In the interest of sharing more than less, we are posting NEA’s positions on selected amendments to S. 1094, Strengthening America’s School Act (ESEA Reauthorization). The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is marking up S 1094 over the next couple of days.
(Amendments in each section listed alphabetically by sponsor with Title of bill first and amendment number second)
Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.
NEA Strongly Supports:
√ Burr Amendment (#2 – 1) – To amend Title II to prioritize formula funds that are directed toward the education of students in poverty.
√ Isakson Amendment (1 – 1) – To permit parents and educators to determine appropriate standards and assessments. This amendment lifts the arbitrary cap on assessing students with disabilities and allows the individualized education plan team, along with the parent or guardian, to determine the best tools to assess the academic achievement and growth of the student.
√ Warren Amendment (1 – 1) – To amend a provision relating to charter schools. Charter schools are public schools and should be held to the same accountability standards. This amendment both clarifies current law and forecloses any possibility of a future Department of Education interpreting statutory language in a way so as to exempt charter schools from Title I accountability provisions. It eliminates the possibility of future ambiguity.
√ Baldwin Amendment (#1 – 1) – To require reporting of Career and Technical education programs. The amendment includes career readiness measures in school report cards as well as equity report cards to gauge student preparedness for industry recognized credentials and in addition to student participation in programs. We support strategies that provide students with real career pathways and prioritize inclusion of underrepresented students in career and technical education programs.
√ Baldwin Amendment (#4 – 1) – To amend Part C of Title IV to provide access to agricultural education programs. Providing students with a more comprehensive curriculum and fostering opportunities for them to see the connection between school and career after graduation improves student achievement and encourages students to stay in school. The addition of agricultural education programs in the list of covered subjects will help students access a well-rounded, real world education.
√ Bennet Amendment (#11 – 1) – To create Office of Rural Education. We support a strong rural educational system and the preservation of the community infrastructure in rural America. We recognize that rural areas face a unique set of challenges that may not apply to non-rural districts and, as such, are often overlooked and/or ignored. To ensure that the needs of our rural schools are not discounted, we support the creation of an Office of Rural Education within the Department of Education. The Office of Rural Education will shed light on the unique challenges faced by our rural school districts and ensure that rural district needs are addressed and mitigated.
√ Franken Amendment (Titles 1/2/4 – 1) – To promote dual enrollment programs. We support expansion of students’ educational options as well as efforts to ensure postsecondary readiness, including expansion of dual enrollment programs and early college high schools. This amendment also provides access to advance placement and International Baccalaureate courses and includes services to assist students with the transition to post-secondary education.
√ Hagan Amendment (1 – 1) – To promote increased learning time in certain schools. We support the collaboration among school leaders, educators, and extended learning time professionals to implement expanded learning time. Expanded learning time provides the much needed time and attention many of our students need to succeed and is an integral part of closing the achievement gap. However, it is imperative that all school changes be driven by a needs analysis, rather than a prescribed set of models, and in conjunction with school leaders, educators, and extended learning time professionals.
√ Murkowski Amendment (1 – 2) – To amend Part B of Title I to improve school dropout prevention provisions. The amendment, based in large part on the Early Intervention for Graduation Success Authorization Act of 2011, provides support for early intervention strategies including bolstering early childhood services and expanding community engagement and collaboration. It also is focused on individual learning plans, increasing average freshman graduate rates, and early childhood educator tuition assistance. We support dropout prevention strategies that focus on acting early so students stay in school.
√ Murkowski Amendment (7 – 1) – To amend Title VII relating to Alaska Natives. The amendment, among other things, strengthens partnerships between non-Alaska Native grantees and their required Alaska Native organization partners.
√ Murphy Amendment (4 – 1) – To provide financial assistance for school construction after a violent or traumatic crisis. We support funding and assistance to schools in which the learning environment has been disrupted due to a violent or traumatic crisis. We believe all students and educators deserve facilities that are conducive to teaching and learning without fear for their safety and health.
√ Murray Amendment (1 – 1) – To allow for data collection for military-connected students. We support equity in education for all students and believe that every child has a right to great public schools by supporting funding to vulnerable populations. The data collected will be used to identify needed resources for military-connected children.
√ Murray Amendment (1 – 2) – To require schools to collect and report data on interscholastic sports. We support equity in education, gender equity in athletic programs and equal access to higher education. Data collection of interscholastic sports spending by gender would help to ensure equality in funding for facilities, equipment, staff and program administration.
√ Roberts Amendment (5 – 1) – To repeal Race to the Top because Congress has not fully funded IDEA. Irrespective of any discussion on the merits or deficiencies of the Race to the Top (RTTT) program, core, foundational formula-allocated programs, such as IDEA Part B, have been underfunded for years, and need to be re-established as the priorities that they are. In the current year, 2013, the federal share of the excess cost of educating students with disabilities is less than 15 percent—well short of the federal commitment to provide up to 40 percent. Since 2009, the federal share of support for IDEA Part B has declined each year.
√ Warren Amendment (5 – 1) – To establish a college information demonstration program. The amendment provides high needs schools with resources to offer information about the costs and enrollment requirements for college. We believe that anyone who is qualified and interested in post-secondary education should have the opportunity, regardless of ability to pay or get access to information.
NEA Strongly Opposes:
× Alexander Amendment (#1 – 2) – To allow title I funds to follow low-income children to the public school they attend. In what is purported as a simple fix to the current law’s comparability provision, in fact, would do harm to students attending schools with concentrated poverty. This option does not account for the weights used in the current formula to ensure districts with concentrated poverty receive greater allocations in order to address the extra challenges these districts face. If the intent of the amendment is to help disadvantaged students, then sufficiently funding Title I, Part A, which still remains more than $10 billion below the last year authorized—2007 under current law, and about $20 billion below what the Congressional Research Service has estimated as the full funding level, would do much more to ensure that children in poverty receive the supplemental services they need to achieve on par with their wealthier peers. Better still would be support for federal funding to encourage states to adopt school finance systems that target funding to students based on their needs—a far more powerful step the federal government could take to address current inequities in school funding.
× Paul Amendment (All Titles – 1) – To repeal the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
× Paul Amendment (1 – 1) – To amend Title I to allow funds to follow low-income children to public or private schools. We oppose public funding of private schools. And, by authorizing direct payment to private schools, including religious schools, the proposal potentially violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The opinion in Simmons-Harris v. Zelman addressed only such situations where public funds are disbursed to parents, who then make a free and independent choice to take those vouchers to religious schools.
× Alexander Amendment (All Titles – 1) – Substitute to S. 1094. The Alexander substitute has many positives, including setting high goals and aligning standards to college and career readiness; removing the failed AYP framework and associated interventions; allowing multiple measures’ preserving data disaggregation and transparency; promoting early identification of at-risk students; and focusing resources on homeless, neglected and delinquent students. However, the amendment authorizes an inadequate level of funding for public education and maintains a continued focus on grade level, as opposed to grade span testing, so that students and teachers may see no less testing under this bill as under NCLB. The amendment creates a federal menu of unproven interventions, such as school closure and conversion to charters, with no clear limits on where they can be applied. The amendment takes too much authority away from the Secretary, who needs authority to ensure equity The amendment provides weak and inadequate charter school and authorizer accountability, consolidates too many programs, allows a Title I portability option that that will harm children attending schools with concentrated poverty, and provides too much authority to transfer funds between programs. The amendment has a troublesome public school choice option, repeals maintenance of effort, and removes the “savings clause” which protects educators’ rights to have a voice in their workplace through collective bargaining and other agreements.
The Alexander substitute has some strong elements in the area of teacher quality, including providing flexible and less prescriptive support for teacher quality initiatives in the states. However there are several critical issues that make it not possible to support. The amendment seems to completely eliminate any reference to Highly Qualified Teacher leaving no avenue to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are being taught by adequately prepared teachers. The amendment does this while also supporting the expansion of alternative routes though no clarity or direction as to how states would define the “teacher-of-record”. Through the TIF fund, the amendment promotes performance-based pay and differential pay based significantly on student test scores. The teacher evaluation language in the amendment requires states to base systems in “significant” part on what would clearly be value-added state test results.
× Alexander Amendment (Titles 1/2/3/4/5/9 – 3) – To eliminate Highly Qualified Teacher requirements and encourage SEAs/LEAs to develop and implement teacher and principal evaluation systems. We believe strongly that high standards should be maintained for educators before they teach and setting a framework of teacher evaluation that is based on multiple measures including evidence of student learning and teacher classroom observations. The Alexander amendment would eliminate the balanced performance growth and improvement system and replace it with an evaluation overly weighted on student achievement data. In addition, there would be no assurance that educators would be active participants in the creation of their own evaluations.
× Burr Amendment (Titles 1/2/4/5/11 – 1) – To eliminate duplicative, wasteful programs. It would eliminate funding for high-needs schools and students who have been under-represented.
× Burr Amendment (#1 – 2) – To eliminate earmarks for “multi-million dollar corporations.” This would actually add fees for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program opportunities.
× Burr Amendment (#5 – 1) – To amend the Charter Schools Program. The amendment would remove an incentive for regular comprehensive reviews of a charter school’s performance by its authorizer, potentially permitting charters of unlimited duration. Long-term charters can allow poor student academic outcomes, financial mismanagement or other problems in particular schools – which can in some cases lead to closures which are highly disruptive for students, families and communities – to fester, rather than more likely be addressed promptly, with less harm done to those affected.
× Burr Amendment (11 – 1) – To adjust student loan rates. The amendment would shift student loan rates (Stafford and PLUS loans) to market rates plus three percent. We oppose making college more costly for students and families in order to reduce the deficit. This issue should be handled in the Higher Education Act reauthorization, not ESEA.
× Enzi Amendment (1 – 1) – To eliminate Federal mandates on how states / LEAs identify and improve low-performing public schools. Provides a substitute accountability and school improvement system that, while avoiding the prescriptive and unfunded federal performance targets in NCLB, contemplates short-sighted personnel changes and unproven improvement strategies for struggling schools without benefit of educators’ judgment as part of the decision-making process.
× Isakson Amendment (1 – 2) – To limit required reporting on school performance. We believe that a quality education maintains optimal conditions for teaching and learning and is informed by data on classroom and school ecology including: 1) class size; 2) disaggregated subgroup data recording behavior and behavioral interventions; 3) incidents of student bullying and harassment; 4) positive behavior intervention; 5) specialized instructional support personnel; 6) teacher turnover rate; and 7) percentage of teachers teaching out of field. The removal of such data points erects a barrier to equity and academic achievement.
× Murkowski Amendment (1 – 1) – To amend Part A of Title I. While promoting several NEA priorities including locally determined turnaround systems based on supports and research, enhancing parental involvement, high-quality professional development, and other positive strategies, the amendment creates an accountability system with arbitrary performance targets that continues to promote failed interventions such as supplemental services. The amendment would also do nothing to reduce the amount of testing. In addition, the amendment includes multiple provisions that impact educator pay and working conditions but ignores the role of collective bargaining agreements in states with collective bargaining laws and downgrades the role of teacher representatives in non-bargaining states. It also creates a new standard for a definition of highly effective teacher and a rushed implementation date of 2014.
× Paul Amendment (All Titles – 2) – To prohibit the enforcement of any mandates in the bill.
× Paul Amendment (4 – 1) – To prohibit the use of federal funds for any mandatory mental health screening program. We have a responsibility to every student to provide the opportunity to learn in a high quality school setting. We current provide universal screenings in speech language development, levels of performance and it is imperative that we meet students’ needs and provide healthy and safe learning environments.
× Paul Amendment (2 – 1) – To repeal Title II and all programs related to teacher quality and professional development, and reporting requirements regarding teacher credentials.
× Paul Amendment (11 – 1) – To allow a state to opt-out of K-12 grant programs and provide a credit to the taxpayers of that state.
× Paul Amendment (11 – 2) – To require the average salary of Department of Education employees be the same as the average salary of teachers by Jan. 1, 2015.
× Paul Amendment (11 – 3) – To exempt special education teachers from the Highly Qualified Teacher requirements.
× Paul Amendment (11 – 4) – To prohibit the Department of Education from establishing national standards or a national curriculum.