Speaker Paul Ryan, Make ESEA Reauthorization Bill Public for 60 Days

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) after being sworn in.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) after being sworn in.

Because the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) will be the largest piece of federal education legislation Congress will pass in over a decade, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) should allow the bill to be made publicly available for at least 60 days before the House considers it.

The bill is not scheduled to be made publicly available until November 30th. Thus, a vote should not be scheduled until late January. Currently, it is scheduled for December 2; two days is clearly not sufficient. House members will be forced to vote on a bill they haven’t read.

The American people expected a new style of leadership under Speaker Ryan, not more of the same. If he allows a bill of this magnitude to become law without adequately vetting its merits and faults, it will affirm that the same ills that plagued Congress under Speaker Boehner remain fully intact.

While the conference committee hearing consisted mostly of members editorializing about how important it is to pass the bill, we did learn a little about the bill:

Neither the House version of the bill, the Student Success Act (SSA), nor the Senate version, the Every Child Achieves Act, were considered ideal to conservatives. In fact, the SSA barely passed the house amid complaints it didn’t do enough to restore power back to the states. The main incentive for conservatives to ignore less appealing aspects of the bill and pass it was the inclusion of a provision to allow the portability of Title 1 funds, which many believed important to the School Choice movement. The conference committee proceedings confirmed that Title 1 portability was no longer included in the new bill.

The conference committee proceedings also revealed that the new bill would increase spending by 12% over the next five years. Do conservatives think this increase is appropriate when our country is facing 18 trillion in debt? The federal government has increased spending on education by 300% since ESEA was passed with nothing to show for it; student test scores have remained flat.

High-stakes testing mandates are retained.

What we have heard, but can’t confirm:

The new bill is hundreds of pages longer than either prior version.

It contains new programs that weren’t in either prior version.

There is a new competitive grant for pre-schools- think Race to the Top for Tots

Very complex language that is unclear. This means the US Depart of Education will have tremendous leeway to interpret it to the advantage of the federal government. Because it has discretion over how to administer the law, unclear language makes it easier for the US Department of Education to justify and make decisions to place requirements on the states through its rule-making authority.

Survey: Where Does Your U.S. Representative Stand on Education?

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

We would like you to gather some information for us.  We would like to know where your U.S. Representative stands on education policy.  If you don’t know please take time to contact them with the questions below:

  1. Does your U.S. Representative support Common Core?
  2. Does your U.S. Representative support a federal testing mandate?
  3. Does your U.S. Representative believe parents have the right to opt their student out of assessments?
  4. Does your U.S. Representative support student data collection?
  5. Did your U.S. Representative vote for H.R. 5, the Student Success Act?

The first four questions the choices are: yes, no or not sure.  The “not sure” answer is that your U.S. Representative is not sure, not whether you are sure or not.  If you are not sure go find out!

We would like to be able to share this as a resource later on so your participation and research is appreciated!  You can fill the survey out here or use the form below.

Take Heart and Keep Fighting

Photo credit: Ian McWilliams (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Ian McWilliams (CC-By-2.0)

I read a quote from President Abraham Lincoln today that I think we can apply to our current situation fighting for sound education policy.  He said, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Some of us feel discouraged about the House approving H.R. 5, the Student Success Act last week, and the U.S. Senate yesterday passing S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act.  We need to “have faith that right makes might.” Our message is going out.  It is resonating.  Even if the votes didn’t go our way we are still making a difference in the national conversation. We are forcing our leadership, candidates, etc. to discuss federalism as applied to education.

Our opposition to Common Core was cited numerous times, that is something we didn’t see even two years ago.  Notice also that three of the four presidential candidates in the U.S. Senate (U.S. Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio) voted “no” on S.1177.  U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) didn’t vote at all.  We are making a difference, politicians are feeling the pressure we are bringing to bear as grassroots

So we need “to the end, dare to do our duty.”

Take heart.  Even this fight over No Child Left Behind is not finished.  The U.S. House and the U.S. Senate agreeing on a conference report reconciling their two bills is not certain.  President Obama may not yet sign any reauthorization.

If the bill does become law we will have to hold our elected officials accountable to what they promised us – greater local and state control.  If that does not happen we must hang them with their talking points.

Also, as far as the fight against Common Core is concerned, nothing has changed.  The battle has always been at the state level.  We need to continue to fight, but now we can not let legislators use the excuse of waivers or grants to do nothing (provided this bill passes).  We’ll also continue to encourage and support opting out of assessments as it is a parent’s natural right to decide that for their children.

Take heart, you are making a difference.  Let’s take a collective breath, put some dirt on it, get back up and get back into the fight. Our kids are too important for us to drop out.

House GOP Betrayed Parents Passing the Student Success Act

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

The Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives has worked a tremendous disservice on its members and the American children, parents, and taxpayers.  Yesterday, after heavy wrangling by Republican leadership, the House of Representatives passed HR5, the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

By failing to eliminate or even curb the federal testing mandates, the bill instead serves the testing industry rather than the people.  Under NCLB, that industry has grown to a $2 billion per year industry. As reported by PR Watch:

School testing corporations have spent at least $20 million on lobbying along with wining and dining—or even hiring—policymakers in pursuit of big revenues from federal and state testing mandates under “No Child Left Behind” measures and the Common Core curriculum, according to new analysis detailed in this Reporters’ Guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

Sadly, standardized tests provide very little instructional value, take up an enormous amount of true instructional time, and cost the states enormous amounts of money.

Furthermore, HR5 amounts to an assault of child privacy interests.  It removes protection against socioemotional profiling in the statewide assessments (eliminating NCLB’s prohibition against including assessment items that “evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes”). Not only does it fail to protect against psychological data-gathering, it actually dictates the type of Brave New World assessments that operate by compiling and analyzing psychological profiles on children.  Unlike NCLB, HR5 also requires assessment on behavioral/skills-based standards rather than solely academic standards.

HR5 also grants the US Department of Education power that it had appropriated for itself to advance its Race to the Top and NCLB waiver processes. There, the Department used grants and waivers to usher the states into the Common Core.  Those mechanisms were not guaranteed, as Texas never surrendered, but they were highly coercive and effective against just about every other state.  Under HR5, money is tied to the Department’s approval of a state education plan.  The state plan must include an accountability structure based upon the adopted standards and assessments to ensure “that all public school students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.”  The Department used this same language to define alignment with the Common Core Standards and required it for approval of NCLB waivers and grants. (HR5 reinforces this alignment criteria by including that language again in its Statement of Purpose.)  The use of this language in HR5 gives the federal government a powerful tool to push states to keep Common Core or, just as happened to Indiana, “re-branded” standards similar to Common Core.

Leadership points to language in the bill prohibiting federal overreach.  However, that language replicates existing prohibitions  –prohibitions that did not stop the federal government from driving Common Core into the states.  There is a central problem with these prohibitions:  they lack an enforcement mechanism for the states and leave the Department as the judge and jury of its own actions.

It is appalling that the Republican House of Representatives passed this 800-page bill – one of the most far-reaching pieces of domestic legislation – without holding many, if any, townhall meetings. Certainly, the effort that leadership spent arm-twisting its membership would have been better spent encouraging its members to meet with their constituents and giving them time in which to do so.

Is institutional arrogance rife across all three branches of the federal government? 

No Child Left Behind Rewrite Bill Update: Today is Crucial

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

I wanted to give you an update on the happenings surrounding ESEA reauthorizations.

First, remember that action is still needed. Call your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative by calling (202) 224-3121.

Yesterday “debate” (if you can really call it that) on S.1177 ended when the Senate adjourned after 6p (ET). They will gavel in at 10:00a (ET) and vote on amendments to the Every Child Achieves Act.  I haven’t seen all of the amendments.  U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) will offer an amendment that she said during debate will guarantee more local control.  I haven’t looked at it so I don’t know how strong it is.

I heard that U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will offer an amendment that will add A-PLUS language to the bill, which would block grant ESEA money to the states.  Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation offered a report in 2013 on how A-PLUS can rein in the Fed’s education power grab.  Is it ideal? Well, no, no federal education bill is ideal.  Having A-PLUS language added to S.1177 would be the next best scenario from having the bill killed (well, third best… the best bill would be the one repealing ESEA altogether).

Also, I already gave her a shout-out on social media, but do check out and share Joy Pullmann’s piece on the Every Child Achieves Act over at The Federalist.  Also be to check out American Principles in Action’s breakdown of this awful bill.

Also in the legislative grapevine the House NCLB rewrite, The Student Success Act (H.R. 5), will be voted on today at either 1:30p or 4:30p (ET).  Via an email sent out from the House Rules Committee here are the amendments that will be offered.  Be sure to check out American Principles in Action’s analysis of this bill.

These are new amendments:

6 Version 2 Walker (NC),DeSantis (FL) Republican Revised Adds A-PLUS, which would send funding back to states in the form of block grants, giving states the ability to direct the funding to any education purpose under state law.
129 Version 1 Salmon, (AZ), Republican Late Allows parents to opt their student out of the testing required under this bill and exempts schools from including students that have opted out in the schools’ participation requirements.
132 Version 1 Polis (CO) Democrat Late Requires states to have college- and career-ready standards and set performance, growth, and graduation rate targets for all student subgroups.  The amendment also includes performance targets for English Language Learners and students with disabilities
134 Version1 Rokita (IN),Grothman (WI) Republican Late Sets the authorization from fiscal year 2016 through 2019

These are amendments that have been debated, but still need a vote.

# Version Sponsor(s) Party Summary
2 Version 1 Thompson, Bennie (MS) Democrat Requires that The Student Success Act shall not go into effect until the Secretary of Education determines that its enactment will not reduce the college and career readiness of racial or ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, English learners, and low-income students and provides written notification to Congress on such determination.
8 Version 1 Grayson (FL) Democrat Requires the Secretary of Education to conduct an assessment of the impact of school start times on student health, well-being, and performance.
23 Version 2 Scott, Bobby (VA) Democrat SUBSTITUTE Revised This amendment repeals H.R 5 and replaces the bill text with a substitute amendment that provides robust funding levels, replaces the outdated, rigid mandates of No Child Left Behind, and maintains civil rights and equity protections that ensure all students graduate from high school college- and career-ready.
24 Version 1 Meng (NY)and Polis (CO) Democrat Authorizes- but does not appropriate funds – for the Secretary of Education to provide grants for: early-childhood education scholarships, professional development and licensing credentials, or increased compensation for educators who have attained specific qualifications. Requires each state that desires a grant to include a description of its comprehensive early childhood professional development system in its application, and grant recipients must maintain their fiscal effort for the activities supported by the grant funds for a fiscal year at levels equal to or greater than their fiscal effort for such activities during the preceding fiscal year.
40 Version 1 Moore, Gwen (WI), Davis, Danny K. (IL), Wilson (FL) Democrat Delays implementation of new Title II formula until the Secretary of Education determines that the implementation will not reduce funding for schools serving high percentages of students in poverty.
50 Version 1 Wilson (FL) Democrat Provides for school dropout prevention and reentry and provides grants to raise academic achievement levels for all students.
54 Version 2 Carson (IN) Democrat Revised Advances assessments of student achievement and instructional practices, effective teacher preparation and continuing professional development, education administration, and international comparisons. The amendment supports development of a national research strategy to ensure that students, particularly at risk students, have effective teachers and are being prepared for the future.
62 Version 2 Loebsack (IA) Democrat Revised Supports the expansion of the use of digital learning through competitive grants to partnerships to implement and evaluate the results of technology-based learning practices, strategies, tools, or programs at rural schools.
106 Version 1 Brownley (CA) Democrat Creates a grant program for states to create or expand biliteracy seal programs to recognize student proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in both English and a second language for graduating high school seniors.
110 Version 2 Wilson (FL) Democrat Revised Provides for Intensive Care Reading Labs and for specialization of school staffing for the purposes of basic skills in language arts, mathematics, and science in grades 1-3 as allowable uses in block grant funding.
111 Version 1 Zeldin (NY) Republican Allows a State to withdraw from the Common Core Standards or any other specific standards.
114 Version 2 Hurd (TX) Republican Late Revised Expresses the sense of Congress that students’ personally identifiable information is important to protect as applied to current law and this act.


Watch Out for the House NCLB Reauthorization Bill

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

EdWeek reported last week that House leadership could resurrect their No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act, as early as this week.

Months after Republican leaders in Congress yanked a GOP-backed Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization off the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives amid sinking support from their own caucus, they appear poised to call it up again.

As early as next week, according to sources, the Student Success Act could be brought to the floor under a new rule that allows members to vote on three new amendments in addition to final passage of the bill.

The momentum comes after a difficult three months of whipping the bill which began losing support from Republicans after the Club for Growth and Heritage Action—two powerful conservative lobby organizations—announced their opposition to it. The groups warned that if members voted in favor of the measure, it would count against them in a scoring rubric the organizations use to rate which members are most faithful to conservative principles of the GOP.

Among other things, the groups wanted to see provisions in the bill that would have pulled the federal government out of education entirely and would have allowed federal funds for low-income students to follow students to the school of their choice, including private schools.

Some members wanted to address those priorities by offering amendments like the proposed A-Plus Act, which lets states opt-out of accountability altogether, and others that deal with Title I portability. However, the rules committee, which decides how bills are debated on the House floor, did not allow members to offer such proposals when the bill was first debated back in February.

The Hill reports that Congressman Ryan Costello (R-PA) in a speech on the House floor last Wednesday called for the House to pick the bill back up and that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said it may return to the floor this month.

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) took to the House floor to call for a vote on the measure.

“We need to continue our work on this bill,” Costello said. “We owe it to our colleagues who have worked for months on the bill and underlying policy.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) indicated in a memo that the measure may return to the floor this month, but didn’t specify a date.

The Student Success Act has numerous problems as we have reported before and it needs to be severely amended (better yet totally scrapped).  The Senate has their own version of a NCLB reauthorization called “Every Child Child Achieves Act” which Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project and attorney and parent activist Lisa Hudson point out at TownHall.com is every bit as bad as the Student Success Act.

They state the Senate bill targets the Opt-Out movement.

It maintains the requirement that a state submit a comprehensive education plan. It keeps the testing requirements. A state must still have an “accountability system” that includes as a “substantial” factor student performance on standardized tests. It does try to lessen the teach-to-the-test pressures by allowing the state to determine “the weight” of the tests in the accountability system. But this will not alleviate such pressures. It’s like saying, “We’re going to beat you with a wooden bat, not a metal one.”

Moreover, under the NCLB reauthorization bill, each state must demonstrate that it will measure “the annual progress of not less than 95 percent of all students.” Unfortunately, to do so, states will likely increase pressure on administrators, teachers, principals, and parents for students to take the tests.


Twitter Rally to #StopHR5 Tonight

#StopHR5There is a coordinated Twitter rally to Stop HR 5, the Student Success Act, that is expected to be reintroduced into the U.S. House of Representatives anytime now.  It will last from 9pm – 11p EST tonight.

This is through the Patriot Journalist Network, and they have a system in place that appears to be quite effective.  Use the hashtags #StopHR5 and #pjnet

In related news Politico reports that there will likely be a ESEA reauthorization bill this week out of the Senate.

Senate negotiators are hustling to tie up an agreement on a bipartisan No Child Left Behind bill, which would keep the Senate HELP Committee on schedule to mark up the bill early next week. What should you expect as details on the bill emerge? According to sources in the know about the Senate’s plans, here are three things to watch for: New opportunities for expanding pre-K through in the bill – but not a new title, like some Democrats argued for. The bill would continue mandating statewide annual tests, with tweaks around the edges to help give more flexibility. And perhaps the biggest changes in the new bill (compared to current law) would be be shifts in the accountability system that would give more power back to the states – a big priority for Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander.

Bills that keep a mandate for state tests should not be one that any legislator championing limiting the federal role in education should support.  Perhaps it is a step in the right direction, but a very small step.  I’m tired of this tinkering around the edges.  No Child Left Behind needs to be repealed.  Period.

Also, Missouri Education Watchdog is pushing this Twitter rally because of the civil rights group support that is surround H.R. 5.

Additional note: Due to prior commitments & late notice over Easter weekend I’m unfortunately not going to be able to participate.  Hope you all have fun without me though!

Update: Never mind, my schedule opened up and I will be participating.  I also originally forgot to include the time zone… that is 9:00p to 11:00p EST.