by email from the Brustein & Manasevit - Federal Update (B&M is the California Department of Ed’s legislative advocate in D.C).
House Passes ESEA Reauthorization
4:45 pm 10Jul2015 :: After nearly nine years of failed attempts and false starts, the U.S. House of Representatives managed to pass, in just one day, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). GOP leaders originally attempted to bring the bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), to a vote in February, but pulled the legislation at the last minute when they realized they did not have the votes to pass it. On Wednesday, after clearing the necessary amendments, the bill passed by a vote of 218-213.
The House bill modifies current ESEA accountability requirements related to student achievement by eliminating the requirement to determine adequate yearly progress (AYP) and the requirement to apply a specified set of outcome accountability provisions to failing schools and local educational agencies (LEAs). H.R. 5 would, however, continue to require that States have standards and assessments for reading, mathematics, and science. Those assessments would measure student academic achievement, but measuring student growth would be optional. Further, while the bill continues to require States to identify the lowest performing schools, it would not require that a certain number or percentage of schools be identified as low performing.
The Student Success Act establishes a new option for distributing ESEA Title I-A funds to LEAs and schools (commonly referred to as portability or the State option). Under the State option, Title I-A LEA grants would be calculated by ED using the four formulas prescribed by the current statute. However, once the grants were calculated, each State would have the option to reallocate the total amount of Title I-A funds that were “earned” by the LEAs in the State under the current law formulas using a new formula.
States would be permitted to redistribute all of the Title I-A funds received to LEAs based on each LEA’s share of enrolled eligible children. Under this option, any LEA or any public school that enrolled at least one eligible child would receive Title I-A funds. House Democrats harshly criticized this language as it could take funds away from poorer schools in certain districts. President Obama has issued a veto threat for any bill that comes to his desk with this language included.
H.R. 5 would eliminate the maintenance of effort (MOE) provision currently included in the ESEA. This would allow States and LEAs to receive ESEA funds without any requirements related to their level of spending for public K-12 education. This would allow States and LEAs to decrease their spending for public education by more than the 10% currently allowed each year, though it is impossible to know how many States would actually choose to do so.
The House bill also eliminates the current highly qualified teacher (HQT) requirement, as well as the ESEA provision to ensure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers. While the bill backs away from the HQT requirement, it would allow LEAs to use Title II-A funds for the development and implementation of teacher or school leader evaluation systems. States could also use Title II-A funds to provide technical assistance to any LEAs implementing such a system.
The House bill eliminates, among others, the following grant programs authorized under ESEA:
- School Improvement Grants
- Striving Readers
- Advanced Placement
- School Leadership
- Math and Science Partnerships
- Transition to Teaching
- Ready-to-Learn Television
- Safe and Drug-Free Schools
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers
- Fund for the Improvement of Education
- Teacher Incentive Fund
- Preschool Development Grants
- Promise Neighborhoods
- Elementary and Secondary School Counseling
- Javits Gifted and Talented
- Carol M. White Physical Education Program
- Arts in Education
- Grants for State Assessments and Enhanced Assessment Instruments
In place of these eliminated programs, H.R. 5 includes a new block grant program (the Local Academic Flexible grant) that would be authorized annually at $2.3 billion and would provide formula grants to States. This grant would be designed to support activities aiming to improve academic achievement and student engagement and protect student safety, and would afford States and eligible entities (which include LEAs) considerable flexibility in how funds are used.
Under the new block grant program, States would be required to use at least 75% of the funds received to award competitive grants to eligible entities which include partnerships of LEAs, community-based organizations (CBOs), institutions of higher education (IHEs), business entities, and nongovernmental entities. All partnerships would be required to include at least one LEA. In addition, the State would be required to use not less than 8% of the funds received to award competitive grants to non-government entities.
States may reserve not more than 17% of the funds received for “State activities and administration.” For instance, in addition to using funds for administrative costs, States could use funds for developing standards and assessments, administering assessments, monitoring and evaluating programs and activities receiving funding, providing training and technical assistance, implementing statewide academic focused programs, sharing evidence-based and other effective strategies, and awarding grants for blended learning projects.
Grants to LEAs and other eligible entities could be used for:
- Supplemental student support activities (e.g., before or after school activities, summer school activities, tutoring, expanded learning time) but not athletics or in-school learning activities; and
- Activities to support students (e.g., academic subject specific programs, adjunct teacher programs, extended learning time programs, parent engagement) but not class-size reduction, construction, or staff compensation.
All eligible entities that submit an application that meets the requirements of the grant application process would receive a grant of at least $10,000. An LEA could only receive one grant award per year, but the grant could support multiple projects. Grants to non-governmental entities would be required to be used for a program or project to increase the academic achievement of public school students attending a public elementary or secondary school. Grantees would be required to provide non-federal matching funds equal to or not less than 50% of the grant amount.
During the debate on the House floor, five amendments were also adopted:
- Representatives Rokita (R-IN) and Grothman (R-WI): Sets the bill’s authorization from fiscal year 2016 through 2019.
- Representative Zeldin (R-NY): Clarifies that States may withdraw from the Common Core State Standards or any other State standards without any penalty from the Secretary of Education.
- Representative Hurd (R-TX): Expresses the sense of Congress that students’ personally identifiable information should be kept private and secure.
- Representative Loebsack (D-IA): Creates a new digital learning program for rural schools.
- Representative Salmon (R-AZ): Allows parents to opt their student out of the testing required under the Act and exempts schools from including students that have opted out in the schools’ participation requirements.
Believe it or not, passing the bill was the easy part. The House must now wait for the Senate to complete action on its own ESEA bill, which is currently on the Senate floor. More than 100 amendments have been offered in the Senate, so it may take more than week for the Senate to bring the bill to a final vote on the floor. Assuming the Senate passes its own bill, the two bills are far enough apart on certain issues that a conference to reconcile the two bills will likely take a while to complete. With the August recess approaching, the chances of seeing a final bill ready for the President’s signature before October are slim. Even then, depending on what bill makes it through both chambers, the President’s signature is far from guaranteed
Jeffrey Kuenzi and Rebecca Skinner, “ESEA Reauthorization Proposals in the 114th Congress: Selected Key Issues,” Congressional Research Service, May 14, 2015.
On Tuesday, the Senate began consideration of S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). More than 100 amendments have either been introduced or at least mentioned by certain Senators. A number of votes have already taken place, and many more are expected over the next week. While the House was able pass its own ESEA bill in a single day, the Senate may take two weeks or longer to get a final vote on the bill.
While Tuesday’s debate focused simply on various issues and planned amendments, votes began at noon on Wednesday. During the first full day of consideration, the Senate approved the following amendments:
- Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS): Strengthens the role of school librarians and effective school library programs;
- Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX): Allows districts to use Title IX funds to pay for fiscal support teams to better allocate limited administrative resources;
- Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD): Requires the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study regarding elementary and secondary education in rural and poverty areas of Indian country;
- Senator Jon Tester (D-MT): Restores four programs eliminated in the underlying bill that are aimed at improving education for Native American students;
- Senator Patty Murray (D-WA): Requires schools to report spending differences on girls' and boys' sports, as well as report on the number of coaches and personnel for girls' and boys' athletic teams; and
- Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO): Directs the comptroller to conduct an effectiveness study of all programs under ESEA.
Debate continued on Thursday, along with another group of amendments that were approved, including:
- Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA): Prohibits States from a practice known as "passing the trash," in which a school allows a known child molester to resign quietly and helps that person find a new teaching job;
- Senator Sherrod Brown (R-OH): Allows the use of federal funds to put school coordinator resources in schools;
- Senator Rob Portman (D-OR): Provides supports for students addicted to drugs;
- Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA): Makes career and technical education (CTE) a core subject;
- While the underlying bill eliminates the HQT requirements, adding CTE as a core subject would allow LEAs to use funds for extended learning time on CTE activities, among other uses;
- Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): Allows school authorities to certify that a student is homeless;
- Senator Joe Manchin, (D-WV): Allows schools to use federal funds on programs that promote volunteerism and community service;
- Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE): Prevents federal intrusion into how local schools are governed;
- Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO): Allows funds to be used for dual or concurrent enrollment programs;
- Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO): Allows teachers certified in one State to teach in other States without completing additional licensures;
- Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY): Increases access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for underrepresented groups of students;
- Senator Bob Casey (D-PA): Ensures that if a child with disabilities needs an adaptive device to take a test that the child is familiar with the device before the test day;
- Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): Allows districts to create STEM specialty schools or STEM specific programs within schools; and
- Senator Dean Heller (R-NV): Requires States to submit their Title I and Title II plans to governors for review.
While some of the amendments that passed, and quite a few that did not, did generate some heated debate, some of the more controversial amendments have yet to hit the floor. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is planning to offer an amendment that would replace the four funding formulas currently used under Title I with a single formula that places more weight on poverty numbers than population. While all but 15 States would get more funding under this proposal, according to the Congressional Research Service, many districts would likely lose money. Many Senators have already come out against the amendment. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) went so far as to say he would use every legislative tool in the tool box to ensure the amendment fails.
Debate and consideration of the various amendments will continue next week. Once the Senate has a final bill, it can go to conference with the House to reconcile the differences between the two bills. Considering how far apart the two bills are on certain provisions, it may be quite a while before the two chambers can generate a bill that will win approval on both sides of the Capitol.
Lauren Camera, “Senate Rejects School Voucher Amendment During ESEA Debate,” Education Week: Politics K-12, July 8, 2015.
Lauren Camera, “Senate Rebuffs ESEA Amendment to Let States Opt Out of Federal Accountability,” Education Week: Politics K-12, July 9, 2015.