Pages tagged "Education"
It’s hard to believe we’re here again.
Apparently, the inhumane treatment enforced by the Department of Homeland Security under departing Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was not inhumane enough for the Trump Administration, which reportedly is once again considering family separation as a policy option. The so-called “binary option” would force families seeking legal asylum in this country to waive fundamental Flores Settlement protections, clearing the way for the government to warehouse them in unlicensed detention facilities or to force them to turn their children over to the federal government. This is a false choice as both options would cause immense harm to children.
“We call on the President to guarantee that any new secretary — whether acting or confirmed — shall first Do No Harm to children, whether it’s by separating them from their parents or by detaining them,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the advocacy group First Focus Campaign for Children. “The Administration must stop using children as pawns in pursuit of a policy to waylay asylum-seeking families and must only act in the best interest of the child. This cruel and abhorrent strategy violates basic human rights and is not the way a great nation treats children.”
The Administration only recently revealed that it will take two years to reunite the families it broke apart during previous separations under the horrific “zero tolerance” policy. Those separations drew international attention for prying babies from their mother’s arms before deportation and have been deemed “government-sanctioned child abuse” by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They should never be repeated.
In addition, we urge President Trump to abandon calls to eliminate the crucial protections for children offered by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 and the Flores Settlement Agreement. These protections are not “loopholes,” as administration officials have called them. Without them, children will suffer horrific prison-like conditions and risk being returned to the dangerous situations from which they fled.
Washington — Today, the First Focus Campaign for Children, a national, bipartisan child advocacy group, recognized 100 Members of Congress for their leadership on issues important to children during 2011.
“Lots of politicians talk about kids’ issues, but few back it up,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the Campaign for Children. Champions and Defenders delivered for kids in 2011.”
Among the honorees, 50 Members were named “Champions for Children,” for their extraordinary efforts to protect and improve the future of America’s next generation. An additional 50 Members were recognized as “Defenders of Children” for their support of policies that advance the well-being of children. The 2011 Champions and Defenders are:
2011 Champions for Children
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA)
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA)
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Rep. George Miller (D-CA)
Rep. Todd Platts (D-PA)
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA)
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Rep. Donna Christensen (D-VI)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH)
2011 Defenders of Children
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Sen. Mary Landreiu (D-LA)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Sen. Thad Chochran (R-MS)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)
Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL)
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Rep. Jose Seranno (D-NY)
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX)
Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)
Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ)
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA)
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY)
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)
Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA)
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)
In selecting Champions and Defenders, the First Focus Campaign for Children noted leaders who introduced, co-sponsored, and voted for legislation to meet children’s needs. In addition, the organization considered Members who demonstrated extraordinary initiative by spearheading activities such as sponsoring hearings or garnering the support of their colleagues to improve the health and well-being of children.
This is the Campaign for Children’s second annual class of Champions for Children. The 2012 Champions for Children will be announced in the fall of 2012.
For a complete list of 2011 Champions and Defenders and more information, visit www.ffcampaignforchildren.org.
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The challenge of educating our students must not fall on schools alone; the whole community must be engaged.First Focus Campaign for Children works to create policy incentives for closer and strategic collaboration between schools and community entities. First Focus Campaign for Children believes that Federal policy, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, should continue to prioritize connections between schools and community organizations (non-profits, local government agencies, businesses, health centers, human service centers, youth development programs) that can play a strategic role in fostering academic success. These partnerships will effectively leverage community resources and coordinate support services to meet students’ needs inside and outside the classroom, more comprehensively addressing teaching and learning needs,. While the 2011 Senate reauthorization of ESEA did include Promise Neighborhoods (a definite step in the right direction), more can be done in other parts of ESEA. If we are still willing to stick by school turnaround models within ESEA then why not put more emphasis on a model that comprehensively meets the needs of students? Community schools are a flexible and proven model that offer such an approach, addressing the whole child through an aligned curriculum, standards and assessments; collaboration and shared responsibility between school and community partners; professional development for teachers; differentiated instruction; extended learning and enrichment time; family and community engagement; and comprehensive services for students and their families. We recommend that Congress consider offering districts the option to choose the community schools model, and we recommend that this model be available to all schools to meet the comprehensive needs of all students.
The following is a blog post by our partners at the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education that further highlights the value of comprehensive strategies that address children’s needs that affect their achievement.
As policymakers turn their attention to reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and other federal educational legislation, they should do so with the goal of supporting comprehensive strategies that address children’s needs both in and out of school that affect their achievement. The clear shortcomings of ESEA’s current incarnation, No Child Left Behind, lie in its overly prescriptive nature and misguided focus on test-based accountability. “Reforms” that use tests to evaluate teachers have failed to improve the educational attainment of the low-income and minority children ESEA targets. They push districts and schools to engage in test prep and system-gaming to the neglect of real learning and of attention to the out-of-school issues that limit children’s readiness to learn.
The bipartisan decision by the leaders of the Senate HELP committee, Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Enzi (R-Wyoming), to return decisions regarding teacher evaluations to states and local districts, where they belong, is a step in the right direction. Abandoning the dysfunctional Adequate Yearly Progress requirement and using state-level NAEP results to compare across states are two others. Giving districts and schools sufficient flexibility to channel ESEA funds to where they are most needed, however, requires more.
The federal government will continue to mislabel schools as under-performing based on test scores, and “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools” remain subject to the same menu of “School Improvement” options. These unproven strategies disrupt already fragile communities by mandating teacher and principal replacement and even school closures. A second group of under-performing schools – “Achievement Gap Schools” –ironically lose preference for Promise Neighborhoods funding.
Schools with the largest and most persistent achievement gaps need more resources for Promise Neighborhoods, not less. Federal measures must promote policies that nurture the development of the whole child. Districts can do this by expanding accountability beyond the basic skills of reading and math to include the many curricular areas that are not easily standardized and quantified: the arts, sciences, history, student physical and emotional well-being, and civic engagement. Establishing partnerships with community organizations can bring new resources to schools and establish schools as community hubs. Providing school-based health services can ameliorate the impact of poor health on educational outcomes. And access to quality out-of-school learning programs reduces achievement gaps between those students who already enjoy such opportunities and lower-income students who lack them.
Organizations and campaigns such as ASCD’s Whole Child initiative, the Forum for Youth Investment’s Ready by 21 initiative, the Coalition for Community Schools, and the National Assembly for School-Based Health Care(NASBC) work in communities across the country to promote comprehensive education strategies. Added federal support could greatly enhance their national impact and make strides in narrowing achievement gaps.
ESEA Reauthorization and Our Teachers: Diminishing the Teacher Profession Only hurts our Most Deserving Students
As we wait for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to make it out of Congress in 2012 (don’t hold your breath), the First Focus Campaign for Children is advocating to keep the current definition of Highly Qualified Teachers (fully-certified, fully-prepared) in ESEA. In doing so, we will provide diverse learners and our most deserving students with educators that are both fully prepared and highly effective. Research indicates that teacher quality is the most important school based factor impacting student achievement. Yet, students in low-income and minority schools are far less likely to have access to fully-prepared and effective teachers, as are students with disabilities and English learners. In many communities, students experience a revolving door of untrained and under-supported novice teachers who cannot sustain a high-quality education. Teachers should have all the pedagogical skills and tools necessary to address diverse learning needs on day one (not a year later) while being provided with effective professional development opportunities throughout their careers. In doing so, we not only sustain the teaching profession but also create stability for the students that need it most. Finally, ESEA comparability provisions should be strengthened and enforced to ensure equitable distribution of resources and of qualified teachers across schools serving different populations of students. ESEA should strengthen and enforce these comparability requirements and ensure poor and minority students, and students with disabilities, are not being taught by disproportionate numbers of uncertified, inexperienced, or out-of-field teachers.
The following is a blog post by our partners at the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education that further clarifies why we should fully prepare and support our teachers rather than treat them as villains in education reform.
From Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to former school chancellors Michelle Rhee (DC) and Joel Klein(NYC), education "reformers" demand a no-excuses, no-nonsense overhaul to our country's education system. According to this get tough coalition, children are underperforming because teachers protected by unions have low expectations, and principals who lack visionary leadership are inefficient administrators. Simply put, our schools are failing our children. The solution: evaluate, reward, and fire teachers and principals on the basis of student test scores, and close down chronically underperforming schools. Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind impose these policies on "failing" schools in the name of raising student achievement.
But this is a misdiagnosis of the education problem. While no one disagrees with the goal of having passionate, talented, and motivated teachers in their child's classroom, or with low-income children's particular need for them, the problem of underachievement runs much deeper than purported school inefficiencies. As decades of research have shown us, and as anyone who has been a parent, teacher, principal, or just a member of the community should know, out-of-school factors, from before kindergarten experiences to those in the after-school and summer months, have far more impact on academic and behavioral outcomes than those inside the school walls. Viewing student achievement through a broader and bolder lens:
- Brain development and early childhood research find birth-to five years to be critical to later educational achievement, so disadvantaged children whose families lack the means to support a healthy early childhood or access to preschool start school up to two years behind.
- A child who is hungry, has difficulty breathing because of asthma, or suffers from a toothache may be too plagued by distraction to learn effectively, even from an excellent teacher.
- A child who lacks access to books, and who misses summer camp and other enriching experiences will be educationally disadvantaged compared to his or her peers. One study suggests that up to two-thirds of the achievement gap opens during out-of-school time.
- Racial and economic segregation in schools (and neighborhoods) has translated into concentrations of students suffering the consequences of poverty in the same schools, presenting challenges for teachers and principals that cannot be overcome by strong instruction or administration alone.
Not only does this exclusive emphasis on in-school reform fail to acknowledge the root source of lower achievement for disadvantaged children, it even misses its own narrow target of improving test scores. Putting educators' jobs and school resources on the line does strongly incentivize maximizing math and reading exam results, which has led to a narrowing of curriculum and to "teaching to the test." Putting so much weight on math and reading performance impoverishes other aspects of learning -- character development, art, humanities, history, the sciences, physical education, civics - that Americans believe are essential parts of education. This effect has been recognized by some school leaders who propose to allow standardized tests to be taken any time of the year, so that at least those who pass can move on to deeper material. [The exacerbation of achievement and instruction gaps that may result from this strategy further illustrates the problematic consequences of high-stakes tests and attempts to bypass them.] Attaching high stakes to low-quality tests also renders these tests an inaccurate indicator of student achievement; how can we tell whether students comprehend material or are simply regurgitating lectures?
Finally, accountability standards that "get tough" also lead to widespread cheating. Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York City are just a few of the cities in which "miraculous" increases in test scores have been revealed to be the result of either shifts in test score cut-offs or widespread cheating - teachers are caught or accused of changing students' wrong answers. With large bonuses offered as rewards for boosting test scores (such as Michelle Rhee's $8,000 dollar teacher and $10,000 principal incentives), and the threat of losing jobs or closing schools altogether for those who do not, is it any wonder this strategy has yielded such malignant results?
Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and the Coalition for Teaching Quality host Briefing on Fully-Prepared Teachers
On December 8th, 2011, Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) in partnership with the Coalition for Teaching Quality (which the First Focus Campaign for Children belongs to) sponsored a briefing on Capitol Hill titled:
STUDENT ACCESS TO PREPARED & EFFECTIVE TEACHERS: UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF FEDERAL POLICY
The briefing stressed the educational equity issue of creating greater access to fully-prepared, highly qualified teachers for our most deserving students and schools – The following topics were addressed:
- Why teacher qualifications and effectiveness matter and how they can be measured
- The importance of “Equitable Distribution” in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
- The impact of policies around highly qualified and effective teachers on minority students, English language learners, students with a disability, and students in rural communities
- Transparency and Parents Right-to-Know
- Teacher recruitment and retention – what are the most cost-effective methods for recruiting and retaining prepared and effective teachers
Panelists included the following:
1. Moderator: Mr. Robert Mahaffey, Director of Communications, The Rural School and Community Trust
2. Ms. Maribel Heredia, Plaintiff, Renee v. Duncan, Hayward, CA
3. Mr. Eric Gonzalez, Education Policy Advocate, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
4. Ms. Shayla Johnson, 12th Grade Student Union Representative, Overbrook High School, Philadelphia, PA
5. Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick, Dean, School of Education, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
6. Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy, University of Texas, Austin, TX
7. Dr. Megan Hopkins, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
8. Ms. Laura Kaloi, Public Policy Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. (NCLD)
9. Ms. Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, President, Utah Education Association, National Education Association
10. Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education
To view the briefing, please click here.
Statement from First Focus on Passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) Reauthorization in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee
Washington - In response to the October 20, 2011, Senate HELP Committee’s 15-7 passage of bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act and fundamentally re-writing the former “No Child Left Behind” Act, First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley issued the following statement:
“Parents, teachers, school administrators, and lawmakers all agree No Child Left Behind isn’t working. That’s why the First Focus Campaign for Children applauds the leadership and bipartisan commitment of HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin and Ranking Republican Mike Enzi. But the Committee-approved draft misses important opportunities, and the Senate floor debate must improve the bill by matching accountability and standards with flexibility and genuine learning, ensuring that teachers, principals, and kids have the tools they need to meet high standards, and investing in early childhood education, so kids are ready to learn when they start school.”
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After months of negotiations between Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), and after 15 hours of debate over amendments last week, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), made it out of committee late in the evening on October 20th. The measure, previously known as No Child Left Behind, made it out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions by a vote of 15-7, with the goal of moving it to the Senate floor before year’s end, or just before the Administration’s waivers on ESEA will be implemented.
From the beginning of the mark-up, the whole process seemed a little strange, much like an organized circus – Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) placed barriers to delay mark-up activity (introduced 74 amendments, trying to repeal the entire law, utilized an obscure parliamentary maneuver that cut the debate short). Once things settled down, work finally commenced on debating and voting on the amendments to the bill (originally, 144 had been filed). In the end, only 53 amendments were considered, 23 were adopted, 10 were defeated and 20 were withdrawn. The First Focus Campaign for Children actively supported a number of amendments, some were adopted, some were withdrawn and others, to our disappointment, were rejected altogether. Here is a list of the amendments which we were actively engaged in:
Amendments that were agreed to
- An amendment by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) would provide educational stability for children in foster care. Furthermore, it allows students in foster that are experiencing a transition in housing to remain in their current school if it is in their best interest. It also requires the collaboration between child welfare liaisons and schools in order to meet the needs of children and youth in foster care.
- An amendment by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) on out-of-school youth would address the drop-out issue by tracking students as they transition from 8th grade to high school for the purposes of painting a clear picture of the dropout magnitude (States would know exactly who these students are and why they are dropping out). The amendment would only track students within a school district.
- An amendment by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) would increase access to high-quality courses for low-income students. The amendment institutes a 5 year grant program which would fund instruction in such subjects as the arts, civics, foreign languages, geography, economics, and social studies, among others. These funds are especially important given the fiscal crises states and school boards are facing. Tightened budgets have led to cuts in funding for these essential subjects, especially in districts that serve lower income populations.
Amendments that were rejected
- An amendment by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) would define a teacher as being “Highly Qualified” on the basis of having completed a State-approved traditional or alternative teacher-preparation program, having passed a State-approved teacher performance assessment and obtaining credentialing (certification) in their respective subject matter. While we were incredibly disappointed with the outcome on this particular amendment, we will continue to stand behind the rationale of this amendment with the goal of giving our most vulnerable students access to fully-prepared (and fully effective) teachers on the first day of school.
- In relationship to the previous amendment, another amendment by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) would increase student access to Highly Qualified Teachers (equitable distribution). The State would provide technical assistance to school districts for the equitable distribution of Highly Qualified teachers with the goal of decreasing teacher attrition and building capacity within schools with a high concentration of students that are poor, students of color, English learners and students with disabilities. To our great displeasure, this amendment was also not agreed to.
For complete coverage on all the amendments, click here.
After months of negotiations, not to mention that we have waited for reauthorization since 2007 (the year NCLB expired), all of a sudden there is a dramatic rush to revamp the law by the holidays (the bill is over 800 pages long and the mark-up lasted less than two days). We have waited this long just so they can rush through a reauthorization with a bill that is far from perfect and that the First Focus Campaign for Children (and several other education advocacy groups) cannot wholeheartedly support in its current form. As we move toward a Senate floor vote, there is always a chance that the bill may become even worse with off-committee amendments being offered that place politics ahead of sound education policy (in this world, so it so difficult to separate the two). As the process moves forward, the First Focus Campaign for Children will continue to be engaged so issues such as developing a national strategy on early childhood education, integrated supports and services for students and parents, Highly Qualified Teachers and maintaining accountability on students are all revisited. To say the least, a rocky process continues to lie ahead.
Even though the American Jobs Act was voted down in the Senate last week, portions of the bill have been broken up into derivative pieces that are currently moving through Senate. On one end, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)demonstrated critical leadership on the school facilities front by introducing the FAST Act of 2011. The bill provides assistance for the modernization, renovation, and repair of public school buildings and community colleges across the nation. The bill emerges at a crucial time as states and school districts continue to feel the impact of the economic crisis, forcing schools to endure budget cutbacks, preventing districts from addressing the school maintenance and repair backlog, and from making energy conservation and efficiency improvements. According to the Government Accountability Office and the American Society of Civil Engineers, school districts have been under-spending on maintenance and repair for many years. Conservative estimates indicate that the accumulated backlog of deferred maintenance and repair amount to at least $270 billion. By proposing $25 billion to modernize infrastructure of thousands of schools, not only does it create jobs but it also upgrades classrooms in order to meet the educational needs of our students.
On a second front, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Teacher and First Responder Back to Work Act, which provides funding ($30 billion) to help prevent teacher layoffs and create or save additional jobs (almost 400,000) in public early childhood, elementary, and secondary education, including school counselors, school social workers, paraprofessionals and librarians. Aside from the professionals who work in early education and K-12 school settings, the next group of people to feel the immediate sting of decrepit learning facilities, over-crowded classrooms and the elimination of integrated services, is our students.
The First Focus Campaign for Children is actively involved in supporting both measures as a sorely needed one-two punch: immediate job creation during a struggling economy while also improving educational outcomes for our students so they may become college and career ready. Nevertheless, both measures appear to face an incredible uphill battle – unfortunately, obtaining the 60 votes needed on either measure might not be possible. In fact, it has already proven difficult to have every Senate Democrat on board for both bills - last night the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Menendez bill by a vote of 50-50 (with two Dems voting with the Republicans).
When do we finally give the American public and our students a break during such challenging times? Shouldn’t we loosen our belt to assist American households that continue to tighten theirs? Measures such as these should have been passed months ago yet “cuts” continues to be the buzz-word of the year. This is the context that defines the political environment on Capitol Hill with fewer and fewer congressional members willing to put themselves out there for the needs of our children, youth and families. Given all this, we applaud the efforts of Senator Brown and Senator Menendez for going out on a limb and doing something that provides a huge benefit to our students, teachers and schools - so helpful but apparently unpopular.
After eight months of negotiations between Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY), an agreement for a base bill for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA or No child Left Behind) was finally reached. While the draft for the base bill was released a few days ago, an updated version of the bill with manger’s amendments has recently been posted this week. For educators, parents, students, community stakeholders and education advocates, they have waited for this moment since 2007, the year that No Child Left Behind expired. For a moment, it seemed as if hopes for a comprehensive reauthorization on the Senate side were dwindling away. While several education advocates were busy trying to determine the progress of the Senate HELP Committee, other entities were moving along in the face of inaction, each marking a different path toward revamping our cornerstone federal law on education:
- The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has moved forward with a piecemeal approach to reauthorization, having passed three bills through committee (program elimination, funding flexibility between the titles of ESEA, and a charter schools bill) but only one was done in a bi-partisan fashion. Teacher quality and accountability are next on the list.
- The Department of Education recently issued a State waiver program for flexibility on ESEA - States will receive ESEA flexibility if they submit a plan that meets all the rigorous and comprehensive requirements in the three critical areas that are designed to improve outcomes for all students, close achievement-gaps, and improve the quality of instruction. In addition, States will be granted a waiver for the duration of a two-year window. 41 states have now expressed their interest in applying for a waiver.
- Senate Republicans Alexander (R-TN), Isakson (R-GA), Kirk (R-NC) and Burr (R-NC) introduced a series of their own bills to reauthorize ESEA which focused on providing more support for local flexibility for states. They closely resemble what the House is working on.
Nevertheless, ESEA reauthorization via the Senate HELP Committee is now moving through the Senate with the first committee mark-up of the bill scheduled for today, October 19th. Although the current draft is far from perfect, education advocacy groups weighed in on the base bill which implemented new changes coupled with compromises made between Senate HELP staffers (presumably to keep Republican HELP members from walking away from the table and keeping this a bi-partisan effort). The revised Harkin-Enzi bill contains the following new changes:
- It scales back the issues of teacher evaluation and equity; states now have the option under the competitive Teacher Improvement Fund (TIF) to implement teacher/principal evaluation based on student achievement, as well as distributing teachers equitably among high-poverty and high-minority schools based on their effectiveness.
- It would scrap the centerpiece for school accountability – Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Instead, States would have to demonstrate that they are making “continuous improvement” (how exactly do we measure this for tracking progress on English Learners, Student with special needs, students living in poverty and students of color?).
- Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation (i3) and Promise Neighborhoods would be enshrined into federal law – all of which are President Obama’s reform initiatives.
- Additional room is offered with the school turnaround practices with a whole school reform model being included in the mix.
It is our understanding that 144 amendments have been filed in anticipation of this Wednesday’s ESEA mark-up, thus, as the process moves forward we’ll have a better sense of where all this is going. Several groups have expressed serious concerns on the bill (including First Focus Campaign for Children), others have given approval and yet some are opposing the whole piece altogether. Nevertheless, we will continue to advocate directly for legislative change in ESEA to ensure that good policy overcomes politics and therefore comprehensively meeting the needs of our children, youth and families in federal policy decisions.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (S. 952), introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), is legislation that provides certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. with the opportunity to earn their legal status through higher education or military service. The companion bill in the House of Representatives is the American Dream Act (H.R. 1842) and was introduced by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). The bill was re-introduced in March 2011.