Actions of the week for 3/12/15

Keep up the pressure on Congress and ESEA!

Yes, we’re sounding like a broken record, but the nation has been waiting for a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for 8 years, and we’re likely to get one within the next month or so, which means that the next 2-3 weeks are our last and best opportunity to have any significant effect on federal K-12 education policy for a long time to come.

It’s real now, folks.

What’s happening in the House

The House already has a bill on the floor. HR 5, the Republican version, has little to recommend itself to us (see PAA’s position chart on HR 5 here).

Although HR 5 was pulled from consideration for lack of votes on Feb. 27, we hear that it may come back on the floor as soon as next week.

Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, offered a substitute amendment which has a few attractive features. The amendment:
  • requires reporting of the resources given to schools and other indicators beyond test scores to be included in school accountability systems;
  • does not allow HR 5’s fund “portability” — which simply opens the door to vouchers;
  • allows for piloting of performance-based assessment systems; and
  • restores the requirement for “maintenance of effort,” which is a way of keeping funding at current levels and prohibiting states and districts from cutting back on other funding by simply replacing it with federal funds.

But this amendment doesn’t do enough to address problems with standardized testing, charter school proliferation, and other problems brought on by NCLB.

What’s happening in the Senate

A Senate ESEA bill has yet to come out of the Senate education committee, where Republicans and Democrats say they are trying to produce a bipartisan bill. We hear that the target date for a bill is the second week of April, after a Congressional spring break. There is a decent chance that annual testing will be removed from the Senate proposal in favor of grade-span testing.

PAA has prepared another 1-page chart with our positions on testing and other elements of committee chair Lamar Alexander’s ESEA proposal.

What you can do

1) Use this handy form from FairTest to contact your Senators on grade span testing.

2) Call your Senator’s district office and make an appointment to see him/her and/or his/her aide during the upcoming break, March 30-April 10. In-person visits by constituents are one of the most effective ways to influence your representatives.

3) Keep working on your House reps. Dissension in the Republican ranks, including those who want to do away with the Department of Education and Common Core/national testing entirely, gives us time and some opportunity to keep pressing our points as outlined in our 1-page chart. So, consider making an appointment with your Congressperson during the break. Even if HR 5 has passed by then, there will be negotiations between the Senate and the House on any final ESEA bill, so House votes will still be important.

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in LATEST newsletter and action of the week

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