One Step Closer to ESEA Reauthorization

2015-07-09 | , National Association of School Psychologists

There has been a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill in the last 24 hours!  Despite abruptly pulling it from the floor in February, the House passed the Student Success Act on Wednesday evening.  The Senate has begun formal consideration of the Every Child Achieves Act and is expected to vote early next week. We still have time to influence the Every Child Achieves Act , so we'll cover that first. For a quck refresher, see this update from April.  As a reminder, we were successful in re-instating authorization for the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (yay!), during the mark-up.

Senator Alexander and Senator Murray (chair and ranking member of Senate HELP Committee) have done a truly remarkable job of collaborating and compromising to get this work done.  During the mark-up, Senator Alexander promised an open amendment process and he and Senator Murray have taken great care to ensure that every Senator has the opportunity to offer an amendment (or several), speak on its behalf, and call it to a vote.  Senators have taken them up on that promise as thus far, over 100 amendments have been filed, and we anticipate even more being filed today. Votes on amendments that are particularly important to NASP will come in the next few days (more on that later) but here’s a summary key votes so far. (You can read the text of each amendment here)

  • The Senate unanimously approved an amendment offered by Senator Reed that would encourage states and districts to integrate school library programs into their plans for improving student outcomes
  • The Senate rejected a proposal that would have allowed states to use Title I funds to award scholarships/vouchers to low income students to use at their discretion.
  • The Senate unanimously approved an amendment that allows Title IV funds to be used for a resource coordinator (this person could be an existing staff member) to help coordinate and integrate school based and community based services. NASP supported this effort!

What’s Next?

The Senate has many issues left to deal with, some of which could result in some heated debate among the Senators and within the education community at large.  Based on amendments that have currently been filed here we anticipate votes on the following issues.  We need your help in advocating for specific recommendations related to the issues in bold!!  Please contact your Senator! Click here to send them a letter and click here to call their office.

  • Assessment and accountability requirements
  • Anti-bullying policy
  • Discrimination protection for GLBQT students
  • Increased funds for school mental health programs
  • Social Emotional Learning initiatives
  • Parent right to opt students out of testing requirements
  • Vouchers for students with disabilities
  • Promise Neighborhoods
  • Charter school management
  • Career and Technical Education
  • Early learning opportunities
  • Student literacy
  • Supports for English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and other populations

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of these discussions!  

House Passage of the Student Success Act (H.R. 5)

By an incredibly slim margin, the House passed H.R. 5 with a vote of 218-213. NASP has voiced serious concernswith this bill and will continue to do so as the process moves forward.  HR 5 essentially dismantles NCLB and gives states and local school districts complete control over education decisions with little strings attached to funding. However, many advocates (NASP included), even those who support a weaker Federal education role, argued that HR 5 took too big of a step backwards on accountability, particularly the exact children that NCLB was designed to help- low income and minority children.  H.R. 5 did not receive support from a single democrat, which they will need as ESEA reauthorization moves forward. Changes will certainly be made, but as of now, here is a quick rundown of the major components of the Student Success Act. This bill would:

  • Continue to require annual assessments like the current law does, but allow parents to opt students out of testing requirements;
  •  Eliminate the current accountability system, known as "adequate yearly progress";
  •  Require states to disaggregate achievement data for subgroups of students;
  •  Require states to intervene in low performing Title I schools, but not tell states how or when to intervene or how many schools to try to fix at a time;
  •  Require states to set challenging academic standards in language arts, math, and science;
  • Prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from requiring states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, or any other set of standards;
  •  Eliminate NCLB's "highly qualified" teacher requirements and consolidate other teacher quality programs.

Further, this bill fails to recognize the importance of prevention and intervention services and eliminates or consolidates funding sources that are explicitly dedicated to ensuring access to these services (including the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program). NASP believes that this sends the message (albeit the wrong message) that effective teachers, high quality curriculum, and effective school leaders are the only necessary components to ensure student success.

If you are interested in learning more, check out this great post from EdWeek.

Check back in soon for a summary of Thursday and Friday's events!