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NEA gives Kline ESEA Bills a failing grade

House plan would undercut programs, funding for children in poverty

WASHINGTON - February 28, 2012 -

Today the House Education and Workforce Committee will mark up two amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization effort, the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990).

“Chairman John Kline’s (R-Minn.) bills miss the mark of the original intent of the 1965 ESEA law to ensure equity of opportunity and access to public education for all students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “In the name of ensuring flexibility, these bills undermine the critical federal role of ensuring equity for all students, regardless of where they are born or their family’s financial situation.”

These bills do contain several positive provisions, such as adding common-sense changes to testing requirements, including changing Adequate Yearly Progress and providing for alternative assessments for some students with special needs.  However, the bills do not push states enough to narrow achievement gaps, or ensure that state accountability systems actually work for students. The bills would also allow states and school districts to shift funding designed for special populations – such as English Language Learners, American Indian/Alaska Natives, or neglected students – to other uses.

Chairman Kline’s bills would also gut protection of state and local fiscal support for schools, triggering a race to the bottom in the foundation of public education. Federal dollars would be used to backfill state and local funding gaps rather than assisting students who need additional support or attention to thrive, particularly those in poverty.  “In order for us to achieve excellence, we must first focus on equity,” said Van Roekel. When one in five children in America lives in poverty, the federal government must ensure that their schools and communities get the support and resources necessary to close achievement and opportunity gaps.”

The bills also eliminate all focus on the quality of teachers entering the profession and would grant the federal government top-heavy control over development of teacher evaluation systems.  NEA believes that the bar for entry into the profession must be raised and that educators deserve comprehensive, top-notch evaluation systems that are developed with them not for them. “We have to work together to attract and retain the best of the best for our students,” said Van Roekel. “They deserve nothing less.”  Accordingly, these systems must be developed to address students’ needs, which are best identified at the state and local levels. 

To ensure a highly skilled and effective teaching force, NEA has taken the lead as a union in proposing an ambitious framework (Leading the Profession: NEA’s Three-Point Plan for Reform) to improve the profession, including raising the bar for entry, ensuring that those who are in the classroom are the best, and providing leadership to transform the profession.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823,