April 9, 2011
IRA Legislative Update
1. Money for education and literacy programs continues to be imperiled as the first phase of the three-pronged attack on funding enters its final stage. With the budget agreement for FY 11 being agreed to, the next question is what will be cut to reach the savings number. This is currently being decided.
2. Drafting of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (to replace No Child Left Behind) is entering an interesting phase. Senate staff is drafting a new measure. The House is deciding when they will draft ESEA.
3. The Common Core Standards implementation continues. Some states are revising their “agreement” while others are moving ahead with implementation and developing assessments.
4. For up-to-date information on Funding and Reauthorization of ESEA participate in an IRA Webinar on Tuesday, April 19th at either 2:00 PM EASTERN or 8:00 PM EASTERN. Register here.
5. CALL-IN DAY on April 28th to support the reintroduction of the LEARN ACT. Speak with your Senators’ offices concerning funding.
FY 11 funding:
The funding measure to keep the government open is currently a shell. As details emerge we will add them to the IRA website.
What we know:
- All programs will be cut by 1%.
- DC vouchers program will be reenacted. (It had been law for five years.)
- There will be $700 million for Race to the Top in the FY 2011 spending plan.
What we don't know:
- Other education programs: Will there be cuts?
- Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy: Funding debate has continued over the last seven weeks. This included a push this week by House to cut back the money for the grant application for which states are currently applying. This effort failed.
- Title I: Funding for Title I isn't clear.
- Pell Grants: Not clear how a $6 billion shortfall for Pell Grants will be handled.
FY 12 Funding:
Part two of the three prongs is funding for FY 12. That budget blueprint is to be voted on the House floor on Thursday, April 14th, 2011. This blueprint contains a push to reduce domestic discretionary spending by 18%. But unlike the FY11 fight, there are cuts to mandatory spending.
Next up will be the debate on raising the debt ceiling. The US is borrowing at an unsustainable rate to cover its 30% budget deficit. The fight will be with those who want to make big spending cuts now, versus those who are seeking a longer-term spending reduction plan and/or new taxes.
One proposal for the debt ceiling measure: limit spending to 18% of the Gross Domestic Product. This would cause a significant cut in all areas of spending. This debate will be front page in May 2011.
The Senate education committee staff is working on a draft. Several Senators are involved in discussions that involve both majority and minority. There are agreements on some super-ordinate points.
The House education committee held the first hearing on April 7th. The chairman said he wants to hold more hearings soon and start drafting reauthorization in three to five separate bills. The first of these bills might be out by the end of May.
What everyone is agreeing to is that the new bill must have more flexibility for state and local schools, an increased emphasis on innovation, and a push to reduce duplication. The problem is how to do these things.
It does look like the Senate committee is interested in incorporating a literacy professional development section as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The Senate seems more supportive of the common core standards. Both are supportive of an increased role for parents. Each seems to want to decrease the set-asides in Title I (required funding for public school choice and supplemental education services). Teacher education programs are being seen as an area that needs to be more directly linked to the needs of schools with challenges. It also seems that the Senate will include a group of programs, or an emphasis to direct funds to middle and high schools. It also seems the Senate will increase links between pre-K programs and elementary schools.
Common Core Standards
The two assessment consortia (PARCC and SMARTER Balance) are seeking staff to help them to design their assessment programs. They are moving quickly to meet their deadline of having assessments to pilot in the next two years. One idea they seem to be participating in is developing model curricula in order to then develop assessment programs. Some observers are very concerned that there is going to be a greater emphasis on skills, as it is easier to design the large scale assessments based on these principles. Others are concerned that the model of using technology will be beyond the reach of a significant number of schools. Still others are wondering how the transition will be made from the current system (of making AYP) to the new and more complex areas of the common core.
To add to the mix, several state legislatures have been reviewing and voting on whether the agreement that their governor or chief state school officer made to endorse and implement the standards is what they want.
Webinar April 19th
For up-to-date information (and to ask questions) on Funding and Reauthorization of ESEA participate in an IRA Webinar on Tuesday, April 19th at either 2:00 PM EASTERN or 8:00 PM EASTERN. To register go to:
Call-in on April 28th
Working with NCTE, NASSP (secondary school principals), and the National Center for Learning Disabilities, IRA is asking our members to call their Senators and ask them to support the introduction of the LEARN Act (Literacy for Every American, Results for the Nation). Call 202-224-3121 (the Capitol Hill Switchboard) and ask to be connected to your Senator (mention your state). When connected, ask your Senator to support the introduction of the LEARN Act with a floor statement, co-sponsoring or issuing a press release. Senator Murray (D-WA) will be introducing the measure.
LEARN would provide funds to high need schools to support professional development that they select and need. Funds are provided to programs for ages 0 to 5 and grades K-12. Forty-six states have already drafted state plans using their state literacy teams (which have included many IRA state literacy councils as part of the process).
On April 25th IRA will be send out a reminder with a summary of LEARN and other materials.
These are demanding times. Funds are going to continue to be cut over the next two years at all levels. Teaching positions will be lost. Class sizes are going to increase. High need students are going to suffer from a lack of access to high quality programs aimed at supporting their literacy instruction. However, there will be some areas of new opportunities for those who are able to adapt.
Remember the Webinar on April 19th, call-in day on the April 28th, and the upcoming legislative workshop on June 27 & 28. (For June 27 & 28 workshop in DC, Sign-up here.)
Richard Long, Ed.D.
Director of Government Relations
International Reading Association