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Education Insider April 2015

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April 24, 2015
April 17, 2015
April 12, 2015

April 24, 2015

Vote on ESEA Coming: Urge Senators to Close Opportunity Gaps

esea kidsSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed that the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015—the ESEA rewrite approved 22-0 by the HELP Committee last week—could come to the Senate floor in the next couple weeks.

Thanks to the advocacy and activism of educators like you, the bill improves upon No Child Left Behind in important ways. But it still needs work. We need to keep advocating for further changes to ensure equity and equal opportunity for the students most in need. takeaction

To help preserve our gains and further strengthen the bill, members nationwide have taken part in NEA’s April wave of action and you andyour colleagues have sent nearly 150,000 messages to Congress. Don’t stop. Click on the “take action” button to email your senators.

Our core goals remain:

  • A new accountability system with an “opportunity dashboard”
  • Less testing to give students more time to learn
  • Decoupling high-stakes testing and accountability
  • Ensuring qualified educators and empowering them to lead

FY2016 Budget Resolution Compromise Imminent

2016 budgetSenate and House budget conferees are nearing agreement; a compromise budget resolution is expected to be on the floors of both chambers as early as next week. NEA strongly opposed earlier GOP budget proposals that slashed investments in our nation’s future without adding a penny in revenue from corporations or the wealthiest among us.

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Click on the “take action” button and tell Congress to work in a bipartisanfashion, build on the FY2014-15 Murray-Ryan deal, and end sequester-level cuts while leaving room to invest in education programs like Title I, IDEA, and Head Start that target the students most in need.

Cheers & Jeers

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Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) for introducing grade-span legislation to reduce the number of federally-mandated standardized tests. “Students shouldn’t be spending most of their time in schools filling out bubbles,” he said. “High-stakes testing is an expensive way to judge school districts and a bad way to prepare children for their future.”

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Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), Orrin Hatch (UT), Lindsey Graham (SC), Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), Mark Kirk (IL), Rob Portman (OH), Thad Cochran (MS), Ron Johnson (WI), and Mitch McConnell (KY) for voting to confirm the nomination of Loretta Lynch as U.S. Attorney General.

April 17, 2015

Bipartisan ESEA Rewrite to Advance to Senate Floor

In a rare show of bipartisanship, on April 16 the Senate HELP Committee voted 22-0 to move the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, its version of ESEAfix no child left behind reauthorization, to the floor. In just the last few days, the bill has moved in a positive direction thanks to the advocacy and activism of educators like you.

“We applaud Senators Alexander and Murray, along with all the members of the committee, for listening to educators and leading the improvements made to the bill in committee over the course of the past week,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “As things progress, we will continue to call on senators to go even further in helping each and every student, particularly those in poverty and with the greatest educational needs. We still have work to do to ensure equity and opportunity for all students.”

Key amendments adopted this week to help close opportunity gaps and give students more classroom learning time learn include:

  • Requiring all schools to use multiple measures to evaluate progress (rather than just test scores), including at least one indicator of student or school supports (like access to nurses or guidance counselors).
  • Strengthening the pilot program for state-designed assessments to broaden participation and encourage assessments driven by teaching and learning—not by accountability alone.
  • Ensuring the rights of parents and guardians to have their children opt out of statewide academic assessments without detriment to schools or the children themselves.

The Senate is expected to debate the Every Child Achieves Act in the next few weeks. Floor fights will be intense—to preserve our gains and furthertakeaction strengthen the bill. You can help by getting involved in NEA’s April wave of action and clicking on the “take action” button to email members ofCongress. Our core goals remain:

  • A new accountability system with an “opportunity dashboard”
  • Less testing to give students more time to learn
  • Decoupling high-stakes testing and accountability
  • Ensuring qualified educators and empowering them to lead

Rural Schools Program Extended for 2 Years

This week, the Senate also approved a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which provides critical funding for over 4,400 schools in 770 rural counties near national forests across the United States. The extension, part of a larger package, was passed by the House last month. The measure now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.

School Meal Guidelines Battle Ahead

kid eating appleThe discussion at the House Education and Workforce Committee’s April 15 hearing on child nutrition revealed that preserving NEA-supported guidelines for healthy school meals will remain a battle even though more than 90 percent of schools have already complied with them, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The guidelines could become a sticking point in renewing the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which governs school breakfast and lunch programs that together serve 40 million children. NEA continues to meet with committee members and advocate for: takeaction

  • Maintaining the guidelines for healthy school meals
  • Training and supporting school food service professionals
  • Providing adequate equipment and infrastructure
  • Strengthening out-of-school-time meals programs
  • Expanding the Farm to School program 

Cheers & Jeers

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Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) for shepherding the ESEA bill through Committee and offering the substitute bill to require multiple measures in elementary and middle schools, in addition to high schools, and at least one indicator of student or school supports to help draw attention to closing achievement gaps.

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Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for offering the successful amendment to improve the pilot program for state-designed assessments, ensure it is accessible to all states that meet the criteria, and ensure it is driven by teaching and learning—not by accountability alone.

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Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) for offering the successful amendment to ensure that parents and guardians have the right to have their children opt out of statewide academic assessments without detriment to schools or the children themselves.

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Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for offering the successful amendment to incorporate the SMART Act to help states and districts audit and streamline assessment systems, eliminate unnecessary assessments, and improve the use of assessments.

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Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) for offering the successful amendment to authorize early learning alignment and improvement grants to improve coordination of existing funds for early childhood education.

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Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) for offering the amendment to incorporate an “opportunity dashboard” to identify resource gaps and hold states accountable for providing meaningful opportunities for all students to learn. The amendment was withdrawn to be fought on the floor.

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Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) for offering the amendment to remove the arbitrary 1 percent cap on alternative assessments for the students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The amendment was withdrawn to be fought on the floor.

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Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) for offering an amendment on Title I portability that would diminish the impact of the program in helping students in poverty; and for offering multiple voucher amendments. No action was taken and the issues will be fought on the floor.

April 12, 2015

Lyndon Baines JohnsonTell Congress to Get ESEA Right

On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the signing of ESEA into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on April 11, 1965, the Senate HELP Committee will begin marking up a bipartisan bill for ESEA reauthorization on Tuesday, April 14, with full Senate consideration expected this spring. Our review of the 601-page bill continues as we fight for our core goals to set a new vision of shared responsibility for public education that promotes opportunity, equity, and excellence for all students.

“Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty,” President Johnson said. It’s time to make good on that promise. The last time Congress reauthorized ESEA, it did not listen enough to educators and parents—the result was No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which has not worked for students as intended.

This time, we need to get ESEA right. Check out NEA’s new video, What would educators do about ESEA? And then, help make it happen by getting involved in NEA’s April wave of action.

takeactionYou can continue educators’ unprecedented advocacy for getting ESEA right by clicking on the “take action” button. NEA’s core goals for this reauthorization remain:

  • A new accountability system with an “opportunity dashboard”
  • Less testing to give students more time to learn
  • Decoupling high-stakes testing and accountability
  • Ensuring qualified educators and empowering them to lead

We will report on the Senate committee’s action in this space next week.

Get ESEA Right

House to Hold Hearing on Child Nutrition

nutrition quizAs any educator knows, students must be well-nourished to be ready to learn. Yet 73 percent of educators reported in a recent survey that students in their classrooms regularly come to school hungry because there isn’t enough food at home.

Next Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing, “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs.” Later this year, the Committee may take up reauthorization of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which governs federal breakfast and lunch programs that together serve 40 million children.

Among NEA’s top priorities for reauthorization is maintaining the healthy nutrition guidelines set by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which over 90 percent of schools are already meeting, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Other priorities include:

  • Training and supporting school food service professionals
  • Providing adequate equipment and infrastructure
  • Strengthening out-of —school-time meals programs
  • Expanding the farm-to-school program

Visit Bag the Junk, part of NEA’s Health Information Network, to learn more and test your knowledge of child nutrition.