey Title IV, #3 – Support. Designs grant process to reduce exclusionary school discipline practices.
  • Cassidy Title II, #1 – Oppose. Too narrowly focused in providing professional development around identifying learning disabilities. While enhanced professional development for all educators is welcome, targeting one narrow group of educators is not the answer. Most state licensure/credentialing requirements demand an overview course on students with disabilities for all teachers.
  • Cassidy Title II, #2 – Oppose. Too narrowly focused in providing professional development around identifying learning disabilities. While enhanced professional development for all educators is welcome, targeting one narrow group of educators is not the answer. Most state licensure/credentialing requirements demand an overview course on students with disabilities for all teachers.
  • Cassidy Title II, #3 – Oppose. Strikes the LEARN Act, which provides grants to improve children’s literacy from birth through grade 12. Improved literacy instruction through evidence-based practices is critical to students for gaining entry into the modern global workplace.
  • Cassidy Title V, #1 – Oppose. Supports creation of schools that specialize in a specific learning disability. NEA supports the appropriate inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms. Local public schools are now educating millions of students with disabilities, and a growing number of them are graduating from high school. Only three decades ago, these same children would have been isolated in separate institutions.
  • Cassidy Title V, #2 – Oppose. Exempts schools that specialize in a specific learning disability (such as dyslexia) from using weighted lotteries. NEA supports the appropriate inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms.
  • Franken All Titles, #1 – Support. Incorporates the Student Non-Discrimination Act into the bill.
  • Franken Title I, #1 – Support. Allows use of computer adaptive assessments.
  • Franken Title I, #2 – Support. Assures educational stability for children in foster care.
  • Franken Title I, #3 – Support. Provides additional disaggregation for LEA’s with not less than 1,000 Asian and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students.
  • Franken Title II, #1 – Support. Aims to raise student academic achievement through accelerated learning programs, including Advanced Placement, I.B. and dual enrollment.
  • Franken Title II, #2 – Support. Aims to improve student academic achievement in STEM subjects.
  • Franken Title IV, #1 – Support. Reinstates existing Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program. This is the only federal funding dedicated to creation or expansion of comprehensive school counseling programs.
  • Franken Title VII, #1 – Support. Establishes grant program to support schools that use Native American and Alaska Native languages as the primary language of instruction.
  • Mikulski Title II, #1 – Support. Includes the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act in the bill.
  • Murkowski Title IV, #1 – Support. Restores the 21st century learning centers program.
  • Murphy Title I, #1 – Oppose. Adjusts the intervention and support strategies for schools in need of support. Adds an unnecessary and overly inclusive definition of schools in need of support that is reminiscent of the Adequate Yearly Progress system that could include any school with any category of students not meeting the progress and academic achievement goals in the bill for two years.
  • Murphy Title I, #2 – Support. Improves early childhood educator compensation.
  • Murphy Title I, #3 – Support. Requires states to address how they will keep students safe from abuse, interventions or any seclusion or restraint; allows training and staff development on de-escalating aggressive behaviors and enhances school climates with positive intervention programs.
  • Murphy Title IV, #1 – Support. Enhances continuum of evidence-based or promising practices to improve juvenile justice.
  • Murray Title I, #1 – Support. Allows for data collection for military-connected students.
  • Murray Title IV, #1 – Support. Authorizes the Project School Emergency Response to Violence program.
  • Paul Title 1, #1 – Oppose. Provides public and private school portability of funds or vouchers. This approach will lead to less funding for the schools that serve the most children in poverty. This proposal also would not survive a constitutional challenge, as it authorizes the direct funding of private religious schools.
  • Paul Title 1, #2 – Oppose. Provides public school Title I portability of funds. This approach will lead to less funding for the schools that serve the most children in poverty. It would undermine the compensatory purpose of Title I by allowing states the option of distributing funds on a per capita basis, and eliminating local control over how best to target those funds.
  • Paul Title I, #3 – Support. Prohibits mandating adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. This is duplicative of what is already allowed under the bill and is not harmful to state driven work on Common Core.
  • Paul Title IV, #4 – Support. Enhances continuum of evidence-based or promising practices to improve juvenile justice.
  • Paul Title VI, #5 – Oppose. Adds the A-PLUS Act, which block grants ESEA programs. Block grant funding does not require states to provide the high quality service that children at risk need to achieve in school.
  • Sanders Multiple Titles, #1 – Support. Provides specific authorization levels for Titles I, II and III.
  • Scott New Title, #1 – Oppose. Provides vouchers under the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship program, and for military dependents. Instead of taking money out of the public schools, we should focus on improving public schools and preparing all students for success.
  • Scott New Title, #2 – Oppose. Provides vouchers under IDEA. Under this proposal, IDEA funds could be diverted from public schools for the design and implementation of a state voucher program, supplementing private schools. IDEA ensures a free, appropriate public education in the public schools. If the schools cannot provide, they will focus on the best placement for the student including private schools.
  • Scott Title 1, #1 – Oppose. Provides Title I portability of funds. This approach will lead to less funding for the schools that serve the most children in poverty, diminishing the effect of Title I funding.
  • Warren, Title I, #1 – Support. Helps to identify schools with low graduation rates that are in need of intervention without prescribing punitive measures.
  • Warren, Title I, #2 – Oppose. Adds another layer of multi-year goals to the accountability system. This amendment seeks to micromanage the state accountability system when the emphasis instead should be on states setting achievable goals, and the bill should ensure equitable resources to achieve them.
  • Warren, Title I, #3 – Support. Amends state report card requirements to allow for cross-tabulation.
  • Warren, Title I, #4 – Oppose. Requires schools to apply for a waiver at the SEA level if they fall below 40 percent poverty threshold. We support this decision being made at the LEA level, closer to the classrooms and school halls where educators and administrators know the students’ names and circumstances to allow for the use of school wide than the state waiver. We would support the addition of the existing parameters for LEAs in current law for making these decisions, but do not support state waiver determinations with no parameters.
  • Warren, Title I, #5 – Support. Adds language relating to the reliability of effectiveness measures of educators.
  • Warren, Title I, #6 – Oppose. Requires schools to apply for a waiver at the SEA level if they fall below 40 percent poverty threshold. We support this decision being made at the LEA level, closer to the classrooms and school halls where educators and administrators know the students’ names and circumstances to allow for the use of school wide than the state waiver. We would support the addition of the existing parameters for LEAs in current law for making these decisions, but do not support state waiver determinations with no parameters.
  • Warren Title V, #1 – Support. Prioritizes intensive postsecondary planning for high need schools, providing resources for guidance in higher education institutions and financial aid.
  • Whitehouse Title I, #1 – Support. Includes community partners and intermediaries in the planning and delivery of education services.
  • Whitehouse Title I, #2 – Support. Provides grants to states to ensure middle school students have access to a rigorous curriculum with effective supports.
  • Whitehouse Title II, #1 – Support. Provides resources to support quality school library programs including up-to-date books, materials, equipment and technology, and provides for professional development.
  • Whitehouse Title V, #1 – Oppose. Provides grants to states and LEA’s that will provide increased autonomy for innovation schools but without adequate accountability and transparency. While the approach sounds promising, the amendment pays inadequate attention to accountability and transparency.
  • Whitehouse Title V, #2 – Oppose. Provides grants to states and LEA’s that will provide increased autonomy for innovation schools but without adequate accountability and transparency, and includes a lower percentage of teachers needed to support conversion to an innovation school. While the approach sounds promising, the amendment pays inadequate attention to accountability and transparency.
  • Whitehouse Title V, #3 – Support. Establishes program for literacy and arts education, which are essential in providing a well-rounded education.
  • Whitehouse Title XI, #1 – Support. Requires background checks for school employees.

We thank you for your consideration of our views on these amendments. We urge the committee to make improvements to the legislation to ensure that it provides the greatest opportunities for all students, particularly those students most in need. We look forward to continuing discussions as the markup proceeds.  

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations