Thursday, July 16, 2015

ESEA is moving

I haven't done an update on the Elementary and Secondary Education update in some time; for awhile it seemed as if it were going nowhere. The House, however, narrowly passed a version of it during the first week of July, and the Senate will probably do so today. A few things of note:

  • The House bill (which they called "the Student Success act") was unanimously opposed by Democrats and had significant opposition from some Republicans (27 voted against it). That was for different reasons, of course: in the case of the Democrats, much of the concern came around the perceived lessening of accountability provisions, particularly with regard to low income students and students of color (both of whom have not fared well in some states when such things are left entirely to the states). The conservative Republicans who opposed the bill in many cases did so due to concerns about federal overreach in general. Testing in every grade 3-8 and in grade 10 is still required, as is publicizing results as a body and for subgroups. The bill passed includes an amendment providing that students whose parents opt them out of mandated testing are not counted against the state; it also includes language that bars the federal government from requiring the Common Core be adopted (which it didn't. But...) It did not include an amendment that would change federal funding to block grants (which would have been a major headache for urban districts), but it caps federal spending, which is going to be a big issue, and it includes Title I "portability," meaning that the low income funding follows the child, even to a higher income district. More details on what was in it here and here.
  • While the Senate bill is more bipartisan to begin with, Senator Murphy of Connecticut proposed an amendment which would add in requirements that schools intervene in the lowest 5% of schools and specified subgroup reporting; it failed. I saw some debate yesterday on Twitter on just what that will end up meaning. At this point, there's not a lot of bargaining points in the Senate version of the bill for when it goes to conference committee; this would have been one. Also, watch the Burr amendment today, which would change how Title I works. 
  • At this point, the President has promised to veto both bills as proposed. While it may be possible to hammer out something that can make it through both houses (the Democrats don't seem to have the votes to block it in the Senate), it's not clear that they can come up with something he'll sign.
And an important point for those watching from Massachusetts: remember that "local control" when they say it in D.C. means the state. Whatever happens in Washington, we'll still be dealing with Malden. 

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