both reports excerpted from from the Brustein & Manasevi Federal Update - prepared to inform B&M PLLC’s legislative clients of recent events in federal education legislation and/or administrative law.
House Committee Approves ESEA Reauthorization: Testing is saved, AYP is gone, Funding is cut. Title I is tossed out with the bathwater
White House Report Harsh on Title I Portability, Funding in House ESEA Bill
13 Feb 2015 :: In a markup that lasted nearly ten hours, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved legislation that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) was approved on a party-line vote, receiving no support from Democrats. Democrats were critical of the legislation and the process throughout the markup, stating multiple times that they believed it would hurt the most vulnerable students.
The bill would eliminate the “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) requirement, allowing States to craft their own accountability and intervention systems. It would also eliminate the 40% poverty threshold for operating schoolwide programs under ESEA, and would allow States to set up systems where Title I dollars to follow disadvantaged students to the public school of their choice – a concept known as “portability.” The bill would also make changes to the current Title I formula, increasing the weight given to the percentage of low-income students in a school district. Additionally, it would allow States to move 100% of their funding (instead of 50%, as the current law allows) between Title II and Title IV of the law.
However, the bill would maintain the requirements for testing frequency in current law. It would also preserve the requirement that States disaggregate achievement data by student subgroups.
There were two amendments accepted during the markup that received bipartisan support. The first, offered by Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), would allow States to delay using test scores of English-language learners in accountability systems for two years in math and three years in reading and English/language arts. It passed 22-15. The second, offered by Representative Joe Heck (R-NV), would require States to report on the achievement of children of military families, adding a new student subgroup for the purposes of reporting and accountability. It was unanimously accepted by a voice vote.
Two amendments were withdrawn during the markup but are likely to come up again during further House debate. One, offered by Representative Luke Messer (R-IN), would have allowed Title I portability to be used at private schools. As expected, Democrats strongly opposed the proposal. Allowing Title I funds to flow to private schools is considered controversial, even for Republicans, which is why Messer ultimately withdrew the amendment. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) also withdrew an amendment that would have allowed States to audit the number and quality of tests given to students annually so that they can eliminate those that are repetitive or low-quality. Bonamici withdrew her amendment before it received a vote, hoping that changing its language will make it more acceptable for Republicans during floor debate.
The Committee approved two other amendments – one on student data privacy and another from newly-elected Representative David Brat (R-VA) that would require an economic study on how H.R. 5 would lead to a reduced federal role in education and recommendations for further funding reductions. Several other amendments failed to gain approval, and an amendment that would ban discrimination against students based on sexual orientation was ruled not germane to the bill.
The bill now awaits consideration by the full House, which is expected to begin the week of February 24th.
13 Feb 2015 :: A report issued today by the White House strongly criticizes legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), cleared Wednesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The report criticizes the set appropriation levels in the legislation, which would hold funding for all ESEA programs at approximately current levels through 2021. The White House says this would amount to an average effective cut of 15% in many high-poverty school districts given projected growth in population and need, and that some districts could see an effective cut as large as 74%.
But the report saves its harshest language for the proposed Title I “portability” provision in the bill. This provision would allow States to set up a system where Title I-A funds are allocated to districts, and then to schools, based on the number of poor students in attendance. According to the report, this change “would allow States to spread Title I funds thinly across the wealthiest districts, doing less good, while sending less funding to many districts that need it most” and would “undermine the half-century mission of Title I to provide critical support to the schools and districts with the highest concentrations of poverty.”
According to the White House, schools in districts with concentrations of poverty above 25% would lose up to $700 million in funding, while districts with the lowest concentrations of poverty would gain up to $470 million. Among those school districts the White House believes would see the biggest losses are Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
In the report, the White House also expresses concern that the House bill would walk back accountability for federal dollars, allowing “tens of billions of dollars to flow to States, districts, and schools without any expectation that States use that money to ensure that all students – including students with disabilities, English learners, and students from racial and ethnic minorities – are achieving at levels that will prepare them for a college and career by the time they finish high school.”